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

Lyxen

Great Old One
I think the mistake you're making here is in thinking that alignment in 4e is meaningful in any metaphysical sense other than "this is the team that I'm on".

And the mistake you are making is restricting alignment to this, because it's the very bizarre and unique 4e view, which is also (at least for me) one reason it failed, it reduced most things to "teams".

It really isn't. It's a much more Moorcockian take on alignment, which is unfortunately cluttered up by putting "good" and "evil" into it for sacred cow reasons. (4e alignment is IMO best played by removing the words "Good" and "Evil" from it entirely and just having the Law/Unaligned/Chaos axis. Leaving Good and Evil to be personal morality rather than metaphysical reality. That fits with how the setting is described much more - both in the outer planes and even in the Mortal World - but of course they had to leave the Good/Evil axis in for reasons.)

I absolutely don't agree, Law and Chaos (for example in Moorcok) are not only about teams, they are also their deep-rooted fundamental principles totally at odd with each other which, by the way, prevents "modern" solution of negotiation.

Whenever I've created universes (whether for TTRPG or LARPs, including universes that have seen more than 100 occurences of play, sometimes with 250+ players), I've strived to give greater meaning for reasons of conflict, because conflict drives drama. In a high fantasy world, the last thing that you want is people sitting down to resolve their differences, because then you have no story, no heroics, nothing epic. So you have to create conflicts that mean something, whether it's good vs. evil, law vs. chaos, light v.s dark, tyranny vs. freedom, Harmony vs. Dispersion (the one that we used in our most successful LARP universe), War of the Gods (the one that we used in our second most played LARP Universe), Fate vs. Luck, etc.

Just creating artificial teams does not cut it, it works best when there are principles below that the characters can relate to, that they can build history upon, etc.
 

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Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
D&D 5e is my first edition, and the longer that I play D&D, the less and less I like 5e's Great Wheel Cosmology. However, I can't help but appreciate the idea of having the Inner Planes be material in nature (Elemental Planes, reflections of the Material Plane) and the Outer Planes being spiritual. Making the Shadowfell and Feywild be Inner Planes like the Elemental Planes was a good idea, IMO.

I don't love the Great Wheel (I actually kind of hate it), but I like the concept of the Inner Planes vs Outer Planes. And how they worked this into the lore of Dragons in Fizban's.

I guess I'll defend the Great Wheel... you likely know this, but each Outer Plane is defined, and I guess in turn defines, concepts in the universe. Mount Celestia is Lawful Good, the Nine Hells is Lawful Evil, and the Abyss is Chaotic Evil and so on. The roots of this come from Moorcock, and even earlier Three Hearts and Three Lions. There is conflict in the universe between the forces of Law, and forces of Chaos. Now, these weren't explicitly good and evil, so D&D took the premise of "Law vs. Chaos" and added the much more Biblical dimension of "Good vs. Evil." Now you have two dimensions of alignment, and from there every version of the afterlife is created, and by proxy four quadrants of conflict for the moral fate of the universe. Although on paper, Law and Good seem like optimal outcomes, they lead to stagnation and perpetuity... so the only "perfect" option is for all four quadrants to hang in a perpetual, balanced conflict.

In that respect, the Outer Planes represent concepts, and the Inner Planes represent reality.

The other important element of the Outer Planes/Great Wheel is that the wheel makes it look like they're in a big 2-dimension circle orbiting the Inner Planes. This is just a conceptual framework... yes they do flow into one another (although not as directly as you may think) the Wheel is just a way of visualizing the Outer Planes. It's not actually how the planes are "mapped." And 5E has explicitly kept that vague, as perhaps a tree or something else.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Because Gods are only interesting through their potential relationship with the PCs.

Boaf, it can be relationships between each other, for one, and second even if it's with the PCs, it does not have to be one of worship.

Eh, feels like an issue with labeling. I think it's more multidimensional if each Gods has their own sets of goals and that, depending on the situation, they might class or ally with another God depending on circumstances than I care about their alignments. I think the relationship (opposite or complimentary) between their domains is more interesting.

