Planar Adventures

Losing Face in Sigil’s Slums: A DND Planescape Adventure for 1st-4th Level PCs

The PCs search for a missing person and devilish treasure in Sigil’s Slags, a dangerous, earthquake-prone battlefield where the Blood War between Devils and Demons once spilled over into the city.  But what they find is not what they were searching for....

This adventure addresses two problems GMs may have with adding Planescape to their DND campaigns: 1) It is difficult to initiate travel to Sigil or the Outer Planes from typical campaign settings and 2) Most planar adventures are designed for high-level characters. Losing Face in Sigil’s Slums is designed for 1st - 4th level characters and includes an optional hook to send the party to Sigil from any town in the Prime Material Plane.

To make it easy for DMs to absorb the details of the adventure and quickly access them during play, I have divided this article into three components:

    1. A summary of the adventure to give DMs a feel for the overall plot and tone.
    2. Detailed scene descriptions organized chronologically.  Key information, including important decision points, NPC names, and enemy creatures is bolded.
    3. A flow chart for referencing plot sequence on game day.

Adventure Summary

If the PCs have not previously traveled to Sigil and this adventure serves as the hook for venturing there, the PCs start in media res killing rats in the basement of a pub in their hometown in the Prime Material Plane.  They are searching for a missing person [hereafter known as Amelia] and heard she was last seen taking a job exterminating this infestation of rats.  The PCs unwittingly open a portal to Sigil by holding a rat’s tail (the portal key) and walking through a closet doorway (the portal) in the pub’s basement.

In Sigil, the PCs arrive on the edge of the Slags, the wreckage of an urban battlefield where the Blood War spilled into the city.  They see tracks of blood left by Amelia that enter a nearby bar, then backtrack and lead deeper into the Slags. If they travel to the bar, they learn that Amelia went to search the Slags for crates of fiendish treasure left behind by devils after they escaped Sigil.  They also interact with members of two of Sigil's Factions.

Once the PCs leave the bar, or if they directly traveled deeper into the Slags, they find the footprints lead to a wall covered in graffiti.  Solving a graffiti puzzle written in thieves cant by local treasure hunters yields the most direct path to the treasure and Amelia. On their way, the PCs face an optional encounter with roving demons and are caught in an earthquake.

The climax of the adventure occurs when the PCs reach the partially buried treasure crate.  The scene has three dynamic elements. The first is a puddle in front of the crate that is actually a portal to the plane of ooze. The second is the crate itself, which will begin to levitate into the air and shrink in size should the PCs fail to disable its trap.  The third is an attack by Vargouille(s), one of whom has Amelia’s face.

Ideally, the different elements of the climactic scene occur simultaneously, or at least partially overlap.  For example, if one PC is pulled into the ooze portal, the Vargouille(s) swoop in to attack the others while they are trying to pull the PC out.  Likewise, the DM may introduce the Vargouille(s) while the chest is disappearing, forcing the PCs to choose between treasure and defending themselves.  

After the climactic scene ends, the PCs may loot the crate if they were able to break it open before it disappeared.  If the DM wants the PCs to be able to easily return to their homeworld, the DM may determine that the portal through which they arrived is a two-way permanent portal with only one portal key (the rat tails).  If the PCs no longer possess rat tails, they can purchase them in The Hive Ward or kill cranium rats. Alternatively, if the DM wants the PCs to be stuck in Sigil, the PCs discover that the portal has closed, and they will need to find a new way home.

Detailed Scene Descriptions

Scene 1: Rats in the Basement at The Open Door Pub  

[Optional Scene that provides a hook for PCs to discover a portal to Sigil]

  • The session starts in media res; the PCs are in the dark dank basement of the Open Door Pub, surrounded by barrels of beer and the sound of squeaking and scurrying rats.
  • Tell the PCs that they are searching for a missing acquaintance.  
  • The DM should choose or concoct an acquaintance who the PCs have seen before and whose face they recognize.  For the purposes of this article, the missing person will be known as Amelia.
  • The Open Door Pub was her last known whereabouts.  She entered the basement to clear the infestation of rats but never returned.  
  • The owner of the Open Door has promised the PCs 1gp for each rat tail they can bring back to her.  The PCs can search for Amelia and earn some coin--two birds with one stone.
  • The PCs should roll initiative immediately and fight a number of Swarms of Rats (Monster Manual, p. 339) appropriate for an easy encounter.
  • Investigating the basement (no check needed) reveals:
      • Numerous dead rats, all with their tails cut off.
      • Bloody footprints leading to a closet.  The footprints disappear right at the archway of the closet door.  The blood is from the dead rats.
      • More dead rats and severed rat tails deep in the closet, which otherwise contains only cleaning equipment.
      • One of the dead rats has an exposed brain which faintly glows a shade of light blue.
      • A successful DC 15 INT [Investigation] check reveals a loose floorboard with a pouch of 12 gp hidden behind it.

