Life in Sigil

Kips in the Cage: Custom Lifestyle Expenses for Planescape’s Sigil

How much jink for a kip in the cage, berk? For those not up on their Planescape slang, that means we’re going to examine lifestyle expenses in Sigil: how much it costs, variations by ward, and the benefits or drawbacks of a character’s choice of living standards.

How does D&D handle lifestyle expenses?  

The Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook (157-158) specifies seven levels of lifestyle expenses, each with a corresponding daily cost as well as associated benefits and drawbacks, that players can choose as a simple and fast way of accounting for routine expenses.  In the PHB, these levels range from Wretched, which costs nothing per day, to Aristocratic, which costs 10 gp/day. At higher levels, lifestyle expenses may include maintenance costs, food and lodging, servant wages, and invitations to social gatherings, while a lower standard of living may expose one to disease, hunger, or crime.  

While DMs may opt out of using a set lifestyle expense table, it serves a number of useful design functions.  Lifestyle tables simplify the handling of day-to-day expenses while still reinforcing the idea that characters live in a real fantasy world that functions outside of their own adventures.  Expenses also assign meaningful consequences to players’ lifestyle choices, providing a motive to adventure and earn money. And, when done well, they create roleplaying opportunities and adventure hooks that link neatly to players’ backstories and class features.

Customizing lifestyle expenses for Sigil

Why customize a new lifestyle expense system for Sigil when the 5e SRD already provides a perfectly good system?

Sigil is not your typical city; it is the hub of commerce, philosophy and movement for the infinite outer planes.  Because it is built inside a torus (essentially the inner surface of a tire) of finite size and all existing surfaces have already been developed, there is no space for Sigil to expand.  This puts pressure on the real estate market, causing Sigil’s housing prices to exceed those of other cities. Further, everything in Sigil must be imported, typically through portals, or repurposed from existing materials.  This puts further upward pressure on the prices of goods.

Services, on the other hand, come cheaper, particularly unskilled services.  Adventurers are a copper a dozen, and those who can’t rise above the fierce competition for jobs end up as bodyguards, blood war recruits, touts, or corpse “collectors” in the Hive Ward.  Wizards, clairvoyants, priests, and thieves abound, and they’re willing to slash standard rates to keep potential customers from asking the provider next door.

Sigil’s other salient feature is its six distinct wards.  PCs can neither live like an aristocrat in the Hive’s slums nor locate squalid quarters in the Lady’s Ward.  And while one can live in modest conditions in both the Lower Ward and Guildhall Ward, one must pay for the privilege of not waking up each morning smelling like a freshly smelted sheet of iron.

I developed the following chart to reflect Sigil’s higher than normal cost-of-living and the different costs of maintaining one’s standard of living in each of the different wards.  Note that one can purchase a permanent lifestyle at a certain level for 5,000x the listed daily price. Any amount spent to achieve a permanent standard of living can be applied to a higher level should a player wish to upgrade at a later time.

Impact of Lifestyle Choices

Now the fun part--how does each level of lifestyle standard affect the PCs, and how does one’s choice of ward factor into the equation?  Let’s re-skin the official text to fit Sigil.

Wretched (Hive Only)

Poor sods living in wretched conditions in the Hive Ward are on the fast track to being written in the dead-book.  Life here is nasty, brutish, and short. With no kip of your own, you sleep in sewage ditches, empty safehouses, unkempt patches of razorvine, and Dabus construction sites.  Enterprising cutters sleep in the long line for barmies looking to be committed into the Gatehouse asylum; better, they say, to be awakened by the howls of the cage-addled than by a cutpurse snipping your throat.

  • The fences at the Gatehouse Night Market won’t ask questions or give you the tourist price
  • No Harmonium Patrols
  • Allesha’s Pantry provides free meals to those who help wash dashes in the kitchen
  • Constant threat of disease
  • Constant threat of theft
  • Significant threat of murder or enslavement
  • Hungry cranium rat swarms
  • Dabus may build over and seal you into construction sites
  • May be mistaken by corpse collectors and brought to the Mortuary
  • May be sucked into Paraelemental Plane of Ooze by slow-moving ooze portals

Squalid (Hive Only)

You share a dingy room with ten other sods in a decrepit tenement home in the Hive Ward’s slums.  You drink brown water pulled from The Ditch and eat a pot of re-boiled yesterday. Your roommates might be barmies, excommunicated cultists, professional killers, or those in advanced stages of communicable diseases; well, technically, most of your roommates are the ubiquitous vermin that constantly scurry over your kip’s crumbling walls.  Alternatively, a reclusive community in Undersigil’s Trash Warrens might have agreed to shelter you.

