Society of Sensation
|Factol||Erin Darkflame Montgomery (Pl/♀ human/cleric 9 (Diancecht)/Sensates/LG)|
|Headquarters||Civic Festhall (Clerk's Ward)|
|Allies||Fraternity of Order, Free League, Sign of One|
|Enemies||Bleak Cabal, Doomguard, Dustmen, The Fated, Mercykillers|
Perhaps one of the most well-known of Sigil's fifteen, the Society of Sensation's precepts can be recited by many that have never even set foot within the Cage: to experience all there is to experience, in order that one might learn more of the multiverse. To this end, the Sensates proffer any number of experiences to the people of Sigil that they might share the truth of their beliefs. Both through their Sensorium and through the innumerous works of art, theater, and writing sponsored by the Society, they hope to bring the glory of experience to all they can reach. This has only increased since Factol Montgomery took the reins, with more and more pieces and works presented to the city under the Banner of the Five.
While the importance of experience in understanding the multiverse is greatly emphasized, less well-presented is the subtleties of what precisely the Sensates believe. Information given third-, or even second-hand is flawed. Every time a piece of knowledge passes from person to person, something is twisted, distorted, even if unintended. When an event is recorded "objectively", much must be left out; no recounting is truly objective, nor truly comprehensive. It is only by seeing, feeling, experiencing for oneself that one can truly gain understanding. And the more one understands the individual, the more one understands the big picture; the clearer a view one has on the true inner workings of the multiverse.
Artistic expression, however, comes closer than any other means of recording. In producing a piece of art, one is seeking to make a connection with one's audience. To communicate some deep truth, to show the audience some idea or concept in all its aspects. Far more than any attempt at objectivity, art presents to a person a far deeper view of the artist's mental state. And so the Sensates promote the arts as much as possible, providing a stage, a gallery, a platform by which these attempts at communicating the very essence of experience can be granted to the general public. Painting both representational and abstract, theater both narrative and performance, writing both poetic and prose, a well-crafted and well-presented piece of art can be almost as effective as a sensory stone, while reaching an audience far wider than any stone is likely to.
The Society of Sensation belongs to what some have referred to as the "second wave" of factions, one of those that first emerged during the rush of factions in the era just prior to the Great Upheaval. Originating as nothing more than a social club (in a manner very similar to the Sign of One), the original Society was little more than an adventurer's club in a very literal sense. It was comprised of a small collection of adventurers who would take out some of the not-quite-rich citizens of the Clerk's Ward to see the wonders of the multiverse — or in a few cases, bring some wonder back for them. Word quickly began to spread, and within a decade the various members had pooled their resources to begin construction on the Civic Festhall, a great monument originally intended merely to exhibit these wonders on a larger scale. Plans grew more elaborate, however, and funding sources grew more prevalent; soon, the plans expanded to a truly immense structure devoted to all means of expression.
Still, though, even with so many backers, money was still needed. But as the Society grew in popularity, so too did the number of people coming to Sigil to watch, take part in, and enjoy. Not just wonders from across the multiverse began to be concentrated here, then, but so to did people, the collision of cultures and concepts from all corners bringing about a new renaissance of expression and ideas in the City of Doors. While the Society itself wasn't yet a faction, its actions brought any number of belief systems to the city, planting the seeds for dozens of other factions to grow.
While construction on the Festhall continued, the Sensates continued to present the works of the planes, a number of now-classic pieces brought to Sigil for the first time. Still too did they continue to promote the flood of factions, even as they went from simple belief systems to organizations jockeying for power, especially as the Public Debates began in earnest. Finally, a boiling point was reached, and when the Festhall was still some decades from completion, the Great Upheaval hit, reducing the number of factions allowed in the streets of Sigil to a mere fifteen; though still a mere social club when the Lady's rule was declared, during the chaotic two weeks that followed it coalesced under the lead of Factol Elloweth into a true faction under the precepts it still holds to today. In this way, the Sensates guaranteed that the arts would always have a place of importance in the Hall of Speakers.
Finally, the Festhall was completed, ushering in a celebration said to have lasted a full month. It was during this period that the faction began to find its footing; while it held its central belief system, it wasn't until after the establishment of the Festhall that the negative effect of hedonists on the Society's goals were found. The construction of a second hall outside Sigil, on the plane of Arborea — later to be known as the Gilded Hall — was started so that such members could be ushered away from the main group, their membership not revoked but their obsession with repetition over novelty not allowed to negatively impact the direction of the faction proper. Simultaneously, the first sensoriums were established; originally wholly public facilities, it is only within the last 50 years that the private sensoriums have been established, allowing the Sensates to collect both the less popular experiences that few if any of the general public would desire, and the more controversial that they wish remain out of general circulation.
