Sigil and the Outlands

A Walk Through the Planes – Sigil and the Outlands




  1. Introduction

I realize that I’m skipping ahead wildly in the chronology of this series, but I’ve had enough people asking me to finally offer my thoughts about the new(-ish) Fifth Edition Planescape set that I’ve acceded to popular demand. But rather than covering the set as a whole, I’m going to take a look at each book individually so as to give the works enough, i.e. too much, space. After all, this is the first new Planescape work for more than 20 years, and I’m skeptical that we’ll see another one in print—which is to say a physically printed book and not just more bits and pieces thrown out on DnDBeyond—anytime in the near future. 

Let’s start with the big picture before I start being cranky and pedantic about the tiny specifics. Sigil and the Outlands is the 96-page setting book made to bring players into the Planescape multiverse for the first time. In this, the decision to focus so much on this one particular plane (yes, Sigil is in the Outlands, deal with it) was wise. As a result, all three of the book’s chapters, “Character Options,” “Sigil, the City of Doors,” and “The Outlands” feel substantial. It is ultimately a good book for what it’s trying to achieve, and its representation of this oddly depicted multiverse is surprisingly easy to grasp. There’s a lot here, and none of it is half-assed, with many small details that will likely make old fans smile. 

Mike Pape’s illustration for the Smoldering Corpse Bar, which looks straight out of Planescape: Torment. There is some damn good artwork in this book.

…and yet, there’s something off about the book, which I’m going to spend the next 9000 or so words getting at. One of the first things an old fan will notice is the lack of planar cant, followed likely by the way its artwork, though without-exception polished and for the most part lovely, feels interchangeable with anything else we saw in fifth edition. The attitude of Planescape is missing, the steampunk-crossed-with-punk aesthetic is missing, and with these decisions it feels like some of the setting’s soul is missing. Sigil is no longer as definite a place as it once was, instead “The city’s ever-changing nature and its myriad portals render concepts like distance, size, and travel time irrelevant” (before, it still changed, but at the lady’s whims and not for no reason). The decision to make so much of this world’s lore less definitive, more malleable to whatever a DM might need, combines with these other factors to create a campaign setting that’s lost much of its identity. These are probably the correct choices from a sales standpoint, creating the most accessible and ultimately safe version of Planescape possible, and with this likely selling more copies than I would suspect the entire original line combined ever did. But at the same time, despite the dueling factions and the Lady of Pain’s face drawn by Tony DiTerlizzi on the cover (at least of my copy, sorry people who have the other one), this isn’t the same Planescape as before. Its edges, the many prickly bits that made it a tough sell for players back in its heyday, have been sanded off. What do I mean by this? For instance, the Lady of Pain no longer flays her victims and leaves them dead on the ground, instead those who annoy her are “assailed by overwhelming pain and immediately [drop] to 1 hit point. If the creature hasn’t learned its lesson, the Lady sends it to the Mazes in the next blink.” There’s enough old Planescape lore reiterated here, and even a few worthy new ideas, that I hesitate to say that this release is like playing Planescape with bumper lanes, but in some cases I can’t help but think that this metaphor is apt. 

  1. Character Options

The book does start off on good footing by mentioning the three truths of Planescape in the introduction, but the real first section is “Character Options.” First come a pair of new backgrounds, Gate Warden and Planar Philosopher. Both of these seem fine, and though the later simplifies the bonuses originally given for joining a faction into meaninglessness, this isn’t a bad change to make given the lack of balance these had during Second Edition. Path of the Planebreaker‘s backgrounds are far more exciting, but given how little of a role backgrounds actually play in the game this is probably the level of attention they really merited. 

Feats all build from the new Scion of the Outer Planes prerequisite, and as such they’re not terribly interesting as there’s an attempt at parity and symmetry between all of the effects. Planar Wanderer is probably the best of these, as it can allow you to open portals without keys, which in certain cases seems very annoying for a DM and possibly game-breaking if played strictly by the rules. Conversely, I found Chaotic Flare to be the worst, as its effects rely on the chaos of… a d4, which compared with the type of d100 or at least d20 randomness tables we’d see in earlier directions feels severely lacking and hardly chaotic; talk about lackluster.

Two new spells are added, and warp sense returns to the game with its original, goofy name intact, bringing along with it gate seal (a renamed surelock). There’s also listings for mimirs, portal compasses, and sensory stones, and while I realize I’m being overly persnickety here, the entry for mimirs annoyed me. While Morte in Planescape: Torment helped popularize the idea of mimirs always being in skulls (even though he isn’t one), the original listing for them in A Player’s Primer to the Outlands clearly states, “Mimirs come in many forms—disks, cubes, leaves, stars, sunflowers (popular with druids), human and animal skulls, and plenty of other shapes.” Now, however, Mimirs are a “skull-shaped device filled with knowledge.” Other details are also lost, such as that they only work in the Outer Planes, but it’s the shape part that I found weird given that this in no way alters how they function. It’s not a big change, hell it’s barely a change at all, but like so many adjustments made for Fifth Edition I remain unclear why it was made instead of reusing the original conception. My guess would be that this change and many others resulted from overall guidance to simplify and pare down every element as much as possible, but that’s just my supposition. Oh, and if you think I’m being annoying here by writing so much about a largely irrelevant bit of lore, then you might want to skip to the conclusion of this “review,” as for the next couple sections I’m going to be documenting just about every random, unnecessary change I find, which I should warn you is a lot.

Unmistakably, we’re back in Sigil.

The beginning of “Sigil, the City of Doors” mostly repeats information contained within the Sigil Without a Guide section of the original Campaign Setting‘s “Sigil and Beyond” volume, though in general it’s abbreviated. “Getting Around” includes information about touts and sedan chairs, while skipping over couriers, light boys, and factotums. There’s a new explanation for why people speak common in Sigil, “The fact that Common-speaking travelers from different worlds can meet in Sigil and understand one another perplexes linguists and suggests that the language originated in Sigil,” though I appreciate that this is just a rumor. It’s related to a more obnoxious idea, that “Humans are the earliest known inhabitants of the City of Doors. Some sages track the existence and spread of humans back to Sigil itself, rather than to a deity or its creations,” which unfortunately isn’t couched in the language of uncertainty and instead is stated as a fact. I choose to ignore this bit of new lore, as I find the whole human-centric fantasy trope exhausting, but I suppose that this doesn’t strictly contradict anything from before, or at least nothing I can think of off-hand. 

