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Planescape: Torment

by Shadow Catboy

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Original Thread: Let's Play... Planescape: Torment! [56k mazed]



When the Infinity Engine first came out the gaming community saw yet another rebirth of the RPG. It not only brought the Dungeons and Dragons ruleset back into the foreground, but it also provided a more open-ended style of gameplay that previous cRPG systems tended to lack. The mechanics were intuitive, the battle tactics were interesting, the plots were great, and the worlds were pretty open-ended. Sure you'd screw yourself over if you DID go on a wild rampage slaughtering all civilians in sight, but it was just nice to have that option.

Enter Planescape: Torment. Long considered to be one of the most bizarre and fascinating of campaign worlds in D&D, Planescape was also one which was enormously difficult to play through by virtue of its immensely complex world, its myriad of supplements, species, classes, and Factions. Very few DMs would touch that with a ten-foot pole, but plenty longingly flipped through the pages of the campaign manuals for ideas, or simply to admire Tony Diterlizzi's iconic art.

The production of an Infinity Engine game based in the Planescape setting was a pretty bold decision, given that the project would be huge and that the esoteric setting was in danger of alienating the target audience. Yet the allure of it was in its potential expansiveness and its ability to explore avenues that run against the generic grain of medieval swords-and-sorcery.

Unfortunately due to a combination of poor advertising, clunky combat mechanics, and its text-heavy nature putting off some gamers, PST simply didn't sell well. Despite this, it rapidly grew into a cult classic and is often considered one of the best story-driven RPGs out there.

Unlike your standard RPG, the hero isn't out to save the world. He isn't even out to save a city (though stuff like this might happen only as a side effect of his actions). The impact of The Nameless One's is pretty limited when compared to a standard hero whose sole purpose in life is to vanquish demon X to save world Y from horrible fate Z. If the Nameless One does any good to those around him, it's secondary to his discovery of who he is and why he is the way he is. Despite that, it's a story that is epic in scope and poignant in design.

I originally started up this LP because 1) I consider Planescape: Torment to be the best RPG experience out there in terms of plot, and 2) I wanted to really flex my writing muscles and try to do a novel-length work (even though a good hunk of the text wasn't my own), and I definitely have noticed my style maturing a lot between the first and last updates. What follows here is the product of many many days' worth of writing and planning to translate Planescape: Torment to text in a manner that is faithful to its original design.





Few things can match the fetid stink of the Hive.

The factories and workhouses belch sulfurous fumes, black and yellow, painting the air in a sickly mist that almost obscures the city on the other side of the sky. Sigil: a torus-shaped city, as it had been explained to you long ago. A city folded in on itself, curling around the flatulent smoke that would make a Clueless' eyes water.

Then there is the stench of the homeless, pressing in on each other in the alleyway, trousers worn to rags and bared skin coated in patches of filth. It is the smell of sweat and unwashed flesh, sour and rank and thick enough to burn your nostrils. The dirt (at least, you hope it's dirt) caked on their skin makes thin slabs and flakes where one body presses against another, too apathetic to move, too mad to care if one of them in that pack had died. Mad, truly, if rubbing shoulders with a corpse is normal before the Bleakers could usher the vagrants aside and let the Dustmen take care of the dead. Once, you had dropped coppers where you could, right before those hopeless eyes that stared off into the distance with a mute determination. Quite possibly they were the only eyes that wouldn't brighten with avarice at the clinking of coin.

And then there are the fumes of the Lower Planes, drawn in with the wake of the hulking demons and devils that roam the streets, bumping into angel and elemental alike without a word. The stench of burning flesh and brimstone follow them wherever they go, and they walk everywhere in sight. It is as if nothing matters in the City of Doors for the weak to be without a hand in aid, and for mortal enemies in race and faith to sit down for tea or debate the finer points of philosophy in the market. Or perhaps it is just the shadow of the Lady. You shudder at the thought.

It is the stink of oil and metal, of sweat and filth, of fire and sulfur that hang over the Hive, thick as if wading through butter. It had stung your throat and blinded even you once. It had made you retch. A paladin, in plain chain armor of bronze walks past, eyes wide with a perfumed kerchief against his nose. A newcomer to Sigil, obviously. You silently commend him for not vomiting. Yet, at least.

