A Kindness of Doomguard

doomguardOk, I said some mean things about the Sinkers in my last post, and DavetheGame came to their defense, so let me step back and unpack that a little bit.

The Sinkers, AKA The Doomguard, are another Planescape faction. They are more or less entropy cultists, feeling that decay and destruction are not only inevitable, but desirable, as it is only through the destruction of all things that we will clear a path to a perfect universe. Or so they say. Mostly, it’s just an excuse to smash things. They are, as you might expect, violent and destructive.

Now, let me step back a bit. One of the interesting things about Planescape is that each faction has a role in the city. Because the ruler of the city (The Lady of Pain) is hands off (unless you piss her off), the factions have stepped into fill most civil roles out of necessity. General consensus is that the Lady of Pain tolerates them because they keep things working, and no one wants to piss of the Lady.

The thing is, the factions are not necessarily nice, but they do their jobs. As I noted previously, the Bleak Cabal are, well, pretty bleak, but they run the poorhouses and charities. The Harmonium serve as police. The Fated (who are jerks) keep the records. The Godsmen keep the forges going. Everyone has a role, even the Revolutionary League, whose role is to take down the other factions! The exception is the Xaositects, but that is part and parcel of the discordian/fishmalk package.

The Doomguard control the city’s armory.

On paper, this makes some sense. They’re arguably the most martial of the factions, so someplace weapony seems appropriate. But there’s a problem – there’s no actual point to having an armory in Sigil. It’s not like all the weapons are kept there, and if they were, what woudl be done with them? There’s no army to equip, and since the only way in or out of sigil is through magical doors (which are controlled by the Lady of Pain) there is no call for a standing army. It’s possible that ancient secret weapons are stored there, but if that is so, then the Doomguard are the worst possible choice to control the Armory.

So, as written, they’re a bunch of violent nutbars with no real role in the setting except to get used as plot devices in published adventures that I’d rather not talk about.

But the idea is salvageable, and here is how I do it.

The doomguard have been given the Armory and tasked with the defense of the city from external threats. When something big and unpleasant shows up and starts inflicting propery damage, the sinkers roll out of the armory gates and go forth to inflict great violence upon it. When the do so, they are allowed to use weapons and spells of great destructive potency, ones that are normally barred from deployment in the city.

This does not happen often – the Sinkers do enough damage on their rampages that the threat needs to be pretty serious, but such threats do exist, and relying on the Lady to deal with every such threat seems like an excellent way to test her patience. By agreement, three other faction heads must agree to unleashing the doomguard, but in the face of an obvious threat, the Doomguard have not always been meticulous in adhering to those rules.

But for all that, they serve a critical purpose in Sigil, not terribly different than that of a fire patrol. This also fuels some rivalry between the Harmonium and the Doomguard, as the former are tasked with keeping the streets safe ona day to day basis. The Harmonium would like nothing better than to be able to arm and equip themselves to deal with these threats, but no other faction is comfortable giving them that kind of power. They find it maddening that these berserkers are trusted off the leash to do work the Harmonium woudl be better suited to handle. This is exacerbated by the fact that the Doomguard explicitly dsescribe themsleves as handling threats no one else is tough enough for, and are entirely willing to rub this in the Hardhead’s faces.

With that change, the doomguard are welcome in my Sigil. They’re still nuts and dangerous, but they serve a purpose. They’re a part of the city, and for me, that’s the most important thing.

10 thoughts on “A Kindness of Doomguard

  1. warlock69

    Love, love, love Planescape. OMG. Anyway, I see where you are going with the idea. The Doomguard acquired the Armory during the Great Upheaval. It isn’t entirely clear who controlled the Armory and what it specifically was before they took it over. Maybe, Sigil did have its own city armory before the charter with the Factions was formed. Whatever the case, it is a big repository for weapons, so the Sinkers took it over at the first opportunity. I don’t think it was entrusted to them so much as no one wanted to stir up trouble trying to kick them out.

    I agree with your suggestion about the Doomguard being a mercenary force. I have always seen them as the Sigil militia. Even though they spread decay, the Doomguard don’t seem like a terrorist organization like the Revolutionary League, spying and launching secret attacks. They handle their business in public. They distribute weapons and train people how to fight. However, they aren’t a formal fighting force like the Harmonium or Mercykillers, having no formal ranks or command structure. They don’t care about alignments so long as their members serve the interests of the faction and get the job done.

    I can see the council vote as part of the faction charter, since almost everyone was reluctant to let them stay in the city. I don’t know if they necessarily need a formal vote to be let off the leash though. When there is blood on the streets, I imagine it wouldn’t take long for the swordnuts from the Doomguard to jump into the fray. Not to necessarily help folks, but to give some dumb berks the chance to embrace the entropy of the multiverse in the deadbook.

    Reply
    1. Rob Donoghue Post author

      Yeah, I’m pretty confident that the rules that apply to the sinkers are only adhered to by the sinkers when convenient.

      Reply
  2. warlock69

    I also think the Xaositects have their place in Sigil as well. Yes, they are chaotic, but they are not necessarily antagonistic or destructive like the Revolutionary League or Doomguard. They are like Sigil’s bohemian population. They are a roving band of improvisational performance artists, who have made life itself their performance. Not everyone appreciates their work and some may find it rather offensive, but it is typically well-intended. They are provoking others to find truth by embracing the moments the universe has kicked their way. In a typical city, this sort of avant garde art collective may not seem important, but Sigil is a city where changing hearts and minds can affect reality.

    Reply
  3. Rob Donoghue Post author

    I fully cop to a bias regarding the Xaositict, since I see them as less a part of the setting and more an option for fishmalk* players. This is totally a pet peeve of mine, so it’s rough to get past. 🙂

    * Players who, in vampire, would play the crazy clan so they could run around pretending to be a fish with the defense of being “In character”

    Reply
  4. Nerdarchy

    This was a fun read and I’ll have to go back and read the other Planescape articles. It seems like there’s been a nice representation of Planescape from a few sources as of late and I’m happy for it! I did notice a handful of typos when you have a chance to go back and edit, but I’m not one to let such things deter from my enjoyment of the content.

    Reply
  5. Wyvern

    Which book were you referring to in your previous post as “the book that dug into the factions in detail”? I love Planescape, but I’ve never read much of the published material for it beyond the boxed set and Planewalker’s Handbook. I’m curious as to what you see as the civic function of the Ciphers and the Athar. The Ciphers run the Great Gymnasium, which I suppose provides a useful service, but the Shattered Temple seems like it would only be of interest to the Athar themselves.

    Reply
        1. Josh W

          Well they’re probably the ones most in charge of encouraging people not to worship the Lady, which sort of makes them a kind of preventative healthcare for new members. They’d also be quite useful for acclimatizing crazed primes who are here to meet their god and realise their destiny (!!!) that things might not be quite how they expect.

          Reply
          1. Josh W

            I suppose you could say they inoculate people with a healthy sense of urban ennui, not as much as they’d like, but probably enough rubs off to make people more able to handle all the crazy mythological stuff happening around them.

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