planescape: torment

given the current state of The Discourse, I’m … actually kind of glad Planescape: Torment came out 15+ years ago and isn’t getting a re-release ever.

PST is a game where you can do terrible things. Sell your friends into slavery! Learn their darkest fears, and use them against them! Betray your closest friends for petty reasons! Literally murder the only person who cares for you unconditionally!

The game is also pretty unambiguous about the fact that doing any of those things makes you a horrible person. It’s one of the few games where I don’t have a beef with the morality slider, because if you manage to make the slider go all the way over to Evil, you have done some seriously immoral shit. We’re talking “I unleashed a God Of Destruction Of Literal Universes, because he gave me a cool knife” levels of evil. (That’s also a thing you can do!)

And I’m really glad that the evil options exist, because they exist alongside good options, and the fact that you can choose evil makes the good options genuinely heartwarming. You can convince your friend that everything he believes is a lie - or you can help him regain his faith in himself. And it feels so much better picking the latter when you know you could have gotten ahead faster by being repugnant. I’m not a believer in Manicheanism in the general case, but I do think it makes a big difference in game design. I played Planescape: Torment and felt genuinely, defensively good about my choices. “The Practical and the Paranoid have done wrongs, and I am here to right them.” It’s good stuff!

But the Discourse this game would generate, coming out now. Where people see “you can do this thing in the game” and think “obviously the developers think this thing is fine and completely without problems”. Good Lord, am I glad I can avoid that.

  • Vhailor: Tanar'ri are born from chaos. They care nothing for justice. The succubus knows of justice, but she has turned from it. Mercy has poised her heart.
  • Fall-From-Grace: I know of justice, Vhailor. I temper it with experience and wisdom, and when justice is tempered with those two truths, it becomes stronger. I know of mercy and forgiveness as well, for without them, the Planes would be a much crueler place.
  • Vhailor: Mercy eats at the heart of justice. Mercy devours all that is perfection. Compassion and forgiveness are mercy's poisons.
  • Fall-From-Grace: No, Vhailor. They are not. They are instruments by which another soul may be redeemed, elevated, and strengthened. In doing so, the multiverse is strengthened. Therein lies the perfection you speak of.
Combusted (Planescape)

Spontaneous combustion is one of those things that every seems to know about which rarely seems to pop up in RPGs, even when it feels like it should. The Combusted are here to fix that (aka there’s a reason they were in both the Occult Bestiary and Bestiary 6). These undead corpses are the vengeful, ever-burning remains of people who spontaneously combusted. They aren’t intelligent by default, driven by rage and little more, but they have been known to wade into water to cool the flames engulf them, even if said blaze cannot be extinguished. Perhaps this speaks to some sort of hidden depth?

Combusted offer a fairly standard array of abilities for a burning corpse. They can throw gobs of fire as a ranged attack. They have a stench aura, because have you ever smelt burnt flesh? Their screams make the weak willed flee in terror, which is a nice and thematic reason to stick them in places associated with Pandemonium. The most interesting feature of these creatures, however, is that when they hit you, they pass on the combustion curse. That curse can’t be based on to creature immune to fire, but it does bypass fire resistance, which could be a nasty shock for PCs and a plothook in the waiting for NPCs.

Also, a group of combusted is called an effigy. Have fun with that!

  • Most people are afraid of encountering one of the combusted of the Plane of Fire, but it is really the Plane of Ash where you need to beware of them. Most creatures burn too quickly on Fire to spontaneously combust, but Ash is much cooler and stray embers sometimes pass on the combustion curse. Like all undead, combusted are immune to Ash’s heat draining properties, but they can still be damaged by other cold effects.
  • Benevolent doesn’t always mean safe. A rash of spontaneous combustions have occurred in the court of Ragathiel after some unwise berks got too close to the Empyreal Lord. Ragathiel seems to be prevented from intervening by some law or geas unknown to mortals, so it is up to adventurers. Complicating matters is that oracles indicate that these combusted and be returned to their living state if one can determine what is causing the spontaneous combustion, so now the party has to subdue undead with destroying them and pry into the secrets of a celestial prince.
  • The Smouldering Corpse Bar has been in a funk since its namesake woke up and flew off with some nameless basher. The bar has attempted to revitalize business by suspending some combusted from the ceiling. The tactic seems to be working, but it has caused a change in clientele. While most Dustmen prefer their own bars, which are much quieter than the Smouldering Corpse, a number of scientist and necrologists have become regulars so they can study the combusted and theorize how they relate to True Death. Much more problematic and dangerous are cultists of Chavazvug, the Crawling Inferno. These qlippoth worshippers consider the state of the combusted to be sacred and occasionally one will intentionally attempt to contract the combustion curse, much to the barkeeper’s chagrin.

There are games. And then there’s Planescape Torment.

Rune of Torment from Planescape: Torment. Only the best RPG ever made. I was so happy with the work and thrilled to have it with me forever. Made at Roby & Senf, Zagreb!

3

So, I have wasted a wholly ridiculous amount of time on it, but I think the result is quite tolerable. I even think I’ve raised my Drawing up a couple of skillpoints.

That being said, I like both of these characters a whole lot, and think they would have a rather… interesting friendship. They had a lot of similar experiences, chose to deal with them in different ways, but I think the key aspect to both of them is defying their natures in order to become people they wanted to be. For that, both of them have my absolute respect.

Sometimes beautiful things come into our lives out of nowhere. We can’t always understand them, but we have to trust in them. I know you want to question everything, but sometimes it pays to just have a little faith.
—  Lauren Kate, Torment

An elderly man was sitting alone on a dark path, right? He wasn’t certain of which direction to go, and he’d forgotten both where he was traveling to and who he was. He’d sat down for a moment to rest his weary legs, and suddenly looked up to see an elderly woman before him. She grinned toothlessly and with a cackle, spoke:

‘Now your *third* wish. What will it be?’

'Third wish?’ The man was baffled. 'How can it be a third wish if I haven’t had a first and second wish?’

'You’ve had two wishes already,’ the hag said, 'but your second wish was for me to return everything to the way it was before you had made your first wish. That’s why you remember nothing; because everything is the way it was before you made any wishes.’ She cackled at the poor berk. 'So it is that you have one wish left.’

'All right,’ said the man, “I don’t believe this, but there’s no harm in wishing. I wish to know who I am.’

'Funny,’ said the old woman as she granted his wish and disappeared forever. 'That was your first wish.’

- Morte, Planescape: Torment