D&D 5E Elemental Border Planes

Jeff Carlsen

Adventurer
Mike Mearls has been tweeting a bit about the elemental planes. The basic gist is that they are working on elemental border planes that are like the material plane where one element dominates. He says that all the details haven't been nailed down, but they want to add to existing cosmology without altering it significantly.

I imagine these to be a bit like elemental versions of the Feywild and Shadowfell. This allows the two best parts of the World Axis to be melded into the Great Wheel. In essence, you have the true positive, negative, and elemental planes, which are very unfriendly to human life, and then you have the border planes. The Feywild and Shadowfell are clearly related to the positive and negative energy planes. Elemental border planes flow naturally from that and have the potential to be very interesting adventuring locations.
 

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GX.Sigma

Adventurer
As I said to Mike on Twitter, I'm okay with this as long as it doesn't invalidate preexisting lore (i.e., if they're new ["demi-elemental?"] planes, not retcons of the old ones). I'm a Planescape fan, and I want to be able to use Monte's book on the Inner Planes. Making the Inner Planes (which are supposed to be inhospitable and fundamental) more adventure-friendly and earth-like would diminish their majesty. If you make everything adventure-friendly, then it starts to feel like the entire multiverse exists just to give adventurers something to do.

What's interesting about this is that if the Prime shares borders with all the other Inner Planes, then maybe we're going back to the 1e model, where the Prime is the innermost Inner Plane (at the center of the sphere).
 


Li Shenron

Legend
Every new planar concept or idea is interesting to me. That doesn't mean I'll use it, I still like to make up my own cosmology along the way, as a campaign unfolds. So I just hope that no specific plane is ever mandatory in the game, but this usually isn't the case.
 


Chris_Nightwing

First Post
I like this idea, and now I imagine an arrangement of these planes in space as the prime in the middle, positive and negative above and below, the four elements around in the cardinal directions (imagine the points of a d8, with prime in the centre). This of course creates space for the 4 para- and 8 quasi-elemental planes, which I'm a big fan of. So it goes from a d8 to a um.. stellated octohedron?
 

Dausuul

Legend
I also like this idea. One way to do it would be to get rid of the idea of distinct planes. Instead, the Inner Planes become a continuum, with six elemental "poles" of pure Earth, Fire, Air, Water, Positive Energy, and Negative Energy. As you move away from a pole, the pure element becomes increasingly mixed with others.

So, the traditional elemental planes would be the regions close to the poles, where one element vastly predominates and there are only scattered intrusions from the others. The "border planes" Mike is talking about would be farther from the poles, where it's a pretty even mix but one element is noticeably stronger than the rest. The Prime lies at the mid-point, equidistant from all six poles.

This offers a handy way to incorporate the Shadowfell and the Feywild; the Shadowfell is the "border plane" of the Negative Energy pole, and the Feywild is the "border plane" of the Positive Energy pole. Likewise, the para-elemental and quasi-elemental planes would be a natural consequence of this arrangement. And you could have quests built around stuff like a journey to the uttermost heart of Elemental Fire.

Another benefit of doing things this way would be to make planar travel more interesting. Instead of just casting plane shift and pop! you're floating in the Elemental Plane of Air, you have to actually, you know, travel. Plane shift gives you the means to move along the planar continuum, but you have to move through space at the same time, much like shadow travel in "The Chronicles of Amber." (The traditional leap across planes would be reserved for those who can cast gate.)
 
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Nellisir

Adventurer
I'd like a more hospitable, adventure-friendly, and diverse environment in the Inner Planes. Right now at least half of them are like outer space - you need special gear, and the biggest challenge is breathing. That gets old quick. If you like elemental planes of pure fire, those can be locations within more moderate areas - after all, why do people go to the elemental planes? To get something. You don't need an infinite plane to hold that something. I'd rather have parties go to the elemental plane of fire to deal with efreet or salamanders, not constantly make checks against heatstroke.

Edit: Also, insofar as I'm concerned, the classic elemental planes have been done in Planescape. I'd rather see something new than the same stuff rehashed.
 

Shemeska

Adventurer
They tried reinventing the Wheel once, it didn't exactly go over so well, and I urge them to keep that in mind. Providing optional alternatives is one thing, but they should provide a look at the Elemental Planes that stays true to the classic D&D Elemental Planes.

Personally I'm still bewildered at where the notion ever came from that the GW Elemental planes were entirely uniform with nothing of interest and no reason to ever go there, because that's not how they were ever described. Heck, the most in-depth coverage of the topic with the most unique locations to visit was Monte's 2e 'Inner Planes' book. Provide us something that takes that source fully into account and give us something that has both a sense of wonder and unique locations to visit and we'll be good.

Personally, I just want to be able to enjoy adventuring in the "antithesis of fun" that was the "hilarious" Quasi-Elemental Plane of Vacuum. ;)
 

Nellisir

Adventurer
Personally I'm still bewildered at where the notion ever came from that the GW Elemental planes were entirely uniform with nothing of interest and no reason to ever go there, because that's not how they were ever described.

But if you go back before that, the plane of air was all air, the plane of earth was all earth, the plane of water was all water, and the plane of fire was all fire. The description of the Plane of Elemental Fire in the Manual of the Planes (1e) is all about fire, heat, and flames. Nothing about the landscape, and almost nothing about settlements, civilizations, etc, etc. It's not portrayed as an inviting place.

