D&D 5E 5e/Next Cosmology

The editorial this month mentions their intentions with the cosmology of D&D. Like many other things they claim they'll have "something for everyone". And just like it's been with every edition that's had a Manual of Planes, there'll be a toolbox for planar options.

However they do mention the core products will go back to mentioning the Inner and Outer Planes of the Great Wheel and the editions of 3e and before, which I'm quite thrilled with. But they'll also mention 4e's Feywild and Shadowfell, which are the parts of 4e's cosmology I never had a problem with.

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The EN World kitten
One of the best takes on the "Great Wheel+" that I've ever seen was in a third-party product that kept the existing structure, but posited that alongside the "Inner" and "Outer" planes were the newly-discovered "Preternatural Planes."

The Preternatural Planes (which included the so-called "Transitive Planes" such as the Shadow Plane and the Astral, etc.) included a number of planes that the Great Wheel had ignored before now, such as the Faerie Plane, the Plane of Dreams, Purgatory, etc.

It was one of the best ideas for the Great Wheel since Planescape. It'd be great to see WotC take a cue from this.

I'm A Banana

Yeah, I'm into Great Ring +

I liked 4e's cosmology fine enough, but the idea of burning all that had come before and re-building it from the ground up was very evident there, and VERY problematic for those enthused with 3e's cosmology. 4e's sandwich also didn't interfere much with my PS4e stuff, since one of the ideas of PS is that it's impossible to map infinity anyway. ;)


4E cosmology is fine. So is the great ring/wheel/ parallelogram. I don't particularly prefer either.

I prefer the Planar Subway.

The idea of a planar toolbox intrigues me.


I have had mixed opinions on D&D cosmology for some time. On the one hand, there has been some very cool design work in the D&D cosmology (e.g. Planescape and some of the 4e work). But on the other hand, I think designers have fundamentally misunderstood (or at least mis-presented) the role of a cosmology in a campaign.

The idea that you can have multiple different game worlds and a single cosmology is fundamentally flawed. The cosmology is part of the game world. Yes, it may be nice to bolt-on a detailed and well-designed set of planes onto a custom game world, but that's not all that different from bolting-on a detailed and well-designed city or dungeon.

The only real difference between planes and mortal gameworld elements is that planes tend to have specific magic associated with them (usually the magic to get there) and specific monsters (who live there). But, really, that's really no different from a society of wizards that have access to specific types of magic and minions. Making the cosmology part of the campaign choice is a good step in the right direction.

The Great Wheel is a fun idea and a nice place to adventure, but it has the tendency to draw characters from their original game world into the Great Wheel. That's fine if you want to run a game where the PCs "transcend" their petty mortal world for the planes beyond, but many games aren't about "planes beyond". They are about the events in the mortal plane. And if you want to run a game that's about the mortal plane, you are better served by a cosmology that reflects the aspects of your game world that are interesting.


The Great Wheel rocks - for Planescape*. In a "Philosophers with Clubs" setting the fact that there is a difference between Hades (NE) and Tartaerus (C/NE) makes quite a lot of sense and this sort of difference matters. In just about any other setting the whole thing is pointless and arbitrary, and makes the difference between good and evil appear almost academic. Or "It is good to kill evil babies". Give me the 4e cosmology - and if you can't do that, give me a modified World Tree**.

* The Faction War never happened. And you can't convince me otherwise. (It makes the Spellplague seem like a model of careful handling).

** Which looks a lot like the Great Wheel for practical purposes because Greenwood designed/chose the Realms deities to fit the Great Wheel. But the World Tree is prescriptive rather than descriptive.


I like the 1e cosmology the most. The Great Wheel is based on it, but I prefer the original. The 1e Manual of the Planes was one of my favorite books, constantly giving me ideas for stories and adventures.

Voidrunner's Codex

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