The Lady of Pain

A Walk Through the Planes – The “Lost” Modules and an Interview with William James Cuffe

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Unfortunately, not every officially published piece of Planescape writing is readily available. No, I’m not talking about the tie-in novels, or the fan work from sites like and, but rather the handful of publications put out by the Role Playing Game Association, or RPGA. I’ve touched on the group briefly in the past because of Polyhedron, which for many years was the RPGA’s official newszine, but for most people even aware of the RPGA’s existence it’s primarily known for its work on the Living Greyhawk campaign setting. This was an outgrowth of the RPGA’s original Living City concept, in which various groups would send information to the RPGA about the events of their sessions, and these would all be combined together to effect the same setting. From 2000-2008, Living Greyhawk was surprisingly huge, and though it was eventually overtaken by the Living Forgotten Realms campaign and the D&D Adventurers League, all of this can be traced back to that original RPGA idea of trying to strictly organize Dungeons & Dragons

One far less-known part of the RPGA concerned its one-off modules, which were often meant for play at a single tournament and then went completely forgotten. A handful of these were republished in the TSR Jam 1999 book, and one saw publication as a PDF by Wizards of the Coast, but the majority of these modules have never been available for sale since their original releases in the 1990s or early 2000s. Which is unfortunate, because in some cases they seem to be quite interesting and worthwhile adventures—at least from what information we’re able to gather. Many were written by TSR’s staff, and those that weren’t often won contests and awards in order to see their way to (semi-?)publication. 

This image courtesy of The Acaeum, which has some basic information about the series here.

So ⁠⁠then what exactly is known about these publications? Well, only a tad bit more than nothing, except perhaps in the memories of those who played and wrote them decades ago. Fortunately, while researching these modules I found my way onto the website (Living Sigil) of an author of one of these modules, William James Cuffe, who also seemed to have information about several other RPGA Planescape releases. Cuffe was kind enough to electronically answer some questions that we had about these releases, and it turns out that Cuffe was not only an avid RPGA player, he also had familiarity with nearly all of these lost modules.


When did you start playing Dungeons & Dragons? What was it that eventually drew you into Planescape?

I’m in my 50’s, so I luckily started very early: 1977-1978.  I spotted the first edition Monster Manual sitting in my elementary school’s library, and instantly checked it out. Then renewed by check-out. Then renewed it again. Then yet again. Finally, the librarian said no, let someone else have a chance.

I strayed away from D&D in the late 80s, partially because I couldn’t keep up with the prices with my measly allowance. Planescape brought me back into the game. I saw that boxed set sitting on the shelf and couldn’t take my eyes off of it. It had such a distinct style that was leagues away from anything else TSR was putting out (setting boxes with just a different logo on them). And after reading it, I knew I’d found my true love.

How did this lead to becoming a member of the RPGA?

The seed of it was that I lived in a suburb of Houston at the time, and there was a pretty robust D&D community in the area (though they were more heavily into the Living City games). I went to some local cons with a few friends, made more friends there, and it just exploded from there. In order to participate, you had to be an RPGA member, so I joined.

The germination of my RPGA membership was a slowly growing obsession with D&D and Planescape. Planescape was the behind-the-scenes of the D&D multiverse, while the other settings were on-stage performances. I eventually began collecting old D&D products, including old Polyhedron magazines. I pretty much became immersed in all things D&D—a true fanboy.

Finally, TSR became very open to submissions from readers.  I got an article in Dragon printed about using alternative forms of medicine to add color to role playing. A couple of articles for Polyhedron did well. Never did crack Dungeon Magazine, though, so no trifecta here…

What events for the RPGA did you attend?

Hard to remember them all, it was so long ago, but I think the first one was MicroCon, hosted by a long gone store called GameMasters. After some time, RPGA let up on their restrictions for sanctioned RPGA games, and anyone that ponied up $5 could run them.  I ran some for the local comic and game shop that I had frequented/worked at on-and-off since high school (and eventually owned—All The Fun Stuff).  I’ve been to three or four GenCons, but I’m not a big traveler.