Heck, the most in-depth coverage of the topic with the most unique locations to visit was Monte's 2e 'Inner Planes' book

I agree that was a pretty good book. Unfortunately, it was a supplement to a single line late in the lifespan of 2e, not a core resource with wide exposure.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
They tried reinventing the Wheel once, it didn't exactly go over so well, and I urge them to keep that in mind. Providing optional alternatives is one thing, but they should provide a look at the Elemental Planes that stays true to the classic D&D Elemental Planes.

Personally I'm still bewildered at where the notion ever came from that the GW Elemental planes were entirely uniform with nothing of interest and no reason to ever go there, because that's not how they were ever described. Heck, the most in-depth coverage of the topic with the most unique locations to visit was Monte's 2e 'Inner Planes' book. Provide us something that takes that source fully into account and give us something that has both a sense of wonder and unique locations to visit and we'll be good.

Personally, I just want to be able to enjoy adventuring in the "antithesis of fun" that was the "hilarious" Quasi-Elemental Plane of Vacuum. ;)

Hey now, that kind of talk is "shutting down" the conversation, and "makes" it so that other people "have" to play their game that way. :p
 

Dausuul

Legend
But if you go back before that, the plane of air was all air, the plane of earth was all earth, the plane of water was all water, and the plane of fire was all fire. The description of the Plane of Elemental Fire in the Manual of the Planes (1e) is all about fire, heat, and flames. Nothing about the landscape, and almost nothing about settlements, civilizations, etc, etc. It's not portrayed as an inviting place.

Even in the 1E Manual, all of the elemental planes had islands of the other elements floating in them. The Elemental Planes of Earth, Water, and Fire all had pockets of air where Primes could live more or less comfortably, while the Elemental Plane of Air was popular real estate--stake out a floating pocket of earth and you could build your very own flying castle.

Sure, getting from one pocket to another could be a challenge, especially in the planes of Earth and Fire. But it wasn't like there was no room for adventuring in the elemental planes.
 

Nellisir

Adventurer
But it wasn't like there was no room for adventuring in the elemental planes.
I'm not saying that there wasn't -any- room for adventuring. I'm saying that, in my opinion, the environment promoted bookkeeping adventuring: how long your spells last, how much damage you take per round, Con checks, Fortitude checks, swimming checks. It was a dull grind. The only way to get around it was to have adventurers in special snowflake dungeons that weren't actually representative of the "natural" environment.

They were very literal environments. I'm not convinced that has to be true, or that it's the best choice.
 

Dausuul

Legend
I'm not saying that there wasn't -any- room for adventuring. I'm saying that, in my opinion, the environment promoted bookkeeping adventuring: how long your spells last, how much damage you take per round, Con checks, Fortitude checks, swimming checks. It was a dull grind. The only way to get around it was to have adventurers in special snowflake dungeons that weren't actually representative of the "natural" environment.

Granted, but that's a problem with the rules, not the setting. It's possible to have hostile environments like the Plane of Fire without reams of paperwork. The challenge is figuring out how to provide protections against the plane that are non-binary (they don't allow you to completely ignore the plane's deadly effects), yet at the same time don't require constant status updates.

One solution is defenses that normally keep you safe, but can be shut down or overwhelmed under the right circumstances.
 
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SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
Even in the 1E Manual, all of the elemental planes had islands of the other elements floating in them. The Elemental Planes of Earth, Water, and Fire all had pockets of air where Primes could live more or less comfortably, while the Elemental Plane of Air was popular real estate--stake out a floating pocket of earth and you could build your very own flying castle.

Sure, getting from one pocket to another could be a challenge, especially in the planes of Earth and Fire. But it wasn't like there was no room for adventuring in the elemental planes.

+1 for "cosmic" truth....
 

howandwhy99

Adventurer
This is interesting. Quasi-elemental planes could be stepping stones to the higher level challenges of the primary inner planes as those in mixture are the make up of the Prime Material plane where adventure settings usually begin. Good thinking.

I would warn that magical ability (via spells or items) to explore the other elemental planes should still be supplied for interested players. Those others planes are hazardous adventuring straight up, but learning how to do so is part of the challenge. Seeing how they bake these in the game without giving away the design will be interesting reading.
 

avin

First Post
Being using border planes since before DMing D&D, so I like. Let's see how it unfolds.

Enviado de meu GT-I9300 usando o Tapatalk 2
 

While I like the Elemental Chaos more than the straight elemental planes (even after reading the excellent descriptions from the Manual of the Planes which simplified the inhabitants nicely) the idea of border planes is pretty cool. Kinda like the Shadowfell being an interesting mirror of the Middle World it allows you to use familiar places in different ways. (I wonder if that makes the Shadowfell a border Ethereal or Spirit World?)
 

Jeff Carlsen

Adventurer
While I like the Elemental Chaos more than the straight elemental planes (even after reading the excellent descriptions from the Manual of the Planes which simplified the inhabitants nicely) the idea of border planes is pretty cool. Kinda like the Shadowfell being an interesting mirror of the Middle World it allows you to use familiar places in different ways. (I wonder if that makes the Shadowfell a border Ethereal or Spirit World?)

The Shadowfell would probably be a border world of the Negative Energy Plane, just as the Feywild would border the Positive Energy Plane.
 

The Shadowfell would probably be a border world of the Negative Energy Plane, just as the Feywild would border the Positive Energy Plane.
I can see the Shadowfell working as the borderlands of the plane of shadow as well. But the Shadowfell might also work as the border between the mortal realm and the afterlife(s) of the outer planes. While mortals use magic to travel directly, the souls need to walk to the other world via the Shadowfell.

I also think the Feywild works best as its own place. It doesn't need to be a border. It's just Faerie or the twin of the mortal world.
 

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