Connections between Different Planar Cosmologies

glass

(he, him)
Mods, I am putting this in Older Editions because, while I am not completely discounting 5e lore I tend to prioritise 2e through 4e. But if you feel it would be better in the main Dungeon & Dragons forum with a General tag, feel free to move it.

D&D and adjacent games have had a fair few planar cosmologies over the years, and it would be fair to say that I am a big fan of most of them, and just recently I have been tooling around with connecting them all together - partly because of a wild idea I have for a high-level campaign that will probably never happen, but mostly just because it is fun. I have had some discussion on the matter elsewhere, but for various reasons it seemed like a good idea to see what the assembled genius of ENWorld had to say on the matter.

The story so far is that I intend to keep the various cosmologies largely intact and separate. Although not to the extent that the 1e, 2e, 3e, and 5e versions of the Great Wheel are separate cosmologies - there I reconcile the differences. Ditto for the various takes on Mystara’s cosmology. The “top-level” structure will be Magic: The Gathering’s blind eternities, meaning that only people with a planeswalker spark (ie almost nobody) can move between them freely. Each cosmology is a plane in M:tG terminology - there is precedent for M:tG planes to have sub-planes.

But the various D&D, and adjacent, cosmologies form something of a local group, which are slightly easier to move between (although still by no means easy, of course), and are connected together in various ways:

The obvious one is the Plane of Shadow: Per the 3e Manual of the Planes, it connects to alternate prime material planes, and thereby to alternate cosmologies. But not all cosmologies even have a Plane of Shadow (and some like the World Axis’s Shadowfell are borderline as to whether they count - I am leaning towards “they don’t”). Of course, I could just add the Plane of Shadow to those cosmologies that lack it, but I do not want to take away the distinctiveness of the different cosmologies - it rather defeats the point.

Another poster on RPGnet suggested a pair of extra planes to fill in the gap, The Churn and The Void, and the former was greatly useful in closing the links (I have some tentative thought about the latter, but nothing concrete yet). So far it breaks down as follows:

The Plane of Shadow links to the Great Wheel; the Great Beyond (Pathfinder/Starfinder); the Omniverse, Orrery, and the Winding Road (3e MotP alternates); and Eberron.

The Churn links, via either the Elemental Chaos or Dimensional Vortex to the Great Wheel (again), World Axis, and Mystara.

Both also link to my homebrew world’s cosmology, Pelhorin. And there are also more localised links.
TLDR: All the D&D and adjacent cosmologies are part of the M:tG overall planar structure, but the Great Wheel, the Great Beyond, World Axis, Mystara’s cosmology, and Eberron’s cosmology, and various others are tied together more closely.

What is exercising me at the moment is the Forgotten Realms. But this post is long enough already, so that can be the subject of a later one.

_
glass.
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

glass

(he, him)
What is exercising me at the moment is the Forgotten Realms. But this post is long enough already, so that can be the subject of a later one.
I was halfway through writing a post about how I was going to tackle Toril and its role in the broader cosmology. But I realised I was importing concepts that I came up with for my homebrew world, Pelhorin, so I thought it better to talk about that first:

I have talked Pelhorin's cosmology recently here and here. The salient point is that it was always designed to be a bridge of sorts between other cosmologies; although it has its own "local" cosmology, it is also connected more distantly to others (so I could have my cake and eat it).

There are a number of means of connection; there is a Plane of Shadow (referred to locally as the Umbra) which as usual connects to other cosmologies' Planes of Shadow as per the 3e MotP. There is also a plane analogous to the Elemental Chaos (kinda) called the Maelstrom[1], which underpins the lot and connects to other cosmologies via the Churn, as described in my opening post.

But the main one is the Skies: Leave the planet on a Spelljammer, and you end up in a Sky which is part of the Great Wheel, complete with cystal sphere and phlogiston beyond it[2]. Use other means, and you end up in a different Sky. I have not completely defined the other skies, but there are at least three of them (because there are three suns), and now I am leaning towards twelve - twelve is a number which has magical and cosmological significance in Pelhorin, and it gives me the flexibility to define new Skies as needed. If I stick with 12, it is a safe bet that connections to Golarion's material plane and the World Axis will be amongst them.

