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.
Crime and punishment
The criminal system of Sigil is three-fold; the Harmonium faction patrols the streets and handles arrests, the Fraternity of Order handles the court system and decides if laws have been broken and then the Mercykillers punish the poor sods that have been convicted.
The punishments according to the Factol Nilesia of Mercykillers:
- Felonies; murder, rape, arson, burglary - Death
- Misdemeanors; assault, embezzling, jaywalking, begging, vagrancy - 10 years hard labor
- Infractions; failure to pay fines, falsifying reports and other minor crimes - 10 years imprisonment
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.
Landmarks and locations
City Armory, The
Home to the Doomguard faction's headquarters, Sigil's City Armory is in the seediest part of The Lady's Ward. In fact, some folks argue it's really part of the grimy Lower Ward. Like most of the other buildings in The Lady's Ward, it's huge and dominating. All the windows are covered with stone grates, and razorvine covers the lower walls. The heavy iron gates make it clear that the Doomguard's got the weapons and intends to keep them. However, some of the shops in the neighborhood specialize in custom-made weaponry that a blood can drop a lot of jink on, if she knows the right words to get her into the back room.
City Barracks, The
At the opposite end of The Lady's Ward from the City Armory is the headquarters of the Harmonium, the City Barracks. It's a long, low two-story structure that forms a quadrangle around an immense parade ground. Unlike many other faction headquarters, the Barracks were built to look strong without inspiring terror. The Harmonium really wants people to like them and believe in their cause (and they'll use force to get that result if they have to). Given their attitude, it's no surprise the streets around there are the most deserted of all the ward. There's very few businesses in the Harmonium district, mainly because any merchant who doesn't conform to Harmonium standards gets himself arrested. Sure, he's usually released by the Guvners, but who wants to go through that all the time? The taverns and inns in the area all closely follow the Harmonium official line.
City Court, The
The Headquarters of the Fraternity of Order (more commonly called the Guvners), the City Court and the surrounding quarter are the liveliest places in The Lady's Ward of Sigil, perhaps because the people in it are so close to death. Every crooked cutter, it seems, comes here sooner or later, scragged by the Harmonium. Whether he gets out of it again depends on the judges in the private halls of the Court. Because it has a public function, the Guvners' headquarters is divided into public and private halls. In the public halls, a cutter can find knights, Cagers, witnesses, advocates, clerks, accusers, and Mercykiller and Harmonium guards. The crowds and bickering seem like disorganized chaos (unlike the organized chaos of most of the city), but the Guvners have a plan for everything. In the Court’s private halls, a body doesn’t find anyone but Guvners and their guests. There, the judges meet to discuss cases and reach their decisions, often referring to the immense library of laws the faction’s assembled.
Outside the Court, a number of taverns and inns serve those attending trials. In comparison to other places in The Lady’s Ward, they’re pretty lively. In comparison to places elsewhere in the city, they can seem damned quiet, especially after a number of harsh sentences have been handed down. The taverns serve anybody from thief to Hardhead, and there can’t help but be a little life in ’em. Most of the alehouses do extra business selling meals to prisoners or running wine and beer to the back rooms of the Court.
The private halls of the Guvners are best left to those who have a reason for going there; describing them to others might only invite disaster. The more important portions of the Court don’t belong to the Fraternity of Order at all: The public halls, the outer courtyards, and the arched porticos where advocates hawk their skills are where much of the business of the Court is decided. With large, distracted crowds all over the Court, cross-trading knights are cheeky enough to pick pockets, snatch purses, and strongarm the weak. The Court itself has little protection to spare; a peery cutter with friends is better off than a lone fool with a fat purse. The Guvners’ guards are too busy corraling prisoners and maintaining order in the courtrooms to make time for every barmy who upsets a baatezu in the alleys nearby.
Civic Festhall, The
The Civic Festhall of Sigil is a combination concert hall, opera house, museum, art gallery, tavern, wine shop, and faction headquarters, mixed in with a few other services that are best left undescribed. This mash of services makes sense, given that the place is run by the Sensates. Their desire to experience everything includes the arts, but also much, much more. There's tall tales to be told about what happens in the back halls of the Sensate headquarters.
But all that's just whispers to the folks who come here for the shows and excitement. They're here to have a good time - a safe, cultured good time with just enough daring to make them feel dangerous. Not that the folks who come here are at any particular risk. Aside from the cutpurses and peelers, there's no real danger in the streets around the Sensate headquarters. In fact, true Sensates make for other parts of town for the "true" experiences.
With the Civic Festhall as an anchor, the district around it has attracted a number of artistic businesses. There's dealers in artistic curiosities from all the worlds of the multiverse. There's taverns noted for the bards that play there. Other businesses have the finest wines, the best food, or the best of many other comforts. Jongleurs wander down the streets, portable puppet theaters are set up at the intersections, fire eaters belch their talents from the alleys, and wizards craft beautiful illusions for the crowds. Even stranger beings from the hinterlands get into the show, acting for coins or using their strange powers to dazzle the multitudes.
