Sigil is located inside of the Outlands, a plane at equal distance from each of the Outer Planes, hovering above an immensely tall landmark known as the Spire that sits at the plane's center.
Sigil has the shape of a torus and the city is located along the inner surface of the ring. It is generally agreed by knowledgeable people that this should be impossible, since the center of the Outlands is void of any and all magic, and yet it apparently is. Theories to explain Sigil's location and existence vary wildly, though one of the more popular is that the Lady of Pain either created it or keeps it intact — or both.
There is no sky, simply an all-pervasive light that waxes and wanes to create day and night. The city cannot be entered or exited save via portals; although this makes it quite safe from any would-be invader, it also makes it a prison of sorts for those not possessing a portal key, giving Sigil its nickname "the Bird Cage" (or simply "the Cage").
Sigil contains innumerable portals: any bounded opening (a doorway, an arch, a barrel hoop, a picture frame) could possibly be a portal to another plane, or to another point in Sigil itself. Thus, the city is a paradox: it touches all planes at once, yet ultimately belongs to none; from these characteristics it draws its other name: "the City of Doors." This feature make Sigil a prime destination for travelers as well as a center of trade throughout the multiverse.
Wards of Sigil
Sigil is divided into six districts, called wards, listed below:
- The Clerk's Ward, an affluent district, home to most of the city's lower-rung bureaucrats and middlemen.
- The Hive Ward, the slum and the ghetto, home to the poor, the rogues, and the unwanted dregs of the city.
- The Lady's Ward, the richest and most exclusive section of the city, is home to the elites of society and of its government.
- The Lower Ward, an industrial district, clogged up with the smoke from the foundries and from the portals to the Lower Planes.
- The Market and Guildhall Wards are the home to the traders, craftsmen, artisans, guild members and other members of the middle class.
Lady of Pain
The high-up man in Sigil, the one who ultimately watches over the Cage, is the Lady of Pain. She's not a woman and she's not human – nobody's quite sure what she is. The best guess is she's a power, probably a great power, but there's also a theory that she's a reformed tanar'ri lorf, if such a thing's possible. Whatever else she is, she's the Lady of Pain, and given that, most other facts are extraneous.
For the most part the Lady (as she's called) keeps distant from the squalid hurly-burly of the Cage. She doesn't have a house, a palace, or a temple. Nobody worships her, and with good reason: Those that say prayers to her name get found with their skins flayed off – a big discouragement to others.
Sometimes she's seen drifting through the streets, the edge of her gown just brushing over the cobblestones. She never speaks. Those who try interfering with her erupt in horrid gashes at the touch of her gaze. Wise bloods find business elsewhere on those rare times she passes down the way. Eventually her image fades and she vanishes into nothingness. Natives of Sigil view her with fearful awe, as she's the uncaring protector of their home.
Although the Lady of Pain rarely takes action directly, she does act through a number of servants known as dabus, who simultaneously serve as the Lady's eyes and ears as well as maintaining the structure of Sigil. Like the Lady, the dabus do not interact with Sigil's inhabitants or travelers much and it is best to leave them be, since antagonizing them can bring down the infrequent but harsh wrath of their mistress.
The Lady's Laws
- 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.
The dabus are servant of our Dread Lady, Her Serenity the Lady of Pain. Her will is their will. There are no records, no tales, not even rumors of a time in Sigil when the dabus were not present, silently watching over the City. Dabus seem to consider Sigil their master as much as the Lady, for they are forever patching and fixing it, laying cobbles, digging for pipes, trimming back razorvine, roofing city buildings and sweeping the streets.
Though possessing the ability of speech, dabus almost always communicate only through visual rebuses they create, filling the air near them with golden shining lines (from which the name Dabus originates). Physically, a Dabus resembles a humanoid with yellow-tan skin, goatlike horns, and a shock of white hair. Dabus float off the ground, their feet never touching the earth. Certain sources suggest that Dabus can in fact speak, but fear that if they were to do so "their thoughts would be overheard." Another, more cynical source suggests that they simply enjoy frustrating others with their puzzles, though communication with a Dabus proves them to be extremely patient, if rather aloof and alien.
Factions of Sigil
While the Lady of Pain is considered the ultimate ruler of the planar metropolis called Sigil, "the City of Doors", the Factions perform virtually all the actual administrative and practical functions of the city. They are the ones the people look to for authority; the Lady only gives edicts or appears personally under rare circumstances. Each of the Factions is based around one particular belief system; many of the Factions' beliefs make them enemies where their other goals and actions might have made them allies. All Factions hold many secrets from non-members and even their own members, for the fewer who know a secret, the more secret it is (and these are secrets of power, either wielded or potentially gained by the Faction's adversaries).
