To Chance with Hell (Planescape)
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The Dustmen: Preparing for the Final Death
Stoic, calm, dead expressions… their nickname The Dead describes the Dustmen best. Believing that this life has no meaning and that everyone is already dead, they come off as a little bit creepy. They run the mortuary of Sigil, and have always done so as far back as anyone can remember. The Dustmen try to eliminate their emotions, and many succeed to the point that it is nearly impossible to get a rise out of them; even insulting or threatening one of the Dead makes no difference. If a basher manages to rid himself of all emotion, the Dustmen believe, then he can finally reach True Death – for everyone in this multiverse is dead, and this multiverse is only a shadowy afterlife.
Philosophy: No one is truly alive; all there is to do is strive for True Death.
Nicknames: The Dead, Dusties.
Home location: The Mortuary of Sigil, with outposts on the Negative Energy Plane.
Factol: Currently none
Prominent Members: Iunne, Komosahl Trevant, Oridi Malefin, and Silidath
Alignment: Any, with evil and neutral tendencies.
Symbol: An elongated skull, front view, with a collarbone, over a field of purple.
Related skills: Heal, Religion. A player may start the game with skill focus with either skill if they choose not to pick a skill related to being a Primer, or Planar.
Faction bonuses with the Dustmen will confer abilities such as:
- bonuses revolving around necrotic sources
- those that grant temporary hit points or grant resistances
- those that trigger when an enemy or ally is reduced to 0 hit points
The Philosophy of the Dustmen
The world is a miserable place, an endless cycle of death and sadness. Cruelty, brutishness, and greed are common throughout the multiverse, and even expected in some places. The quality of ―life‖ is in the gutter. But of course, that’s because this isn’t life at all. It’s the afterlife, and it’s not a pleasant one.
The Dead believe that we’ve all lived and died already, and this is what comes next. Life is about joy and celebration, after all, yet the multiverse is filled with conflict and suffering. Instead of positive feelings, there is pain. Instead of growth, there is only death. No, this cannot be life. This is a twisted mockery, a shadow of what life really is.
The only goal now is to achieve True Death and pass beyond this miserable stage of existence. What comes after True Death? Well, that‘s up for debate. Some believe that after True Death, a body comes back into True Life, and has a chance to live again where he lived before, a place far more vibrant and real than this pale post-mortal shadow. Others believe that it’s not True Life that comes after True Death, but a true afterlife, where joy and real happiness are the only things there are, and pain is unknown. Still others believe that True Death is oblivion; that what it brings is a permanent end to the soul and to consciousness. What all the Dustmen agree on, however, is that whatever comes after True Death, it has to be better than this.
That doesn‘t mean that they go around looking for death. Just dying ain’t enough; a body’s got to have prepared himself right to get to the next stage after True Death. One has to truly understand this stage of existence, its trials and its hardships, before being ready to move on. Otherwise, well, he’ll probably just end up right back here and have to go through this painful afterlife all over again – and wouldn’t that be a waste of time? So Dustmen don’t really want to die until they’re ready for it, nor do most go about rushing others to – if they aren’t ready for True Death, then putting them in the dead-book won’t do anyone any good. Even of those who think they are ready for it, many want to stick around to help shepherd others to the right paths. Thus the Dustmen feature an odd mix of apathy and altruism, though very few appreciate their generosity.
Stoicism is a common trait among the Dustmen: this is only an afterlife, and anything that happens here doesn’t really matter except insofar as it brings a body closer to True Death. So why bother caring? And as far as cares are concerned, the Dead don‘t have them. A sense of aloof pity is common; the Dustmen feel sorry for those who don‘t see the big picture. But then, pity is a feeling, and so even that is something of which the really advanced Dustmen try to divest themselves.
Sometimes, though, some of the Dead get a bit overzealous in their striving against passion. That may seem like a contradiction in terms, but the resulting condition, called the Apathy, is very real. Those afflicted become so detached and apathetic that they don’t even care about eating and other basic tasks. Now, elimination of all passion and desire is one thing, but not even caring about day-to-day existence… well, that’s not going to get a body any closer to True Death. Fact is, many Dustmen call the Apathy False Death, because it’s superficially similar to death in some ways but ultimately it’s something a body‘s going to have to shake off if he wants to advance. Some do – there have been cases of recovery from the Apathy. But far too many who fall victim to the Apathy end up just withering away and dying, or losing their drive to find True Death and joining the Bleakers.
As far as the Dead are concerned, primes are only beginning the path of True Death; they are too caught up in trying to live in this existence to understand the stages of death. Planars are wiser about the multiverse, knowing more about the processes and ends of death here in the afterlife, but only some recognize that it is an afterlife, and that it’s True Death they need to reach. Petitioners and proxies are both in dead-end positions, even if they are closer to True Death than most. The petitioners are focused on merging with their plane, and proxies on serving their powers, when both should be looking toward True Death. Perhaps the closest beings to True Death are the undead. Purged of passion and attachment to life, they have a purity few can know. Ironically, unintelligent undead may be devoid of emotion, but they lack the sentience to appreciate their nearness to True Death. The free-willed undead, on the other hand, should be most able to appreciate their position – and yet even they tend to cling too fiercely to life to be ready for True Death.