And then,m you can have all of that PLUS cosmological conflict on multiple levels, because of their links to principles like Law or Chaos. It's not one or the other, it's one ON TOP of the other.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
And the mistake you are making is restricting alignment to this, because it's the very bizarre and unique 4e view, which is also (at least for me) one reason it failed, it reduced most things to "teams".
Except you're making claims about 4e cosmology without keeping in mind the actual 4e use of alignment. When you call it "one dimensional" that's because you're imposing a 1e/2e "Great Wheel" conception of alignment onto something that wasn't actually built to handle a 1e/2e conception of alignment as a 9 point grid. When you're making strong claims about how 4e's cosmology is "this" or "that" and ignoring the actual construction of 4e cosmology it's just weird.

(Arguably in the Planescape setting the entire Great Wheel is a shared delusion by the planars who live on those planes anyway - a self imposed construct to fit their worldview of a 9 point alignment grid. Re-reading some of the Planescape stuff recently I'm struck by how at some level the authors are actually mocking of the entire structure of alignment and having supposed "good" entities behaving in arguably evil ways because the Law/Chaos war of the Blood War is more important to the setting and to the folks who live in it than any concept of Good or Evil.)
 

Levistus's_Leviathan

Autistic DM (he/him)
I guess I'll defend the Great Wheel... you likely know this, but each Outer Plane is defined, and I guess in turn defines, concepts in the universe. Mount Celestia is Lawful Good, the Nine Hells is Lawful Evil, and the Abyss is Chaotic Evil and so on. The roots of this come from Moorcock, and even earlier Three Hearts and Three Lions. There is conflict in the universe between the forces of Law, and forces of Chaos. Now, these weren't explicitly good and evil, so D&D took the premise of "Law vs. Chaos" and added the much more Biblical dimension of "Good vs. Evil." Now you have two dimensions of alignment, and from there every version of the afterlife is created, and by proxy four quadrants of conflict for the moral fate of the universe. Although on paper, Law and Good seem like optimal outcomes, they lead to stagnation and perpetuity... so the only "perfect" option is for all four quadrants to hang in a perpetual, balanced conflict.

In that respect, the Outer Planes represent concepts, and the Inner Planes represent reality.

The other important element of the Outer Planes/Great Wheel is that the wheel makes it look like they're in a big 2-dimension circle orbiting the Inner Planes. This is just a conceptual framework... yes they do flow into one another (although not as directly as you may think) the Wheel is just a way of visualizing the Outer Planes. It's not actually how the planes are "mapped." And 5E has explicitly kept that vague, as perhaps a tree or something else.
Yeah, I know all of that. I hate alignment, and I especially hate the redundant planes in the Great Wheel (why the hell is Pandemonium necessary? Just make it one of the levels of the Abyss. Or Hades? Why is Carceri evil? It's just a planar prison. It probably shouldn't even be a full plane of existence, just a large demiplane. Why do there need to be two different planes of war? War is war! Why does basically every plane have 5+ layers for no good reason? This cosmology is overly convoluted and makes no sense!!!)

About half of the planes of existence in the Great Wheel are unnecessary. If you want to base a cosmology off of alignment, fine. Make there be a Lawful Evil Plane, a Chaotic Good Plane, and a True Neutral Plane and whatnot. But you don't need a plane of existence for every in-between alignment (Lawful-Neutral-Evil, Chaotic-Neutral-Good, Lawful-Good-Neutral, etc).
 
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Jer

Legend
Supporter
About half of the planes of existence in the Great Wheel are unnecessary. If you want to base a cosmology off of alignment, fine. Make there be a Lawful Evil Plane, a Chaotic Good Plane, and a True Neutral Plane and whatnot. But you don't need a plane of existence for every in-between alignment (Lawful-Neutral-Evil, Chaotic-Neutral-Good, Lawful-Good-Neutral, etc).
Historically the reason for all of those planes is because Gygax and co brainstormed all of the possible afterlives they could think of and made planes out of them and then assigned alignments to them after the fact. Carceri originally being Tarterus and Mechanus originally being Nirvana. I strongly suspect that Pandemonium was just made up to fill a perceived gap in the alignment grid since there's no reason it couldn't just be a layer of the Abyss.

