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I am referring to Sigil, the city floating above the spire in the Outlands. I have looked into multiple different sources, but it seems that there is no clear answer. I have been trying to find some sort of list that outlines what the laws are, but sources seem to contradict each other. One one hand, I am finding some information that says the only thing that would get someone in real trouble would be trying to attack the city at large. I'm also finding other information that suggests there are many different laws in the city.

So which is it? And what are the rules, if there are any? I am not really looking for a list of all crimes possible. What I am looking for are laws that are either specific to Sigil, or that are so serious that they would get a character executed or mazed by the Lady of Pain if they were to be committed.

If the answer to this question is too extensive or complicated to explain, is there a sourcebook that is generally taken as the most accurate or most reliable book about this campaign setting where I can find the information?

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    \$\begingroup\$ It might help to know where you’re are reading these contradictory things. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 2:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am asking across all editions because my game is 5E and there is not a whole lot about sigil listed there. Most of the resources are secondhand knowledge that has been written online because I do not actually own any books that are not of 5th edition, though I am not against looking into getting ahold of a book if someone can verify that what I need I can find inside. \$\endgroup\$
    – owlishe
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 2:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Part of me wants to point out there's almost no sources about the laws for any location in any D&D setting. That being said, there actually are sources that describe the legal system of Sigil, at least tangentially. Or legal systems, I should say; between the guvners. the Lady, the hardheads, the signers, and the mercykillers, there's multiple different authorities who make and enforce the law, and they can and do disagree about what should be (and is) legal. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Jan 20, 2022 at 22:07

3 Answers 3

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A good resource is TSR 2609, In the Cage: A Guide to Sigil. On page 21, there is a subsection titled "Writing the Dead-Book: Executions in Sigil".

... hanging is reserved for deserters, embezzlers, murderers, and escaped slaves.

Execution by the blade is generally reserved for nobles and powerful faction members - high-ups guilty of crimes such as seeking to close a portal to the Outlands, failing to provide taxes to the city treasury, libeling the Lady, or such like.

Death by the Wyrm is an extremely rare, lingering, spectacular demise. ... only traitors to the city (those who betray the trust placed in them, such as those who slay dabus, those who reveal secret gates, or those who charge tolls and tariffs on the Lady's portals) are sentenced to death by the Wyrm ...

For a Sigil-specific crime, C:AGtoS gives an example on page 54, discussing the dead deity of portals, Aoskar:

His followers are very few and very peery, for they are hunted ruthlessly and often sentenced to a gruesome death by the Wyrm for their beliefs.

On the other hand, TSR 2624, Uncaged, Faces of Sigil, has details about Will of the One, a group who wants to resurrect Aoskar, and on page 37, while describing Fell, a dabus proxy, we read:

A growing number of Signers suspect that Fell is a proxy of the portal-god immune to the Lady's wrath, though to hold this view publicly is to invite a beating from the Harmonium and the Mercykillers.

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So, I'm going to first disclaim that I don't know a lot about Planescape, or Sigil in particular, but I feel like there are two important points of note when it comes to "what are the city's laws?"

  1. There is no single legislative or judicial body in Sigil. There's not even, so far as I'm aware, any particular officially sanctioned legislative or judicial authorities in Sigil, but more particularly, no actual established law enforcement body. The Mercykillers, Harmonium, and Fraternity of Order have basically stepped up to say they are such bodies, but that's basically just "we've decided to enforce the law, and if you have a problem with that, we've decided that's illegal."
  2. The laws (other than the Lady's Laws) that do exist are created and passed by a council of representatives of each faction, with no apparent oversight from the Lady of Pain.

There's one other point to consider, the Lady's Laws, which are, well, pretty succinct-

  • Worship of the Lady is prohibited.
  • No harm may come to any dabus.
  • There are to be no challenges to the Lady's ultimate rule or authority within Sigil.
  • Any action which harms the city of Sigil either directly or indirectly will be considered as a direct attack against the Lady herself, and punished appropriately.
  • No divine entity may enter Sigil.
  • There may be at no time more than 15 factions operating within Sigil. (Though this rule was put into place during the Great Upheaval, it is unknown if it is still amongst her laws, and the dabus have refused comment. Most haven't risked testing it.)

