I am using material from these sources:
I would highly suggest that you play Planescape: Torment, if you're OK with a computer RPG game that involves a ton of reading. The characters are great, the details are insanely deep, and it gives you a feel for how the city should be depicted. I took notes as I played, so that I can use all of the coolest locations, like the Smoldering Corpse bar and the Curiosity Shoppe.
There is a hovering luminescence above the buildings that creates day and night, though much of it is the gloom of twilight (Noon is known as "Peak", and midnight is known as "Anti-Peak"). There's no moon or stars, obviously, but the twinkling lights of the city above create a similar effect. Brownish rain is frequent and fog in the streets is common.
Important Things to Know
The Mazes: A wasting maze that is a demi-plane, a copy of Sigil and in the Ethereal plane. Things can get in to a maze, but they can't get out. Food and water appear. The prisoner knows there's a portal out but can't find it or activate it.
"Powers" Not Welcome: Gods/demon lords/primordials are physically unable to step foot in Sigil. Their priests and proxies come to Sigil to try to figure out a way to remedy this.
Factions: Sigil is full of factions devoted to all sorts of things. I find it hard to keep them all straight. This site has a faction index.
The City of Sigil is full of portals in all sorts of weird places. Each portal has a gate key, which can be things like a rose from a specific mortal world, or a sword - often the gate key is connected to the plane the portal leads to. Portals are the only way in and out of Sigil. Often, a person will accidentally activate a portal and stumble into some other plane or world.
Nobody knows how to make a portal, except maybe the Lady of Pain. Even wish spells can't make portals.
There's three types of portals:
- Permanent Portals: These don't change, they always go to and from the same place.
- Temporary Portals: Disappear after being used once or twice.
- Shifting Portals: These portals move on a schedule throughout the city. It might be in an arch n one section for a few days, and then in a merchant's house for a week. It will take a PC to one plane like the Shadowfell for a few days, and then to the Elemental Plane of fire for a week.
- Someone killing a dabus.
- Someone trying to help a god or demon lord enter Sigil.
- Rebellion against her rule.
- The Harmonium: They paladins and fighters who wear red armor. They believe that to create universal harmony, everyone has to think and act like they do. They use shifter's manacles on their captives - shackles with a magic effect that prevents teleporting and causes those who try to teleport to take d10 damage. They wield planar man-catchers with the same spell effect.
- The Fraternity of Order: They search for order in all things, and they are obsessed with learning the laws and loopholes of the universe.
- The Mercykillers: These people think "mercy" is an excuse created by the weak and criminals. Every crime must be punished according to the law - there is no such thing as "extenuating circumstances". They can cast detect lie once per day. They run the prison of Sigil.
- Punishment for lesser crimes are usually fines.
- Thieves are whipped.
- Blasphemers (those who dare openly worship the Lady of Pain, for example) have their tongues pierced with a red-hot poker.
- Those who tamper with portals suffer Strappado (ugh).
- Deserters, embezzlers and murderers are hanged.
|Death by wyrm|
- By the Noose: The victim pays the executioner to set the knot to the side of the neck for a quick death.
- By the Sword: This form of execution is for people of status who did something like not paying taxes or libeling the Lady of Pain. The executioners use two sword/cleavers, known as "Scythe" and "Raven" to behead the victims. Fun fact: If the victim isn't dead after three slices, he or she is pardoned and set free.
- By the Wyrm: This one is rare and considered a public holiday. The victim is usually a traitor to the city or a dabus-killer. The victim is tied to a post and fed to the Mercykiller Wyrm.
Most of those who are executed are put on pikes and displayed. The worst of the executed criminals have their bodies placed in iron cages where the city's ravens pick at their remains.
Other Things That Make Sigil Different
Money: Merchants accept any coins, as long as they are made of gold or silver. So your PCs will likely end up with money from Krynn, Toril, and who knows where else in their pouch. "Sure it may be minted in the likeness of hideous Juiblex, but gold is gold."
|Razorvine from the 5e DMG, page 110|
Most people get around on foot (there's not many horses) or by sedan chair. It is literally a chair that fits two people, carried on the backs of four burly humanoids.
Two Special Spells for Sigil:
- Warp Sense: This is a level 2 wizard spell that lasts 1 round per level. Range: touch. The recipient can concentrate and see portals. He or she can then roll (Arcana?) to see if they can sense where the portal leads and what the key is.
- Surelock: This is a level 4 priest spell. Casting time: 1 hour. Duration: 1 day/level. This spell protects an area against planar portals.
The Lady's Ward
The richest and safest section of Sigil. Home to the Barracks, the Court, the Prison and the Armory. There's a statue of Bigby here as well.
The Prison: Home to the Mercykillers.
The City Court: Judges hear cases here. There's a vast library of laws.
The City Barracks: Home to the Harmonium.
(inn/tavern) Fortune's Wheel: A major social hotspot, owned by Shemeshka the Marauder. It is divided into a few sections:
- The Dragon Bar: A vast common room/tavern. There's this huge carved dragon head that can breathe a black cloud on unruly patrons.
