The Infinite Staircase – A Review

Anyone who knows me, knows that I delve into older editions of D&D for inspiration.
From that time I went and got a Warlock Patron direct out of 3.5E Pact Magic, to the countless books I’ve tracked down and got Print on Demand (at the time of writing this, I have the Planescape, Dark Sun and Council of Wyrm books arriving tomorrow).
This habit of mine isn’t limited to just D&D of course, but that’s a topic for another time.

What does this have to do with anything? So back in November of 2020, I was introduced to and fell in love with the 2nd Edition adventure, Tales from the Infinite Staircase, which I was lucky enough to discover was included in DriveThruRPG’s Print on Demand service so of course, immediately I bought it.
One of the things I love, is the capability of travel within the Planes in D&D but I had never really looked into Planescape until the Infinite Staircase.
Of course with those close to me knowing about my interests, it wasn’t long until I was informed of Oliver Dakrshire‘s now released settings guide, The Infinite Staircase.

The Infinite Staircase’s actual release came to my attention on Sunday, so of course I bought it and read it by the end of the night, and you know something? This book did something that i absolutely love in D&D books, it inspired me.
By the end of the night I was already sending out notes to friends about what this could be used for, planning a potential future adventure once my current Rime of the Frostmaiden game is over, I only have the capability to run one game at a time so sue me.

Now, lets discuss what I am loving about the Infinite Staircase, versus what I don’t.
Positives:

  • Concise
  • The Infinite Stairs is a concise book, it doesn’t bog you down with needless details.
    We’ve five pages of essentially “How to do this”, before we get into the planes themselves.

  • Easy to understand
  • The pages about the specific planes boils down details to a few dice rolls without forcing you to read pages and pages.
    You can pre-roll your dice before a game, do a little research and you’re done for the next session, though admittedly it does then require you to juggle a few books to get all the details you need, but lets face it, most DM’s will have two or three books to hand in their planning stage at some point.

  • Well crafted
  • Now, we’re all used to the standard D&D book designs 3rd Party developers indulge in, an attempt to make everything feel like an ancient tome.
    Instead of chasing those tropes, the Infinite Staircase using a somewhat smokey watercoloured motif that in turn reflects the plane each section discusses.
    This combined with the included images, maps and monster designs work together to create a cohesive visual that stands out from the current D&D design standard.

Negatives:
I don’t need a list for the negatives, I don’t think the book goes far enough.
Of course Oliver Darkshire couldn’t have given us a guide to each and every plane, it would be unfeasible without vastly increasing the scope of the book and that’s something you can’t expect.

But what I would love to see, is perhaps a supplemental document listing the best places to get info on the planes themselves, or even just a few basic rules for the planes for those who cannot get hold of the required reading.

Conclusion:

If you want a plan plane-hoping adventure, and want some easy to understand rules to get you from A to B to D to E to C, definitely get the Infinite Staircase.
It even gives you themes for your adventure as you go along.

However if you want something that is quick and easy to run, this isn’t for you.
By it’s very nature, the Infinite Staircase is the kind of meta-setting that is hard to write a solid adventure within.
Navigation isn’t as simple as going from where you are to where you want to be, the original Tales from the Infinite Staircase handles this by allowing the individual section within the module to be played in multiple orders with different outcomes.

If you buy this, you will need to put in some decent amount of work yourself, but Darkshire does try to give you enough themes and motifs to aid you through this, and if you’re particularly good at thinking on your feet and your players aren’t worried about you being wholly accurate with monster types, or the magical physics of each plane, you can run an entire campaign with little more than this.

For myself however? If and when this goes into Print on Demand, I will be getting myself a copy for the bookshelf.

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