So, basically, the actual hard, set laws are just the Lady's Laws, and amount to "don't mess with the Lady of Pain's stuff." Everything beyond that is things that a majority of faction representatives have agreed upon, with no apparent established procedure- or rather, any procedure would be the result of the majority of faction representatives agreeing that should be the procedure. The one exception, as in, the one law that exists, is not directly related to the Lady of Pain and her claim on Sigil, and seems pretty enduring is that there's a monthly tax-- flat 5% on all commerce, and an income tax of 3 coppers or 10% of month's income (whichever is greater) for all citizens.

This means that... well, whatever you may find that establishes laws in Sigil, is really just talking about the laws as they exist in one particular point in time, and the laws literally might change the day after the hypothetical day on which they were talked about. Which... well, ok, for one, means that knowing the laws on any given day is basically a fool's errand unless you have someone watching the council and reporting to you if anything's changed, but, two, that feels intentional. It feels like Sigil is supposed to be the kind of place with a terrifyingly byzantine and arcane system of laws, and literally anything you might do might be illegal--or it might be illegal to not do that thing. And basically, it depends on whether one of the three gangs that have decided they are the law catch you (and you can't bribe your way out of it).

So, I would go with that. Have a set of general laws just so the players have a basic frame of reference, but also make sure the players know, and are on board with the fact, that the laws might change at any given moment, and it's best to just have a basic idea of what a majority of faction reps would think about a given thing.

There is one hilarious side-effect of the way Sigil's laws work taken together with the fact that the tax collectors are one particular faction of, explicitly, in text, insufferable, greedy, colossal jerks. Which is that it's quite reasonable to assume that it is fully legal in Sigil to kill a Fated tax collector for any reason, including "they are trying to shake you down for more than the established basic required taxes."

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. This seems like a good first answer, but you should edit it to support your claims by citing evidence (e.g. from the books). See this FAQ on meta for more detailed guidance: What are the citation expectations of answers on RPG Stack Exchange? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jan 20, 2022 at 20:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ For someone who claims to not know a lot about Planescape, you've certainly provided a lot of Planescape-specific information! I knew several of the details you mention already, but I'm curious about the tax rate, and about it being legal to murder the Fated. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Jan 20, 2022 at 22:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, I happen to be good at finding and connecting information lol. For the taxes- I'm taking that information from this wiki page- rilmani.org/timaresh/Sigil But there is no specific citation, and I cannot find information about taxes (with a cursory skim) in their cited sources. So, I know where I found it, but I don't know where they get it from. The idea of murdering Fated being legal isn't canon, just a logical conclusion from the fact that everyone hates them, and they are outnumbered in the council that sets the laws in a city where all laws are set by that council. \$\endgroup\$
    – Valraven
    Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 0:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you made a really good call-out here, though. There are two 'levels' of laws in Sigil...one set being made by the mortals who live there and have maneuvered themselves into a position of sufficient power to enforce the rules they established. Then, separate and above those, are the Lady's Laws. Her Serenity doesn't seem to care how mortals administrate themselves in her city--but if you do something that is "legal" according to the city's mortals, but infringes on the Lady's Laws...she's going to shred you and no mortal ruling or precedent will protect you. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 15:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Valraven There's definitely a good amount of fanon on Timaresh, but something that specific doesn't feel like something I would've invented out of nowhere; I usually keep that to more conceptual ideas. It's been a few years since I wrote the Sigil article though, so I can't remember for certain. I'll dig around and see if I can find a specific citation for that one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Idran
    Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 2:07
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We have a glimpse of some of them on the Factol's Manifesto, page 110, plus the sentencing "reforms" instituted by Factol Nilesia associated with them:

The Mercykillers have posted declarations all over the Cage announcing their sentencing reforms, which they claim have "simplified" the process of punishment. Henceforth, all crimes committed in Sigil fall into one of three categories, and all crimes committed in the past get reclassified according to the new structure. For all felonies (such as murder, rape, burglary, or arson), the Mercykillers' new punishment is death. For all misdemeanors (such as assault, embezzling, jaywalking, begging, or vagrancy), the new punishment is 10 years' hard labor in the Lower Planes. And for all other rules infractions (such as failure to pay fines, falsifying reports, and so on), the new punishment is 10 years' incarceration in the Prison.