No one knows when the Dustmen were founded; they’ve been around as long as anyone remembers. Most believe the faction was founded by Skall, the former factol, about 600 years before the Great Upheaval, but this seems to have been only when certain details of the faction’s structure were formalized; they’d been around in some form long before then – maybe for thousands of years before then. How had Skall been around so long? Well, stories differ about that. Maybe he was just a powerful wizard, and able to prolong his life indefinitely – but the opinion is becoming increasingly popular that Skall was actually undead himself, probably a lich or maybe a vampire. Skall only ever seemed to interact with other Dustmen by project image, so it’s not as if anyone really knows for sure what he looked like. Anyway, whenever it was that the Dustmen were founded, they’ve remained pretty quiet since. They don‘t tend to bother people, although their ideas anger factions with more positive outlooks on the multiverse.
During the Faction War, the Dustmen lost Skall’s leadership. At first, most of the Dead assumed that he found the secret of True Death and ascended, but later after the War when it turned out that other factols had also vanished it became clear that he had probably shared the same fate as the others, presumably banished to the Mazes. The Dead remained neutral during the War, tending the dead of both sides equally. After the War, though, the Dustmen had to come to terms with Skall’s disappearance. For most other factions, the disappearance of the factol wasn’t all that important; there were plenty of others who could fill the vanished factol’s role. But Skall wasn’t only the factol of the Dustmen; he was the founder, and in a sense in many Dustmen’s minds he was the faction. It seemed hard to see how the faction could continue without them.
And for a time, it didn’t. After the Faction War, the Dustmen officially disbanded. Individual Dustmen continued to work to clear the dead from the streets, and privately they continued to believe as they had and to strive for True Death, but they didn’t associate with each other or have any sort of hierarchy. It didn’t take long, though, to realize that this was foolish – worse, it smacked of sentimentalism, which is something the Dustmen should do their best to avoid. So gradually, and without any sort of official purpose, the faction reunited. They haven’t gotten around to choosing a new factol, and maybe they never will, as they work well enough without one.
The Dustmen have never been a goal-oriented faction. Mostly, they’re just doing what they‘ve always done – tending the dead and working towards True Death. There are always rumors that the Dustmen are trying to start a mass conversion of everyone to their way of thinking, but nothing has been proven.
There are, though, a few things the Dustmen do want to do – well, not so much want, as think may be useful for their work. Maybe the biggest one right now is to find a new place with enough portals to serve as a funerary center, like the Mortuary used to be. There was some chant shortly after the War that the Dustmen were going to buy the Hall of Speakers from Harys Hatchis, but nothing ever came of that; either they decided it didn’t have enough portals, or the story was just rumors to begin with. In any case, the Dustmen don’t seem to have found another building that will serve their purposes, at least not one with an owner willing to sell it.
So far, the Dead have chosen to try to solve this problem in at least two different ways – and the faction’s current lack of centralized leadership means that there’s no one to say which way is officially preferred. Some Dustmen just use what few portals there still are in the Mortuary, not bothering to try to customize the corpse’s disposal to the individual as much as they did before. Others use portals not in the Mortuary; it’s a fairly common sight now to see Dustmen conducting a funeral service on some street corner or in some tavern that happens to have a portal to the right plane. Still, even though the Mortuary doesn’t have all the portals that used to make it so convenient, it remains the Dustmen’s headquarters. They’ve got too much invested there to make it easy to pull up stakes and move. Besides, why should they? Sure, another place with more portals might be more convenient – but a desire for convenience is… well, you know the rest.
Another interesting development of late is the possible reappearance of Skall. A number of Dustmen have reported seeing Skall himself in the Mortuary recently. Has Skall escaped from the Maze he was cast into? Or has he found a way to project an image from the Maze? No one’s sure, but there are those who are convinced he’s back, and are working to try to get things ready for his return as factol. Others, though, ain’t so sure. Not that they think all those who said they saw him return are lying or barmy, of course, but… if Skall was only projecting an image anyway, what’s to prevent someone else from projecting a similar image and pretending to be him? The fact is, though, that Skall’s important enough to the faction that most of the Dustmen high-ups think any reports of his possible return need to be investigated. Maybe he’s really back; more probably it’s an impostor; but either way they need to find out for sure.
The Dustmen don’t have any allies, per se; they tend to work alone, and try to avoid getting caught up in the matters of other factions one way or the other. In practice, though, they do get along better with some factions than others. They share with the Bleak Cabal and the Doomguard a certain sort of nihilism, and often find common cause with both of those two factions. To a lesser degree, the Dustmen also find some things to like about the Athar and the Xaositects, who do seem to see through some of the veils of meaning on the false life they’re in. They likewise respect the Guvners, Indeps, and Ciphers, who have some respect for learning and progress; but all of those factions remain too wedded to their passions and desires to find True Death.
Just as the Dustmen have no true allies, they have no true enemies, either. However, some factions keep a cautious eye on them. The Harmonium and the Sons of Mercy tend to watch the Dustmen, not interfering, but suspicious. The Anarchists… well, they seem opposed to everyone, and the Dustmen see little to admire in their zeal and passion for their work. The Fated also seem too focused on desire to get along well with the Dustmen philosophy. The Sensates are far too intent on savoring the supposed pleasures of this ―life‖, and are blind to its emptiness and unreality – or, from the Sensates’ point of view, the Dustmen are too intent on ignoring what’s beautiful about life. And as for the Mind’s Eye… well, it don’t take a genius to realize that their ideal of progression through successive incarnations runs directly counter to the Dustmen’s desire to find True Death and end their time in this multiverse.