The Society of Sensation

The Society of Sensation Faction Symbol
[Taken from an interview with Factol Ein Darkflame Montgomery, conducted by Rathvold Rathson, who was found dead not long after completing the manuscript.]

Beiní a Sensate is, pure and simple, the greatest thing in the planes - if a berk's a true Sensate, that is. To be sure, the Society of Sensation has plenty of faction members, but a good many're just in it for the pleasure. Like as not, they don't realize that bein' a Sensate's much, much more. I keep those sods around anyway, though, because they're useful; they do a lot of the daily business in the Cage. And there's hope for 'em, as well. Most learn in time there's more to life than the gut and the loin.
Every cultureís got its folks who know how - nay, who allow themselves to let their inhibitions go. And it's the willingness to try all things, be they physical, cerebral, or emotional, that marks a true Sensate. It's bein' in a state of such awareness and preparedness that fear donít enter a body - only the desire to experience the next sensation, the next now. Only at the cost of life or limb will a Sensate refuse a tantalizing new experience. We live each moment as if it were the only one that ever mattered, always seeking new experiences, new sensations, new realities, new perspectives - anything to give us a greater grasp of the world at large.
'Course, we pay a dear price for our willingness to experience without rebuke or repugnance: Some of the other factions see us as debauched lechers and drunkards, fit only for cleanin' gutters. Sods like the Mercykillers, the Bleak Cabal, the Doomguard, and the Dustmen're leatherheads, every one of 'em. And the Sinkers - that'd be the Doomguard - like to see us wear ourselves weak with celebration, figurin' a handful of drunk Sensates can only serve their blessed entropy that much more. Those factions're too blind to see there's truth in everything. And in experiencing everything, we learn that truth.
But we also see the pain that livin' such a restricted life causes, and we do our best to ease another sod's suffering with merriment. "Pleasure is the balm that keeps fevered rage at bay," as they say. And it's true that without the Society of Sensation - without the pleasures we import and provide for the Cage - a berk'd go barmy here. There's just too many beings pressed close together, too many passions and desires and philosophies all fightin' to come out on top. So we're the escape valve; we provide sweet release.
The chant says that, long ago, the Cage was much more lawful and organized, and much less likely to boil over. But times change, don't they? Sigil attracted berks of a more - how might I say - chaotic bent. Strange creatures and even stranger philosophies came to call the city home. Forces of law and chaos, good and evil, were mixing together, and only the truly neutral could maintain the balance. Back then, near seven centuries ago, the Sensates weren't really a society at all, just folks who got together every now and again for amusements to take the sting out of life. We'd plot some little escapade - say, a sightseeing trip to Carceri and back - or bring some strange new entertainment into a tiny den bidden away in the city.
Word spread of our doings, and others naturally wanted in on the folly. Oh, some naysayers said the new comers were bored, or stifled, or just plain curious. But wiser bloods knew the Cage entered a new era then, that the time'd come for a fresh openness of thinking. And the first Sensates quickly saw that a profit could be made from meetin' other sodsí needs. A lot of the jink went into building the Civic Festhall, a palace for acts and shows pulled from the farthest corners of the multiverse. Like a trained leucrotta that jumped through hoops while reciting Ardistanian poetry. Or the borth of a Cambion as his Balor father stood by holdin' his humans mother's hand and strokin' her sweaty brow. Aye, business boomed. Even today, though we're inclined toward more cerebral pursuits, the Sensates still bring in some brisk business.
All the new folks streamin' into Sigil needed a handle on the multiverse, didnít they? Especially the green primes just realizing what lay beyond their own little worlds! We Sensates were an attractive lot, accepting any and all comers. But mayhap we were too indiscriminate back then. Berks who weren't real Sensates wanted the same entertainment night after night, the same inebriation, the same euphoria. Happy with just one stimulus, the sods couldn't see why anyone'd want anything different. And that's not what bein' a Sensate's all about.
But other philosophies came to light in Sigil, too. 'Tis said there were a faction or three to suit evely possible bent - all sure they knew the dark of things, and all running 'round recruiting as many berks as they could. A cutter sharp enough to ask for a signing fee could make good jink joinin' half a dozen factions each day! Chaos, it were. And sure you know, the Lady of Pain put a stop to all that, what with her decree to cut back to only 15 factions. A good thing it were, too - she probably stopped a civil war from breakiní out.
A good many factions fell by the wayside, but the Sensates were too strong to fade away. 'Course, we did lose a good share of folk in the shakeup, but that turned out to be a blessing, as we could be far more selective in letting future members in. And we voted ourselves a factol to help organize the Society, something we'd sorely needed. We still let any cutter into our faction, whether she he good or evil, lawful or chaotic, prime or planar. All that matters is that she's got a true desire to sense, to experience what the multiverse has to offer. She's got to really want to taste a dozen different types of honey, to savor each variety, its virtues and flaws. And then she's just got to convince us that she's sincere. And, as you found out, culler, we can sniff out a blustering sod in the wink of a quasit's eye.
That don't mean we're without an agenda, though. It's just that our motives and plans aren't as blunt as, say, Duke Darkwood's. The Fated's factol wants to take over the City of Doors - that's sure. But the Sensates already run the city: we don't need a formal declaration that it's ours. This very moment, there're over 40,000 Sensates in the Cage. If I pulled 'em all out, the place'd go up in civil warfare inside a fortnight. After all, we control nearly all of the public and private entertainment houses - what would the poor sods here do for fun without us besides go to war?