Truly, few things can match the stink of the Hive.

You rarely walk these streets nowadays. They're too dangerous by far and what profits you could find here wouldn't be worth the risk. But an old friend had bidden you to come and visit, and you had felt compelled to do so, if only out of nostalgia. A true windbag of sorts, but he had always put a good spin on things over a pint of fine wine and a large meal.

You had waited in the marketplace for a good hour, plucking at plump Elysian plums and dried mushrooms from the Outlands. One merchant had dragged in a hulking beast of a fish from the Elemental Plane of Water itself, and sold cuts that seemed far too fine for the Hive dwellers.

You sigh. An afternoon ahead and here you are in the middle of this throng, rather exposed and not feeling quite safe from trouble. You eye the Harmonium guards here. Three. More than sufficient to keep the peace, but still you would feel better at the Clerk's Ward.

Nothing to be done, then, you take the first street that would lead you back to your apartments, an irregular zigzag road whose corners are punctuated by the knifelike corners of buildings, walls patched with razorvine.

Even with your mind wandering your gaze freezes on one small corner, a door tucked away and squeezed tight between two larger shops. A small, dark hole-in-the-wall part of the Hive you had never noticed before. Perhaps it is newly built, but the plaster is cracked and thick veins of razorvine spiderweb across the walls on either side of the portal, which itself is not much wall. A weathered sign hangs askew above the door.

The Tavern of Broken Dreams (music)

How odd.

The double-doors swing open as you nudge in, and the crisp smell of smoke and spirits greets you, somehow clean compared to the air outside. A lesser malodorous evil, it is quite refreshing and for the first time today you take a nice, deep breath.

The tavern is much larger than it had seemed from outside, spanning fifty paces at least, and tiered along two levels. A marilith, bare-breasted yet bedecked with jewelry, looks up to you. Four of her arms work with glasses and bottles, clinking against each other delicately with a known and practiced skill. One of her hands wipes down a trickle that spills down the glass she had poured, while another holds onto a chain.

The chain leads down to a collar around the neck of a leashed man with dusk-gray skin and smoky hair. His dour frown and creased face speak of infernal ancestry: a cambion, perhaps. He crouches on the floor in ancient rusted armor, polishing a mug and scowling at you.

The marilith smiles upon your entrance, "Well there's a new face. I'm Shara Six-Blades, and I've got a stock of spirits to put anything under the table. If you need anything just ask."

You give the innkeeper a polite nod and gesture towards a bottle of Baatorian Black Brew. It'd been a while since you've had a good mug, and you lick your lips delicately in anticipation of the heavy, smoky ale. The ebony liquid hisses as it sloshes thickly into the mug and Shara Six-Blades gives an expectant nod. Surely if you could handle Baatorian Black Brew, you've earned a good cut of respect in her eyes.

The patrons of the Tavern are a mishmash crew, the norm for any such gathering in Sigil. A woman in worn leather armor and dusty brown rags balances an obsidian-tipped spear in the crook of her arm while licking the inside of her mug greedily. At the table across from her sits a group of three swordsmen, with fine gray coats and hats suited more for nobility. Each one wears a slight curl at the corners of their lips, as if in considering what mischief to commit.

You almost give a start when a strange pattern flows across a metal column on the other side of the tavern. The colored shape of a man, flowing along the surface like a moving mural. It is a two-dimensional creature, apparently, in the shape of a handsome young fellow in a yellow coat slashed with red.

A thick gray fog curls around one table tucked away at the corner, apparently unoccupied. The glasses resting there, though, are full of a bubbling blood-red brew that pulses angrily and swirls with flecks of black shadow. In the next instant, one of the glasses begins to empty itself as tendrils of mist curl into the liquid. You blink in surprise.

"I recommend you stay far from those guests, visitor," Shara Six-Blades says to you with a wry smile, "While I rarely let their kind into my tavern, they once... took care of a few troublemakers that were beyond my skill. I give them a free round of Abishai Blood Beer now and again in gratitude, but it'd be wise to be wary around their sort."

You are about to inquire further when a boisterous, silvery voice cries out.

"Attend, kindly ones! I sing a song of laughter and tears, of war and peace. Of a man who bound himself to life so that he died by his own hand! I sing of one who tread into the Planes of the damned seeking his salvation, who sought to destroy himself so that others may live. I sing a song that has made the angels weep and furies mourn: I sing a song of," he pauses, "The Nameless One."

