Number 6 (newnumber6) wrote,
Number 6

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Planescape Thoughts

Well, I finally finished Planescape Torment. Pretty good game overall. A little too linear at times and I would have liked to have explore more. Tiny bit buggy and annoying too. But overall good.

Specific thoughts:
I actually played without cheating, for the most part. I say for the most part because there were a few times I checked the walkthrough, because I just wasn't interested in spending hours trying to figure out why I can't go anywhere only to learn that
a) it's a bug and I should reload and try the sequence again (that happened a few times)
b) I'm missing some obscure bit of a puzzle and the game won't let me progress until I get it, but I wasn't even really aware of it until I read the walkthrough.

However, I didn't cheat in any of the traditional stat raising or monster killing ways. This may in fact be one of the least I've cheated in finishing a game ever (yes I'm a notorious cheat when I play computer games).

Part of this might be because it was a fairly easy game. I didn't often have to save and reload because there was a combat I wasn't ready for. Of course, often this was because dying is built into the game, and if your main character dies everyone in the party gets transported somewhere relatively safe and your mainguy gets all his health back. So often if things were looking grim, rather than saving and reloading I'd let my guy get out in front and die, get out of danger, regroup, and then attack the monster again and we'd still have done all the previous damage. A good game, but a little easy.

I managed to get all of the companions at least at some point, and they were all pretty cool conceptually, which is one of the things that make the game.

I played good of course, tried generally to play as though I was the Nameless One except in cases where the game forced my hand one way or the other. I did feel a little guilty about leaving Nodrom in a prison to pick up a better companion because of the arbitrary limits on size of your party. Ah well, in my head I went back for him later.

I was also glad that you could hire harlots for the evening. Nothing actually showed (I was curious to see if they'd actually let me or come up with some excuse where you couldn't at the last minute) of course it just took some of your money away and the screen dimmed for a second, but it was amusing and I like that they included it. More amusing (but with no other effects) was that your talking skull friend would occasionally ask you to pay for some time for him to spend with a harlot. I did because, hey, he's a talking skull and he's my friend. But I don't want to know the mechanics of how exactly that worked. But he seemed happy.

The ending was a little disappointing I must say. I like the idea of it and that, when it all came down to it, you could win without striking a blow (and then, just to see if I could, I went with the fighting way and won that too), but it kind of made the game a little anticlimactic, especially because the ending itself was a little grim. Even the best of endings wasn't a 'happy' one by any means. I can dig that in a game but I kinda disagreed with the premises behind this one.

Found two potentially exploitable bugs that amused me:
1) Normally you can hit right mouse button for a 'quick action menu' that lets you do stuff like choose spells. It also pauses the game and such, which is helpful. The other night I was watching BSG's finale and playing the game in the commercial breaks. So once, in the middle of a fight, the commercial ended so I hit the right mouse button as a quick way to pause the game.

Except, there were still battle sounds and battle text on screen. The thing was, it was only for one character, Fall-From-Grace. She wasn't taking damage, but while the game was paused, she was still making attacks and causing damage to the enemy. She eventually killed it, while the game was paused. It was an area with lots of monsters (and really I was just killing them for the XP it wasn't an area I had to do) so I tried it out a few more times and it kept doing the same thing. Weird, but kinda cool. Of course, by this point I'd pretty much gone past any point where I'd have gotten any _real_ use out of it - I was right about to head for the final confrontation where that wouldn't work, but if I knew about it earlier on, it might of helped. Well, not much, as I said it was a fairly easy game.

2) During the final battle, if you were able to resurrect one of your companions, there was a neat trick you could do to make the battle much easier but a lot more dull and repetitive. If you had your companion in one area of the final level fairly far away from you while you take the damage (hopefully by this point you have a fairly high CON so you regenerate pretty fast). Then, start running away towards where you first saw the Big Bad. At a certain point, no matter how close he is to you, he just turns and decides to go after your companion instead. If you cross back over that line, he becomes aware of you again, and chases after you. So you can make him run back and forth, wear out his defensive spells and offensive spells and make casting spells against him much easier (since you can cast them while he's running away).