Factol Erin Darkflame Montgomery

At 33 years of age, Erin Montgomery's seen and done more than most planars three times her senior. While growing up in the tiny village of Grim's Head, out on the Outlands in Tir Na Og, her family discovered her mind-talent for healing others. At the tender age of 10, she became a novitiate to Diancecht, the Celtic god of healing. By 13 she was a full fledged priestess, committed to the impartial healing of all injured, friend or foe. And when a Blood War raid ran rampant through Tir na Og a few years later, Montgomery gave her all to help heal the wounded. Unfortunately, she had nothing left to give when the tanar'ri captain Za'rafas and a few of his fellows collapsed before her. Most of the fiends died, but a few made it back to the Abyss to report their woe. As it turned out, Za'rafas was a favorite of a powerfnl Abyssal Lord, and the fiend blamed Montgomery for the captain's death. He began to send assassins after her: how sheís eluded them thus far, none will say.
At 17, Montgomery left Tir na Og, hoping to spare her family and friends from any more tanar'ri trouble. For the next decade she wandered almost exclusively from world to world on the Prime Material Plane. She was still young enough to want to lead a boisterous life - something she'd never been able to do as a priestess back in Tir na Og. So she joined a decadent group called the Pax Imperica, mesmerized by its spectacle, by the ease with which they conducted pleasure and life. She developed an appreciation for fine wines and foods and fostered a growing desire for ever more prurient entertainment.
Cnatha Da'nanin was a slave in the royal court, of which Montgomery was a favored - and frequent - guest. Her jaded eyes liked what she saw: a tall, finely muscled body combining the best features of elf and human parentage. His eyes, which first caught her attention, were a startling green - so much like her own that she thought she saw herself every time she looked at Da'nanin. But the image those eyes reflected back was an ugly one: proud. sadistic, self-serving, and arrogant. Montgomery still had the grace to feel shame each time she looked at Da'nanin, and for a while she avoided him. Then one day his name was called for the nightly entertainment known as the Spit, a circus of atrocity that the half-elf wasn't likely to survive.
Though she'd witnessed - and even participated in - the horrors of the Spit many times before, Montgomery had no such desire that night. She secretly freed Da'nanin and used a gate key to jump to Sigil; they've been a pair ever since. 'Course, Montgomery's need for sensation couldn't be entirely quelled, only channeled, and she joined the Sensates a year after entering the Cage. She knows that hedonism's destroyed more than one faction member and, as factol, she's tried to steer the Sensates toward more cerebral pursuits, rather than immediate gratification at whatever cost.
Da'nanin joined the faction, too, as Montgomery's consort; he helped her rapid rise to power and now acts as her right-hand blood. The half-elf's interested in all manner of visitors, especially adventurers and travelers from strange lands - even the Clueless are likely to receive a reception from him that's quite warm by Cager standards.