So with this, you were actually able to play through the “lost” RPGA Planescape adventures? 

I played in “A Summoning of Fiends”, “The Poison Pen”, and “Cutters”.  I’ve run “ASoF,” “PP,” “The Menagerie,” and of course “Heirs of Elemental Evil”.

Can you tell us any more about them that you might remember?  Were they up to the setting’s usual high standards? And how did they compare with other RPGA adventures?

The “Poison Pen” is by Skip William and Penny Brickner, and was entrenched in Planescape lore. Its flaw is that it was released very early in the setting’s life, and most players would be unfamiliar with the NPCs. One of the major clues of the story was the Factol of the Fated giving things away as charity. If you didn’t know who Darkewood or the Takers were, the plot becomes a little hazy. It was quite clearly meant to be an introduction to the Planescape setting (it came out in 1995), but has that fatal flaw. 

“A Summoning of Fiends” (1997) by Keith Weepie and Robert Hobart was less of a Planescape adventure and more an adventure that has some Planescape set pieces to it. See, the core idea behind the game is that the planar PCs are accidentally summoned to the Prime by a clueless wizard who mistakenly thinks they are fiends. It is very much in the vein of RPGA adventures that try to subvert standard fantasy tropes.

“The Menagerie” (1997) was part of the… second round (if I remember correctly?) of Adventurer’s Guild scenarios the RPGA put out. It was the step between Event Only scenario playing and the “Anyone with a Fiver” era, where in games stores could order special scenarios that tied into official products that were releasing tha month. “The Manxome Foe” was another such Planescape/RPGA tie-in that was reprinted in TSR Jam; “Menagerie” was never reprinted.  “The Menagerie” was a tie-in to the Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix III wherein the PCs are asked to explore a literal menagerie of planar creatures from the aforementioned supplement.  Written by Thomas M. Reid and Monte Cook, it was a decent enough adventure that displayed what some of these creatures could do, but it didn’t have the deep background that Planescape products are known for.

“Cutters” (1997) was by Chris Perkins, and was GenCon 97’s Open Tournament. I played with a group of people that knew each other and needed an additional player (I’m afraid I can’t remember their names, to my shame). I played Ylem in all three rounds, and while we didn’t win we enjoyed ourselves enormously.  I consider this the holy grail of Planescape RPGA adventures. Cutters is the third in the “Umbra“/”Nemesis“/”Cutters” trilogy, with NPCs from those Dungeon Magazine issues becoming PCs here. It is broken down into three slightly different versions of Round 1 and a single version of Rounds 2 and 3.  It is very densely packed with Planescape lore, involving Trikante, the Incantifers, and the return of the Tower Sorcerous. I used it as a guide for writing…


“Heirs of Elemental Evil” (2000) by yours truly was used as a two round tournament at Origins of that same year. I think it has a very RPGA feel with the whole “babysitting” angle, and I wrote it so that it could be run linearly (Encounter 1 to Encounter 2 to…) or more organically with trips back to Sigil. I had an online friend, Ryan Conrad, run the adventure at GenCon 2019 and apparently players liked it.  I can’t be objective about this one, sorry-not-sorry. 

Wow, and thanks for the information. Relatedly, do you still have copies of any of the RPGA Planescape modules? 

I can tell you there are still copies of all five adventures out there, just in the hands of people that have industry reputations that would be damaged if they were released.  For example, I have an original copy of “Heirs of Elemental Evil” with all eight PCs [Editor’s note: Cuffe wrote about the removed PC’s here on his site], but as TSR bought the adventure, it’s their intellectual property now. I’ve only ever released the two characters that I was asked to remove and a paragraph that was apparently cut out of the original distributed .PDF [Ed. note: I’m unsure where this paragraph was posted, though fairly certain as to what section he’s referring to…]. So, they are not lost per se, but neither are they available to fans for download.

