The Lady of Pain
'Lady of Pain - original on the cover of Dragon Magazine issue #339 (January 2006 edition).











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, for the permanently vacant expression on her face, The Bladed Queen, or simply The Lady. She is only a lady insofar as she is characterized as female in her countenance. In the second edition AD&D Planescape setting, the Lady may as well have been male or sexless, or such a type that traditional gender classification is impossible.

Description and history

A very powerful being, many of the hive dwellers consider the Lady of Pain to be a deity. The Lady is sometimes seen as a floating, robed woman with a mantle of blades around her expressionless face. No one knows how she came to be or what her true purpose is. 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). Rumor has it that even greater deities have fallen before the Lady, and she was able to kill the otherwise immortal Nameless One. 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. 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 bladesTemplate:Ref.

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.

Additionally, the novel Pages of Pain (ISBN 0786906715) suggests that she may be the daughter of Poseidon from the Greek Pantheon of Arborea. However this is not made clear and even suggested that the memories of her early life released from an amphora may have been faked by the god himself in order to potentially sway the Protector of the Cage towards his way of thinking.

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

Creative origins

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.[1].


  1. Dragon #208

  • Cordell, Bruce, and Miller, Steve. Die Vecna Die! (TSR, 2000).
  • Denning, Troy. Pages of Pain (TSR, 1997).
  • Cordell, Bruce and Kestrel, Gwendolyn. Planar Handbook (WoTC, 2004).
  • Slavicsek, Bill. Harbinger House (TSR, 1995)
  • Swinburne, A.C. Dolores (Notre-Dame des Sept Douleurs) (Poems and Ballads) (1866)

External links