Cranium rats and razorvine are both still around, and though they’re not quite as we saw before (a point I’ll get to when we cover Morte’s Planar Parade), at least some things really haven’t changed. Portals likewise function roughly the same, and though there are now teleportation circles, given the limits placed on them they feel like they follow the original spirit of the setting and do nothing to contradict the rule that the Lady controls all aspects of planar travel to and from Sigil. Things are only truly weird when we get to the subject of factions, which try to exist in both a pre- and post-Faction War continuity, a design decision which I find utterly baffling.

  1. Factions

In an attempt at keeping this article as organized as possible, let’s take a look at the factions one-by-one through a couple lists. Beware, this is not going to be short.

Original Factions:

The Athar – No longer “The Lost,” Athar remain largely the same as they were pre-Faction War. They read to me a bit less abrasive than before, but the only real difference I saw was that the area surrounding the Shattered Temple in the Lower Ward is no longer a no-man’s land (or at least this fact is no longer mentioned). Also worth noting is that the center of their anti-cathedral, the glowing tree, has been renamed from the Bois Verdurous to the Luminous Arbor, I guess because the original name was too flavorful or memorable? 

Godsmen – Removed! This surprised me a lot considering how much time was spent in their Great Foundry in Planescape: Torment, but removed doesn’t mean forgotten. See below with The Mind’s Eye. 

Bleak Cabal – No longer “The Cabal” or “Madmen,” Bleakers have lost almost all of the insanity so intrinsic to their original identity. Instead, they’re far more altruistic than they used to be, and they seem to be essentially one large charity organization instead of a group of raving weirdos. This change makes the faction far, far more politically correct, but at the same time much less compelling and interesting. They seem extremely one-dimensional now, and don’t quite make sense. Likewise, the Gatehouse, which was once essentially a planar version of Arkham Asylum, is now “a fortress of rehabilitation and renewal.” While I mentioned earlier that many parts of Fifth Edition’s Planescape feels like the edges have been sanded off, Bleak Cabal is the only faction that feels like it’s been completely neutered.

Doomguard – The Doomguard remain much as they were, though their aligned plane is now Elemental Chaos and their four citadels on the negative quasielemental planes have been (unsurprisingly) shifted to “the edge of the Elemental Chaos,” which is less flavorful than before but I guess gets the job done, considering what’s available. The forge at the Armory’s center is now the Forge of Doom, and a new NPC hangs around to chat with PCs, but for the most part it’s merely cosmetic changes.

The Dustmen – Renamed Heralds of the Dust, presumably because the “men” part of their name was considered sexist? They’re also no longer called The Dead, which was a wonderful nickname, and are now only the far less evocative Dusters. They’ve lost their association with the Negative Energy Plane and are now aligned with Hades, but Skall is still liching about, and the Mortuary, though it no longer matches well with either the Second Edition depiction or the version in Planescape: Torment, serves essentially the same purpose, so it’s hard to care too much about how different it looks in the new art. 

While I wish more of the faction symbols matched up better with the old ones, they did all kinda need some reworking.

The Fated – While no longer using the nickname The Heartless, they’re still the same Ayn Rand-ian bullies as ever. The only real change is in fact a positive one: I actually prefer their new symbol to the original, and have to assume that the hourglass part is a joke about Rowan Darkwood’s fate in Faction War. The Hall of Records is essentially the same, and I appreciate the decision to have “dapper giants” guarding it in the artwork because that’s just weird. 

Fraternity of Order – Another faction essentially unchanged from before. However the structure of the Court, now called the High Court, has transformed greatly, and a couple example judges are given, but it’s hard to care too much about this decision as the city’s legal system was always a bit fuzzy before. There’s also a new Hall of Concordance added to the building, specifically focused on contracts and with influence from Mechanus. I actually think this is a cool addition, and would happily add it into my own Planescape campaign. There, see, I’m not entirely negative about changes.

The Free League – No longer a major, or rather “ascendant” faction, but they’re still hanging about in the Great Bazaar working with merchants. The main effect of this change is just to make it harder for PCs to become one (it’s not an option actually given anymore), which I found a weird decision simply because in the past it’s what many of my players have ended up becoming. Perhaps making one of the factions being focused on the lack of a faction was deemed too complex by someone at Wizards?

Harmonium – For the most part unchanged from before. They seem slightly toned down to me, but not nearly so much as Bleakers. I got the sense that the original Planescape designers hated cops as much as I did, which made the Harmonium essentially the setting’s villains, though now it feels like they’re supposed to be at least vaguely sympathetic. The description of the Barracks (no longer City Barracks) actually matches up pretty well with the original depiction for once.

Mercykillers – The Red Death is now just the Jailers, but otherwise they’re mostly retconned to how they were back in 1994. The original factol, the incredibly obscure Factol Mallin, has already been replaced by Alisohn Nilesia in this continuity, which is totally fine considering that even I had to look up who the hell it was before she took over. The Prison no longer remotely resembles what it did before, which used to be much more traditional, but the new version gets some style points for detailing what happened to The Grixitt from Uncaged. The sample prisoners are also rather fun, and while the doppelganger reminds me a bit of Farrow, another obscure NPC from the same source, the real gem is including “A disheveled wizard named Gifad who claims to hail from the future,” which should entertain anyone familiar with Faction War.

The Revolutionary League – Not even relegated to “minor faction” status, the Anarchists now receive just a single line of description amidst the write-up for Nowhere in Undersigil. That being said, it’s a weird decision considering one of the new factions—which we’ll get to in a bit, I swear—has so much in common with them. 

The Hall of Speakers now looks like a terrarium, or one of those arcologies from Sim City 2000.

The Sign of One – Gone, and the Hall of Speakers is no surprise no longer theirs. Weirdly though, “Before the hall stands a massive iron statue of a woman heaving a world on her shoulders with power and grace, a Signer remnant turned local landmark named The Power of One.” The Trianym is also lumped in here, which seems fitting to me, though no mention is made of Harys Hatchis hilariously purchasing the entire building, which is a pity (in fact no mention is made of him at all in the book). More below.

Society of Sensation – Sensates remain largely unchanged from the Campaign Setting original. The Civic Festhall is also largely the same, and while the map of Elloweth Theater doesn’t remotely match what up with the one in Uncaged, I actually prefer this version. The inner sanctum sensory stones being relegated to a demiplane is more akin with their depiction in Planescape: Torment, but it all seems to capture their spirit.