_
glass.

[1] At the time I wrote the posts linked above, I had not decided whether the Maelstrom was an orbiter or something more fundamental. Partly as a result of the current project, I have decided the latter.
[2] I am old school when it comes to Spelljammer - none of this Astral Sea stuff.
 
Last edited:

Orius

Hero
Well, I generally stick with the Great Wheel myself, and add stuff to it where it makes sense to me. How other different cosmologies fit in doesn't really occur to me because I don't use them. The Material Plane itself has any number of countless worlds and there's all the planes beyond -- all of that is more than sufficient for my needs.

I have the Great Wheel itself existing within the greater universe that is the Far Realm. If I were to bother with multiple cosmologies, I'd probably have them all connected somewhere to the Far Realm.
 

glass

(he, him)
Canonically (for whatever that is worth), the Forgotten Realms was originally in the Great Wheel, then was in the World Tree, then the World Axis, and then was back in the Great Wheel. The official position is that these were simply different models for the same thing, and their popularity with sages and adventurers has waxed and waned over time, but that obviously does not work if I am having them definitely real and separate.

Bouncing around like a pinball does not really seem appropriate, and it is a bit big and complicated to have multiple copies in different cosmologies, so I was going to stick Toril in the Great Wheel and ignore any reference to anywhere else. But then I read the bit in the 3.5 Players Guide to Faerun which refers to its having connections to multiple Astral Planes (and thus multiple sets of other planes), and the idea snagged in my brain. Given all the RSEs and Epic Magic (including at least two “Sunderings”) it makes sense that its planar connections are a bit more complicated than normal.

So if we take PGtF's comment about multiple astrals at face value, that implies multiple cosmologies. With which astral you access when you cast Astral Projection (and which Ethereal for Etherealness, and which whatever for Plane Shift) depending on where on Toril you are standing when you cast them. Cast them in Faerun, and you access the great wheel, but cast them in the area of another pantheon, and you access different planes.

Multiple cosmologies also implies multiple material planes, which is where the idea of multiple Skies comes in. Although unlike Pelhorin, it is location you travel from rather than the means you use that matters. Take of from Faerun in a Spelljammer, and you find yourself in Realmspace. Take off from Zhakara, and you end up wherever the Zhakaran pantheon hangs out.

I was going to say more, but this post has already been a couple of days in the making (and besides, it is plenty long enough). Specifics to follow.

_
glass.
 
Last edited:

glass

(he, him)
I was going to say more, but this post has already been a couple of days in the making (and besides, it is plenty long enough). Specifics to follow.
OK, some specifics. The different cosmological connections are associated with different mostly-human[1] pantheons, and I am aware of seven such pantheons: Faerunian, Chultan, Kara-Turan, Maztican, Mulhorandi, Untheric, & Zhakaran. I think I read somewhere one that Malatra has its own Patheon, but I cannot find any details now. And presumably something is going on in the is something going on in Katashaka, Osse, and Anchorome, but the details are even more scarce. Returned Abeir of course lacked any gods at all, but presumably has a cosmological connection to wherever Abeir ended up for all those years.

Obviously, those areas without a lot of detail are going to have their cosmological connections undefined. Taking the rest in order:

