(Note that not all the details of each location are finished)
Life in Sigil
Some poets write raptures about the glories of their metropolis, sing praises about the sunset over the rooftops, and grow lyrical to the gentle clatter of their city’s life – but no one sings that way about Sigil. The Cage’s a gray, wet, dirty place, full of noise and brawling, slippery stone and razorvine. Oh, there’s native poets and they write about their home, but not about its glowing sunsets or walks through sweet-scented parks. They write about the things that shouldn’t be seen in the dark alleys, about the way the street rumbles like a pit of dying beasts, or about the decay that cleanses the bones of the city. Hey, Sigil’s a long way from being a stinking pit – don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s not a grand and majestic place. It’s got more life than the patrolled city-states of Arcadia. Sigil’s filled with the kind of life only a truly neutral haven can offer.
And that’s just the point: Everybody comes to Sigil – the good and the evil, those warring and those at peace, the just and the cruel – everybody. Nobody forgets their loves or hatreds here, but for a few moments they barely manage to set them aside. A deva really might share a drink with a fiend, even if each is watching the other for signs of treachery. Nobody trusts their enemies, but all are forced to trust the laws of the Lady of Pain. Maybe it’s a lie, though, that everyone comes to Sigil, because there’s one important group that can’t: the deific powers of the planes. There’s something about Sigil that shuts them out, locks the doors, and keeps them away. ‘Course, the gods aren’t used to having their powers denied, and that frustrates them to no end. Indeed, the mere fact that Sigil refuses their will makes them hunger for it all the more. Any Sensate’ll confirm that desire is greatest for that which is denied.
That’s why the powers’ proxies and priests come to the City of Doors, instructed and eager to subvert Sigil’s resistance from the inside. In the Cage’s back alleys and shadowed dives, they play out the endless pairings of the kriegstanz, the undeclared war for the soul of Sigil. There’s more players in this game than a sod can count, and the sides shift like quicksilver on glass. Today, the priests of Thor may throw in with the factol of the Godsmen to defeat the agents of Primus; tomorrow, those priests might find themselves hunted by the factols of the Godsmen and the Harmonium. The sides flow like slippery beads, one to another, as the balance changes ever so slightly.
It’s never an open war, though, because the Lady’d never allow it. Rather, it’s a dance where the soldiers are in mufti, the battlegrounds are unmarked, and the victorious never hold up their triumphs for all to see. So long as the battle is fought discreetly, it’s tolerated. Let it get out of hand and the Lady has special punishments, reserved for those berks who draw her gaze. Because there’s a rough peace here, Sigil’s the place to do all types of business. Need to meet with the enemy, but can’t find safe ground? Need to swap hostages from the Blood War? Got a treasure too suspicious to sell on the open market? Need some information about the enemy? Come to Sigil! Just remember to always keep your back to the wall. So that’s it: Sigil the Wondrous, Sigil the Dangerous, Sigil the Impossible. It’s a city where a cutter can be anything he wants, where he can find the answer to every need. All it takes is asking the right questions. ‘Course, a berk’s better off not asking if he can’t deal with the answers, because sometimes what a sod wants to know ain’t what he learns…
Up and Down
“Down” is always the ground beneath a cutter’s feet, no matter where he’s standing on the ring. Up is the other direction. It doesn’t take much to realize that two bashers on opposite sides of the ring could both look “up” at each other. Flying across the ring’s seems perfectly possible, but it takes beings of great fortitude and determination to fly out over the void. But when your alternative is spending a few hours walking around in the Hive, the option seems to look a lot more attractive. A berk always falls toward the section of Sigil closest to him, even if he was headed in another direction to start with. Although the shapes are different, the whole business is really no different than falling on any Prime world: A sod falls, he gets hurt. Along with “up and down” is the question of inside and outside." It’s quite a question, too. Nobody’s ever seen the outside of Sigil because there may not even be an “outside.” The edges of the ring are all solidly lined by buildings with no windows or doors on their backs. ‘Course, a cutter could get himself up on the roof to take a look. Those that’ve tried it’ll tell a body, “There’s nothing to see,” and they really do mean “nothing” – not emptiness, not a vacuum, just nothing.