The Transcendent Order – The only change Ciphers have had is that their Great Gymnasium looks much, much fancier now. 

Xaositects – The sole old faction truly missing. No mention of them is ever given, they’ve been completely erased from the Multiverse. Chaosmen’s absence felt particularly weird considering how much of a role they play in Planescape: Torment, which is the main reference point for this setting for the majority of people already familiar with it.

“New” factions:

Hands of Havoc – Essentially a combination of Xaositects and Anarchists, to the point that their members are listed as “anarchists” even though that appellation is still given to another group. The main thing they took from the Xaositects was a home plane in Limbo, but for the most part they’re so similar to the Revolutionary League that I fail to understand why the change was made. I suppose it’s that they’re less aggressive than their predecessor, more about creativity and expression and less about, say, destroying corrupt systems. Overall, I’m very unimpressed, as it seems like another case of watering down ideologies to make them more palatable and soft. 

Mind’s Eye – The strangest decision for the factions was to use all of the original, pre-Faction War ones with all of their original bases and leaders intact… except for the Believers of the Source and the Sign of One. Weirdly, this means that both of the original factols are no longer around, and instead we’re left with Saladryn, a completely new individual of which we’re given few details. The Great Foundry, perhaps unsurprisingly, doesn’t resemble its original depiction, and the addition of Mithral Tower at its center feels off-tone to me, considering that this is supposed to be a disgusting industrial factory belching out horrible fumes. I suppose this change reflects the removal of the whole 19th-century British tone from Sigil, but in any case it seems misguided, an attempt at turning this place into a magical Disneyland site rather than one focused on production.

Incanterium – They’re back! The most exciting change to all of Sigil in Fifth Edition is that the Tower Sorcerous returned, and with it came this faction from the past. I am legitimately excited to see what happens with this plot thread in the future.

Ring Givers – Apparently sects are gone, and in their place we simply have “minor factions.” Which is fine, it doesn’t really affect anything. Ring Givers are no longer Beggars, and they have a new factol, which is hard to be unhappy about because Ingwe never received any details. Jeremo the Natterer is from In the Cage, and is a fun character with an amazing name, so I’m happy to see him make a surprise reappearance. 

Coterie of Cakes – Cakers are an entirely new joke-faction headquartered in Nowhere. I can’t help but wonder why the writers didn’t grab one of the five joke “Faxions” from way back in the day. Regardless, I will be surprised (disappointed?) if they’re ever mentioned again.

The Undivided – Also new and in Nowhere, but far more interesting. They “believe those who pass through planar portals are destroyed and replaced with clones.” As a result, they won’t leave the Cage, making them kind of a more philosophical off-shoot of the Planarists from before. This is a not uncommon science-fiction trope and a big topic from the late Derek Parfit’s works of philosophy. A nice addition, even if there’s not much to them yet. 

Maybe some of these changes will be explained in the later books of this series, particularly Turn of Fortune’s Wheel, but as it stands that’s simply not the case. Aside from all of the issues I’ve noted above, there’s also a big alteration to the history of Sigil. The decision of the Lady of Pain to reduce the number of factions never happened anymore, and so the city’s past feels like it’s been weirdly erased. Sigil and the planes in general exist outside of the previously established continuity, which to me makes for a less interesting and realized location. This openness allows Sigil to be more broadly used, I suppose, but for the most part it draws me out of this reality. In Second Edition, Sigil was a city of infinite plots and schemes, where grudges lasted for centuries and the world’s political and cultural landscape was shaped by its history. The ahistorical Sigil makes all of the factions feel like more of a curiosity than movers and shakers of the multiverse.

I don’t know who the hell “Terraform Studios” is, but when directed to go a bit extreme with purples, they didn’t go for half-measures. I do like how wet and steamy and unpleasant this street looks.
  1. Locations in Sigil

Onto the city itself, which is much the same though the Guildhall District is now truly deceased, presumably for the usual reason of removing complexity, which again removes an important part Sigil’s past. I’m going to go district by district in order to cover noteworthy changes, though really that’s the most important one. I’m also not going to note “missing” locations as that would be ridiculous, instead I’ll just be looking at the places that actually crop up (and skipping the faction headquarters, as they were covered more-or-less above). Many, many thanks to the wonderful “Map of Sigil, City of Doors” interactive map project at, which made cross-referencing these sites a far more manageable task than it would’ve been otherwise. 

Clerk’s Ward
Perhaps because it’s such a straightforward area, the Clerk’s Ward is the one that most resembles its past incarnations. It’s not terribly exciting, but then it never really was.
Greengage – For no reason I can fathom, Greengage has a different owner than before. And while it’s flavored to match more with the Sensates, it loses its interesting backstory and the link with Sheela Peryroyl, making for a much less complex location that cuts down on its planar scope.
Hall of Information – Essentially the same as before, only with fewer examples and much less flavor regarding its chief clerk, Bordon Mok, let alone its offices and all that getting information from here entails. Which, I should note, is totally fine for what this book is trying to do.
Tea Street Transit – The weirdo ponies even make a reappearance, though the proprietor Kyl Silkfoot is weirdly changed from a lawful good half-elf paladin to a lawful neutral elf druid. As always: why?
Tower Sorceress – While not a strictly new location (it had been mentioned before, though its position in Sigil was never clarified so far as I’m aware), its return is the most exciting change of the edition, at least in this first book. Though brief, the information here is excellent, no notes.