Faerun is fairly straight-forward. Whatever official canon says in any particular edition, it is strongly associated with the Great Wheel in my mind, so there it stays.[2]​
Chult has no cosmological details in PGtF, but it is right next door to Faerun and the local goblinoids worship the goblin gods from Acheron, so this is probably also in the Great Wheel.​
All that PGtF says about Kara-Tur's cosmology is that it has a Spirit World (as described in the 3e MotP). Officially, this would mean that there is no Astral Plane as the Spirit World replaces it, but I might or might not ignore that.​
Maztica has a "stack of plates" cosmology. The "upper" planes are the homes of the various gods. The "lower" planes are the afterlives, which the souls of the deceased fight their way though to reach their final reward in the bottom-most. This does not sound much like any of the extant cosmologies I am aware of, so becomes its own thing.​
Mulhorand is an interesting case. The Mulhorandi patheon is obviously based on the Egyption one, but comparing it with the official Egyptian pantheon in the 5e PHB, they are actually fairly different (earlier versions might have been closer). In PGtF, it was officially in the same World Tree I have moved the Faerunian patheon out of (kinda) - and I think I am going to keep them there. It would be nice if one of cosmologies were tree shaped, to explain why sages got the World Tree idea in the first place (even if they were slightly confused about which planes went in each - which the Mulhorandi and Egyptian pantheons being similar but not identical helps explain).​
Unther is also slightly complicated. On the one hand, the people were abducted by the same Imaskari wizards who populated Mulhorand, which suggests they probably have the same home cosmology. OTOH, most of the pantheon were apparently killed by Orc gods during the Orcgate wars, and the Orc pantheon lives in the Great Wheel. Plus the only surviving members (apart from Gilgeam, who died but got better) joined the Faerunian pantheon. Plus, Tiamat is also a member of the draconic pantheon. It is a mess - I will come back to this one.​
Zhakara apparently has one upper plane and one lower plane, although these are purely afterlives - the actual home of the gods is not visitable by mortals. I am not sure about that last bit, but otherwise the planar structure is reminscent of the simple "Omniverse" cosmology from the 3e MotP.​

That's about it for now. Next time, the bits and pieces of the World Tree not yet accounted for, and how they fit into things. And maybe a bit of discussion on dragons.

_
glass.

[1] As far as I can remember, non-humans mostly seem to worship that same gods as the local humans, or the general D&D Goblin/Orc/Elven/Drow/etc pantheons. Except dragons.

[2] There are certain aspects of the World Tree from 3e that I quite liked, but not enough to upset the apple cart. I had just about got done reconciling its various bits and pieces into the GW, when I hit upon this idea instead.
 
Last edited:

glass

(he, him)
Next time, the bits and pieces of the World Tree not yet accounted for, and how they fit into things. And maybe a bit of discussion on dragons.
Actually, not quite yet - I forgot Returned Abeir. Even before I embarked on this particular tangent, I had thought that Abeir must have gone somewhere else when it was sundered from Toril, since it plainly was not in Realmspace - and that there may still have been some connection with wherever that somewhere else was.

Given that Returned Abeir introduced 4e-isms like Dragonborn to the Realms, it seems fairly obvious that that someone else should be the World Axis. The fact that Abeir had no truck with deities mean there is no clash between the rather different Bane, Asmodeus, etc in the Dawn War pantheon and their GW equivalents.

_
glass.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
It's worth noting that 3.5's Lords of Madness (affiliate link) explicitly addressed moving between cosmologies (pg. 8-9) noting that a gate spell could do it:

Alternate Material Planes

Beyond the Plane of Shadow lie entire cosmologies only guessed at by the sages and clerics of humankind. Some of these alternate cosmologies strongly resemble the familiar multiverse, but others are strange and hostile places. Much like the “otherwhen” worlds or planets remote in time or space, alternate Material Planes are places where almost anything could be true.

Travel from one Material Plane to another is difficult at best. The roads through the Plane of Shadow are dim and confusing, and few can find a path leading in the direction they wish to travel. Nevertheless, some creatures have made the journey—including the bizarre grell, which emigrated from another Material Plane only a few generations past.

Aberrations native to entirely different multiverses and cosmologies do not always come through the Plane of Shadow to reach the normal world. Various forms of gates and other world-spanning magic permit a knowledgeable traveler to reach an entirely different world with a mere step.
 

glass

(he, him)
It's worth noting that 3.5's Lords of Madness (affiliate link) explicitly addressed moving between cosmologies (pg. 8-9) noting that a gate spell could do it:
That seems to be mostly a restatement of what is in the 3e Manual of the Planes: Connection via the Plane of Shadow. Which is fine as far as it goes, but not every cosmology has a Plane of Shadow.

The last paragraph is interesting though; as you say, "gates" being italicised suggests the gate spell works across cosmologies, which I would personally would not allow (at least, not by default).

EDIT: But thanks for posting. I was beginning to wonder if I was talking to myself!

_
glass.
 

glass

(he, him)
Next time, the bits and pieces of the World Tree not yet accounted for, and how they fit into things. And maybe a bit of discussion on dragons.
For real, this time. First thing I am going to assume is that where the various astrals meet Toril, they are also close to each other in cosmological terms. Not close enough that you can go directly from one to another, but close enough that some demi-planes that are also cosmologically close to Toril can have connections to more that one.

