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The Planescape setting is a really big one. If you are familiar with it, you know that it takes pretty much everything outside of the "standard" D&D setting and opens it all up for adventures. The problem is that Planescape is almost too big or too variable for RAW D&D, which is designed for "standard" settings.

My friends and I are really excited for branching out into a bigger setting where so much crazy awesome stuff can happen, but I (as the GM) have noticed some hurdles with the setting according to D&D 3.5 rules.

Some problems:

Magic Items.

Magic items on the planes can get affected pretty badly. There's a system in place where items lose their enhancement bonuses as they get away from their home planes. I think it's -1 to the enhancement for each set of planes away from the source. We like the idea, but we think it's too hard to keep track of. Is there an easier system, perhaps?

Divine Magic.

We honestly do not know why anyone would choose to be a cleric in the Planescape setting. They are totally nerfed on the Planes unless you are in your deity's domain loss of one caster level, plus accompanying spells, per plane between you and your deity. Are there bonuses to offset this that we have not yet discovered, or should we be houseruling?

The rest I think we can handle with the help of some old Planescape sourcebooks.

Beside the problems, the more important part of the question relates to the positive side of optimization. There are some great concepts in Planescape like Rule of Three and Power of Belief. If one of you guys has some familiarity with the setting, maybe you could suggest some new game mechanics or roleplay mechanics that use Planescape-specific features to enhance the game further. We've had fun brainstorming this one and we are really open to some more fun ideas.

Thanks!

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There's a few things I can think of that might mitigate the problems you're worried about.

Magic Items The writers of the original Planescape setting seem to have foreseen the problems you're worried about, and included some countermeasures in the rules themselves.

First, most magic items come from a very small number of places: The Prime Material Plane is a big manufacturer of magic items, and so is the Outlands. Most of the other planes, however, are not: The Inner and Transitive Planes are either too environmentally hostile or poor in resources for magic item creation to be widespread, and the Powers who make their kips on the Outer Planes tend to be leery of allowing magic weapons and armour to be stockpiled without a blessed good reason. There are exceptions, of course (certain powers of artisanship and magic actually encourage magic item creation, and the foundries of the City of Brass are legendary) but in the scheme of things, these don't make much of a difference: There's a high chance that every magic weapon and item of armour in the party came from a very small list of places.

Second, even if a magic weapon loses bonuses due to not being on its plane of origin, those bonuses still count for the purposes of overcoming damage reduction. As far as I can tell, the canny bloods who scribed the Planescape knew that having magic items be affected by travelling between planes would cause cannon problems with earlier adventures that didn't mention those effects, so they wrote in this rule specifically to make the effect of bonuses being lost so subtle that players (and characters) could plausibly have not noticed it. More importantly for your purposes, it means you can slip up and apply the wrong amount of bonus every now and then without straining the credibility of the setting: Even if the +1 light mace your fighter bought in the Cage shouldn't get that +1 when she's in the Abyss, it can still smash a vrock's beak if it hits one.

Taking those two together: There won't be as much paperwork generated by magic weapons and armour as you expect, and it won't matter too much even if you make the odd mistake. (A player or two might tumble to the idea of getting a magic item made in a particular place specifically in order to get around the penalty. This is a good thing: If they care that much, then they shouldn't mind keeping track of their bonuses themselves.)

Divine casters are generally nerfed on the Outer Planes, yes. (On the Inner, Transitive and Prime Material Planes, no clerics of any power take penalties due to distance.) There's three ways around the penalties, though.

First, clerics who follow a cause rather than a specific deity can simply ignore the whole issue. Personally I like to follow a deity when I play a cleric, but that's a matter of personal taste.

Second, only clerics whose Powers have set their divine realm on an Outer Plane are affected. There's a fair few elemental powers with realms on the Inner Planes for obvious reasons, and there's even a few who've established realms on the Prime; Their clerics can go anywhere on the planes and not have to worry about how far it might be from their deity's doorstep.

Finally, there are a vast number of powers - mostly neutral, but also of other alignments - who have placed their divine realms in the Outlands, and the great thing about the Outlands is that it's conveniently close to everywhere: It's only one step, maximum, to any other outer plane, and so only a -1 level penalty, max, to be faced by those powers' clerics - and of course, outside of the Outer Planes, there's no penalty at all.

Admittedly, the above options do limit the list of deities available to players who want to avoid penalties, but still, it should give you some options. (Incidentally, the reasons why people are clerics in the Planescape setting are the same as they are in any other setting: Because they Believe in their deity, and because they Believe that serving their deity is worth it. I suspect you knew that, though.)