The Civic Festhall

The Civic Festhall
Of all the unusual architecture in Sigil, many say there's none more commanding than the Civic Festhall, headquarters of the Society of Sensation, a building of staggering grace and beauty. The magnificent structure soars more than 1,000 feet upward, its buttresses and supports leading from one pinnacle to another, making it a distinctive focal point in the city's skyline. It's quite distinctive on the street level, too, as hordes of jugglers, singers, dancers, and the like gather to perform around the building's entrances, hoping to catch a copper or two from aporeciative passersby.
The Festhall's over 600 years old, and its very construction took nearly a century, as the Sensates scoured the planes and a thousand prime worlds for just the right stone, the right wood, the right paint and glass and fabric. Indeed, the Festhall's granite walls are of 50 different textures that each cry out to be touched, its marble floors veined in colors of the rainbow, its windows the delicate tints of rock crystal mined from a hundred forgotten caverns. Everything down to the mortar was given careful thought and planning; everywhere a body looks, there's something to delight one or more senses. Even the main entrance is a marvel: The doors are some 90 feet high, tall and narrow, and sumounded with glittering stones that form abstract images of sight, sound smell, touch, and taste. Flat against the outside wall, a geyser of crystal-blue water regularly erupts upward for hundreds of feet seemingly dissipating into the air.
The Festhall's also remarkable in that it's one of the very few buildings in Sigil to take into account the city's peculiar dimensional properties. From the outside, the sprawling structure fills an area some 750 feet wide by 1,000 feet long. But on the inside the building's far more convoluted: some sages speculate that there's two to four times as much square footage as the exterior dimensions should indicate. And the Festhall is, if anythiig, even more grand and luxurious on the inside. Incense perfumes the air, mingling with spices and other delightful scents. Colors cloak each hall and room, whether the palest pastels or the most vibrant of hues. Sounds haunt a body's ear wherever he goes, from the rhythmic beats issuing from a training room to the enthusiastic cheers and clapping from the theaters.
The ground floor of the Festhall basically consists of three theaters and two sensoriums. Then there're the faction quarters - assembly rooms, lecture halls, training rooms, and the factors private quarters. The remaining floors hold an intoxicating number of entertainments the like of which can't be detailed in so short a space. Suffice it to say that a body who can tear hmself away from the sensoriums will find taverns that serve both the sweetest and the most sour ale ever tasted, museums with statues more lifelike than the crowds around them, jewellers selling glittering necklaces that threaten to blind the wearer, and practically every other service and diversion a body'd ever need.
A first-time visitor to the Festhall should contact Annali Webspinner, a bariaur in charge of registration and indoctrination. She can direct an overwhelmed sod to where he'd like to be.

The Theatres
Ren Hall, named in honor of a legendary prime hero of old, is the largest public theater in Sigil. Performances are staged twice a night, almost always to full houses. Productions vary: one night a githyanki play, the next a ballet performed by lizard men, the third an opera featuring the howlers of Pandemonium. The Sensates put on a lavish performance, sparing no cost in actors, settings, magic, music, and sensory enhancers (such as producing odor where appropriate).
Elloweth Theater is a smaller, more intimate setting, generally used for dramatic performances and dance interpretation. Its ceiling is made of cauiz shell, a thin, nearly transparent material that lets in considerable light. As such, the theatre is used in the day time for poetry and essay readings, extemporaneous speeches, and the like.
The Northumber Amphitheater's the same size as the Elloweth Theater, though it's an outdoor playhouse. The seats are carved of shale and limestone, all descending deep into the ground. Contests are staged here, as well as grudge matches between opponents who want an audience. Usually, three performances are held each day, though some contests of magic are held at night - for example, to better see the fireworks of a wizard duel.