Hive Ward

By no longer containing the Hive itself, the Hive Ward feels a lot safer and more normal. It’s much more a typical poor area of any town rather than a chaotic mess deadly to even planar travelers. Hell, it’s nicer than most fantasy slums, because the Gatehouse is now such a kind and charitable organization, especially when compared with its Victorian-esque version from before. The choice feels weird to me considering that this was where most of Torment was set, and in that game it’s quite a dangerous and unsavory area. Essentially, the Hive has been gentrified, and I can imagine young white people moving in to talk about how trendy their neighborhood is.
Bottle and Jug – For some reason the proprietor has changed (I suppose they didn’t like the “&” symbol in the name), and while there’s still backroom boxing it now involves a portal. Likewise, the bouncer is now a pit fiend, probably because fensir trolls are too particular to a real world mythology, but as a result the place feels more basic. The new drinks are fine, but overall it’s tryhard compared with the original establishment, which had a strange realism to it.
Fell’s Tattoos – While this moved from the Market Ward to the Hive, that already occurred with Torment and really made more sense than its original location in Uncaged. His tattoos are now just the same as any other ones from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, which makes them less unique and interesting. For the most part, though, it’s the same establishment.
Gatehouse Night Market – Largely unchanged, which is no surprise since it didn’t have many details before. The will-o’-wisps lighting it are new, I suppose.
Parakk Pest – Parakk the Ratcatcher was an obscure character first introduced in Uncaged, and not one I expected to see return. His actual business wasn’t detailed before, but what’s included here works well with past lore. Mention of him being controlled by Us is subtle but still there, the main change being that it’s not a new job for him anymore, it’s a generations-long tradition, and the actual name Parakk is only ceremonial now. It’s a worthy development, even if the prose here is a bit weak.
The Slags – While the description is bare, what’s here is essentially a stripped down version of what we had before. No mention of the Kadyx or anything else exciting, the new description basically just says that it hasn’t been retconned into the trash.
Smoldering Corpse Bar
– It’s back from Torment, and essentially unchanged from the beginning of the game. That’s right, Ignus is still stuck there, and as I’ve noted before there’s yet to be an explanation for how he was transformed into a portal considering that only the Lady has that ability in Sigil. Probably for that reason, I’ve never cared much for the establishment, though it seems popular with most people so I guess it’s nice they brought it back. 

The Grease Pit is one of several bougie new establishments trying to turn Sigil into a neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Grease Pit – A new location that’s basically a food truck meetup, except in Sigil. It’s the epitome of the whole “gentrifying the city” theme that inadvertently ended up part of the text, and I can’t imagine ever wanting to include it in a game. Bleh.
Sandstone Strip – The other new Hive location, and it’s an extremely dull description of a random neighborhood. Why this waste of space made it in when so much else didn’t is completely beyond me. 

Lady’s Ward

While the Lady’s Ward seems initially quite similar to how it was before, that means forgetting just how much of it used to be devoted to temples. Losing locations like the Temple to Hermes may seem small, but contributes to the overall effect of losing real world mythologies making for a less interesting and diverse multiverse. Not that these would be difficult to add back into the game, but for the most part the entire Ward seems even more skippable in most campaigns than it had been before, and without its Court of Pain a much safer, tamer, and duller area of town.
Fortune’s Wheel – Given the new adventure, its reappearance was anything but a surprise. It’s now run by Shemeshka (no explanation for this is yet given, but I’m reading these books sequentially and maybe there will be some backstory in Turn of Fortune’s Wheel). While the Dragon Bar is still around, no mention is given here that it’s animate any longer. The whole establishment also seems much bigger than before, but the scope of this I’m unclear on, and I should really reserve judgment until diving into that last book.
Heart’s Fire – A new temple, though its god is undefined, which is the type of blandness I always hate. There’s also a lame plothook here about a horned devil priest, which feels very basic and Prime for a Planescape storyline… well, for one not written by Bill Slavicsek.
Infinite Well – In place of the Temple of the Abyss, which I was fond of and played an important role in Autochon’s story (who even reappeared in Die, Vecna, Die!), we’re left with the Infinite Well. It’s not actually a bad site, it’s just not as cool as the original, and I don’t really understand its description or how it’s supposed to function in Sigil (“The temple hovers high above the surrounding houses of worship, floating above a seemingly bottomless pit”). It’s another of those changes whose reasoning I fail to understand, and I’ll just make the Well a part of the  original Temple in my own campaign instead.


Lower Ward

The Lower Ward remains largely unchanged, despite the rest of Sigil losing so much of its Dickensian, smog-filled squalor. It’s maybe the only part of the city that still feels properly like Sigil to me.
Bones of the Night – Lothar and his creepy abode returns, though he seems significantly less powerful than he was before (he used to be 25th level, and was so powerful that pissing him off was one of the few ways to permanently die in Torment). His stature now makes me wonder how he isn’t mugged every week like a dollar store.
The Ditch – Far less interesting than before, though at least it still has Tattershade stirring up trouble. This abbreviated version is fine enough, and cribs some language directly from the previous versions, but it’s disappointing considering how cool the area used to be. Fortunately, nothing contradicts the old material, so that can easily still be used.
Face of Gith – For once it’s an expanded rather than reduced location. Unfortunately, this is still just an inn, and the most notable new features are details about its githzerai proprietor.
Parted Veil – A location I rather love and was glad to see return. Everything about the location, Kesto, and Sir Cleave, is surprisingly faithful to their depiction in Uncaged.
Ubiquitous Wayfarer – While I admit it also made an appearance in Dead Gods, I’ve never liked this place ever since it first showed up in The Deva Spark. It felt contrived then and it still feels contrived now. It’s closer to its later conception than Slavicsek’s version, but I still want to ignore it entirely.

Market Ward: 

The most altered section of the city, and I don’t just mean how it combined two wards into one. Only a single notable location from the past has returned, and even it was from the Guild Ward. In general, the feeling is a far more progressive, less industrial ward, another section of Sigil that feels gentrified and newly “safe.”
Flame Pits – Moved from the Guild Ward (I suppose), at first glance the location isn’t altered too much, but making its proprietor no longer an Anarchist removes a lot of its character and purpose. Not a huge change, but there’s a difference from saying a person is a rebel and showing that they’re actively working to bring down the system. 
Institute for Intellectual Excellence – Remember the Brothel for Slaking Intellectual Lusts (typo included, it’s probably supposed to be sating) from Torment? Well this is that… kind of. If you squint a lot, I guess. None of the original women are here, it’s no longer a brothel, and is also no longer remotely odd, but I guess it’s still around… sort of, maybe. It’s also no longer in the Clerk’s Ward, but at this point that’s the least of its changes.

The Bank of Abbathor insures that just because you’re in a fantasy world doesn’t mean you can escape from the real world’s most vile fiend: capitalism.