Factol Nilesia's said to have some sense of fairness, though. For instance, a berk who's already served more than 10 years for operating a tavern without a license is now free to go. But sods serving life for previously sentenced felonies are getting the hangman's noose.

The severity of this is moderated somewhat by the actions of Arwyl Swan's Son, another high-up in the Mercykillers, as described on page 107:

Often it seems to [Swan's Son] that the Red Death stretches the bounds of goodness in the name of justice - and even commits acts of out and out evil. So he tries to ensure that not a single sod goes to the gallows for a crime he didn't commit.

In the Cage, page 60, gives a little more context on the legal process, both in terms of passing law and some of the nature of it.

The Clerk's Ward takes pride in its progressive policies regarding capital punishment (in most cases, an execution's got to be preceded by a fair trial) and free enterprise (merchants may engage in trade without government interference - within reason). While these are strictly speaking a function of the Court in The Lady's Ward, the Clerk's Ward prides itself on having been instrumental in their implementation.

Other proposals, currently under discussion at the Hall of Speakers, include:

  • The Architectural Uniformity Act, establishing official color schemes for all structures in the ward.
  • The Indigent Relocation Act, collecting funds to purchase wagons for moving impoverished citizens to the Hive Ward, where it's felt they'll be more comfortable.
  • The Apparel Regulation Act, establishing dress standards for workers and making violations punishable offenses.

None of these proposals've become law. But debate'll continue, perhaps for years, perhaps for decades. A thorough discussion's always preferable to a hasty decision.

ZwiQ mentioned the execution process, though that's the process as of Hashkar 126 (when ItC is internally set), when Factol Mallin still ran the Mercykillers.

This information was supplanted by new procedure in Hashkar 127 (when FM is internally set) after Factol Nilesia took over, which is also why the categorization of crimes is slightly different there; while desertion and escaping slavery aren't mentioned in FM's categorization, I would imagine they are still crimes even after she took over, as she wouldn't have the authority to legalize activity on her own. There's also a new execution process under Nilesia's direction, as described on page 105 of the Factol's Manifesto:

The Mercykillers have always carted off "special" prisoners to Petitioner's Square, a public place where jeering crowds can watch a berk get hung, beheaded, or eaten....But most of the inmates met their deaths in the deepest, quietest corner of the Cellars. By the time sods learned where the execution chamber was, they were already standing in line.

Now, though, Factol Nilesia's mandated that the inmates be put to death in the open square inside the Prison's four walls. During her first month in office, she had a tremendous gallows built in one corner of the square, directly above a heavily guarded pit said to lead to the Cellars. Deaders get dragged underground and sent through portals to a special area in the Mortuary that handles executed prisoners.

The daily hangings are mandatory viewing for prisoners. Each day, inmates from one floor of the Prison file out to the square. Under heavy guard, they're forced to witness the hangings of fellow inmates whose crimes fall under the death punishment in the new sentencing procedures. Nilesia feels the example will help them avoid making similar mistakes in the future.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It might be of particular note, given that ZwiQ's information is for before H.127 and that such procedures changed in H.127, that the canon timeline of Planescape only goes up to the month of Mortis in H.130 (as of Faction War, apparently), or perhaps Year 2 post Faction War (according to the Living Sigil wordpress blog, which is, admittedly, maintained by a freelance writer who submitted Sigil material to Polyhedron magazine). Looking, then, at how this matches the FR calendar, H130 is 1371 DR, and the current FR year in 5e is 1495. \$\endgroup\$
    – Valraven
    Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 0:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ This means that, if you are using the "official" chronology of 5e (in so far as there is one), 124 years have passed* since the last canon event in Sigil. Which, even in a world with immortal beings, is quite a long time on a civic timescale, so, in essence, if you wish to run a "present day" Planescape game, you can honestly do whatever you want, both because that is the nature of D&D, and because there's a century+ of emptiness. *note- I am not bothering to compare time units. \$\endgroup\$
    – Valraven
    Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 0:55

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