Planescape teems with philosophical debates, perhaps more than any other D&D setting. And one of the most interesting aspects is the belief system introduced in The Planewalker's Handbook, giving the players the opportunity, through good roleplaying and adhering to their personal or faction beliefs, to occasionally get an edge in their adventures.Belief is power on the planes.
- Planewalker's Handbook, pg 142
While attempting to convert this system in my Planescape campaign, I wanted to incorporate it into the faction system. After all, much of Planescape material revolved around those 15 distinct ideologies and their struggle for power in Sigil and beyond. And belief points were a way of rewarding your players for sticking to their firmly-held convictions (sometimes at a cost).
Problem is, most if not all of the attempts to convert the factions treated them more as backgrounds. While the ideas behind this design may seem logical and simple, IMO they all fail in one key feature: backgrounds serve as occupation of the past, the sort of specialties and knowledge your character has gained before becoming an adventurer. Like our friend Ryke, before he picked up his sword and board to fend off the goblin raiders threatening his peaceful village, he used to work as a forester. His skills as a woodsman may still be handy in his adventuring, but it's a thing of the past.
But not in the case of factions. "Once a Hardhead, always a Hardhead" goes the saying in the Great Bazaar. Belonging to a faction isn't some sort of backstory, because it doesn't equip you with the necessary tools and skills to survive (some leatherheads would say otherwise), but with a certain ideology and the sense of being a member of said philosophical group. By supporting and promoting this ideology, your character can rise amongst the ranks of a faction, gain the power and respect from its peers, and better understand (and even influence) the multiverse. To me, Planescape factions work perfectly with the FR factions mechanic introduced in AL, with the added trait of occasionally shaping the planes according to your faction's philosophy. Enter Belief System.
The system of belief points kinda works like Inspiration, in that your character is rewarded with a limited amount of resources for excellent roleplaying that you can use to gain the upper hand in a given situation. Not only is Belief System to replace Inspiration, but also to expand on this mechanic. Depending on how closely you follow your beliefs and convictions, and at what cost, you can earn belief points (capped at 3) that you may expend and do one of three things:
- Activate your faction's ability. Clearly, this is the best choice for faction members (and only).
- Gain advantage on a roll (per Inspiration rules). Perhaps the most common option.
- Gain an intuitive clue, pertaining to the plane the character is at the moment, like location of a portal, creature, or object, information about denizens, hazards and the nature etc.
* Can't display a table, so excuse the image.
In a later post, I shall list the abilities that each faction grants.