Bank of Abbathor Inc. – I guess someone at Wizards really like Gringotts but wanted it to be slightly less racist? In any case, the good part of adding this bank is that suddenly there’s a location for bank heists. The bad thing is that it, as usual, feels out of sorts with this fantasy world and makes things too easy and cushy for PCs. 
Gastrognome – Somehow, this location manages to be even more gentrified than the Grease Pit from earlier, a feat I hardly thought was possible. The name alone makes me cringe in embarrassment
Planar Energy Cooperative – You know what a gentrified neighborhood really needs? A coop! Here, altruistic wizards come together to be altruistic. *Yawn*


The least developed part of Sigil prior to now, much of its depiction is drawn more from Torment than the Second Edition books… which I guess is fine, though I thought the video game’s depiction was far less interesting overall. The possibilities for this area no longer seem as vast, but oh well, it’s not like it was much used before. I can’t help but wish we’d gotten another book covering it thoroughly back in the day, but without that, well, I guess this is what we’re left with.
Dead Nations – It’s replicated from Torment, right down to the Silent King.
Drowned Nations – Fortunately this is no longer just Dead Nations part 2, now it’s filled with aquatic beings and even a creepy aboleth for good measure. It’s legitimately an improvement on the previous incarnation, and somewhere ripe with possibility

Nowhere is now a happening hub of a spot, at least from the look of it here.

Nowhere – Not nearly as interesting as its depiction in Faction War, Nowhere now lacks its history or an explanation for why it exists. And if people are so aware of it, then why is it permitted by the Factions, let alone the Lady? Essentially, this version, sans the overarching lore, is nonsense.
Warrens of Thought – Also pulled from Torment, my main complaint is that it decides that the Us and Many-as-One are the same being rather than competing groups of cranium rats. I believe that there were originally four main packs of cranium rats, none of which were Many-as-One, though for once I’m unable to find the source for this information so I suppose that might just be a conceit from my own campaigns. Otherwise, this spot is fine, whatever.
The Loop – The only new invention for Undersigil is actually quite cool. It seems to be a pocket where space and time within the multiverse are breaking down, and for that matter it barely seems to be a part of Sigil at all. For once, I want to bring this location into an adventure, and I’d be happy to expand on this concept for a whole campaign. The implications here could be vast.

Having now gone through every section of Fifth Edition’s Sigil, I find myself far more disheartened than I was when I began. The main character for most campaign settings is its principal city, its home base, and this was certainly the case with Planescape. But unfortunately the grimy, disreputable, and dangerous version that we all knew from Second Edition is no longer here. Fifth Edition’s gentrified Sigil is more a spot I’d want to retire to than a location for adventures, and while at first glance it’s remarkably similar to the original version, once you look closer it’s lost a lot of its charm. Previously, the wonder was always offset by the peril, and there was a sense of the location actively fighting against players. Now, it’s more of a magical base that players likely won’t want to leave because it’s such a pleasant place to exist within. A safe Sigil simply isn’t the same city, it’s a Disneyfied playground rather than a living, breathing location with a history and its own culture. 

In case you were wondering whether the Outlands is now a cotton candy universe, this picture should help confirm your suspicions. I probably overuse the term Disneyfied in this article, but, like…. blech.
  1. The Outlands

The final chapter of Sigil and the Outlands focuses on, well, the Outlands. Unlike with Sigil, the amount of material written about this location in Second Edition AD&D was shockingly little. Most of it was contained within original Campaign Setting or the slim, 42-page volume A Player’s Primer to the Outlands, the rest being within The Great Modron March or, in rare occasions, other modules like Well of Worlds, Hellbound,  and Dead Gods. Primer only devoted 1-2 pages to each of the gate-towns, plus even shorter tidbits on locations like The Caverns of Thought. Despite the original concept for Planescape adventures being low-level in Sigil, mid-level in the Outlands, and high-level to the Outer Planes (more-or-less), the Outlands remained a weirdly neglected location throughout the entire history of D&D, so had they wanted to Wizards could’ve really grown the space.

Instead of really doing so and going wild with the Outlands, what we have are two pages for each of the gate-towns, and then a few more blurbs. It’s probably about the same amount of information as we had before, the biggest change being that the anti-magic rings around the spire have been replaced with the much less coherent, interesting, or thematic “pockets of antimagic.” The other one is the removal of most, though weirdly not quite all (the Realm of the Norns remains), references to real world religions. This isn’t surprising, considering Wizards’ approach to religion with the rest of the game, but is more relevant here than within Sigil, as several major locations were linked with deities now excised from the game.

As with the other sections, I’m going to go town by town and will offer some thoughts on each, followed by a smattering of commentary about the rest of the Outlands. 

Every single gate-town receives a new image, which is legitimately a cool feature. I often prefer the art to the locations themselves, which is certainly true for Automota’s Concord Terminus.


For reasons unclear to me, the leader of the Council of Order’s name has been changed from “Aristimis” to “Aristimus,” which I guess fits with their headquarters having a new name. The Council of Anarchy is no longer the same, and individuals of interest have been replaced with three decathlon modrons, I suppose for simplicity. They’re also more sinister than they were before, too, which surprised me, as they seemed pretty benign in Second Edition. The modron march is the same, though the note that “on at least one occasion” it came early implies that it’s a somewhat regular error, which I dislike.

I appreciate the return of The Divine Machine, though it has a new proprietor. It’s also no longer catering primarily to halflings, so it loses much of its flavor, which says a lot considering that this was pretty much all the description it had before. However, there’s more gentrification here, don’t you worry, in that there’s also a coffee shop, which inexplicably employees modrons. The whole conception of what modrons do during their lives seems very off here, and while this is meant as cute, it just begs many more questions about their hierarchy.

The gate itself is unchanged, though it sits across from a new location, the Concord Terminus, which I believe plays a part in an adventure from Keys to the Golden Vault, though I haven’t read it yet. I find the whole interplanar train concept dumb, but maybe you don’t, and if so it seems like a fine enough addition. In all, it still seems like Automata as much as it ever did.

If nothing else, this book offers some wonderful art to show players when they arrive at the gate-towns.


We’re no longer in a volcanic crater, but it’s still a windy crater with a weird hand at the bottom, so there’s that. There’s a name to the tower, though, Sablereach, and weirdly, time has moved forward here, such that the old Keeper of Bedlam—now called gatekeeper—is gone and now a cloud giant is in charge. One other noteworthy bit about the whole area is that the winds are mind-controlling: “Bedlam’s winds infect townsfolk with a contagious spite. Occasionally, the planar gales dominate longstanding residents, compelling them to commit evil acts.” No mechanics for this are offered, though, which is true for pretty much all of the special traits listed for these towns. I’m not going to mention them in the future, but while I like the flavor they add, often it seems very up to the DM what they actually mean.

