D&D General DnD cosmology - Which Edition do you prefer?

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4E World Axis, but I do think every setting should at least be able to have a unique cosmology.

The main reasons I prefer World Axis:
  • The Astral Sea itself is like a mash-up of Planescape and Spelljammer with gods having fleets of ships in the Astral.
  • There's more freedom to have whatever planes you want without them having to fit into a defined schema.
  • The planar powers seem to interact with each other more often, especially the gods.


The 4e World Axis. Hands down. The cosmology is simple, organic, and harkens to real world mythological motifs while also being incredibly utilitarian for D&D-style fantasy adventuring. But the openness of the Elemental Chaos, Astral Sea, Abyss, etc. also means that it's easy for DMs to add additional sub-planes, domains, etc. into the cosmology as needed without worrying about disrupting the alignment-based symmetry of the Great Wheel.

Started in the 3/3.5e era and developed a bit of a fascination with the political structure of the various planar powers described in the 3e Manual of the Planes (initially the Lord of the Nine, then branching out from there), eventually stumbled upon Shemeska's Planescape Storyhour and through that was introduced to Planescape proper. Consequently, I have a massive soft spot for the Great Wheel cosmology, and treat it as my default setting/cosmology whenever I want to do anything deliberately planar in nature.

At the same time, though, I am not averse to alternate cosmological models. Eberron is my go-to setting for non-planar games, and I adore its unique cosmology too much to try to shoe-horn it into some hidden corner of the Great Wheel as WotC has suggested, so I generally aim to keep them very much separate. I can and will port various races/classes/etc. between the two where I can make them fit, but cultists of Asmodeus are never going to pop up in Aundair in my games, nor is House Cannith ever going to establish a branch office in Sigil.

Similarly, even if I don't use them as is, I am absolutely willing to pillage elements from Pathfinder's Great Beyond, 4e's World Axis, etc. to work into my personal version of the Great Wheel, so while I very much want proper 5e support for Planescape, I feel no need for it to be the only option on the proverbial table.
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Mind Mage
Heh, I hope that Eberron turns out to be a trojan horse. When Forgottenrealms-Planescape tried to force Eberron into is own inappropriate cosmology, I hope Eberron ends up relativizing and destroying its Wheel.


Basically, yeah. It's great that beholders exist, in the abstract, but until they directly impact the game we're actually playing, that they exist is academic. Same with planes and cosmology. I guess the D&D philosophers have to have something to argue about, but beyond that, either it's actively, directly being used in the game right now or it's indirectly affecting the game from "off screen," or it doesn't matter.
One of the neat things about Eberron is that the planes are directly relevant to the setting. Not via planar travel, but via "manifest zones" which are locations where planar energies leak through, which essentially works as a natural resource. These zones express themselves in different fashions. For example, one zone connected to Fernia (the plane of Fire) might cause fires to burn hotter. Another might cause tempers to flare easier, or make it easier to forge bonds of loyalty.

Another vote for 4e, if I had to pick one for all dnd.

In practice, most games I'm in have a totally custom cosmology that might borrow ideas from other places but mostly do their own thing. The only detailed other planes are the ones we actually interact with during play.


Not sure I have a favourite. I'm a fan of planescape and the great wheel, the world axis, the merged cosmology of 5e.

My current homebrew has only an upper realm, a lower realm, the elemental plane, the prime, shadowfell, and feywild. I do away with all the various upper and lower planes and don't really worry about the ethereal or astral planes.


I love Planescape and the Great Wheel as a setting, but unless I'm playing a PS campaign, I prefer each setting to have its own specific cosmology.
I'm kind of the same, unless I'm linking everything together via planescape or something else, then dragonlance, greyhawk, forgotten realms, any homebrew world I come up with, have their own cosmology


I like the idea that all the official cosmologies are correct to some extent, and that different cultures across the multiverse just interpret the vastness of existence differently, and tell different stories about its origins. So certain Outer Planes can be in a Great Wheel in one cosmology, part of a World Tree in another, and suspended as islands in the Astral Sea in a third. Closest to 3E's approach, I suppose.