- The Dicing Cup: Where wealthy people gamble large sums of money. It is watched over by an invisible mage and two gargoyles. There's an albino musician named Estrella with silver hair who often performs.
- The Bear-Baiting Room: There's a pit on the map. I have no idea.
- Fortune's Wheel: The minimum bet is 10 gp. You spin the wheel and hope it lands on a gold square. Most of the squares are black and pay out nothing. The mage's prize is a relic imbued with arcane power.
- The Azure Iris: An inn on the top of the building with magically warded rooms to prevent scrying or eavesdropping.
She runs The Mutual Trade Association and the Knights of the Cross-Trade and has a hand in the the Order of Master Clerks and Scribes, the Runner and Escort Guild, the Entertainer’s Guild, and the Adventurer’s Guild
Lissandra the Gate-Seeker: This woman is a mage formerly from the Forgotten Realms. She keeps a log of portals, and is known to question people who emerge from portals to describe the other side, and what the portal key is. She tracks shifting gates, trying to predict patterns. People pay her for portal information. She always has her protal lo book with her, and it is protected by multiple magic traps. She's a 9th level wizard. Here's her stats: Str 11; Dex 15; Con 12; Int 17; Wis 15; Cha 16.
The Hive Ward
The Mortuary: This vast complex is home to the Dustmen, who inter the city's corpses here. It is said to have portals to every plane. This is the place that Planescape: Torment begins in.
The Gatehouse Night Market: Thieves sell goods to fences, who sell the stuff to other people who ship it out of Sigil. You could come here to try to buy back something stolen from you.
(tavern) Smoldering Corpse Bar: This bar has a poor wizard hovering in the air, on fire. He is cursed. This is an awesome location overloaded with cool NPCs, including Dak'kon the githzerai.
Fell's Tattoos: Fell is a dabus that everyone avoids. He makes magic tattoos which could be a really cool magic item for your PCs.
The Slaughterhouse: This place features pit fighting in a cage. People sit on tables on scaffolds that line the walls, allowing them to watch the fight as they eat and drink. There's even an "elevator" with a rope and pulley system. The place is guarded by a minotaur bouncer named Vaargh. A popular drink is viperwine: A poisonous tanar'ric concoction demons drink. It is deadly to all except for demons. (This location appeared in the adventure "Nemesis" in Dungeon magazine #60).
The Great Foundry: Home of the godsmen. They make anything that can be fashioned out of iron.
The Friendly Fiend: A magic shop run by A'kin the Friendly Fiend (see below).
The Parted Veil: This is a bookshop on Forgotten Lane which is a tremendous resource. There is a secret back room that nobody is allowed to go in except the owner, and in it seems to be any book a person could want. The front door has a magic mouth that utters inspirational messages whena customer enters. The walls and floors are made of old books. The place is run by a gnome named Kesto Brighteyes, who thinks the gods are weak and undeserving of worship. He is assisted by Cleve, a bodak who somehow retained his mortal memories and disposition. Cleve was a paladin from Krynn who was slain by demons of demogorgon.
The Ditch: The only large body of water in Sigil, a foul and reeking morass that corrodes corpses within hours of being dumped. Wererats gather here to receive orders from their leader, Tattershade. Metal refuse is dumped here by the dabus.
Society of the Luminiferous Aether: A gentlemen's club for working mages. Only members are let in by the doorman - Gamnesto the Vile, a bound gehreleth. The place has a library and a list of portals and keys that work in Sigil and the planes. Membership fee: 10,000 gp!
(tavern) The Face of Gith: A githzerai establishment. They drink silently and sullenly. There's a sealed blob of primal chaos from Limbo here that some spellcasters can shape it into images and creatures to amuse the patrons.
(tavern) The Ubiquitous Wayfarer: This tavern is popular in part because people believe it holds over two dozen portals (all activated by obscure portal keys, of course). The proprieter is a middle-aged woman named Riaen Blackhome who belongs to the Fraternity of Order. There's a magical statue in the center of the taproom that "...depicts a barmy old wizard with a long beard". It speaks a new riddle each week. The Wayfarer is 2 stories high and it is known as a friendly and safe place. Meals are filling if not fancy. This location is heavily featured in the Planescape adventure "Dead Gods", by Monte Cook.
(tavern/inn) The Black Sail: Fused to the tavern is the hull of a galleon that has a gargoylish figurehead and a soot-stained sail. The establishment is ill-kept. There are tables in the middle of the room and curtained-off booths. The innkeeper is a brooding thief named Zaren. Salja Slitterknife, a tiefling waitress, sees a lot. She happy to sell information to people for 100-400 gold. Her brother, Llisian is a thief. This place appears in "The Eternal Boundary" adventure, as well as two Chris Perkins Dungeon magazine adventures - "Umbra" and "Nemesis".
There's a ridiculously awesome page on this place here.