You turn to face the stage, and a beautiful, golden-skinned angel sits there on a crooked stool, his iridescent wings unfurled and one arm upraised. A lyre is tucked under his arm at the broad silver sash at his hips, encircling the waistline of a pair of billowing snow-white trousers. He gently pulls it up and plays a quick and mournful tune, and with that the deva lends another dramatic pause, heavy as a hundredweight, the last note resonating through the tavern and instilling a great hush over the mismatched crowd.

"Aye, and which 'Nameless One' is that?" a gruff voice suddenly comes from the corner, though you can't quite see who had said so, "Is he the same one as the Man-Without-a-Name, perhaps? Or is it He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Known?" A great many roars of laughter fill the bar, from bubbly fey giggles to serpentine hisses and gruff roars, as well as a strange tinkling sound you can't quite identify. Those with heavy mugs bang them on the tables while those with the more delicate glasses clap or slap their knees.

"Or perhaps he sings of The One Whose Being is So Terrible That Thinking of Him Makes One's Head Explode?" another voice cries out to more laughter. A young woman this time, with blossoms in her hair and a dress that looks to be sewn from rose petals.

"Wha? who is that?" a man next to you asks. A humanoid candle of sorts, his head is wreathed in flames that leave his clothes untouched.

The nature spirit looks to the man next to you, leveling a hard, firm stare as he goggles stupidly. "O-oh. OH."

Few give the wet burst a second glance, though you wince unhappily and wipe the goo from your shoulder. Shara Six-Blades gives a quick clap and two servants clothed in patchwork leathers drag the body outside to dump in the street. You stare at the corpse as it is taken away, leaving a few light smears on the gray stone floor. One more body in the Hive, and no one gave a second glance. After all, who weeps over one leaf falling in the autumn?

"I... have heard of this Nameless One," a dry voice intones. This time, a man standing behind a bar, his long, thin fingers gripping papers written in a fine hand. His face is long and pale, wrapped in a strange hood that makes him look as if head and body were one, like a large egg. An accountant of sorts, you believe, "I have heard... legends of one who once walked the Planes, one undying, abandoned by Death herself."

"You sing of the One of Many Deaths?" the woman with the spear asks, holding her mug close to her breast. Her voice is fierce and challenging, the sneer loud in her words, "I have heard of one tale, uttered by a drunk as he lay in a stupor. He spoke of one served by men and women both, using them as tools and cast aside when overworn or broken."

An imp, cocking its head from its perch on a seat back looks up. A small sack is slung over its shoulder, "He DiEs MAny Can OnE? fOSsils wrAck anD aGE of aLl gooD Man, goOd MaZ, so I tASte and buRn!"

The deva smiles and nods, "I sing of all of them, and none, good friends. I am Oudilin Ovariis, bard and collector of histories."

"Myth, more like!" the first gruff voice shouts again, and you see a short humanoid leap up onto the table. A dwarf, you've heard, some sort of burrowing creature. Still, it seems shorter than it had been described to you, "A thousand fairy tales and rumors are told every day, in this rat-piss corner of the City alone! Just another coffer of dung, I say!" A murmur of agreement flows through the crowd.



"Ah, but--"


The deva gives a short pause to let the fellow calm down. The dwarf is panting, and near foaming at the mouth best you can tell, "What is your name, good friend?"

"I be G'mir!"

Another pause.

"G'mir? G'mir the Midget Dwarf? Rager and barbarian? The one who slew the Arch-Demon Lord Gulathomon after being tossed into battle?" the spearwoman asks. You have a feeling that G'mir was 'tossed' into battle quite literally.

The stumpy warrior glowers and gnashes his teeth at hearing his less-than-flattering title.

A placating hand from the deva holds off any more argument as he lays the harp on the stool, and in the other palm a small brown square appears in motes of white dust. He raises what now looks like a small book to the air, a strange pointed symbol seared into the cover. The cured leather is well-worn, flaking here and there and stained with no small amount of blood. Yet it is bound together with fine precision, pages lining up neatly.

"And what be this?" G'mir scowls.

"This," the deva says with a gesture and a smile, "is your dung. The lost journal of The Nameless One."

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