I believe that because “Heirs to the Elemental Evil” was played Origins in 2000, that makes it the final Planescape release ever published [Ed. note: this interview was conducted before Wizards of the Coast announced a forthcoming, 2023 Planescape release]

Wow. That never occurred to me. I’ve always seen my “Of Sigil and the Sea” article as my crowning achievement toward Planescape. I never realized “Heirs” was possibly the last Planescape product. Does it make me a jerk to say I’m humbled by that?

But I have to point out, “Heirs” sat in limbo for two+ years before they announced it won, let alone used it in a tournament. So it may have come out last, but it was written in a more healthy time for the setting. And personally I don’t feel like any of my work qualifies as an “official” Planescape product.  If it doesn’t have a cover with that distinct logo on it, it’s not official to me.

Speaking of which, then was “Of Sigil and the Sea” based upon your own campaign?

No, it was more a way to link aquatic adventures to Sigil.  It was one of those “see a need/fill the need” situations.  I made a concerted effort to include links to all the major (and many minor) D&D settings to make transitioning between the two a little more seamless.


Speaking of which, there is a small update I need to post soon on my website of a small portion of the original Ditch article that they didn’t use… and until recently, I didn’t even realize they hadn’t!

Finally, could you give us a little bit of information regarding some memorable parts of your time playing games in Planescape?

I go over some of my favorite memories of Planescape during GenCon on my website ( Planescape: Torment is my favorite video game of all time.  Modrons were my favorite race (I even began writing a Modron Players Handbook until I found out Planescape was being canceled).

My personal campaign was called The Open Cage, wherein one day people woke up in Sigil to find it being overrun by every conceivable faction in the multiverse.  Seems the Lady of Pain was missing, and something very old, very… wrong isn’t the right word, something “original” was coming back into the planes.  It had some call backs to old 1st edition products that had been forgotten by that time that had the ability to affect the Lady.  It featured a villain that was an undead Illithid with an intellect devourer residing in its cranium, and the possibility of adding a third axis to the alignment grid…

So then do you still play roleplaying games? 

I started playing again after an extended absence spent taking care of an eldery parent, and we game every other Saturday. We’re currently running a homebrew Pathfinder for the first half, then switch off to a D20 Star Wars game the second half.

I started my own setting, Endless Blue, a completely underwater setting ( Tried a Kickstarter back in 2013-ish to bring it to print, but didn’t reach funding. I still update it every now and then.

I’m also big into my second role-playing love, the Iron Kingdoms by Privateer Press. I think of it as the opposite of Planescape: focused and claustrophobic vs infinitely wide and open ended.  Planescape is philosophers with clubs; Iron Kingdoms is adventurers with day jobs.

If WotC ever decides to bring back Planescape, I hope I can get my name into them for consideration as part of the writing/development staff.  A guy can hope, and if the planes are about anything, it’s possibilities…

A fleeting glimpse at the most coveted and legendary of these missing modules.

Aside from what Cuffe told us, there are also a few more hints about what these adventures entail. A small amount of additional information about Skip Williams’ “The Poison Pen” comes from this reddit thread from a few years ago. Its brief description is nothing more than this: “Is the pen mightier than the sword—or the Harmonium? A great tale of interplanar deceit.” On his own site, Cuffee also notes that in it “Duke Rowan Darkwood, Factol of the Fated, begins uncharacteristically giving away possessions in the name of charity.” Later, Williams added this tiny bit of information: “The basic premise was that someone was sending cursed missives to the various Factols in Sigil and it was up to the party to recover the letters and to ID and stop the perpetrators. It had an extended whodunnit portion and an apocalyptic fight with the baddies at the end.”


Two years later, Christopher Perkins’ extremely lengthy RPGA module “Cutters” was released, which as noted earlier also feels like the biggest loss. In I believe 1999, interviewed Perkins about Planescape right around the time of Warriors of Heaven‘s publication. This is what he said about this module:

Encouraged by my earlier work, the RPGA® Network asked me to design a three-round AD&D Open tournament based on the PLANESCAPE® Campaign Setting. The result was a titanic trilogy of adventures collectively titled “Cutters.” At close to 75,000 words, it’s the longest thing I’ve ever written, and probably the best thing I’ve written as a freelancer. TSR was in financial turmoil at the time, so I wrote the adventure for free. The “Cutters” trilogy is mostly set in Sigil and takes place prior to the events chronicled in Faction War. The plot involves heroes from various factions working together to achieve a common goal-preventing the return of a not-quite-dead faction called the Incanterium. It’s a matter of personal pride that I was able to incorporate over one-third of the NPCs from the Uncaged: Faces of Sigil accessory into the “Cutters” trilogy. I also found room to include the Lady of Pain in one climactic scene.