Key Event:

  • If any PC walks through the frame of the closet door while holding a rat tail, a portal opens for 2 rounds and the PC automatically steps through the portal into Sigil.  The closet doorway is a portal to Sigil, and the portal key is a rat’s tail.
  • If the PCs do not find the portal on their own, a single Cranium Rat carrying a rat’s tail in its mouth scurries out from behind a hole in the wall.  The portal opens, and the cranium rat disappears within.
Scene 2: Exiting the Portal into Sigil and the Slags
  • The portal opens into the doorframe of a demolished house in the edge of the Slags, the most miserable section of the Hive Ward, the slums of Sigil.  
  • In the Cage: A Guide to Sigil describes the Slags as “an endless expanse of gray ash, raw sewage, and smoldering debris. Streets strewn with bones wind past mountains of bricks and rubble.”  
  • The PCs feel occasional light tremors, and see distant shapes eerily moving through the smog.
  • The DM may determine the weather in Sigil by rolling randomly on the Sigil Weather Table.
  • The PCs again spot the bloody footprints, clearly visible (no check needed).  
      • They lead out of the Slags to an adjacent street with a jumble of dark shacks and a larger building with dim light flickering through the windows.  
      • A sign painted on the door of the larger building reads: { }.  
      • The footprints then appear to double back, moving past the portal and deeper into the Slags.

Decision Point:

  • The PCs must choose whether to first travel to the Null Set, the tavern with the sign reading “{ }”, or immediately follow the footsteps deeper into the Slags.
Scene 3: The Null Set Bar, Info about the Slags
  • If the PCs choose to travel to the building with the open window, they come upon a bar in bad repair with few functional tables and even fewer patrons.
  • The name of the bar is The Null Set and it is run by a Githzerai named Dak.
      • Dak is tall and gaunt with a long, tightly bound ponytail and a long, tightly bound beard.
      • He is a member of the Bleak Cabal faction.  He believes that nothing has inherent meaning, only the meaning that we assign to it.  Because these assignations are arbitrary and subjective, meaning is worthless.
      • Dak speaks in Sigil’s cant, or slang, and can answer broad questions about Sigil.
  • When the PCs arrive, Dak is serving an empty glass to a Dragonborn sitting at the counter.
  • Cronus is a male Dragonborn dressed in garish clothes and a hat that keeps drooping over his head.
      • He is a member of the Society of Sensation Faction (Sensates), who wants to experience what it is like to drink at a Bleaker bar.  
      • He is trying to immerse himself in the hopelessness.
  • At the other end of the bar, two Fensir (see picture above) are performing.
      • Phineas is playing strangely rhythmic music on what looks like a giant canine skull.
      • Morvun is performing Bleaknik poetry to the music.
  • Morvun is a devoted Bleaknik poet who shows the meaninglessness of the world through poetry.  Phineas is just there to help his brother.
  • Morvun reads a poem called “Death #399.” (Faces of Sigil, p.70)
      • There’s no magic in me / I’m as good as dead / as useful as a really unuseful thing / go ahead and leave / I’ve got goodbye written all over me.
  • The menu has two options: “Arbitrarily Good Beer” (2 copper/pint) and “Arbitrarily Bad Beer” (1 copper/pint).  They are the same beer.
      • When Dak serves the beer, roll any dice. On an odd roll he serves an empty cup. On an even roll, he serves a full cup.

Key Dialogue:

  • Dak tells you that Amelia entered the Null Set after arriving in Sigil.  She was initially confused, but then asked about the nearby area.
  • Dak told her that the Slags still bear the scars of battle from when the Blood War between the Devils and Demons spilled into Sigil many years ago.  Now, the only creatures who venture within are the stray demons that never escaped and addle-coved adventurers who search the rubble for obsidian treasure crates left behind by escaping devils.  
  • Amelia’s eyes lit up when Dak mentioned the crates of treasure.
  • Dak told her about a concrete wall covered in Graffiti that prospectors use to pass messages to each other, and suggested it might have some leads.  [Amelia departed the Null Set soon thereafter, heading back in the direction of the Slags.]
Scene 4: A Coded Treasure Map on the Prospecting Wall
  • The bloody footprints begin to fade, but discernibly lead to a concrete wall covered in graffiti known by local knights-of-the-cross-trade (criminals) as the Prospecting Wall.
  • Cross-traders write coded graffiti messages on the wall to pass information to each other.
  • The footprints stop near the wall, then appear concentrated near one block of graffitti.
  • This block of graffiti is coded Thieves Cant that reveals the location of a Devil treasure crate. [Amelia deciphered the code and went searching for the crate.]