The Eye and Dagger returns, but in addition there are some tunnels and a new observatory. All three are fine developments, and the city improves with having more going on there, but all of the many details about its districts (and one renaming), some NPCs, and several other establishments are lost. Bedlam was never the most interesting gate-town, but it had a lot of coverage in The Great Modron March, and all of this is gone, and in particular removing details about the Sarex and the shadow fiend controlling things from behind the scenes are a big loss. The courthouse also feels like it should’ve been included given the big role it played in that module. I don’t feel like the spirit of the town has been completely lost, but as usual the reasoning behind erasing so much good material eludes me. 

Curst’s inhabitants preparing a last stand over spelling their city’s name wonkily.



Probably best-known for its surprise appearance in Torment, it was one of those single-page entries before and never even received a map. The Revolutionary League is unsurprisingly forgotten, and the town’s ruler is new and has a slightly different title, but the overarching idea of the Wall Watch keeping citizens inside is still around and it feels as bleak as ever. 

New aspects include the idea of Second Exile, i.e. being pitched inside Carceri, and making the town’s prison-aspect have actual game mechanics keeping creatures inside. The Dump returns from Torment, though really it never made much sense here and would be a better fit for Acheron, as does the Traitor’s Gate tavern. In all, it’s a good, direct translation of what was known about the city before now.

Presumably Ecstasy puts on regular performances of The Nightman Cometh.


The one gate-town that received a surprise Dragon magazine blowout feature, Ecstasy had more detail than almost anywhere else on the Outlands (and definitely the best map). The resulting town in Fifth Edition is still pretty close to these, but with a few changes. For one thing, the rulers have new titles, which I’m weirdly ok with because it always seemed weird to me for there to be a person called the “Sun Master” when the Outlands has no sun. Other parts of the city, such as the Moondark Tower and the Philosopher’s Court, maintain their original names, and while their details aren’t quite the same—dragons and other extremely basic high fantasy nonsense is added—the gist of these locations remains. Even Revelhall remains, though it’s more of a basic Inn now rather than the “ultimate festhall” as it was before. 

The main thing missing here are details about the actual people (many of whom are petitioners) on the plinths, and likewise the many temples that used to dot the area. This aspect was gone from the Dragon article as well, but the array of various temples to diverse deities was something I rather liked in the original conception. The Philosopher King is also now missing in action, and as a result the Court is now a mess and doesn’t feel like it fits the overall atmosphere of the town anymore. 

Excelsior always looks so cool that I always wished the town wasn’t such an absolute bore.


Another single-page entry in the Primer, this city never reappeared in anything else that I’m aware of, giving the authors a lot of leeway. What Wizards decided to do with this was to keep the floating towers idea, but jettison many of the specifics, including how the towers are managed and the original high chancellor of the town. Ultimately, this seems fine enough, if unnecessary, and the tone of the area is the same, even if it now lacks its two most interesting aspects, a thieves guild and locals from the Order of the Planes-Militant. 

Two new locations, the Chandelier and the Forum, are both dull but fitting to the location. There’s also a few sentences on Heart’s Faith, which has an order that’s essentially a rebranded version of the Planes-Militant, in case you thought that concept was completely forgotten. Yes, it’s still a town so boring that you can’t help but write about another town entirely in the midst of its description, even when it’s only given two pages of space and half of one is used for an illustration.

Did we really need the vaguely mesoamerican theming for the statue, or having a bear dressed like a colonialist hunter?


The most noteworthy aspect of Faunel used to be the Center of Eternal Dreams, which was run by the Signers and even made a brief appearance in Planes of Conflict. But the Signers no longer exist… so perhaps as a result, Wizards blew up the old Faunel entirely, which is said to have made its way over to the Beastlands. In its place, three factions are fighting for supremacy, all run by awakened beasts, who I presume are petitioners, but for some reason that’s a term rarely used in Fifth Edition, so maybe not? Weirdly, its gate is still at the foot of a statue named Wrath, which now has a vaguely racist depiction in the art. As such, I’m unclear what the planeshift accomplished, as it’s not like there was any leader here to begin with. All three new locations are unmemorable (so much so that typing this a minute after rereading the entry I already can’t recall their specifics), and the ruins are still here, so really aside from losing its one worthwhile spot of interest the town’s the same as ever. Yay?

The four Storm Lords arguing about which plane they’re supposed to be on and how any of that is supposed to make sense.


What if an HOA ruled an entire town in the Outlands? That’s the question Fortitude answers, the gist being that living there would be insufferable. Fortunately, that aspect of the town remains unchanged, though as usual there are more than a few edges sanded off. The Secret Conclave of Seven is now not-so-secret and called The Spotless Seven, which is just… ugh, it makes you feel bad just to read it, though maybe that’s the point? The gate to Arcadia remains as ostentatious as ever, but the other real location, the Confessional, is now the far more kind Pavillion of Purity, which removes sins without forcing you to fight to the death. However, I kinda like the Beehive Boutique, even if its implication about the existence of boutique hair salons feels pretty ridiculous and it contributes another aspect to the multiverse’s weird gentrification. The other new location, Filigree Park, is mostly just a park. One more frustrating change is that now Arcadia’s Storm Lords control the gate, which fundamentally makes no sense to me in a number of ways (they do this from another plane???).  Really, it’s the lack of Hardheads beating on everyone that feels the most out of sorts here now, but while the location’s not as cruel and wanton as it once was, at least it’s not quite the rainbows and sunshine destination I feared it would be.

Glorium’s now less about actual Nordic culture, more about the culture as assumed by someone who played the God of War video game series.


The city’s pair of gates remain largely unchanged, but the rest of the town’s tone has been flattened. It’s not nearly as Norse-influenced, and no longer filled with longhouses. Flatnose Grim has been replaced by his daughter, Tyrza Bonebreaker, who’s less aggressive but more aggressively a stereotype. There’s a new gymnasium, a sacred well, and a name for where the nearby bariaurs hang out. Hilariously, Lemming Boy is still around, which I love, especially as he never received an explanation in Second Edition, he was just a dick who likes to hang around town occasionally murdering visitors, though in a way that the locals found entertaining so they neer put a stop to it. Intentionally removing real world references hurts here, but the town still has much of its old flavor, and ultimately is largely the same.

I swear Hopeless isn’t as dumb as this image makes it look. C’mon, trust me.