Thank the Immortals that someone back in the 2e days realized that some of the names being tied to real-world religions was a really bad look and changed them - though that means that their original concept as real-world afterlives is lost. I assume that this was part of the scrubbing of demons and devils out of the game, but since it means that we don't have to worry about a "Happy Hunting Grounds" in the outer planes anymore, I count it as a win.
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
Yeah, I know all of that. I hate alignment, and I especially hate the redundant planes in the Great Wheel (why the hell is Pandemonium necessary? Just make it one of the levels of the Abyss. Or Hades? Why is Carceri evil? It's just a planar prison. It probably shouldn't even be a full plane of existence, just a large demiplane. Why do there need to be two different planes of war? War is war. Why does basically every plane have 5+ layers for no good reason? This cosmology is overly convoluted and makes no sense!!!)

About half of the planes of existence in the Great Wheel are unnecessary. If you want to base a cosmology off of alignment, fine. Make there be a Lawful Evil Plane, a Chaotic Good Plane, and a True Neutral Plane and whatnot. But you don't need a plane of existence for every in-between alignment (Lawful-Neutral-Evil, Chaotic-Neutral-Good, Lawful-Good-Neutral, etc).

I've forgotten, but don't you like World of Warcraft's cosmology?

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Jer

Legend
Supporter
The other important element of the Outer Planes/Great Wheel is that the wheel makes it look like they're in a big 2-dimension circle orbiting the Inner Planes.
Orbiting the Outlands/Concordant Opposition. The original concept was that they were orbiting the inner planes because they were the home of the gods, which in Western conception means they're "outer space" in some sense. But Jeff Grubb chucked that with the Manual of the Planes by plugging the "missing" hole in the cosmology creating the Neutral plane of Concordant Opposition that had gates to all of the other outer planes and sat in the middle of them all.

That fundamentally shifted the cosmology of the Outer Planes from revolving around the Prime Material and into revolving around itself. It doesn't really become apparent how much that change impacts things until Planescape took the idea and ran with it, but having the outer planes surrounding the Outlands means that they're almost divorced from the Prime except as a source of souls for the afterlife.

This is just a conceptual framework... yes they do flow into one another (although not as directly as you may think) the Wheel is just a way of visualizing the Outer Planes. It's not actually how the planes are "mapped." And 5E has explicitly kept that vague, as perhaps a tree or something else.
Right - even before the Planescape days the outer planes were all infinite in size. Their position on an alignment grid was conceptual, not physical. Planescape kept them infinite in size but added the idea of gates between neighboring planes so that the philosophers of Sigil could argue that the Great Wheel was a real thing, but also pointed out in various places that those same philosophers just ignore other gates on those planes that don't support their theory of a Great Wheel.

IMO the best part of the Great Wheel cosmology in Planescape is how the setting sets up that it's a "real" thing and then undermines it wherever it can by making it just a construct of philosophers arguing the entire thing into existence because in the Outer Planes belief creates reality.
 


Levistus's_Leviathan

Autistic DM (he/him)
I strongly suspect that Pandemonium was just made up to fill a perceived gap in the alignment grid since there's no reason it couldn't just be a layer of the Abyss.
Which is the prime reason why I have an extreme dislike for the Great Wheel. There's just a ton of grid-filling in it. It's not making an interesting cosmology just to make an interesting cosmology, it's creating redundant planes of existence because you pre-decided exactly how many planes of existence you wanted. Just leaving out the redundant planes and making the cosmology not be wheel-shaped would make for a far superior cosmology, IMO.
 