Puzzle:

  • PCs can decipher the code by solving the below anagram puzzle.  
  • PCs have one minute to solve the puzzle.  Each PC should roll an INT check. PCs who roll a 15 or higher earn an additional 30 seconds.  PCs who roll a 20 or higher earn an additional minute. Rogues earn an additional 30 seconds due to their Thieves Cant ability.
  • The DM should set a timer to the greatest amount of time for any player (e.g. 2:30).  Start the timer and have that player begin the puzzle. When the stopwatch hits the time increment for the next player (e.g. 1:30), have her go.  Do this for all players. If no players have solved the puzzle when time runs out, the PCs give up, unable to crack the code.

Anagram Puzzle:  Dehaa thieg sbolkc, thrgi urfo sbolkc

Correct Answer:  Ahead eight blocks, right four blocks.

  • If the players succeed, tell them the PCs have learned a detailed route to the treasure crate (The anagram puzzle is only symbolic of the PCs’ efforts, not the actual full message).
  • If they fail, they have no choice but to track the occasional footsteps through the Slags.
Scene 5: Traversing the Slags: Earthquakes and Demons
  • The PCs travel through smoldering rubble, sewage puddles, and piles of trash.
  • If the PCs solved the Anagram puzzle, the DM should describe how, aided by the coded message on the wall, the PCs make quick progress by navigating through a series of broken landmarks.
  • If the PCs did not solve the puzzle, the DM may have the PCs roll a WIS (survival) check to track Amelia’s footprints, which have become less distinct.
      • Failure may lead to additional encounters with wild dogs, cranium rats, minor demons, or disease.

Earthquake

  • During their trip through the Slags, the ground begins to tremble, then shake violently.  
  • If the PCs solved the anagram puzzle, they see a building collapse one block over, and the DM should tell them that the coded message seems to have kept them on safer ground.
  • If the PCs did not solve the puzzle, the buildings around them collapse.  The PCs take 2d6 damage as they are hit by falling rubble (DC 12 DEX save for half damage).

(Optional) Dretch Encounter:

  • While navigating the Slags, the PCs are attacked by a medium difficulty encounter worth of Dretches.  
  • The PCs may notice the Dretches first by succeeding on a DC 12 WIS (perception, smell) check.  
  • The battlefield contains collapsed buildings as potential high ground, and puddles and rubble as rough terrain on the ground level.
Scene 6: The Climax -- Ooze Puddle, Treasure Crate, Vargouille

[Reminder: This scene has a lot of moving parts. The DM should have the Vargouille(s) attack either when a PC is pulled into the Ooze puddle, or, ideally, when the crate starts to rise off the ground.  Bonus points for getting all three to happen simultaneously.]

  • Finally, either by solving the puzzle or by tracking Amelia's sporadic footprints, the party reaches the Devils’ treasure crate, a 5x5 foot cube made from an alien obsidian black material, partially buried under a pile of rubble.

Ooze Puddle:

  • In front of the treasure crate is a large puddle that reflects light from sparks that are lightly spraying out of latches on the crate (see Crate Latches, below).  The puddle extends along the entire front of the cube.
      • A successful DC 12 INT (investigation) check reveals the puddle to be a strange Amber color that is different from the brown oily puddles the PCs have encountered elsewhere in the Hive.
  • The ground in front of the puddle and cube is littered with broken metal, but the PCs also see a pickaxe that is intact and well-crafted.
      • The pickaxe is snagged on a metal bar jutting out of a collapsed wall on the ground.
      • The surface of the collapsed wall in front of the pickaxe is gauged with a deep scrape.
      • A successful DC 10 WIS (investigation) allows a PC to determine that the axe was purposely dragged along the wall, then caught on the bar.  
      • A successful DC 10 WIS (medicine) check of the pickaxe reveals human skin embedded in the shaft.
          • A previous explorer tried to use the axe, unsuccessfully, to prevent herself from being dragged into the ooze puddle.  She gripped the pickaxe so hard her skin peeled off.
  • The puddle is actually a portal to the Paraelemental Plane of Ooze. The portal opens into a rocky archway 30 feet down in a sea of ooze.
  • The ooze portal is guarded by a Portal Lurker (stats below), an ooze that drags unsuspected travelers into the Paraelemental Plane of Ooze.  
  • If a PC touches the puddle, the Portal Lurker (stats below) uses its Enveloping Grasp ability as a readied action to attack and try to restrain the PC.
  • If it succeeds, the Portal Lurker will drag the PC as far as possible towards the bottom of the sea of ooze, using its enveloping grasp ability on each subsequent turn.
  • The liquid in the sea of ooze is completely opaque.  All creatures benefit from total concealment. WIS (perception - feel) checks can be made at disadvantage to locate the direction of a nearby moving creature.