A personal favorite gate-town of mine, even if it’s only cropped up once in a published adventure (Hellbound: The Blood War), fortunately it’s relatively unchanged. Same ruler, same single-road design, same gang of beholders patrolling the joint and terrifying all of its inhabitants. I do think losing the Chapterhouse of the Sisterhood was a misstep (though even I’d be happy for a renaming), but the Gallows is a nice addition, and the Castle of Bone now fomenting dissent works well. The new Tomdon Manor feels out of touch and just… I don’t know, lame, but that’s the only real demerit.

Plague-Mort seems far less unique, more like a generically bad town.


The most detailed of all the gate-towns was Plague-mort, which had an adventure centered around its possible descent into the Abyss in Well of Worlds (“Recruiters”), though there’s also a surprising amount about it in the original Campaign Setting as well. Perhaps because they didn’t want to read so much material, very little of the original remains. None of the original buildings get mentioned, the old archlector no longer rules, and even the portal itself isn’t remotely the same, to the point that it’s essentially the one from Hopeless repeated, just locked inside a keep. The neat details about the temples are missing in favor of a single location, the Razed Alter, and the complicated maneuvering of NPCs is replaced with one second-in-command hoping to take over. Oh, and there are some farms, but they’re bad farms, because evil, you see? In all, this may be the biggest disappointment of the entire set of gate-towns.

Ribcage still looks pretty sweet, not gonna lie.



Another town that prominently featured in Second Edition (Fires of Dis), which unfortunately also means that this is another town that kept the name and little else. Baron Paracs’ paranoid personality used to infuse the location, and getting rid of him did a lot of damage to the whole framework and logic of its existence. Instead, the new ruler has a confounding plan of limiting the number of devils, but also trying to do the opposite? What? “To prevent the gate-town from becoming so evil that it experiences a cosmic realignment, Duchess Zelza Zurkbane (lawful evil succubus) and her senators have enacted a policy limiting the number of devils in Ribcage …  Duchess Zurkbane wants nothing more than to plunge Ribcage into the Nine Hells and expects the Lords of the Nine will reward her for the accomplishment.” Did no one else read this paragraph and find this nonsensical?

The gate itself has some new features but looks largely the same as before, and is still located within a citadel so it’s inaccessible. However the only fully returning feature is the Gymnasium of Steam, perhaps because it’s bourgeois enough to fit in with the rest of the campaign setting’s changes. Even this sauna has a different tone than before, though, and the truly new site, Bleeding Horn, is just another forgettable tavern. 

Not quite how I’d pictured Rigus before, but it seems like a good representation nonetheless.


Rigus last made an appearance not in Second Edition, like most gate-towns, but in Third, when it cropped up in Lord of the Iron Fortress. As was the style at the time, the version there was largely identical to Planescape’s (though pre-Faction War for some weird reason). Surprisingly, nothing here contradicts that either, instead it fleshes out a few details while keeping everything we knew about the city in the last few editions. Were that every gate-town were like this. 

Sylvania, like its linked plane Arborea, has an uphill battle ahead in terms of justifying its existence. This illustration is definitely not going to help.


I sure had to reread the original Primer entry on Sylvania, because I didn’t remember a thing about it, and am pretty sure it’s never been featured since then. The main change seems to be removing all Olympian references, and mixing up the exact nature of the Seven Spiritors a tad. The place doesn’t make much sense anymore given the combination of the Feywild’s existence and the removal of real world mythologies, but I suppose that’s a bigger problem for another day. All three locations are new, but I forgot them just as quickly as I did information about the site originally, which I guess means they capture the original’s spirit just fine.

Torch’s pillars seem a bit too vertical now to be livable, but maybe that’s fitting.


Another city that made an appearance in Hellbound, which offered quite a bit of detail, some of which even carried over. The portal, for instance, is still the same, though I guess there’s a dragon nearby too, because Fifth Edition sure loves its dragons. What else remains? Umm, well the names of the three pillars managed to stick, and one of the old thieves guilds is still around out of the previous six, though it’s now a “gang.” That new bank from Sigil makes another appearance, and, umm, hmm, that’s about it of note anymore. Even the Festhall of the Falling Coins has been removed, and the whole city is now run by a mafia group rather than the Council of All. Another loss for old lore without much at all to be gained. 

While the book’s caption claims that this bariaur is the legendary trademaster, I prefer to think that it’s another bariaur who likes to pretend he is in order to scam people and steal their goods.


The only gate-town more interesting than the plane it led to (almost by default), Tradegate still never featured much and had few details written about it. Somehow, even it managed to get gentrified with this new edition, as it’s now “A hub of ethical trade.” It has its own weird coinage, which seems like it only serves to annoy and confuse matters and has no real explanation for existing. Awesome. I’m glad the gate is still a weird, wandering bariaur, but now it’s literally just a dude who casts gate for people who trade with him, which is much less cool than transporting people without casting a spell—same effect, I realize, but mentioning it as a spell anyone can cast takes a lot of the magic out of it. All three detailed locations are new, and none of them are interesting, which I suppose is in the spirit of Bytopia. 

I like everything about the actual description of Xaos, but this illustration doesn’t capture that at all.


While the Xaositects may be gone, at least Xaos is still around to be weird and slightly annoying in the best possible way. The town still feels properly nonsensical, and what’s more, one of its new locations plays on a dangling plot thread from Primer, in that modrons built a cube in order to keep the town from joining Limbo. That this construct keeps wrecking the modrons is perfect and feels like Planescape should. The other new location is an outpost of the Sha’sal Khou, i.e. the gith trying to reunite their two races. This is a strong plot thread that I’m happy to see get some traction. I ended up rather liking this depiction of Xaos and feeling that it did the original version justice. 