  • The Fences at the Gatehouse Night Market won’t ask questions or give you the tourist price
  • No Harmonium Patrols
  • Connections with Sigil’s underworld
  • Constant threat of disease
  • Constant threat of theft
  • Minor threat of murder or enslavement

Poor (Hive, Lower, Market)

A poor standard of living in the Hive equates to a shared room in a multi-family home in one of the ward’s nicer areas.  Folks at this lifestyle level tend to be unskilled laborers, smugglers or forgers, simple craftsmen, or bodyguards. Conditions are crowded and spartan, but free of most vermin and violent crime.

In the Market Ward, merchants allow berks to sleep in market stalls outside of business hours, and even share fresh grub in the morning.  One may also rent a shared second-floor room above one of the wards’ many shops, but, buyer beware, rooms above less odiferous shops and less raucous taverns tend to set bashers to a bidding frenzy.  

One may find similar accommodations in the Lower Ward, except everything one owns gets a free paint job of light gray soot each morning, and cutters will smell you a block away when you enter another ward.

  • Hive Only -- The Fences at the Gatehouse Night Market won’t ask questions or give you the tourist price
  • Hive Only -- No Harmonium Patrols
  • Connections with Sigil’s underworld
  • Lower Ward Only -- Grudging respect from merchants and craftsmen of the Lower Ward, who typically are peery of outsiders
  • Minor threat of disease
  • Minor threat of theft
  • Lower Ward Only -- Cage Lung, a chronic lung condition unique to residents of the Lower Ward.  Symptoms include a hacking cough, grayish-green phlegm, and a lingering taste of sulfur.  Anyone afflicted by this illness must immediately spend their next round coughing whenever they fail a constitution check or saving throw.

Modest (Lower, Market, Guildhall)

A modest lifestyle finally lets you give the Hive Ward the laugh. You rent a private room in a flophouse or large tenement row.  You are able to meet basic needs but are unable to afford the services of outside specialists. Your peers may include craftsmen, small shopkeepers, apprentice guildmembers, and Faction namers.

Modest Lower Ward kips are better insulated to keep out the smog, and once a week the landlord will bring in a cleaner to mop up the grime that gets tramped in on boots and clothing.

In the Market and Guildhall Wards, a modest lifestyle will expose you to smaller merchants or craftsmen who may be willing to barter goods or services in exchange for completing certain tasks.  Only residents of the Guildhall Ward are eligible for resident passes to the communal bathhouses located every couple blocks.

  • Exposure to Faction namers
  • Players may repair basic equipment at no additional cost.
  • Lower Ward Only -- Grudging respect from merchants and craftsmen of the Lower Ward, who typically are peery of outsiders.
  • Market/Guildhall Wards -- Small merchants/craftsman may offer jobs in exchange for discounts on goods or services.
  • Guildhall Ward Only -- access to Guildhall Ward’s communal bathhouses
  • Lower Ward Only -- reduced incidence of Cage Lung, a chronic lung condition unique to residents of the Lower Ward.  Symptoms include a hacking cough, grayish-green phlegm, and a lingering taste of sulfur. Anyone afflicted by this illness must immediately spend their next round coughing whenever they fail a constitution check or saving throw.  

Comfortable (Market, Guildhall, Clerk’s)

A comfortable lifestyle in Sigil allows you to afford all of life’s necessities, as well as nicer clothing, better food, and an occasional indulgence in one of Sigil’s varied forms of entertainment. You live in a small apartment or a private room in an inn in one of the quieter areas of the Market or Guildhall Wards, or in the Clerk’s ward.  Local merchants know you by name and call out to inquire if you’ve seen their latest wares, and you rub shoulders with traders, Faction factotums, and government clerks at your usual haunts.