Portal Lurker (Homebrew)

    • Large ooze
    • AC: 8
    • HP: 28
    • Speed: 10 ft., swim 10 ft.
    • STR 14, Dex 6, Con 17, Int 1, Wis 6, CHA 2
    • Blindsight 60 ft, ooze traits
    • Enveloping Grasp: Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit. Hit: 6 (1d6 +2) bludgeoning damage, and the target is grappled (escape DC 14).  Until the grapple ends, the target is restrained and the Portal Lurker can’t grasp another target.

Crate Latches:

  • The crate is smooth except for two metal latches that hold its lid shut. The hinges on the latches appear slightly loose, and they emit slight sparks of electric energy.
  • The latches are trapped (DC 10 investigation to identify the trap, DC 25 dexterity check (thieves tools) to disable.
  • Failure to disable the trap cause a bolt of energy to leap from the latches, dealing 2d6 lightning damage to all within 5 feet (DC 10 DEX save for half).
  • On a failure, the crate begins to levitate off the ground, shaking off loose debris.  It also begins to shrink.
      • Roll initiative for the PCs and the crate.  The crate levitates 10 feet each round for three (3) rounds. On the start of its fourth round, it disappears.
      • The latches continue to arc electric energy. Any PC who hits a latch with a metal melee weapon suffers 1d6 lightning damage.
      • If both latches are dealt 20 damage, the crate will open and its contents will spill out onto the ground before it disappears.
      • The AC to hit the latches gets more difficult as the crate shrinks and levitates. The AC of the latches on each round are as follows:
          • Round 1: 12
          • Round 2: 15
          • Round 3: 18

Vargouille Attack

  • As the PCs are being pulled into the ooze portal or the crate begins to levitate off the ground, a hard encounter worth of Vargouille(s) (Volo’s Guide to Monsters, 195) swoops down and attacks.
  • One of the Vargouilles bears the face of Amelia. Her features have taken on a fiendish quality, and her ears have extended into large bat wings strong enough to carry her head.
  • [Amelia was knocked unconscious by Vargouilles before she could reach the crate and subsequently succumbed to their curse.]
Denouement: Weapons from the Crate or the Vargouille’s Curse?
  • The appearance of the Vargouille(s) solves the mystery of Amelia’s disappearance.  
  • The demonic features of the Vargouille(s), including their wings, will slowly dissolve into black ichor over the next 1d4 hours, leaving only the slightly deformed head of the original person.
  • The DM should describe the quick onset and spread of symptoms should the Vargouille(s) have kissed any PC. Sigil has many clerics capable of casting Remove Curse.
  • If the PCs have just arrived in Sigil for the first time, locals will roll their eyes at the “barmy primes,” give them the runaround, or gauge them on the price of the service.

Contents of the Treasure Crate

  • If the PCs successfully broke open the crate before it disappeared, they find a box of Baatorian Green Steel Weapons.
  • Baatorian Green Steel is black with flecks of dull green.  It is magically enchanted to maintain its micro-serrations despite continual use in the Blood War.  These micro-serrations, if struck at the perfect angle, have the capacity to deal tremendous damage.
  • The DM may choose the specific number and type of weapons.  Each weapon has the following properties
      • +1 Magical Weapon
      • “Exploding Damage Dice” trait:  
          • If the maximum value on any dice is rolled when dealing damage with the weapon, the dice “explodes.” Roll any such dice one additional time and add their value to the previous damage total.  Any rerolled dice may also explode.
          • For example, you attack with a dagger, dealing 1d6 weapon damage and 2d6 sneak attack damage. You roll a 6 on the weapon damage, and a 1 and 6 on the sneak attack damage. Rerolling the two 6’s you roll a 4 and another 6.  Rerolling the 6, you get a 2. Your total damage from the dice for that attack is 25.
Staying in Sigil or Returning Home?

If the DM wants the PCs to be able to easily return to their homeworld, tell the players that the portal through which they arrived is a two-way permanent portal, and they already know the only portal key: a rat’s tail. If the PCs no longer possess rat tails, they can purchase them in the hive or hunt Sigil’s ubiquitous cranium rats.  

Alternatively, if the DM wants the PCs to be be stuck in Sigil, perhaps as the starting point for a grand Odyssey campaign where the players struggle to find their way home, tell the players that the portal has closed, and the PCs will need to find another way home.

Congratulations on completing Losing Face in Sigil's Slums!

I welcome any feedback in the comments section below.  If you like this adventure, please share it with your friends or let me know on twitter @ThePlanarDM.

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