The Sensoriums
Sensoriums are rooms witbin the Civic Fatball where folks can record or experience a certain event or sensation. The Festhall features a Sensate Sensorinm and a Public Sensorium, the former usable only by Sensates - even a spot of garnish wonít help.
Thankfully, exuberant faction members were eager to share the dark of the place. Experiences to be had in the Sensate Sensorium are fully detailed, overwhelming events,, usually the potent recordings of other Sensates. Factol Montgomery's instituted a new policy by which many of her junior Sensates glean needed sensations via the sensoriums. She's also mandated that all Sensates in Sigil must record any new sensations they encounter so that others may benefit from their experiences. Furthering the collective experiences of the Sensates in this manner is also an important means of moving up in the ranks of the faction. Use of the sensorium costs nothing for Sensates.
The Public Sensorium's a different matter. It's a crowded place, despite being open 24 hours a day. More than 200 rooms are available on each of the 20-plus floors in this part of the Festhall. Most are individual rooms offering sensations that last from 5 to 20 minutes and cost about 10 gold pieces. A number of dial sensoriums, open to two people at a time andlasting half an hour, cost 20 gold pieces per body. A berk wil a limitless budget or a party wishing to experience the same recorded event can rent one of the deluxe sensoriums. These cost 100 gold pieces per user, last for four hours, and must be reserved a week in advance. Adventuring groups often record their experiences at the Public Sensorium and replay them as training sessions, particularly if the foray's been unsuccessful. Some groups even use the rooms to prepare for trips that'll take them to strange or hostile environments.
Regardless of the sensorium used, the procedure's basically the same. After requesting a specific sensation or experience a body (or group) enters a sensorium. The client focuses his thoughts while holding onto a recorder - a small, round stone made of many semiprecious minerals that contains the full force of the experience. (The Festhall owns literally millions of recorders; if removedfrom the sensoriums, they revert to unenchanted rock.) A Sensate remains nearby to help the client concentrate. Slowly the magic encoded in the stone unfolds, and the berk - particularly a first-time user - is likely to be blown away by the experience. The room loses all realiiy; nothing exists for the person save the sensation that engulfs him. Some sods grow addicted to experiences without risk, but the Sensates restrict use of the sensoriums to thee times per day.
The Sensates have a tremendous collection of sensations, experiences, and events on hand, but they're currently paying 500 gold pieces for anything not in their catalogue. (Especially anything that might be used against Duke Rowan Darkwood or the Fated.) A cutter convinced he's got something to share can enter the Public Sensorium and inquire at the ticket counter. If he's lucky, he'll be escorted to a room on the secong floor to make a detailed recording with an empty recorder stone. The process usually takes about an hour, though long or complex experiences can take an entire day. A Sensate remains with the cutter the whole time, asking questions to gain subtle nuances and empathically enhancing the recollections.

Quarters, Classrooms, and the Sanctorum
The remainder of the first floor of the Civic Festhall is devoted to various faction quarters and public rooms. The reception hall off the main entrance contains pillars, a dais, and a throne - all carryovers from ancient times, though Cuatha Da'nanin generally sits on the throne and receives visitors. He deals with this public duty approximately six hours every day, so visitors to the Festhall are quite likely to encounter him. Erin Montgomery's private reception hall is located directly behind the dais, and Da'nanin often slips into the room to discuss matters with the factol. Passersby warn that the private chamber's said to contain a number of secret doors that conceal guards and teleportation rooms - some of which lead directly to the private quarters of the factol and her consort.
A goodly portion of the Sensates' headquarters is devoted to lecture balls and baining classrooms. Demonstrations and displays of weapon use, magic and thieving skills - along with lectures on every subject in the multiverse - take place 24 hours a day. Sensates are strongly urged to study and learn, and any Sensate passing through Sigil's expected to spend time in the training area, either passing on or learning a new technique. Members of other factions may attend these sessions, provided they're accompanied by a Sensate and pay a fee of 10 gold pieces.
The heart of the Civic Festhall is said to be the Sanctum Sanctorum, a mysterious area accessible only via a hallway from Erin Montgomery's private chambers. A blood who claimed to have been in the Sanctorum described a mosaic depiction of the faction symbol emblaed across the floor in lapis lazuli, sapphire, opal, and other precious and semiprecious stones. Strangely, he swore that the mosaic's an ancient, slightly different version of the faction symbol, looking a bit like the Lady of Pain herself.