A'kin the Friendly Fiend: A raavasta who always seems a little too happy. He is connected to Shemeshka as both a friend and an enemy. She has burned down his shop 3 times in the last 100 years. Some think he is a spy for demons or devils, reporting on the Lady of Pain.
Rule-of-Three: He is a cambion who may be linked to the demon lord Graz'zt. He often disguises himself in the form of a githzerai. He gives three answers to every question. He also insists on being paid for information with three payments, like one gold, one silver and one copper or a joke, a proverb and an insult.
The Hall of Records: Home to the Fated and the hub of Sigil's financial world. In the adjacent Hall of Information, there's this door with nine levers. Pulling them in the right sequence gives you access to a vault full of good stuff: piles of gold from fees and bundles of documents that implicate Sigil officials in all sorts of crimes. Pulling the wrong sequence of levers sucks you into the negative material plane.
The Hall of Speakers: Home to The Sign of One. This is where the factions debate laws and feud with one another.
The Streetsweeper's Yard: A junkyard where dabus gather the refuse collected from the city's streets into huge, stinking piles. The dabus watch over this place, but it is known to be home to otyughs, cross-trading bandits and diseased giant rats. There's a portal here to duergar mines in Acheron that opens on its own once a week. The dabus use it to throw trash in. (This location is from The Great Modron March, page 118)
(Inn) The Whole Note Inn: Menu - Carceri Snails (7 sp), Poached Stirge Eggs (5sp), Glorium Ox (8 sp), Goat Filet in Strawberry Sauce (6 sp), Pickled Eel and Mustard Pie (6 sp), Boiled Shank of Bebelith (5 sp).
Brothel for Slaking Intellectual Lusts: A brothel with workers who converse with the patrons. There's a secret area where the workers have these sensory orbs that contain their thoughts and feelings.
Civic Festhall: It's a concert hall, opera house, museum, tavern, and faction headquarters of the Sensates. It has these public and private sensoriums, where you can touch a magic stone and experience things like: frightened exhilaration, sheer wonder, lycanthropy and supernatural lust (!).
Curiosity Shoppe: This place sells tons of cool items. It is run by a cold alu-fiend with blue skin and yellow eyes named Vrishika. The magic items in here are awesome and unique. There's a rune-covered ale stein that keeps drinks ice cold, a monster jug (with a monster trapped inside) and a chocolate quasit - a quasit magically turned to chocolate.
Estavan the Merchant Lord: An oni merchant lord. Ostentatious, manipulative and merciless. He often wears a red silk kimono and a gold necklace.He lives in an office building with a sign that depicts a caravan passing through a series of portals (the symbol of the Planar Trade Consortium). Estavan is never seen outside of his office - many think that there's a portal in his office to a secret headquarters of the consortium.
Jeena Ealy: The most popular author in Sigil. She writes true life adventure books. She hires freelance adventurers for research. She is planning books on the river styx and the beastlands. Some works include:
- Death in the Norns: Adventures in the Outlands
- In Darkest Sigil: Chronicles the horrid conditions in the Hive.
- Other books include a history of the blood war, and a study of yugoloths.
The Great Gymnasium: Home of the Transcendent Order. This place has baths, steam rooms, massage tables, etc. It's a place for people to relax, and also a neutral ground for hostile parties (weapons and spells are not allowed in here).
The Flame Pits: This bath house is run by a sharp-tongued githzerai named Laril Zasskos. This place has exotic baths: lava pools for elementals, scouring whirlwinds, rank ooze, and pure water.
The Great Bazaar: Home the the Free League, a great place to buy stuff and get information.
Imel's Happy Tongue: A restaurant that sometimes sells cheeses: Warrior's Cheese (2 gp), Bytopian Red (1 gp), Tiefling's Delight (2 gp), Death Cheese (made from catoblepas milk! 20 gp).
Ensin's Discount Elixirs: Ensin, a mage, brews potions with cheap components. No refunds! He makes concoctions such as:
- Potion of Small Animal Control (50 gp) - 1 to 4 rats, etc.
- Potion of Limited Invisibility (50 gp) - Only works at night or in a dark room.
- Potion of Limited Healing (30 gp) - Heals d6 damage
- Potion of Blue Hue (10 gp) - Turns you light blue.
- Potion of Drowning Resistance (75 gp) - You can breathe water for 10 minutes
- Mimir: A small skull made of metal that can give you information on the planes.
- Karach Armor: Githzerai armor made from chaos matter of Limbo. It has no speed penalty despite acting as chain, scale or platemail.
- Spellsoul Blade: A blade that allows you to store a piece of your soul in it. You can use it to deal different types of damage (fire, lightning, etc.). You can store it and recall it from an extradimensional space.
- Modron Toy: You can use this to summon a modron, or open a portal to a "pocket dimension bounded by interlocked gears". You can rest in there, though if you spend more than 8 hours in there, you're either dumped out or sucked into the lawful plane of Mechanus. Time flows differently in the pocket realm. The DM rolls a d20, and the result indicates whether time flowed faster or slower while you were in there.