Lady of Pain

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The Lady of Pain
Lady of Pain - original on the cover of Dragon Magazine issue #339 (January 2006 edition)
Game information
Homeland Sigil
Gender Presumably female
Race unknown
Alignment [[Alignment (Dungeons & Dragons)#2nd edition: Unknown; 3rd edition: Lawful neutral[1]|2nd edition: Unknown; 3rd edition: Lawful neutral[1]]]
Setting Planescape

The Lady of Pain is the fictional protector of the city of Sigil in the Planescape campaign setting of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. She is also known as Her Serenity.

Creative origins[edit]

The chief inspiration for the character of the Lady of Pain is the 19th century poem Dolores (Notre-Dame des Sept Douleurs) (literally, Our Lady of Seven Pains), by English Decadent poet Algernon Charles Swinburne. The poem is written on the topic of a cruel and ruthless, sexualised but unapproachable, goddess figure, Dolores, Our Lady of Pain. Swinburne's Lady of Pain resembles her D&D successor in some ways. She is ancient, and has destroyed and outlived gods themselves (li. 353-368). Furthermore, with the D&D character she shares her absence of compassion, her moral neutrality, and the brutal indifference of her actions. She differentiates herself, however, in appearing decadent, where D&D's Lady of Pain is austere.

Her image was originally a doodle by Dana Knutson.[2] David "Zeb" Cook, designer of Planescape, explained how the character came about: "Dana Knutson was assigned to draw anything I wanted. I babbled, and he drew - buildings, streets, characters and landscapes. Before any of us knew it, he drew the Lady of Pain. I'm very fond of the Lady of Pain; she really locks up the Planescape look. We all liked her so much that she became our logo."[3]

Troy Denning wrote the hardcover novel Pages of Pain in 1996: "It had to be from the Lady of Pain's viewpoint—which is something of a problem, since (as every Planescape player knows) she never speaks—and (this was the really good part) the reader must know less about her at the end of the book than he does at the beginning, and nobody knows anything about her at the beginning."[4] Denning recalled that Pages of Pain "really made me rethink the way I approach stories, and for that reason alone it was worth writing. It also ended up being a much deeper book than I had ever written before, which I think was a result of the extreme approach I was forced to take. Those who have [read it] seem to think it's my best work. It was certainly the most challenging and—forgive the pun—'painful' to write."[4]

Publication history[edit]

The Lady of Pain was first described for the Planescape setting in the Planescape Campaign Setting (1994).[5]

The Lady of Pain's role in Sigil is described in the 4th edition Manual of the Planes and Dungeon Master's Guide 2. The Lady's appearance, behavior and function is overall unchanged from previous editions.


The Lady is sometimes seen as a floating, robed, giant-sized woman with a mantle of blades around her expressionless face. She has never been heard to speak aloud, although she may communicate through her servants, the dabus. She can cause her victims to sprout wounds with a glance, and her shadow can flay the flesh from their bones.

Her obvious objective is maintaining the balance within Sigil, by throwing defilers and denizens who anger her into one of her magical mazes. Often, she will only interfere when the very balance and stability of Sigil is threatened.

The Lady is an entity of inscrutable motives, and often those who cross her path, even if accidentally, are flayed to death or teleported to one of her Mazes (an almost inescapable pocket universe in the Ethereal Plane). Rumor has it that even greater deities have fallen before the Lady. The Shattered Temple in Sigil was a major temple of Aoskar, the god of portals, who attempted to bring the city under his control. After his power had reached a certain point, she killed him with a thought, shattering the grand temple and throwing his priests into the Mazes of her making. The ruined temple eventually became the headquarters of the Athar. At one point a number of factions attempted to control various parts of Sigil, and fought a terrible war with each other; in the aftermath, the Lady appeared to the leaders of the factions, and communicating through a dabus, ordered the factions to disband under penalty of death. The factions complied without question, and have never risen again. The vast majority of Sigil's denizens dread her apparitions, and avoid mentioning her name aloud for fear of drawing her attention.

The Lady has the power to control each and every portal in Sigil, opening and barring them at will. The dabus, her servants, maintain the city, forever fixing and patching its streets. For all her power, she apparently refuses to be worshipped as a goddess, and anyone brave (or careless) enough to worship her has met a grisly demise in the shadow of her blades[1].


No one knows how the Lady came to be or what her true purpose is. Hellbound: The Blood War suggests she might be a renegade demon lord or Lord of the Nine.[6] In the Cage: A Guide to Sigil assures us she has been ruler of Sigil for as long as the city has existed, though she might predate the city's creation.[7]

The closest the Lady of Pain ever came to being overthrown was by Vecna, as one of the final steps in his plan to reshape the multiverse and make himself supreme. (recounted in Die Vecna Die!).


A theory that appears late in the computer game Planescape: Torment is that the Lady is a prisoner and that Sigil is her cage. This theory is plausible in that its coiner, Ravel Puzzlewell, who would refer to herself as "the solver of puzzles not needing solving", had a level of understanding about the mechanics of the planes incomprehensible by men. Unfortunately (or consequently), she was also insane; whether her insanity set in before or after being "mazed" by the Lady is unknown.

According to Die Vecna Die! she is a being of the same origin as The Serpent (representation of magic itself).

Another much more lighthearted theory, written in her in-game bestiarium entry, states that she is actually six giant squirrels with a headdress, a robe and a ring of levitation.


  1. ^ Cordell, Bruce and Kestrel, Gwendolyn. Planar Handbook (Wizards of the Coast, 2004)
  2. ^ Dragon #208
  3. ^ Alloway, Gene (May 1994). "Feature Review: Planescape". White Wolf (White Wolf Publishing) (43): 36–38. 
  4. ^ a b Varney, Allen (March 1998). "ProFiles: Troy Denning". Dragon (Renton, Washington: Wizards of the Coast) (#245): 112. 
  5. ^ Cook, David "Zeb" Planescape Campaign Setting. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1994
  6. ^ McComb, Colin, and Monte Cook. Hellbound: The Blood War. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1996
  7. ^ Baur, Wolfgang and Rick Swan. In the Cage: A Guide to Sigil. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1995

Additional reading[edit]

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