Speaking of demiplanes, the cheerfully-named Barrens of Doom and Despair might be a largish example of such. Officially, its is just a standard (for the World Tree) outer plane - basically a collection of divine realms. Bane, Beshaba, Hoar, Loviatar, and Talona do not actually live there, of course (their Realms are in the GW), but there might be portals to their realms.

The reason I am thinking of keeping it around (other than the art being cool), is that it seems like an ideal battleground for forces from different cosmologies. It therefore solves my issue with the Untheric pantheon (well, one of them).

OTOH, Blood Rift is up next, and that is officially a battleground (in the Blood War). The Great Wheel’s Blood War does not need such a battleground (they have Gehenna, Hades, and Carceri for that). But maybe the World Axis’s does - I cannot remember OTTOMH what the 4e books say about how demons and devils (who live at opposite ends of the titular World Axis) actually get at each other.

The River of Blood is a big old river of evil, basically the World Tree’s cognate of the GW’s River Styx. When they ditched the former cosmology to return to the latter, it officially became an alternative name for the Styx. Which works, but I wonder if there is an opportunity here for it to be something more. My first instinct was to reach every evil plane connected to Toril, but that is an awful lot of planes and ties cosmologies together a bit more closely that I would like. So I would need to pare it down a bit (or a lot)

Cynosure is connected to all of Toril (or at least all the bits that have actual gods), although mostly via portals - its connection to the Astral Plane (any of them) is “tenuous at best” according to PGtF.

The Dragon Eyrie is interesting. I said in my previous but one post that most of the non-human pantheons are the generic D&D pantheons from a bunch of sources, but that is not the case with regard to dragons. The pantheon originally introduced (I think) in 2e Draconomicon has very little overlap with the generic D&D draconic pantheon presented in (for example) Monster Mythology or Council of Wyrms - basically just Tiamat and possibly Bahamut IIRC, although I do not actually have a copy of Draconomicon. There have been some subsequent attempts to merge the two (“Asgorath is know as Io on the outer planes”), but as has been pretty well established I am a splitter, not a lumper.

So, the Dragon Eyrie remains; a demiplane divine realm cosmologically close to Toril, and linked to all or most of Toril’s Astral Planes.

Heliopolis is the name of the shared divine realm of the Egyptian Pharaonic Pantheon in the GW and also home of the Mulhorandi pantheon in the World Tree. As I said upthread, I am keeping the two separate, which means two - although if I was going to worry about the occasional name clash I would have much bigger problems that that!

Ziguraxus was the home of the Untheric Pantheon. It was supposedly destroyed (or perhaps faded away) after said pantheon got killed or wandered off, and then was rebuilt for “unknown purposes” (according to one wiki page I found, which apparently got it from a novel). Given that the Ao promoted mortals to replace the Faerunian gods killed during the Time of Troubles why would he not do the same for Gilgeam and Ramman? Or those killed in the Orcgate Wars for that matter? Unther may be smaller than Faerun, but does that mean Ao would leave it without divine…whatever the word is?

ISTM more likely that the reason Zigguraxus exists is not because it was rebuilt, but because the Untheric pantheon never completely disappeared so it never faded away.

Anyway, since it is desperately short of branches (and since the humans involved came from the same place), I am going to stick Zigguraxus in the rather depleted World Tree with Heliopolis.

_
glass.
 
Last edited:

cbwjm

Legend
Heliopolis is the name of the shared divine realm of the Egyptian Pantheon in the GW and also home of the Mulhorandi pantheon in the World Tree. As I said upthread, I am keeping the two separate, which means two - although if I was going to worry about the occasional name clash I would have much bigger problems that that!
Your thread made me read up on the Realms mulhurondi pantheon. Apparently at the end of time of troubles, the divine barrier between the realms and the great wheel was dissolved and the avatars of the gods were able to rejoin the original Egyptian gods in Heliopolis, though only those that retained a body of worshippers were able to stay in the realms. Just in case you want to reconcile why some are in the realms and not others.
 

Dungeon Delver's Guide

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top