In Sigil, at the very edge of the Hive, the most desperate and wretched part of the whole ward is the Gatehouse, home of the Bleak Cabal. It's like the boundary between sanity and despair, and who better to man that than the faction that's given up all hope.
The Gatehouse is an arched tower with sprawling wings, where the Bleakers minister to the mad and lost. They're kind to their charges, but their treatments are unorthodox. "Give up the illusion of meanings," they advise their patients. "Accept that which doesn't make sense and then peace'll come." Some folks say the Bleakers do more sinister things in there, in the parts of their headquarters where other folks aren't allowed. 'Course, that gets said about every faction, by enemies hoping to put fear into others. Still, haunting, unnatural moans and screams echo throughout the ward, and there's no saying whether they come from the hospital wings or from somewhere deeper within.
Great Bazaar, The
The Great Bazaar's a huge square filled with caravan tents and rickety merchant stalls. The air's rich with smells of flowers, meats, fruits, animals, and sewage. Walk through the crowded aisles and a cutter's assaulted by calls to examine, smell, feel, and - most of all - buy the wares of every merchant he passes. Anything on a general equipment list can be bought here, even things too big to actually bring to Sigil. Need a galley for the River Oceanus and a blood'll find a merchant here willing to sell him one.
Not that everyone's honest and forthright, though. A basher's got to be a smart shopper to take care he don't get peeled by some dishonest trader. Buy something that's supposedly waiting out on the planes and a sod better have ways of making sure it's really there. The other thing a berk's got to be cautious about is the pickpockets and cutpurses that roam the market. It takes money to shop in the bazaar, and where there's money, there's thieves. But those are the risks every cutter takes.
It's hard to say exactly where the Great Bazaar ends. The wheeling and dealing spills over into side streets as peddlers vie for spaces to show their wares. The folks in this neighborhood are always ready to make a deal or haggle over a price. Taverns hum with pitches of hucksters, and there are large inns capable of housing and stabling entire caravans. Open-air cafes serve anybody who comes along, and that's the best place for creature-watching; everybody, except the most reclusive rich, comes here sooner or later.
Great Foundry, The
The Great Foundry of Sigil is the headquarters of the Believers of the Source. The foundry's a dirty sprawling complex of workshops, warehouses, storage yards, and furnaces. The Godsmen work it nonstop. By day it belches smoke and steam, and by night the district's lit by its fires. The products of the foundry, petty metal goods needed by everyone throughout Sigil and beyond, are the Godsmen's major source of jink. They make tools, hinges, pots, nails, and anything else that can be fashioned out of iron. Their skills are not great; very little of their wares are fancy work, but it's all strong and serviceable.
The streets around the foundry are a jumbled weave of workshops and worker's taverns. They're not luxurious or particularly clean; when a cutter's been at the forge all day, he tracks in a lot of grime. Drinking and dealing are both serious business. There's always somebody haggling over the price of goods. Other deals get cut there, too, for that's the neighborhood where men and fiends meet. Their dark talk doesn't get whispered outside these doors.
Great Gymnasium, The
This is a gymnasium in the grand old sense: It's got baths, steam rooms, massage tables, an exercise field, pools, lounges, and even a portico where the teachers of the Transcendent Order instruct their students. All of this is enclosed in a great compound of gold-veined black marble. The Gymnasium is open to all, but only on the Ciphers' terms.
Compared to other parts of Sigil, life here is deliberately unhurried. The Transcendent Order (whose faction headquarters these are) believes understanding can only come with a calm mind, so they do their best to keep the pressures and concerns of the outside world at bay. Those who enter must leave weapons and magic behind. No spells can be cast there, nor are beings with innate powers allowed to exercise their talents. 'Course, none of these rules apply to the Ciphers, although these edicts are generally followed by most of them, too. Nor are the rules perfectly obeyed by visitors. There are always little incidents to disturb the perfect calm of the place, disturbances the Ciphers have to put down.
Because of the rules and services here, the Gymnasium serves two purposes. First, it's a place for citizens to relax and forget the cares of the world. Noise, pressure, even social class can be forgotten. Second, the Great Gymnasium serves as a neutral ground for hostile parties. Many a truce, treaty, and pact have been negotiated in the steam rooms and baths. Like every other part of Sigil, the Great Gymnasium is vital to the functioning of the city. If it didn't exist already, it'd have to be created.