Humans being a particularly curious type, it’s natural that some of the barmies have tried stepping off into the nothingness. Everybody who does so just vanishes. It’s said that a few are seen again, too. Apparently, crossing that border hurls a sod into a random plane. Considering the conditions of some of these destinations, it’s no surprise that only a few make it back. ‘Course, when a roving band of Xaositects are chasing you because it’s two hours after Antipeak, or a Revolutionary League cell is about to make you “dissapear” because you shared a drink with them, the choice between sure death and a wild gamble don’t look so bad…
Day and Night
There’s day and night in Sigil, but it’s not caused by a sun. Instead, the sky gradually fills with luminescence until it reaches a peak and then immediately begins to fade. There’s both bright daylight and deep darkness, but most of Sigil’s day is a half-light, the gloom of twilight, rich with shadows and haze. Things sensitive to sunlight can get around without problem for all but the brightest six hours of every day (the three before and after peak). ; Sigil doesn’t have a moon or stars, so things dependent on the moon, like some types of shape-changing, don’t happen in Sigil. The Cage’s without stars, of course, but there’s still lights in the sky. Remember, the city’s always overhead, so even in the darkest hours there’ll be the sharp lights of far distant lanterns.
Weather and Climate
Rain and smog – that pretty much says everything about Sigil’s weather. The city’s sky is mostly a greasy-looking haze from the smoke and fumes that belch from a thousand chimneys. When it rains – which it does a lot – the rainwater’s got a brownish tinge from all the crud that’s scrubbed from the sky. Don’t think about drinking it, though, or you’ll end up in the Mortuary faster than the Dustmen can pay for your corpse. It’s a wonder that the razorvine can grow at all, but there are those who say that it’s merely an extension of the Lady’s Will, which makes sense when you look at how the Dabus take care of it. When it’s not raining, there’s an equally good chance that a thick, foglike smog has settled over the city. Visibility can be as bad as only 5 feet in the worst of these, but most times a cutter can see about 10 yards through the haze. When it isn’t drizzling brown water or swaddled in fog, Sigil can be a pretty pleasant place, provided you don’t rub someone the wrong way. The temperature tends to be cool (chilly when it’s raining), and light breezes blow away the stagnant odor that normally hangs in the air. Still, no cutter ever comes to Sigil for the climate.
Being an impossible place, Sigil’s got no natural resources for all the things that’re needed to build a city. There’s no stone pit just outside of town, no logging camp up the river. There ain’t even sod to build the most primitive earthen hut. Everything to build anything comes from outside. ‘Course, that’s not as hard as it sounds, since all it takes is a portal to import raw materials through. The result is that Sigil’s built of everything. It’s not like some towns that’re noted for their black-green marble or the brilliant blond of their ash-wood lumber. Sigil’s got every kind of building material imaginable and in no particular order, and it’s all made worse because scavenging’s really important; to keep down costs, most folks go out and use what’s already here.