Also known as "the Defiers" or "the Lost", they deny not only the gods' right to pass judgment over mortals, but their very divinity. They claim that the gods (whom they call "powers") are powerful but have limits and do not deserve worship. Instead, Athar priests channel divine power from what they call the "Great Unknown", or what they believe to be the true divine force behind everything. Their headquarters in Sigil is the Shattered Temple, the former temple of the dead god Aoskar. The Athar are broadly derived from real-world atheists, agnostics, and Deists.
Believers of the Source
Known as "Godsmen" they believe that each life is a test, and that every person has the potential to become a god. Their headquarters is the Great Foundry, symbolizing their belief that the multiverse constantly forges and refines all beings. Shares many parallels with Hindu, Buddhism, and most sects of Mormonism. However, the ultimate goal is not Nirvana but apotheosis.
"Bleakers" or "Madmen" deny that any belief system has any merit; as they see it, the universe has physical rules, but no metaphysical or philosophical ones, therefore any meaning in life must come from within. Their headquarters is the insane asylum of Sigil, called the Gatehouse. They are derived from real-life existentialists and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche.
The "Sinkers" believe in the sanctity and inevitability of entropy, particularly the inevitable destruction of all things. The core of their belief is that everything ends. Their headquarters is Sigil's Armory, where they forge weapons as tools of destruction.
Also known as "the Dead", they believe that both life and death are false states of existence, that there is a state of True Death which can only be accomplished by denying one's emotions and physical wants and needs (a conception similar to eternal oblivion, but also conceivably to Nirvana). Their headquarters is the Mortuary, where Sigil's dead are interred or cremated. Their philosophy is closely related to that of Arthur Schopenhauer, along with some shared similarities with Buddhism, Stoicism and acosmism.
"Takers" or "The Heartless" believe that those with power and ability have the right to own what they control and to take what they can from those who are unable to keep it, and that it is their right to exploit any situation to their advantage, regardless of how it affects anyone else (a position akin to "might makes right"). Their headquarters is the Hall of Records, where they serve as the tax collectors of Sigil. They are derived from real-life Social Darwinists and the philosophies of Max Stirner and Ayn Rand.
Fraternity of Order
These "Guvners" believe that knowledge is power; they learn and exploit both the natural laws of the universe and the laws of society. Their headquarters is the City Court, where they serve as judges and legal advocates. They recall the Sophists of Classical Athens.
As "Indeps", they reject the other factions and their bureaucratic, hierarchical dogmatism and do not consider themselves a faction at all. For this reason, they don't have a factol or an official headquarters, though Sigil's Great Bazaar serves as an unofficial one. They believe in individual freedom as the highest good and are analogous to libertarians.
"Hardheads" believe that peace and stability can only be established under one rule — theirs. The planar faction known as the Harmonium is actually just a small part of a much larger political entity which rules over the entirety of the Prime Material world of Ortho. In Sigil, they serve as the city's police force, and their headquarters is the City Barracks. They are related to present day authoritarianism, particularly religious evangelicalism and fundamentalism. They take offense to the term "Hardhead".
"The Red Death" believe in justice and retribution at the expense of all else. Their name does not come from "killing out of mercy," but rather "killing mercy." Their credo that mercy is for the weak, and the merciful should be punished. Their headquarters is Sigil's Prison, where they carry out the sentences of convicted criminals.
"Anarchists" who believe that social order and man-made laws are inherently corrupt and must be destroyed—though none of their members can agree on what, if anything, should replace them. Like the Indeps, they have no headquarters and gather in many safe houses and secret meeting places.
Sign of One
"Signers" believe that everyone is the center of their own reality and that reality can be reshaped by the power of imagination. Their headquarters is the Hall of Speakers, which houses Sigil's legislature. Some of them are solipsists, though most are not so extreme.
Society of Sensation
Sensates believe that accumulating experiential knowledge through the senses is the only way to achieve enlightenment. Their headquarters is the Civic Festhall, which features an endless series of entertainments and a library of magically stored experiences. They are reminiscent of ancient Epicurianism (if not hedonism more generally), as well as the more modern empiricism.
The Cipher believe that by tapping into the 'cadence' of the planes and acting through pure instinct they can achieve a higher state of being. Their headquarters is the Great Gymnasium, where members can train to improve their bodies and minds. Their philosophy could be considered similar to Taoism and Zen Buddhism.
"Chaosmen" who believe that the only truth is revealed in chaos. The Xaositects have been quite accurately described as being "totally off their rockers, every one of 'em." Their headquarters is the Hive, the most disorganized part of the Sigil ward of the same name. Compare with real life discordianism.