Unfortunately, despite the epic length of this adventure, Perkins had sad news when asked about its eventual wider publication.

Cutters will not appear as a future PLANESCAPE® product. At the end of Faction War, the factions (at least, the surviving ones) are banished from Sigil. Since “Cutters” is based in Sigil and features numerous factions, it no longer “fits” the current PLANESCAPE timeline. It’s conceivable that it might appear in an electronic format someday, but there are no immediate plans to make this happen.

Sean McGovern at PowerscoreRPG has also done as much research into this release as he could, and found out a few other nuggets of information I highly suggest reading through if you’re interested. The meat of it is that this epic quest concerned all of the factions and a location linked with the Incanterium, the Tower Sorcerous, which unfortunately largely just corroborates what Cuffe told us above. Otherwise, details remain sparse.

The next of these lost releases was “The Menagerie” by Thomas Reid and Monte Cook. The only additional available information about it beyond the interview above comes from Cuffe’s Planescape Timeline, where he describes its adventure as, “The contents of an abandoned secret zoo of elemental creatures get loose and wreck [sic.] havoc on the streets of Sigil.” Reid was, I believe, primarily a novelist for TSR, though he’s also credited as the “Brand Manager” on Faction War. Cook, I assume, needs no introduction at this point.

Two other mightily obscure releases, even moreso than these, are 1997’s “A Summoning of Fiends” (described by Cuffe’s timeline as “A group of teiflings is summoned to the Prime and mistaken by the clueless there” which is a shorter version of what he said in the interview), which is another official Planescape adventure, and “Needle in the Eye” from 1999, written as a tie-in to Guide to Hell by Christopher Perkins but so obscure I’m unable to tell what it even concerns and, thus, if it should even be on this list (Is it even planar? No idea). It’s the only thing here that not even Cuffe seems to have information about.

However, there is one final Planescape release from 2000, which was penned by Cuffe himself. Originally written for a 1997 design contest, Cuffe’s “Heirs of Elemental Evil” was the contest’s winner and was eventually run as the Origin’s Game Fair 2000 Team Event. His story of how this came to pass is included on his website here. Fortunately, unlike the other releases listed here, while “Heirs” is still lost in the sense that it’s not readily available, pirated copies of its pdf have been circulated for years. After learning of this, and spending far too much time tracking the release down, I was finally able to download a copy myself. As such, next week we will be publishing a write-up of this adventure, which needless to say I’m extremely excited to dive into soon.

As far as obtaining copies of the rest of these adventures is concerned, the prospects are, at least at the moment, far more bleak. Since I began paying attention to these releases a few years ago, I’ve seen only one of them available for sale, which was when an eBay listing included “Menagerie” in a large lot of RPGA releases. Unfortunately, this went for far more money than I could afford (they were hoping to get $6,000 for the whole package, and I’m quite poor in the traditional model of failing writers), and the seller never responded to my question about paying him to make a scan of this release for posterity. I’ve kept my eyes peeled for any other copies of these that might be reasonably available, whether for sale or through piracy or anything in between, but thus far have had no luck. At this point, I’ve largely lost any real hope of winding up with copies, and while it’s not exactly the original ending of The Magnificent Ambersons we’re talking about here, it still saddens me that this part of the game’s history has been lost to time.

And on the off chance that anyone reading this does have more information about these or other “official” Planescape/planar adventures—as it’s by no means clear that the list I’ve included above is complete—or even (imagine that) own an actual copy of these modules, we at Exposition Break would love to hear from you

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