Most cases in the Cage get built with whatever a cutter can get, and if that means mixing cracked marble from Carceri with Elysium glory pine and pumice stone from the Elemental Plane of Fire, then that’s the way it’s got to be. Add to this the fact that Sigil’s completely unplanned, like a good city always is, and the result is chaos-construction. Folks build more or less how they please on tracts that are too small and hinky. In places like the Hive there’s even less control; there, a berk builds wherever he can with whatever he’s got, which ain’t much. For some this means building out and into the street. For others, it’s building ramshackle shanties on the roofs of other houses. Space is more important than beauty, berk, although it seems that very rarely people build downwards…
In a place where almost anything and everything can mingle, tempers can run high. It’s a tough bit for a lesser baatezu to stand aside, just to let the procession of a greater tanar’ri pass down the street – a fiend don’t forget the way of the Blood War so easily. ‘Course, it’s no easier for good creatures, either. There’s lots of times an agathion can’t see past the fact that a berk just ain’t good-aligned. Then there’s the factions. Each one’s got its own plans, and most times those plans don’t include any rivals. Add to all this the good old-fashioned cross-trade and the Cage’s got all the potential to be total anarchy. That’d suit the Revolutionary League and probably the Xaositects well, but it don’t do other sods much good. Sigil isn’t anarchy, though, and there’s a number of things that keep it from the brink. The dark of things in Sigil’s pretty common knowledge to the natives, but the Clueless are just going to have to learn by keeping their eyes and ears open. Here’s what keeps the order in the City of Doors: the Lady of Pain, her Mazes, and the dabus. The Harmonium would like to think they police the city, and to an extent, they do manage to keep some of the actual rabble off the street, when they’re not too busy trying to manhandle the populace into their special kind of order.
The ultimate authority in Sigil, the one who ultimately watches over the Cage, is the Lady of Pain. She’s not a woman and she’s not human – nobody’s quite sure what she is. The best guess is she’s a power, probably a greater power, but there’s also a theory that she’s a reformed tanar’ri lord, if such a thing’s possible. Whatever else she is, she’s the Lady of Pain, and given that, most other facts are extraneous. For the most part the Lady (as she’s called) keeps distant from the squalid hustle and bustle of the Cage.
She doesn’t have a house, a palace, or a temple. Nobody worships her, and with good reason: Those that say prayers to her name get found with their skins flayed off – a big discouragement to others. Sometimes she’s seen drifting through the streets, the edge of her gown just brushing over the cobblestones. She never speaks. Those who try interfering with her erupt in horrid gashes at just the touch of her gaze. Wise bloods find business elsewhere on those rare times she passes down the way. Eventually, her image fades and she vanishes into nothingness. Natives of Sigil view her with fearful awe, as she’s the uncaring protector of their home.
The Mazes are the grandest of all Sigil’s punishments, and the Lady of Pain saves them for the worst threats to her power. They’re a part and yet not a part of the city, and no sane basher wants to go there. You’d be hard pressed to find a Bleaknik who’d volunteer either. The Mazes are the Lady’s special birdcages for the would-be power mongers of Sigil. The Mazes are just that: mazes. There’s a difference between them and some of the more confused sections of the Cage, of course, or they’d not be much of a punishment. For starters, they aren’t exactly part of Sigil. When the Lady creates a new part of the Mazes, a small piece of the city – an alley or a courtyard, for example – copies itself and becomes a tiny little demiplane. A portal of her making then carries the copy into the heart of the Deep Ethereal. There, it grows into an endless twisting maze that’s got no beginning or end. It just doubles back forever on itself. (Actually, the Guvners insist that the Mazes are still part of Sigil, even though they’re in the Ethereal, so even their location is a mind-maze.)
A sod sentenced to the Mazes never knows it until it’s too late. Sometimes they form around him just as he’s passing through some particularly deserted part of the city; he turns a corner and the next intersection’s not the way he remembers it, and by that time it’s too late. Those that figure the Lady’s after them – the ambitious and the cunning – try clever ways to avoid her traps. Some of them never leave their palaces so they never enter a blind alley, and others only travel with groups so they’re never caught alone, but it never works. A basher walks down an empty hall in his house, only to discover a maze of rooms that didn’t exist before. And sooner or later a berk turns his back to his friends, and when he looks back they’re all gone. The Mazes’ll always get a sod, no matter how careful he is. The only way to avoid them is to abandon Sigil forever. But even then, planar travel becomes treacherous, given the fluid nature of some portals. It’s hard to tell when one jaunt would drop a body into their destination, or one of the Lady’s choice – of course, this is assuming that you wouldn’t step into a Maze when you were trying to leave Sigil… Just spitting her rivals into the Deep Ethereal’s not enough for the Lady of Pain, either.