Ok, going through all of those pages took me far longer than I thought it would, but it’s not quite the end of the book. There are also brief blurbs, 1-2 paragraphs each, on the following “Other Realms”: Caverns of Thought, Court of Light, Dendradis, Flowering Hill, The Great Pass, Gzemnid’s Realm, Hidden Realm, Labyrinth of Light, Mausoleum of Chronepsis, Moradin’s Anvil, Realm of the Norns, River Ma’at, Semuanya’s Bog, The Spire, Thebestys, Vale of the Spine, Walking Castles, and Wonderhome. Most of these don’t warrant much comment, but I do have a few things to say about these locations, which I’m sure you’re not surprised about at this point given how needlessly wordy this has been so far:

  • Dendradis is a new rilmani city, and definitely the most exciting addition to the Outlands. I always wanted the rilmani to be more interesting than they really were, and perhaps that may happen in the future if this plot thread is continued up on. Hell, maybe it is in this very boxed set. 
Dendradis is the best fully new location of the book, and unlike other changes from Second Edition it feels like it has a real purpose for existing.
  • I never really thought Gzemnid would return to the game, but I’m sure glad he did. 
  • I can’t be the only one who’d forgotten that the Hidden Realm existed. I thought it was new until I went back and checked. It is weird to see Annam called the All-Father, though, considering that Odin is just next door…….
  • Renaming the Dwarvish Mountain Moradin’s Anvil seems truly moronic since Moradin is elsewhere. What were they thinking?
  • So much effort has been made to scrub real-world mythologies from the game, but then the Realm of the Norns is somehow still around? What is the logic of this, and does this mean that the rest of the Norse deities are next door but we just don’t talk about them? This just adds more questions.
  • The most noticeable absences are Tir na Og and the Palace of Judgment. While I’m not surprised to see the Palace removed (it was a honeytrap for racist roleplaying…), I felt like Tir na Og made just as much sense to keep as the Norns, and was an important location for the setting. Oh well.
  • However the most baffling absence was no mention being given of  the Hinterlands, which is to say explaining better what happens past the gate-towns. Feels like it would’ve been a very easy location to use for adding interesting new concepts, but alas, that was not to be. 
This map is so, so lovely, I just wish it included Tir na Og. I also wish it hadn’t been a rip-out at the back of the book, such that before I even started detaching it my copy had a tear from reading through the rest of the volume. It’s not a big deal, but come on, make your premium products truly premium, Wizards.
  1. The Rest

Although we’re past the last real page of the book, there’s still one additional bit of content to cover. Attached to the back cover is a new, double-sided map that features Sigil on one side and the Outlands on the other. Drawn by Jared Blando, they’re both lovely, however I only consider the Outlands one useful. Although Fifth Edition’s conception of this plane is a bit different, it’s still close enough for me to consider this a playable and lovely work of art. The Sigil map also looks fantastic, but not only does it include drawings of places I wish didn’t exist such as the Gastrognome, it also doesn’t fit with the far more thorough and equally lovely works by Robert Lazzaretti for Second Edition. I am glad they included it in the package—excellent cartography has been part of the brand’s identity since its very beginning—but ultimately I don’t like this version of Sigil nearly as much as the old one, and wouldn’t want to use it. 

Speaking of non-textual parts of the product, while the maps are my favorite drawings from the whole set, all of the illustrations are unsurprisingly good. Wizards demands a certain level from its artists, and they deliver. That being said, they’re much more soulless than Tony DiTerlizzi’s work from the original Campaign Setting. They feel corporate to me, too slick and polished. As with the rest of the setting, the gnarlier bits have been removed, and what’s left is pretty to look at but also quite forgettable. 

I’m sorry, while I dig the curves and the color pallette, I find the face Tyler Jacobson drew for the Lady off-putting, and as such don’t care for the drawing.
  1. Conclusion

There’s almost no way that Wizards could’ve made me completely happy with this release, and I’m well aware of that fact. I’m not the audience for what they made, either, which would be the massive horde of new D&D fans who’ve joined the game over the past few years. What I was interested in seeing, though, was what direction they took the setting in. Like so much of the game that originated before they and Hasbro took over, parts of Planescape are hard to swallow for a modern audience. Changes should be made, of course they should, but the question is whether these are the right changes. My general sense is no, even though the overall ethos they were made under makes perfect sense.

Sigil and the Outlands are a much friendlier set of locations now. I kept using the word gentrified in this review, and it’s because that’s how I would’ve felt if I’d lived in these locations while these changes were being made. The Victorian squalor, the workhouses and slavery and unsavory parts of barely-industrialized society that Planescape used to highlight are missing, and in its place there’s food halls and boutiques. It’s still a wondrous world filled with possibilities, but all of those possibilities feel like they’re pleasant and soft. This change also meant that parts of the Outer Planes that were prominent, particularly concern for the afterlife, were minimized. Petitioners still exist, but as an afterthought rather than the primary purpose for this entire side of the multiverse. The Gods and their affairs can be pursued, but difficult questions that their existences pose are largely sidelined. This makes for a less thoughtful multiverse. The explanation for Factions before had been that people responded to the nearness of the Gods in odd ways, but now they just seem goofy, arguing over nothing and with much smaller stakes. 

Likewise, the tonal shift away from the arch, cynical voice of the original setting has removed much of the mystery. Previously wondrous and semi-uknown beings like the baernoloths are spelled out in concrete terms, and aspects of the game that might cause players difficulty, such as the rings around the Outlands, have been removed. This ease of play also leads to less philosophical approaches, and while previously the multiverse felt too big for players, who were insignificant pawns amongst the machinations of literal deities, now the world feels designed for them and their comfort. Planescape rarely felt small before, but as of Fifth Edition it sometimes does. Not always, but sometimes, and that’s enough to make this release a letdown.

I’ll be looking at the other two books in this boxed set soon, though probably in less depth than this one, which as far as I’m concerned is the most important of the three. Sigil and the Outlands is the campaign setting now, so going through it with a fine-toothed comb may make me pedantic, but it doesn’t seem entirely misguided—more than anything, it made me love and respect the original work even more than I did before. And if I got any parts of this write-up incorrect, which I certainly did because it’s now pushing towards 10,000 words, please let me know so that I can make corrections. I don’t mean this to be a hate-filled screed, or a mindless take on how things used to be good and now they’re bad, but rather a way of writing myself toward a bit of perspective on what has changed. Many will probably prefer this version of Planescape to the original, and that’s awesome. The only response to this new release I’d be unhappy to hear is that it’s essentially the same as the original, Second Edition series by the same name, in which case I must wholly insist that for better and worse times have changed, and D&D, like all things, has changed with them. 

Is this version what’s right for you? Quite possibly, while at the same time it still feels like it doesn’t quite hit the mark for old weirdos like myself. The great thing about RPG’s, though, is that every game is unique to the players, and it’s not hard to make whatever adjustments you might need so that Fifth Edition’s Planescape is still the perfect campaign for your group. My feeling is that it requires far more adjusting than I hoped in order to match up with the old setting that I loved, but that in itself isn’t a wrong choice from Wizards of the Coast. I’m still happy to have this book on my shelf, a lovely and polished work despite my many reservations about it, while at the same time it’s clear to me that it will largely be staying there while the older books keep in regular rotation. 

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