Anyway, production values... very nice graphics all around for a game of its time (1999). Even by today's standards I liked them quite a bit, although it's all very tiny except for cut scenes, which were all around pretty cool. Good rendering of Sigil and the Outer Planes we did visit, although I was really hoping for more area to run around in. It's in the BG engine so invisible walls and such are to be expected, but I was really hoping essentially to be able to walk the whole of Sigil and come back along the ring to the other side. Failing that, at least give me a few more outer planes to visit. Ah well, I guess maybe I was expecting too much.

The only other minor thing that disappointed me, productionwise, was that the design of the Modron was much better in the DiTerlizzi design than they were in the game.
Here, look for yourself:
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usFree Image Hosting at

The first one's some DiTerlizzi art. The second is the CGI Modron. I want one of the first type for my very own they're so clockwork cute, but the other one just looks like a box with a face and aren't nearly as interessting.

I should also talk about the cast. I checked out the voicecast list at the end of the game, and there were some surprises. Mitch Pileggi, Assistant Director Skinner himself, played the voice of Dak'kon... didn't recognize him. Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson) played Nodrom the mordron! John de Lancie (Q) plays a deva. Keith David (Goliath from Gargoyles) plays a ghost. The only one I did recognize off hand was the Big Bad's voice. He's Tony Jay, the unmistakable voice of Megabyte of Reboot! And I only recognized him towards the end, on like my second or third win to exhaust all the different possibilities.

Anyway, the game's over, and it's no longer eating my brain. However, Planescape itself still is, a bit.

Some rambling thoughts about the Planescape setting itself and where thoughts like it takes me...:

I mentioned when I first started playing the game that Planescape was probably my favorite campaign setting for AD&D 2nd edition. I loved it. It was like the perfect setting for me. For those who happen to be completely unfamiliar with it, but for who some reason are reading this anyway, I'll give a brief summary:

Most D&D settings are in varieties of fantasy worlds, but Planescape opened up the multiverse. There are planes of existence. The Prime Material Plane is the 'real world' where all the other games can take place, the Inner Planes are the elemental ones, and the Outer Planes are the planes of belief, where every heaven and hell and other afterlife in the multiverse exists in the infinity of possibilities. The Planescape campaign setting encompassed all of them, primarily through the device of the city of Sigil, built on the inside of a ring at the top of an infinitely tall spire at the center of the Outer Planes (yes, there are contradictions in that description, but everyone accepts it anyway because it just is). In that city anyone, save gods, who are forbidden, can find their way by travelling through a portal. Sigil is known as the City of Doors because every arch, doorway, window, could potentially be a portal, if you step through with the right key (which could be an item, an action, a thought, an emotion, or things even vaguer).

So, it just had a fundamental cool factor, and the campaign setting itself was extremely well done, and well illustrated (DiTerlizzi did much of it and it was beautiful even when it ugly). Great descriptive text and adventures. The main city's sort of a harsher place than most fantasy cities sort of giving me the impression of an industrial revolution English city but without the industrial revolution (for the most part). They liberally mixed in 18th century english theives cant into the everyday dialog of the city, which some people hated but I grew to like, gave the game its own flavour.

There was the ability to go anywhere else you wanted to set a story, which was a big draw for me. If you had a creative DM you could also get away with a lot and potentially play races you'd never be allowed in regular games just because here it works. Factions were also pretty cool to play with.

I think some of the spirit of the expansiveness in Planescape helped me set up the multiverse in my alternaljournal although I didn't crib any specific particular elements (portals exist in both, but they exist in many places and operate differently).

Aside from just the cool little bits of the setting, Planescape hits on two ideas that were at one point (and perhaps still are) fundamentally attractive to me.