Undrave

Hero
Boaf, it can be relationships between each other, for one, and second even if it's with the PCs, it does not have to be one of worship.
If there's no worshipper that means no agents in the mortal plane to oppose the PC or hire them. No worshippers means they remain distant and unknowable. You need one point of contact between PC and the Gods for them to matter.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
Which is the prime reason why I have an extreme dislike for the Great Wheel. There's just a ton of grid-filling in it. It's not making an interesting cosmology just to make an interesting cosmology, it's creating redundant planes of existence because you pre-decided exactly how many planes of existence you wanted. Just leaving out the redundant planes and making the cosmology not be wheel-shaped would make for a far superior cosmology, IMO.
Grid-filling is what a lot of early D&D was about. But specifically I think the original idea for the outer planes was to brainstorm as many after lives from religions and myth and legend first, and then after the fact they realized that they could be shoved into an alignment grid if they made up a few extra, rather than the other way around.
 




Vaalingrade

Legend
Just like in any cosmology, but the labels are not random. The labels represent principles at war with each other, like in most well-written books of the gemre.
What genre has a prerequisite of allegiances drawn by poorly draw caricatures of attitudes?

The only I know some of D&D's forerunners did it with using Chaos for Evil, and I know Planescape did it, but the only one of those books ended with a fight inside a giant worm rolling through Hell and I gave up ecause I was pretty sure the pages were laced with something, but I am not aware of any genre where this is a mainstay. Even Saturday Morning Cartoons have given up on 'He's evil because... Evil'.
 

Fifinjir

Explorer
I think both Great Wheel and World Axis overly “physicalizes” their non-earthly realities too much for my liking, but it’s a matter of degree. In the Great Wheel I can still see something that vaguely resembles the central principles that underlie religions. Not just “x is god of y” Wikipedia entries, but the ideas and questions theologians and laypeople wrestle with. What’s more, it at least pays lip service to the outer planes being incarnations of immaterial concepts, even if they don’t go nearly far enough with it.

All in all, if I was a peasant in the Material Plane and I asked a priest why the world was so scary and violent, I’d be more satisfied with the explanations the Greet Wheel gives than the World Axis.
 


cbwjm

Legend
Yeah, I know all of that. I hate alignment, and I especially hate the redundant planes in the Great Wheel (why the hell is Pandemonium necessary? Just make it one of the levels of the Abyss. Or Hades? Why is Carceri evil? It's just a planar prison. It probably shouldn't even be a full plane of existence, just a large demiplane. Why do there need to be two different planes of war? War is war! Why does basically every plane have 5+ layers for no good reason? This cosmology is overly convoluted and makes no sense!!!)

About half of the planes of existence in the Great Wheel are unnecessary. If you want to base a cosmology off of alignment, fine. Make there be a Lawful Evil Plane, a Chaotic Good Plane, and a True Neutral Plane and whatnot. But you don't need a plane of existence for every in-between alignment (Lawful-Neutral-Evil, Chaotic-Neutral-Good, Lawful-Good-Neutral, etc).
They're necessary, I'd say, because they represent real world mythological planes, albeit renamed. Since they set up the gods from real world mythology, they also needed the planes of existence found within that mythology. That's what I think anyway.
 

Levistus's_Leviathan

Autistic DM (he/him)
They're necessary, I'd say, because they represent real world mythological planes, albeit renamed. Since they set up the gods from real world mythology, they also needed the planes of existence found within that mythology. That's what I think anyway.
That still doesn't explain the many redundant planes, or why we're suddenly trying to cram real-world ideas of afterlives into a very rigid and judgmental alignment chart. You don't need both Acheron and Ysgard, just make one plane of war. You can include the different ideas of war in that single plane (glorious wars of righteousness versus endless pointless wars that cause a lot more harm than good). You don't need Pandemonium, we already have a very chaotic plane of evil that the idea would fit nicely into (the Abyss). We don't need Gnome/Halfling Heaven and Elf Heaven, just combine the two things, they're pretty similar. Hades doesn't need to be a completely separate plane from Tartarus/Carceri, in the mythology they were both a part of the Underworld. A ton of planes of existence have multiple layers with different names, Tartarus can just be a layer of Hades.

I could go on. There's just a ton of redundant ideas and planes in the Great Wheel.
 

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