The prominence of the Sensates waxed and waned over the following centuries, ranging from so minor as to have no impact in the Great Faction War to so prominent as to have (accidentally) brought about a full week-long riot by celebrating the formation of the Xaositects. However, it seems to have entered a new era within the last 10 years following the ascension of Erin Montgomery to Factol. Under her guidance, the Sensates have reaffirmed their devotion to the more cerebral sides of expression, an aspect that has often gone overlooked under past factols, and a well-needed shift from the 30 year period of anti-intellectualism under Factol Eladi. With a greater focus than any in decades on reaching out to the people of Sigil, she's overseen a near-record number of public performances and showings of all varieties. Today, the Sensates are perhaps one of the most powerful factions in Sigil, with Montgomery holding a strong claim to the common title of "second most powerful woman in Sigil", her political power checked only by the recently-appointed Factol Rowan Darkwood of the Fated. Still, the Sensates are on the upward slope of a wave that as of yet shows no sign of cresting.
Membership in the Society of Sensation is open to all without restriction, the only barrier of entry being the contribution of experience. All those who wish to join must provide five "worthwhile experiences", one focusing on each of the five classical senses, suitable for the Public Sensorium (or a single experience with strong components of each). The judgment of whether a set of experiences qualifies falls solidly on the factotum administering the test, and while their purpose is to weed out the truly devoted from those with nothing more than idle curiosity, it is not meant to be harsh by any means; those seeking entry that don't have a suitable set of experiences yet are urged to go out and find them. As there is no limit to the number of times one may attempt the test, those with a great interest in joining are almost certain to succeed eventually.
New namers are given a small apartment within the private section of the Civic Festhall, and are immediately granted access to the private sensoriums. Further, the Society tends to be quite generous when it comes to those wanting to improve their station by seeking out some experience in particular, often willing to loan out (but not gift) equipment both magical and mundane that could help the Sensate survive the experience and return.
Membership in the Society comes with few responsibilities beyond simply regularly seeking out new experiences. Those that have regularly shown themselves to be truly invested in the cause are soon promoted to factotum and eventually factor purely by application of their personal interests, with no real commensurate changes but the great reputation; something which likely comes naturally to someone that's done as much as a factor of the Sensates has. Members are, however, asked to contribute their knowledge through more than just sensoriums; where possible, members are encouraged to hold the occasional public seminar on some topic of their choosing, or if of an artistic bent, to allow a presentation of their works. Contrary to popular belief, there is no requirement that a member of the Sensate be open to all experiences; on the contrary, many specialize in some category or another. Nor are they required to never repeat an experience, a requirement that would frankly be unenforceable. The only requirement is that any such specialties not be too limited, and not focused repeating some specific experience (or a very narrow type of experience) again and again, an addiction that many of the Sensate mindset seem prone to fall into.
Those that do look to be sliding towards hedonistic ways are first spoken to by a Factor, who interviews them and encourages them off that path and back towards a broader view. If this fails and the Sensate continues their progression, they are eventually "reassigned to the Gilded Hall", where they're free to indulge in the experience as often as they wish. What exactly happens to those Sensates sent to the Gilded Hall is little known outside the uppermost ranks of the Society. All that can be said is that it does not seem to be necessarily a lifetime assignment, as some Sensates do appear to have returned free from their addiction, although with little interest in sharing how they were broken of it.
- Factol Erin Darkflame Montgomery (Pl/♀ human/cleric 9 (Diancecht)/Society of Sensation/LG), Hashkar 121-Present
- Factor Cuatha Da'nanin (Pr/♂ half-elf/ranger 15/Society of Sensation/LG), advisor and consort to the factol
- Jeena Ealy (Pl/♀ human/fighter 9/Society of Sensation/CG), author
- Factor Kenda Fretterstag (Pr/♀ human/wizard 14/Society of Sensation/CE), advisor to the factol
- Factor Quellig (Pl/♂ tiefling/wizard 16/Society of Sensation/LN), advisor to the factol
- Annali Webspinner (Pl/♀ bariaur/fighter 7/Society of Sensation/CN), director of the Civic Festhall
- Factol's Manifesto, pp.130-141
- Planescape: Torment, Able Ponder-Thought