  • Exposure to Faction factotums, well-to-do merchants, and government clerks, who may offer lucrative jobs
  • Players may acquire and repair all basic items at no additional cost.
  • Free standard drinks and food at local pubs, as well as generous garnishes (tips)
  • Free courier, tout, and lightboy service
  • 1/week free access to a public sensorium exhibit at the Civic Festhall or a day spa experience at the Great Gymnasium
  • Clerk’s Ward/Guildhall Ward -- Access to Guildhall Ward’s communal bathhouses
  • Clerk’s Ward Only -- Free, priority inquiry service at the Hall of Information
  • Don’t get to see as many corpses in the streets?

Wealthy (Clerk’s, Lady’s)

Aren’t you a right piking blood?  

A wealthy lifestyle in Sigil lets you enjoy all the pleasures the planes have to offer. Abyssal beef, Bytopian double-creamed yogurt, Gehennan firewine--it’s all at your fingertips.  You rub elbows with all but the highest of the high-up men and women, attend masquerade balls at Chirper’s, and get exclusive early access to top experiencer Kadiera’s sold-out sensory extravaganza at the Civic Festhall.

You live in a suite in one of Sigil’s best inns, a penthouse apartment overlooking a Sigil landmark, or a private house with a small patio and rock garden. You are tended to by a small staff of servants.

  • Exposure to Faction factors, high-ranking government officials, wealthy merchants, prominent scholars, and respected artists.
  • You and your entourage dine for free at Sigil’s best restaurants.
  • Free sedan chair, courier, tout, and lightboy service
  • Free temple services costing 10gp or less
  • Free access to public sensoriums and spas, and exclusive access to private events and social gatherings
  • Free, priority service at all of Sigil’s government offices
  • Lady’s Ward Only -- More exclusive invitations to social gatherings

Aristocratic (Clerk's, Lady's)

Sigil residents hold you in awe, particularly if you live in the Lady’s Ward.  You’re a high-up, one of the few bloods who knows the real dark of things and keep the city functioning.

You live a life of cosmopolitan opulence.  Your peers are Factols, archmages, generals, kings, guild leaders, and the various high-ups who secretly vie for influence in Sigil’s Kriegstanz (undeclared war among the Factions)  You live in a secure mansion in the Clerk’s or Lady’s Ward that is guarded by skilled soldiers, magical wards, and deadly traps. You receive invitations to the social gatherings of the rich and powerful, and are expected to weigh in on the issues vexing Sigil and the Outer Planes.  You are also likely to be stabbed in the back or sent packing to one of The Lady's mazes by those same peers.

  • Free priority access to any good or service in Sigil costing less than your daily cost of living (25gp for Clerk’s Ward, 50gp for Lady’s Ward)
  • Armed escort service of at least four CR3 Knights at all times
  • Invitations to the most exclusive and lucrative (though also potentially dangerous) social events
  • Exposure to Faction Factols and other high-ups.  
  • NPCs will approach you offering to sell you extremely valuable chant (information) or magical items, particularly if you live in the Lady’s Ward.
  • You are marked by other high-ups as a competitor to be studied, manipulated, or eliminated.
  • High likelihood of being drawn into political intrigue, either as an active or unwitting participant.   

Final Word

Now that you know how much it costs for PCs to spend time in Sigil, open up your interactive map, bookmark this handy crib sheet to the Factions, grab your Planescape books, roll up some miserable weather, and let the players explore the city until they end up in one of the Lady of Pain’s mazes.

4 thoughts on “Kips in the Cage: Custom Lifestyle Expenses for Planescape’s Sigil”

  1. I am building a Realm Works realm for my upcoming 5e Planescape campaign and pretty much entering everything I can find. This was awesome info! Thanks!!! 🙂

  2. Would the real estate market really plunge that high if people can just look for unused portals and keep them, thus essentially having infinite space to build stuff? If something led to an unused demiplane for example

    1. I always envision portals as a scarce resource. Permanent ones are incredibly powerful, and thus prized and fought over by Sigil’s elite. Knowledge of shifting portals is also scarce, so sold for a high price, and because the portals themselves don’t last long, that doesn’t lend itself to a house in country, so to speak.

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