Firstly, there's the idea that belief shapes reality. Thus, there's the idea that if one believed in Planescape enough it could actually be true and one could find their way to Sigil. Perhaps I've lost faith in that now, but when I was younger it was an idea I toyed with. Kinda like that whole 'if I get the means to time travel I'll time travel to five minutes from now and give myself the means to time travel' which I never managed to get working.

The other one is deeper, more primal, and it's hit on in other things like Dark Tower, but since I'm talking Planescape I'll use the Planescape phrase. In Planescape, if you're holding the right key, any door, any arch, might become a portal to somewhere else. This strikes a chord with me because on some level, this is what I want. I've always held a hope that someday I might walk through a door and step into another world, a world more satisfying. Because this one isn't, not to me.

I don't think I've ever put it into words, but I think that lack of satisfaction with the scope of the world may have been the final nail in my coffin of any belief in gods, at least the traditional ones. I mean sure I have issues with the logic and all the other reasons, but on a gut, visceral level, the reason I don't believe... is because what is always pales before what could be.

There are such worlds out there in the imagination, and we have this one. Oh sure, this one's not without its charms, but it could be much more interesting. I'm not even talking about 'if God exists and is omnipotent and good why is there evil?'. I can accept the need for evil, for pain, and all that. But even with that, the storyteller within me screams that the world could be so much more, and yet all of us (to the best of our knowledge anyway) are doomed to this one.

Now I know that it's quite possible in any other world I (or someone else) would feel the same way, but it at least cuts me off from the common religions of the day because, well, their afterlives all suck too. The only gods I could believe in and worship are the ones that don't ask for it or need it and yet are creative enough to get around this fundamental problem. If I wake up in an afterlife like the one I designed as my ideal then I'd certainly praise anyone who designed it.

Anyway, it looks like I went off on a rant there a bit.

All this immersing myself in Planescape makes me wistful once again for a Planescape MUSH. I played in one once years ago, before XET started but I got a bit sick of some of the player drama. I played a port of a character I played in tabletop. He was a thief acrobat in that game but died. In the MUSH version I had his death (which was in both cases part of trying to rescue other people when he could have walked away and saved himself) save, among others, a druid who reincarnated him... except it reincarnated him as a raccoon. Subsequent enchantments allowed him to talk but not regain his human form (there were some quirks where he could be transformed to human but only temporarily). So mostly he was trying to earn money to pay for a polymorph spell to live as a human (well, half elf) for a few days. It was quite fun. Anyway, off topic (I do that a fair bit).

My ideal PS game would be set mostly in Sigil but run almost like an ideal superhero game. Traits rather than stats and mostly consent based (but with a heavy dose of IC actions = IC consequences with character death not being off the table if you take on a character way out of your league who's prone to killing, but perhaps a few tweaks to the plotline making things like casual murder of PCs a little less likely). You could play anything you could app convincingly, but quality of app helps determine what power level you'd be allowed so you'd have to be a really good apper to get, say, a pit fiend.

I know it'll never happen, if anyone did run a PS game it'd be stat based and probably D20 and so likely annoy me, so it goes into that wistful chest of MUSHes I Want That Will Probably Never Be (along with a Good Firefly Game and a couple superhero ones).

Oh, and while I'm on the subject, back when I was... I dunno, youngish (probably around 15?), I was running a Planescape RPG for my brother and a couple other people. It wasn't great but I did come up with what I thought was a great adventure, involving the PCs suddenly finding themselves on a Baatezu (demon) mobile fortress, on a suicide mission in the middle of the Blood War. I found the file, and since I was in the spirit of the setting, decided to clean it up a little and put it online. It's called The Charge of the Dark Brigade. Still a little rough and sketchy in parts, and there are a couple winceworthy things like names and bits of dialog, but still I think the main plot holds up remarkably well.
Tags: geeky, ideas, mush, planescape, rants, religion, roleplaying, video games

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