Within the Ranks

Factol Erin Darkflame Montgomery
Many players might think a Sensate character can try all sorts of things, get into scrapes galore, and generally make a nuisance of himself - that playing a Sensate is just one big orgy of food, wine, and debauchery. Truth is, Sensates are much more than hedonists, though this is a lesson not learned by all members of the faction. Some Sensates remain pleasure-seekers for tbeir entire lives, while others eventually learn that there's more to experience than simple physical gratification.
True Sensates want to learn, to experience, to sense all things, yes, but they've got brains, too. A real Sensate respects his comrades' wishes; if they donít want to try something, he won't force the issue. Likewise, a real Sensate won't try something that might cause him or another bodily harm. 'Course, there's nothing wrong with offering to suffer damage in place of another - in other words, taking on a harsh experience not just for the sake of it, but to save a weaker sod from something he might not he able to handle. But a Sensate sure as Nessus won't swallow a draught of lethal poison "just to see what it tastes like."
A Sensate desires new sensations. He shouldn't want to go into every local tavern, try every wine and pastry dish, and sleep with every barkeep. Granted, he may try this approact when entering a new plane, where everything's different but back home it's another story. As Sensates grow in ability and gain levels, most realize that whole realms of thought and emotion wait to be explored. One Sensate might set himself a goal of trying to feel all the different aspects of love or anger, for instance, while another might choose to experience all the nuances of verbal comedy - in every language she can find.
As Sensates age too, they naturally grow in acceptance of others and of all things, having seen and felt so much in their lifetimes. Sensates are found, in varying numbers, throughout the multiverse. Their desires for experiences lead them far and wide, from the Outer Planes to the Prime Material to the Inner Planes and beyond. However, the Gilded Hall of Arborea holds the largest congregation of Sensates outside of Sigil. In the immense, ever-changing palace, many faction members spend their lives in endless revelry. Factol Montgomery rarely visits more than twice a year, though when she does the celebrations reach fevered pitch. But the Hall is where she usually sends (banishes, some say) faction members who can't seem to grasp what it means to be a true Sensate. It's a judgment call, of course, but those who repeatedly shy away from a new experience - whether through ignorance, fear, or stupidity - generally end up at the Gilded Hall. And few Sensates ever leave that shiny, delightful prison.
A body's alignment seems to have little impact on a Sensate. The overriding goal of experiencing and understanding all takes precedence. This doesn't mean that a lawful good Sensate'll kill an elderly sod just for the feel of it - after all, he could just request the sensation at the Civic Festhall's sensorium (and almost certainly would). But he'll savor the taste of combat with the same zeal as would any evil faction member. Likewise, a chaotic evil Sensate dedicated to a god who advocates death before charity would use a sensorium to feel what it's like to give to the poor. Few Sensates are ever appalled by the acts of their fellows, often cooperating to help grant the experiences another faction member seeks.

Sensate Membership

The Society of Sensation has the easiest of all requirements for entrance into its faction: none. Any being of any race, gender, class, or alignment can join. All a character needs is a genuine desire to experience the multiverse. Annali Webspinner at the Civic Festhall will direct an applicant to a factotum who'll administer a test designed to weed out mere curiosity-seekers. Using recorder stones, the applicant must contribute five worthwhile experiences to the Public Sensorium's library, each of which focuses on a different sense - sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste. Alternatively, the cutter may contribute a single experience that has strong elements from each of the five senses. Only the factotum may decide if the applicant's experiences are creative enough to allow him membership into the faction. If the Sensate doesn't think the initiateís ready, he'll tell the sod to go out and play a bit more in the multiverse, then return to the Festhall and try again.
Most who fail the entrance test do return, as being a member of the Sensates has its privileges. Sensates have highly attuned senses. All Sensates - regardless of race - have infravision to 60 feet. They also gain +1 bonuses to all saves vs. poison and to die rolls for surprise.
'Course there's much more to the group than that. As managers of most the entertainment in Sigil, the Sensates are by far the richest faction in the Cage, and they're generous to their members. Characters who join the Sensates immediately receive a signing bonus - new characters begin with three times the typical starting money. What's more, Annali Webspinner's quite receptive to adventurers who seek her help at the Civic Festhall. If a party that includes a Sensate agrees to return to the Festhall afterward and record its experiences in the sensoriums, Webspinner's likely to donate a magical item or a few spells to aid in the quest.
Sensates are also innate readers of body language, even of species theyíve never met. They pick up on minute clues that other sods might never notice in a thousand years. Thus, all Sensates have a 10% chance of automatically knowing if a berk's lying to them; the chance of success rises to 20% if the Sensate is of the same race as the berk who's speaking.
Because they spend their lives tryng to glean all they can from the experiences of others, more advanced Sensates are naturally empathic. Any Sensate of 3rd level or above can perform a sensory touch, a laying on of the hands to heal wounded sods. The touch works automatically, but it can be performed only once per day and only in a moment of quiet reflection. The Sensate touches the person's injuries and opens his mind to the pain. As a result, ldl0 points of healing are transferred from the Sensate to the wounded person; the Sensate, in turn, suffers the same number of points of damage. The reciprocal damage can't be healed by magical means - the Sensate can recover the lost hit points only through natural rest.
Beginniig at the 5th level, most Sensates have started to explore more than just their physical surroundings. They've built up an extensive store of experiences that often give them unusual insights into a problem. This experience translates into the fact that Sensates of 5th level or above can use a bard's local history proficiency and identification abilities as if they were 1st-level bards.