Planescape, just saying the name brings to mind images of extraplanar shenanigans and adventurers from diverse races, such as modrons, tieflings and the like. The city of Sigil, located at the center of the D&D cosmology served as a rallying point for this disparate army of unique characters. Like many of the 2nd edition settings, it has a following that swears by it.
I will admit that it came out during my years of not playing D&D (1993-2003), so I did not really get into it. However, during LG, I got to use a fair amount of the material created for it, as source material for our extra-planar adventures. Of which, many of our later adventures had a fair amount. Our final interactive had a full section set in the town of Ribcage.
That said, I was a big fan of AD&D's "Tale from the outer planes" which featured mini-adventures on a series of planes. And the outer planes to me were always part of D&D's "game progression". Something along the lines of levels 1-6: local, 6-13: world wide, 13+: multi-planar. Still, I played a number of very fun adventures on other planes that they have a special place in my heart. From meeting gods, to defeating demon lords, to tricking the lords of Limbo..
Now whenever I talk to people, it is one that seems to ring a positive bell to the most people. I heard a lot of stories.
So it got me thinking, what makes it so attractive?
I first thought that the races could be the biggest draw. Although, at the time, many of these races had never been widely available as character races, I don't think that's it. After all, many told me about their dwarf or elf (this was 2e, no one ever played a human). So that could not have been major draw.
So I thought about the adventure possibilities where one week the GM could have you in the Abyss and the next you could be in Greyhawk. Now this one provided me with a strong option. Although, I could easily blame this on GM laziness: a good GM can make whatever setting he likes come to life, especially if he runs the adventure in a style that suits him (I consider myself a decent GM, but running a string of dungeoncrawls bores me to tears). Perhaps some GM at the time felt that Planescape allowed them to change the mold, to alter their offerings. After all, it was the time of the World Of Darkness and of greatly customizable characters... These "possibilities" could really have been GMs feeling they could do more than door-monster-loot adventures.
Then I got on a tangent of the above and began wondering if it was the versatility of the setting itself. Here the PCs could serve demon lords or devil princes, or angelic generals. Again, the tropes were shaken to the core, as service and political dealings became part of D&D. Now, the PCs could deal with the big guys from day 1.
I read a number of 2e-era plots for the setting. I have to say the adventures I read felt like their scope and feel felt much bigger and grander than other D&D products of the time. Dragonlance being the only setting with similar "rub shoulder with the big guys" however, DL was VERY heroic/ good-aligned focused whereas PS was less alignment-restricted.
So now that I am looking at Secret Project X (SPX) and ways that it inherits the best elements from other setting.
Races I think my mix of races is exciting and should create interesting conflicts and a unique mix of characters. Not just individuals, but a collectivity of them.
Adventure Possibilities From the start, I am willingly limiting myself to a small subset of locations in SPX with an eye to grow it in time. However, within this scope, I still have a large variety of adventures.
Versatility SPX's gimmick allows the PCs to travel through planes, conduct business and involve themselves in all sorts of ploys and return home without remembering about them. So again, a GM can set up a "guest-star adventure" that has nothing to do with the current plot, set in the setting of his choice. Imagine, a campaign in SPX, then an adventure on Golarion, then back home, then off to NeoExodus, etc. Wouldn't that be a great campaign? No need to worry about character background too much for certain plots and such...
Scope and Feel This is one thing that threw me a little. My natural tendency is to isolate the PCs from the big name NPCs. However, PS placed the PCs right in the middle of the fray. That's something I have to think about some more. I need to make it all come together so that a starter characters CAN naturally be involved with the big boys... This one threw me for a loop for the longest time as the answer I came up with I was not sure if players would be willing to go with that premise. I will have to think about it some more. Give me a few days to put this post together.
I think that SPX does take the best elements of Planescape, dare I say it fits the elements better in some ways... Still always good to compare one's ideas with the best.