Other suggestions for mechanics are off-topic for this site, I believe. Unless you want to describe a specific problem they should address?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a great answer! I want just to point a few clarifications regarding Divine Casters: 1- number of levels lost for a priest is the number of planes between his deity and the priest (i.e. a priest in any outer plane whose deity is in the outlands do not lose a level). 2- Deities in the inner planes are also affected by the plane distance rule (priests suffer a -3 adjustment if they are in any outer plane). This is referenced in the DM Guide to the Planes, page 14, in the Planescape Campaign Setting Box. \$\endgroup\$ – Erizo Apr 26 '17 at 11:16
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Our group has been playing in the Planescape setting for years now using the 3.5 edition rules and we haven’t had any real problems with using the 3.5 edition rules in the Planescape setting. For converting monsters (and other rules although we rarely had to use that) to 3.5 edition you can use the Planewalker site.

The effect of the planes on magic and the other thinks you mention such as the Rule of Three, all give flavour to the Planescape setting and give great possibilities for roleplay, which is one of reasons our group likes playing this setting.

Divine Magic

As @GMJoe mentions, by choosing a power with a domain on the Outlands you are only one plane removed from all of the planes on the outer ring.

Because powers are (or can be) actively involved on the planes, they are a great trigger for adventures (even if the party does not have a cleric). A cleric has to have a good reason to refuse a request from his power to get involved in something. In our case this usually also means we have support from the power (+pantheon) in our adventure. This can be in magic items (also see next point), in assistance in getting around the planes, or whatever.

Powers can give their followers Power Keys which enables clerics to cast without penalties on other planes (see page 14 in DM guide of the Planescape setting) or even to enhance certain spells (e.g. always maximum effect). These things should be rare and their use should be limited because they are very powerful. You could think of giving your cleric a Power Key for the duration of a mission undertaken by the party for the Power; or perhaps tie it with a specific plane (i.e. it only works on Baator). Great opportunities for story.

Also, it are not just the clerics whose magic are affected. Other magic is also affected by the planes (see table II in the DM guide of the Planescape setting). For example, illusions don’t work on Mechanus. This effect is, however, not as dramatic as the effect on clerics can be in some planes.

Magic Items

The effects of planes on magic and armour are not too difficult to keep track of. The armour class and attack roll are for the plane of origin of the armour/weapon and I subtract the appropriate penalties from my roll.

Besides magical weapons and armour, other items are also affected just like magic performed by wizards and sorcerers (as mentioned earlier). From the DM guide: ‘A wand of wonder, which uses wild magic, is a useless stick on orderly Mechanus. And unlike spells, there are no keys to make magical items work properly.’ So it is actually a bit more complex, but also fun.

Your other points are a bit difficult to answer without concrete question. For the ‘Power of Belief’ I would like to mention that a classic adventure in Planescape is preventing or causing a certain location to planeshift.

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Magic Items: The fact that dispeling and banishing a magic item to it's "native" plane could be scary enough - not to mention the player characters themselves. I don't see a need to nerf an enhancement bonus. I am sure the Githyanki when they leave the Astral Plane to invade a group of Illithid in the Underdark on the Prime Material Plane aren't having their magic items nerfed. To each his own.

Divine Magic: Use clerics that are not deity specific, such as alignment based casters - of course that presents challenges in and of itself on planes opposing their alignment. There are other divine casters that shouldn't be as penalized, such as the Archivist, the Healer and the Favored Soul.

Also, there are Spontaneous Divine spellcasting variants rules in Urban Arcana.

Environmental Effects: Get a hold of the Manual of the Planes, and the Fiendish Codex I and II, as well as the Fiend Folio and Deities and Demigods. Some of the material may be 3.0 but is still good information for 3.5. A good thing for everyone to keep in mind is each planes environmental effects that will need to be prepared for. Astral Plane, for example, has no inherent gravity and spells are cast as if quickened. Is the plane the players on extremely hot? Is the plane the players on extremely cold? I think the best thing that can be done is come up with a "menu" of planes that can be visited and adventured, work them out one at a time, and soon enough, your will have your own "Manual" of the Planes.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer doesn't show much awareness of the Planescape campaign setting's unique features. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jul 20 '14 at 2:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe I haven't done any "Planescape" since 2nd Edition, but I have done lots of adventuring across the planes utilizing the Great Wheel as a backdrop; things happening in threes and so forth. But we always used each plane's effects on the player characters (environment, magic, native inhabitants, etc.) as they were written in the Manual of the Planes and other resources as they came available. If that isn't the awareness needed, my apologies. I will stand corrected. \$\endgroup\$ – Ruut Jul 21 '14 at 14:48
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Despite it not being a standard D&D game (more like a shared world with lots of PCs of different levels) I play in a Planescape game, 3.5e

All we did to get the Planescape feel was to have factions grant faction-specific bonuses, inspired from those we found on planewalkers. The site also has a 3.x conversion of the setting.

We also consider all beings to be outsiders or extraplanar not in relation to the plane they're currently in but just looking at the race's statblock, otherwise most 3.5e mechanics would become less or too useful.
We use many other houserules, but none of them looks related to the specific setting to me.

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