Each little chunk of the Mazes that’s kicked out is sealed one-way from planar travel – things can get in with a spell, but things can’t get back out. For instance, food and water always appear so the prisoner won’t starve. But worst of all, those in the Mazes know there’s a way out, as the Lady of Pain always leaves a single portal back to Sigil hidden somewhere. Maybe it’s so the dabus can check on things if needed, and maybe it’s just to torture the sod who’s trapped there. ‘Course, since that portal’s there, it’s not impossible to escape the Mazes – improbable, yes, but not impossible. Maybe a berk gets lucky and finds the portal. Maybe his friends have got the jink to mount a rescue. After all, they only have to find where the portal opens in Sigil or else track down the demiplane in the Deep Ethereal. How hard can that be?
The dabus are both servants and lords of Sigil. They’re unique to the Cage, never found anywhere else in the planes. In other words, the dabus never leave Sigil. From this, bloods figure the dabus are actually living manifestations of the city, which makes sense since the beings maintain most of the infrastructure that makes the city work. Most of the time the dabus are found repairing what’s broken in Sigil. They keep the sewers and catacombs beneath the streets from crumbling, they cut back the razorvine when it grows too rampant, they patch the cobblestone streets, and they repair the crumbling facades of the city’s buildings. To most, the dabus are nothing more than cryptic workmen. However, some berks discover another side of their duties, because the dabus also work as agents of the Lady of Pain. Sometimes they appear to punish those knights who’ve gotten too forward in their plans, and sometimes they arrive in force to put down riots, but they’re not concerned with normal crime. It’s the factions that are left to deal with the thieves and murderers in Sigil. The dabus only show up when there’s a threat to their Lady, and that’s usually a sign that another one of the Mazes is about to appear.
Staying out of Trouble
So what’s a blood got to do to avoid the Lady’s attention? What are the laws of Sigil? There aren’t many.
Sigil’s a place where anyone and anything can happen, and a lot of it does. The Lady of Pain’s not interested in the petty squabbles of day-to-day affairs. A murder here, a mugging there – that’s not her concern because the Harmonium can take care of it. The Lady of Pain only takes action against threats to the security of Sigil, and that means her security. The things she won’t tolerate include a berk trying to break open the portals so a power can enter, finding a way around her astral barrier, slaughtering the dabus, tearing the city down stone by stone, or inciting general rebellion against her rule. These aren’t the deeds most bashers are likely to try, so most often the Lady just exists in her peaceful fierceness. It is possible to get put in her dead-book for less than Sigil-shattering deeds, though. All a berk’s got to do is make the folks of Sigil question the Lady’s power. Too many killings or crimes’ll make the folks of Sigil nervous and fearful, and they’ll start wondering if she’s got the means to protect them. Given that, it’s no surprise that the dabus start looking real hard for the criminal. Lasting power comes from keeping the population happy.
It’d seem natural that the factions would always be threatening the Lady’s power, too. After all, each one’s got their own idea of just what’s proper and right for Sigil, and these are ideas that don’t always include the Lady of Pain at the top of things. Fact is, if they go too far she’ll crack them like beetles. Now, the factols are wise enough to see that Sigil’s a safe haven from their enemies, besides being the best way to get around, and no faction wants to get itself spun out of Sigil. Philosophies who foolishly challenge the Lady’s power get Mazes all their own. Given the choice of not holding a given idea or winding up in the Mazes, it’s easy to see why some philosophies have died off. The most often told tale’s about the Communals, sods who held that everything belonged to everyone, including the Lady’s share of the power. One day, everyone in the Communal headquarters (the City Provisioner’s) vanished. The best guess is they were all trapped into one Maze in the Ethereal Plane. Pretty quick, no cutter admitted being a Communal, but it’s said there’s still a small colony of true believers out on the Astral somewhere. Given that example, it’s no surprise the factions police their own.