Notes revising the background behind the planar factions of 1994’s Planescape campaign setting by David “Zeb” Cook, with revisions following The Faction War book and an article in Dragon Magazine #315 (January 2004). Modern comparisons and summaries also from the Wikipedia entry on Planescape.
The Athar (“Defiers”, “The Lost”) deny not only the gods’ right to pass judgment over mortals, but their very divinity. They claim that the gods (whom they call “powers”) are powerful but have limits and do not deserve worship. Their headquarters in Sigil was the Shattered Temple, the former temple of the dead god Aoskar. After the Sigil Faction War, this group fled to the base of the Spire, the region of the Outlands where all magic (including that of the gods) fails, to escape the wrath of the deities whom they defied. Their membership has declined due to the isolation of their new base.
The Athar are broadly derived from real-world atheists, agnostics, and Deists.
The Doomguard (“Sinkers”) believe in the sanctity and inevitability of entropy. They see the decay and destruction of the universe as necessary; for once it is destroyed all imperfections will be gone with it, paving the way for a perfect new world. Their headquarters was Sigil’s Armory, where they forged weapons as tools of destruction. Since the Sigil Faction War, members of this group rarely leave their citadels, making forays outside only when some great act of creation (such as the formation of a new demiplane) demands a retributive act of destruction.
The Fated (“Takers”, “The Heartless”) believe that those with power and ability have the right to own what they control and to take what they can from those who are unable to keep it. It is their right to exploit any situation to their advantage, regardless of how it affects anyone else. Their headquarters in Sigil was the Hall of Records, where they served as the tax collectors of Sigil. During the Sigil Faction War, this group suffered a great loss of face because it was their factol, Duke Darkwood, who started the Faction War in the first place. They’ve moved their base of operations to Ysgard in the Astral Sea, but have otherwise changed little in their methods.
They are derived from real-life Social Darwinists and the philosophies of Ayn Rand.
THE FRATERNITY OF ORDER
The Fraternity of Order (“Guvners”), who believe that knowledge is power; they learn and exploit both the natural laws of the universe and the laws of society. Their headquarters in Sigil was the City Court, where they served as judges and legal advocates. After the Sigil Faction War, this group relocated to the plane of Mechanus in the Astral Sea, where they already had several strongholds. The Guvners continue to delve into the laws of the planes and plot their eventual return to Sigil, which they still believe to be the fulcrum around which all worlds turn.
This faction recalls the Sophists of Classical Athens.
The Harmonium (“Hardheads”) believe that peace and stability can only be established under one rule — theirs. The planar faction known as the Harmonium is actually just a small part of a much larger political entity which rules over the entirety of the Prime Material world of Ortho. In Sigil, they served as the city’s police force, and their headquarters was the City Barracks. After the Sigil Faction War, this group relocated to the plane of Arcadia in the Astral Sea. They have become less of a police force and more of a diplomatic body. The Harmonium now believes that the best way to spread order is to peacefully unite the celestial realms of the Astral Sea under the banner of law and good rather than forced conversion to their ideals. Still, it is strongly advised that people never, under any circumstances, use the term “Hardhead” in front of Harmonium members.
This faction is related to present day authoritarianism, particularly religious evangelicalism and fundamentalism.
THE MIND’S EYE
Before the Sigil Fation War, the faction called the Believers of the Source (“Godsmen”) believed that each life was a test, and that every person had the potential to become a god. A rival faction, the Sign of One (“Signers”), professed that everyone was the center of their own reality and that reality could be reshaped by the power of imagination. After the Sigil Faction War, the Mind’s Eye faction was created when survivors of the Believers of the Source and the Sign of One merged their ideologies into one faction. Before the war, the Signers’ headquarters was the Hall of Speakers, which housed Sigil’s legislature. The Godsmen were based out of the Great Foundry, symbolizing their belief that the multiverse constantly forges and refines all beings.
Some of the Believers of the Source were solipsists, though most were not so extreme. The Sign of One shared many parallels with Hinduism and Buddhism. However, the ultimate goal is not Nirvana but apotheosis, making it a religion of the left-hand path; therefore a much closer analogue is that of LaVeyan Satanism.
THE REVOLUTIONARY LEAGUE
The Revolutionary League (“Anarchists”) believe that social order and man-made laws are inherently corrupt and must be destroyed — though none of their members can agree on what, if anything, should replace them. They never had a factol or a headquarters, though they have many safe houses and secret meeting places. After the Sigil Faction War, members of the Revolutionary League retreated to the plane of Carceri in the Astral Sea, where most of its cells fell into disarray. Most of the remaining Anarchists seek to return to Sigil in force to become its new rulers. Other members of the League are appalled at the thought of ruling anything and have formed a splinter group, the Second Wave; these “Wavers” take the dissolution of the factions as proof that any political structure can fall and have spread to numerous planar metropolises to stir up rebellion.
THE SODKILLERS AND SONS OF MERCY
Before the Sigil Faction War, the Mercykillers (“The Red Death”) were a united faction that believed in justice and retribution at the expense of all else. Their name does not come from “killing out of mercy,” but rather “killing mercy.” Their credo was that mercy is for the weak, and the merciful should be punished. Appropriately, their headquarters was Sigil’s Prison, where they carried out the sentences of convicted criminals.
After the Sigil Faction War, the Mercykiller split back into two factions: The Sodkillers believe in exterminating crime with any force necessary, while the Sons of Mercy are concerned with redeeming and rehabilitating criminals.
After the Faction War, two (or three) factions renounced their positions of authority in Sigil to escape the wrath of the Lady of Pain but maintain their association as a group of like-minded individuals.
* The Society of Sensation (“Sensates”) believes that accumulating experiential knowledge through the senses is the only way to achieve enlightenment. Their headquarters continues to be the Civic Festhall, which features a endless series of entertainments and a library of magically stored experiences.
* The Xaositects (“Chaosmen”) believe that the only truth is revealed in chaos. The Xaositects have been quite accurately described as being “totally off their rockers, every one of ’em.” Their headquarters before the Faction War was the Hive, the most disorganized part of the Sigil. Some may consider their philosophy a slight twist to accidentalism, but a far more relevant parallel is the Cynics of antiquity (or real life discordianism). After their factol was slain during the Faction War, this group appears to have gone “underground” across the planes.
* The Free League (“Indeps”) rejected the other factions and their bureaucratic, hierarchical dogmatism; in fact, they never considered themselves a faction at all. For this reason, they lacked a factol or an official headquarters, though Sigil’s Great Bazaar serves as an unofficial one. They believe in individual freedom as the highest good and could be considered similar to libertarianism.