Hall of Records, The
The Hall of Records is the headquarters of the Fated. The building once was a college, but the Fated foreclosed on a slightly overdue debt and made it their home. After selling off the library (they didn't need it), the Fated settled into the broken campus and made it theirs. It wasn't long before they convinced the Speakers that the city needed to keep proper books, and who better to do it than the Fated, with all that shelf space? Now the Hall of Records is the center of Sigil's financial world. Foreign merchants file their bills of credit here, moneylenders set the official exchange rates, landlords register their property deeds, tax rolls are revised, and debtors' defaults are posted for the public to see. In another part of the Hall, records of the City Courts are filed in huge, dusty stacks, while elsewhere the proclamations of the Speakers are carefully copied for posting. The Fated run the City Mint, too, although almost every other faction closely supervises their work. In the private sections of the headquarters, the factol supervises the work on The Secret History of Sigil, a collection of all the Fated's doings and all the secrets their followers have learned.
Hall of Speakers, The
The Sign of One's headquarters is a marked contrast to the normally dour, heavy and dark buildings chosen by many other factions, especially the Harmonium. The Hall of Speakers is a soaring, almost graceful structure that rises like a spire over the Clerk's Ward. This is the seat of everyday government in Sigil. Here the factols and plebeians meet to debate the few laws and ordinances of the city. More often than not, the Speaker's Podium is a forefront of the war between the factions. On a regular day, the factol of the Xaositects is likely to propose getting rid of the Harmonium guard, which instantly gains the support of the Doomguard, since the move is sure to promote chaos and decay. The Harmonium counters by demanding the arrest of the Xaositect factol, promising the Mercykillers that they can administer the punishment. On and on it goes, as factions attempt to recruit political allies, until somebody - usually the Guvners - manages to kill the whole issue on a point of order. The chant is, real lawmaking in Sigil's a rare event.
It makes sense that this place is the Signers' headquarters. Where can a berk be any more at the center of his own multiverse than on the Speaker's Podium? Unlike the other factions, where all the speaking's left to the factol, the Signers like to rotate their followers through the Speaker's chores, giving each a chance to address all of Sigil. 'Course, the factol always makes sure he's the one speaking anytime there's an important vote (this is his multiverse more than anybody else's, after all).
Most of the Hall of Speakers is open to the public for a fee. The Hall's got council chambers, meeting rooms, private apartments, and more; these can be leased for official uses. The heart of the Hall is private faction territory, however. Here, the Signer's hold their own sessions and plot their many-branching courses, but how they agree on anything is anybody's guess. It can be pretty tough for so many centers of the multiverse to agree on even the smallest issue.
The streets around the Hall are noteworthy in that the lodgings are expensive and the drink strong. There's little in the way of entertainments, and the choice of adventurer services - armorers, weapon-smiths, map dealers, etc. - is limited. There are a fair number of street-corner criers and scribes for hire.
Headquarters of the Dustmen, the Mortuary sits in one of The Hive’s dreariest sections, a neighborhood of empty streets and abandoned shops. The building's a cluster of windowless vaults arranged around a black dome. Now and then, the Dustmen mount skulls on sticks and post them around the Mortuary to make a fence. Where do they get the skulls? From trespassers, of course. The adjacent streets are crowded with decaying taverns and gloomy boarding houses; the long shadows of the Mortuary provide plenty of cover for sods who don't want to be noticed.
Black spines radiate from the center of the Mortuary, giving the building the appearance of an immense insect. Inside its walls are interment chambers paved with black flagstones, a memorial hall where bodies of noteworthies lie in state, and a vast network of catacombs containing countless portals. How to get inside the Mortuary? Resourceful berks might try to sneak in or play dead. The best bet, of course, is to be dead.
Sigil's prison, located in The Lady's Ward, is the headquarters of The Mercykillers. The Prison looks like everything a berk fears: It's a mass of grim stone and spikes, surrounded by broad avenues. Sometimes a cutter'll hear a faint wail from within, and when he does he doesn't stop walking. There's things a sod just don't want to know about.
If there's one up-side to the area, it's that the street-crime rate here is virtually nonexistent. There's not a cross-trading body around who's going to ply his skills under the very noses of the Mercykillers. There's too many rumors of them deciding they can arrest, try, and punish a berk themselves, especially if their headquarters is close and convenient. Rigidly honest folk who've got the money and no vices at all set their cases in the blocks around the prison.
Shattered Temple, The
The faction headquarters of the Athar stand at the heart of a zone of destruction several blocks across, known collectively as The Shattered Temple. They've only repaired what little they had to in order to make the temple useable, preferring the broken look of the place. (They are the Lost, after all.) The area's been a ruin for a long time, as anyone who knows anything about Sigil can testify, but there's no clear hint as to what caused it. The best guess is that it involved the Lady of Pain and a conflict with a rival power. That would explain the broken temple, once belonging to the power Aoskar, which is now the Athars' home. Whatever the cause, the area's considered ill-omened by most, and nobody has ever built there since.