Also, that every way of getting to a given plane is true (Ravenloft is accessible through the Ethereal Plane, but also through the Shadowfell).

That said, for my own campaigns, I use the Great Wheel. I don't need it to make objective sense, I just need it to be fun and explainable.

EDIT: To be clear, I preferentially use the 5E Great Wheel cosmology, with the Feywild and Shadowfell baked in.
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Though I am growing fond of the Otherworld variant from the 5E DMG. Far more immediate and usable than even the World Axis. Basically, instead of the planes all being “out there” they all explicitly touch the here and now. The swamp is part of / a portal to the Shadowfell. The forest is part of / a portal to the Feywild. The volcano is part of / a portal to the Elemental Chaos. It gives things more of a mythical or fairy tale feel.
I had never thought that this was necessarily any different from the World Axis as presented. That is, I was under the impression that there were places where walking under the wrong tree root or exiting a particular cave at different hours of the day could "take" you from the Material to the Feywild or Shadowfell. Less so for the Elemental Chaos or Astral Sea (due to 4e's whole Primal Ban/Investiture concept), but the emphasis is on "less so," not "never so."


4e World Axis is my preferred one.

I am very familiar with and enjoy the Great Wheel and Norse and Greek and Warhammer and Shadowrun and Pathfinder Great Beyond cosmologies but the 4e world axis hits the right amount of the right D&D stuff for me combined with a cool cosmology history. Astral Sea varied God realms, Elemental Chaos, the Abyss, Feywild, Shadowfell and the World (Underdark possibly being its own plane). These are strong useable building blocks for fantasy game purposes. Combine that with the Dawn War and 4e's Tharizdun/Abyss/Blood War narratives and 4e's cosmology is a double win for me.

Rokugan and Eberron have in-depth planar structures, but they are so different from what I am familiar with that I can't keep all the new-to me specific parts straight. Eberron has the cool manifest zones and things going in and out of alignment that is evocative of Elric stuff for me, but there is a bit too much to get a firm handle on.

4e hits the sweet spot for me to keep it in mind and use it narratively in games as my base.
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I had never thought that this was necessarily any different from the World Axis as presented. That is, I was under the impression that there were places where walking under the wrong tree root or exiting a particular cave at different hours of the day could "take" you from the Material to the Feywild or Shadowfell. Less so for the Elemental Chaos or Astral Sea (due to 4e's whole Primal Ban/Investiture concept), but the emphasis is on "less so," not "never so."
This was portrayed in 4e adventures and in Dragon articles, but I don't think it every made it into a Core book.


5ever, or until 2024
The AD&D "Known Planes of Existence", which is more of a great rectangle then a great wheel, and where all the world(s) mythologies and their respective deities, angels, devils, saints, and so on could be found. And of course are aligned to the 9 alignments.


I like the 4E "World Tree" model, because it's more flexible and feels less mechanical than the "Great Wheel" model. It just feels wrong that even the most chaotic planes fit neatly into an ordered alignment of planes.

4e, hands down, absolutely no question. The World Axis is a delight to read about (maybe someday Bahamut's DIVINE ASTEROID ARK-SHIPS will stop being ridonkulously cool...but that will be a very sad day), favors a very "true to the myths" cosmology of worlds like enough to our own to visit but unlike enough to be alien, and strikes an excellent balance between simplicity on the one hand (five main planes with a sixth kinda-plane in the Far Realm, twenty living deities total) and depth on the other hand (the Dawn War and Winter War lore, the various divine domains and inter-deity politics, the partially-articulated histories of Arkhosia and Bael Turath etc., the explanations for the origins of the various races e.g. Elf vs Eladrin).

It is a masterful demonstration of what you can do when you really focus on creating a setting that reflects the cosmology of Antiquity rather than the Enlightenment period, and on detailing those parts of it that are actually reachable by people.
4e for me as well. It's clearly a cosmology designed with the intent of being an adventure location.

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