17 June 2019

Mining Planescape and Sigill for Ideas for Shardheim

I've been reading the setting material in the 2e Planescape boxset because I recently picked up Troika! which I've seen described as "Hipster Planescape." Because I had picked it up and thought the game was cool, I was wondering how I could use it. Because the sample adventure is in a hotel in the city of Troika it reminded me that I too have a weird fantasy metropolis. So naturally, I've dusted off my notes for Shard/Shartheim, which as things do, is what led me to rereading Planescape and about Sigil. (Troika! actually more reminds me of Spelljammer by way of Moorcock).

But Sigil is boring.

List of things you shouldn't, according to the book, include in Sigil:

Magical computer networks
Intra-city teleportaion chambers
Crystal ball telephone system
Assembly lines
General stores
Travel agencies
Cleric-staffed hospitals
Newspaper stands
Employment agencies
Grocery stores
Public street departments
No cute business

Because it has to adhere to the basic 2e implied setting, which a late medieval/early renaissance fauxrope, a lot of things that would, imo, fit with the kind of dingy greasy smoggy sorta Victorian London vibe I get Those things can't be there in part due to "historical accuracy."

Alright. So ignoring the reasons why you shouldn't put these things into Sigil, because at this point I decided to mine it for ideas, mostly shops and similar, what does this mean as far as Shardheim is concerned? Let's go down the list.

Blasters: I've already been willing to include early modern firearms in my campaigns. If I fully embrace my inner science-fantasy nerd, then a blaster is just a gun that shoots energy. If I were to jump to Troika! and use Shardheim as the base, then blasters or pistolets etc are just like whatever man.

Magical Computer Networks: >.> It never occurred to me to include one explicitly as such, but it would have probably happened. The amount to which it is gated behind gilded bars is debatable.

Infra-city Teleportation Chambers: When I first saw this I agreed, but on reflection fuck it why not? Shardheim is old as fuck and already has weird tech built into it. Probably make this some kind of commentary on Musk's tunnel.

Crystal Ball Telephone System: Sending/speaking stones have become a weird meme magic item in DnD fantasy so why not? Like I don't want to get too modern with things.

Assembly Lines: <.< Shardheim has several industrial districts
General/Grocery Stores: It's megalopolis, so there was going to a level of that kind of small scale convenience store going on. But still gonna have a preponderity of single product shops and artisans.

Newspaper Stands: (I WILL NOT MAKE A JOJO REFERENCE) I like semi-anachronistic stuff so naturally.

Travel Agencies: Fuck it right? Shardheim is a port city, whether that's space, star, or sea (or all three), makes sense that folks with some but not a lot of means might want some middle man to grease the way to travel.

Cleric-staffed Hospitals: Ok. Got me. I do hate that conceit. Dunno to what extent I will distinguish a hospital and church as of yet.

Employment Agencies: I'll have to think of some, maybe, but the tavern/inn where adventurers go to pick up rumors or meet patrons aren't too terribly removed from such.

Public Stree Departments: Sure, but like on a small neighborhood/district scale. Shardheim is big and barely has a centralized bureaucracy.

Banks: Ok. There is The Bank. Which is THE BANK.

Cute Businesses: So, I kind of get why this listed as something to avoid. I don't agree that because Sigil isn't cute that there isn't room for cute because the cute would contrast with the dour and serious nature of Sigil. In any case, there will cute shops like Wanda's Tea Shoppe and The Golden Bariaur Beauty Parlor in Shardheim. Remember even in Sector 7 Slum of Midgar there was a cute flower girl.


  1. If you're interested in the concept of magical computer networks, you should check out the tabletop RPG cryptomancer.

    Despite ostensibly being a "traditional" fantasy setting, it's actually pretty cool. The game itself has an interesting dice mechanic that makes me think they thought through the probabilities thoroughly. The whole system itself didn't necessarily seem like anything super-special besides the interesting dice, but the big hook of the game is that they go into large detail about how to do a magical communication network based on real software engineering and security principals, but in a surprisingly digestible way.

    The mechanics of the network are such that they can basically be slotted into any game. It's worth a read.


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