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Pleasure Without Planescape: A New Torment?

Despite all the talk over the years, I think we’d all long ago given up on there ever being a proper, official, original team sequel to the RPG that can change the nature of a man, Planescape: Torment. However, one of its original devs has expressed his interest in a follow-up and come up with an intruiging way around the licensing issue.

Colin McComb, who played a major design role in PST, now works at InXile, where the bulk of his work on the upcoming Wasteland 2 is now complete. So he’s wondering what grindstone to put his nose to next. “Of all the games I’ve written, the one that I keep circling back to is Torment.”

The internet has long demanded a follow-up so it’s doubtful there’d be a lack of interest, but the problem is that the Planescape license belongs to D&D owners Wizards of the Coast and apparently they’re not keen to lend it out again. However, “let’s say I’ve got an in with the Torment IP. Planescape itself, not so much – but I think I’ve got something equally as cool lined up.”

Update – and that in is that Brian Fargo, Inxile boss, has acquired the Torment IP as November 27th. This was dug up by copyright sleuths at RPGCodex, which appears to be offline at the moment (too many stories linking to it, perhaps). So yeah, we can read a lot into the fact that Inxile now owns the Torment name, I think.

Planescape is a fascinating setting, but I think it’s fair to say that the ‘Torment’ part – the grim exploration of identity and nature – is what made PST PST, rather than the setting. “I think there are many settings that could host the Nameless One’s story or a similar one. Any setting that rewards the player for internal exploration (certainly deeper than, “Can I hit it? How much loot does it have?”) could host a similar story. As long as there’s a fantastical element to the world–whether straight fantasy or science-fantasy–these questions become possible and desirable.”

For McComb, the questions may have changed too in the years since PST: “I have children now, and I look at the world through their eyes and through mine, and that’s changed me – in fact, the intervening years have changed me so much that I have new answers for the central story in the original Torment. So now that I know what can change the nature of a man, I ask: What does one life matter? … and does it matter at all?”

This is only at the drawing board stage, but he’s also talking about using different roleplaying systems. Probably necessary anyway, given WOC don’t seem to want to license Planescape. “I’d use a system other than D&D, because I’d want to align the player’s story axes along different lines than Good/Evil or Law/Chaos to something more subjective. The core of Torment is, after all, a personal story, and while we can be judged by others on the basis of our actions, arbitrarily aligning those actions on an external and eternally fixed line removes some of the agency from the player’s game.”

An intruiging but as yet unaddressed possibility is that Planescape lead Chris Avellone, now of Obsidian, has recently worked with inexile on Wasteland 2, so if he’s not too busy with Project Eternity perhaps the old gang could get back together for new Torment.

Assorted additional brain-thunks from McComb about this possible new game may be found in the comments of his post, and he cropped up on RPG Codex to field questions there (where he also confirmed that Wizards of the Coast turned him down for the Planescape license back in February).

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Alec Meer

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