5.5E Future-Edition Brainstorming: A Simplified Cosmology (+)

jgsugden

Legend
Well, your idea can work - because I've been using evolving versions of setting that uses many of the idea since the early 1980s. My posts in the threads below describe my setting's approach.


The short version:

* In the early 1980s I decided to simplify because I was 10 and the DMG description seemed way too hard for me to follow 'correctly'. In my setting, there was a Prime World (and Universe of planets - infinitely large, but with a prime world at the center), a Heaven (a finite space), a Hell (an infinite area), an Elemental Plane (infinite) and an Astral Plane/Sea (infinite). I ran with that for almost a decade without any real change. We probably booked 3000 game hours (and another 2000 of my prep time) in that setting before I made any real change.

* In the late 1980s I revealed that the Positive Energy Plane, Negative Energy Plane and Ethereal Plane also existed. I did this because it fit my storylines for my setting, and it didn't contradict anything I'd established - but for the most part they didn't have any use or impact. Soon after, I worked in the Ravenloft boxed set concept - modified to fit my game, with the Ravenloft Realms floating in the Astral Sea. We ran with that for almost 20 years without any real change, except me putting a lot of Spelljamming into the Astral Plane/Sea. There was likely about 5000 hours of games playeed during this time.

* When 4E came out I added the Feywild and Shadowfell and moved the Ravenloft Realms into the Shadowfell becaus they fit so well there. I also created a Feywild equivalent to Ravenloft Realms, but there are only 2 established ones - One where Titania and Oberron rule, and one where the Queen of Air and Darkness rules. I also think this is when I shifted the name of the Astral Plane to the Astral Sea officially, but people had been using the Astral Plane like a Babylon 5 Hyperspace for a long time at this point with their Spelljammers. Since 4E came out we've booked about 3000 more hours of gameplan in my setting - although when I moved in late 2019 I rebooted it with a new group of players and made a lot of tweaks (primarily replacing my Homebrew Gods with Dawn War and Greyhawk Gods). The old version is still in use, although I'm playing it rarely online with a couple groups and they're heading towards a calamity that will essentially end the setting.

* How do I know it will end the setting? I also have established a timeline where events are destined to happen, so that even when there is Time Travel and the past is disrupted, the timeline tends to correct back to the same general course. As a result, we know that the future of my campaign world will be an Athasian / Dark Sun / Gamma World style wasteland. Additionally, PCs can venture into the past where the world was, for lack of a better description, more Biblical in feel - The Gods played a much more direct and powerful place in the setting, and it was a brutal and unforgiving environment.
 

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Li Shenron

Legend
Yet another book 5e is missing

Well there are what 27 planes in the Great Wheel. And Feywild- and some all new planes and you can get to 50.


Xibalba and Mictlan for D&D
Feywild is already in 3e MotP but it was still called the Plane of Faeries, and Shadowfell was still called the Plane of Shadows.

MotP also had Dreamscapes, Plane of Mirrors, Far Realms, a couple of unusual elemental planes (Cold and Wood), some demiplanes (the Observatory) and maybe a couple more.
 

Now, onto what I would include in a simplified cosmology.

First, I would condense most of the Upper Planes into one "Heaven" plane. It could be called basically anything, from just "Heaven", to "Mount Celestia", or "Elysium", but for now we'll just call it "Heaven".
But I don't want to sit around on a cloud all day strumming a harp. Or an endless drunken feast for warriors in Valhalla. Or...

And this is when just having a single Heaven falls apart. Two different people can have very different ideas as to what heaven is - and not all religions necessarily split heaven and hell (I'm reminded of a parable where both heaven and hell are the same dining table with six foot long cutlery). D&D's default cosmology is explicitly polytheistic. And it's not clear at least to me why there should be hard dividing lines between afterlives by alignment; you're always going to get fuzzy borders. Never mind the heavens where some of the pleasures involve watching the sufferings of the damned. Fundamentally I think it makes sense to have all the afterlives in the same general area.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Multiversity_Map_2400_53ee6b4c22d9a9.11031355.jpg


This is essentially DnD cosmology, just done better in DC comics.
Where the Speed Force is you could replace that with Astral and then Ethereal planes.
Where the House of Heroes is, just replace that Shadowfell and Feywild.

Or do this, as per my cosmology.

Limbo: This circles the multiverse and is where the outsiders (Outer gods) reside.

Higher Place: This is where beings similar to ST Q, DC Mxy, or DW Eternals reside. They guard and protect the multiverse, but also use lesser beings, meaning everyone else, as toys for their amusement.

Dimensions: These are externals locations that float in the nothingness between planes.

Planes (Branes): They float on the sea of possibilities, like leaves. These can be from solar system to galaxy sized, of which there can be trillions, or more. All of these alternates has another existing alongside it. They all have their own mythic beings, dimensions, and afterlives – some of which are positively grim. These can be separated into Fantasy, High Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction etc.

Shadow: This is the nothingness between planes.

Sea of Possibilities: As per Dark Roads and Golden Hells.

This lets me use all the planar handbooks at the same time, as each one could be its own plane, with its own rules.
I wouldn't say the DC multiverse is superior to the D&D multiverse . . . . but it is certainly glorious in it's complexity and weirdness. This, to me, is a strength of the comics genre that is shared with D&D.

And of course, the DC multiverse has evolved over the decades . . . DC, and their counterpart Marvel, have long been okay with retcons and retrofits to their characters, stories, and cosmology. D&D, for whatever reason, got burned when trying to update and revise things (4th Edition). The awesome diagram you posted was the state of the DC multiverse at that time of publication, it has since evolved even further with the introduction of the "Dark Multiverse" from the Death Metal story. And it will continue to evolve and be retconned.

I'm perfectly fine with gamers reinventing the cosmology of D&D for their own tables, and I'm perfectly fine with WotC updating and retconning the cosmology for the next edition of the game, as they tried to do so before with 4th Edition. I'm curious if the now broader audience for D&D will be more accepting of an updated, possibly simplified, D&D cosmology than the audience was back in 2008.
 

Rogerd1

Explorer
I wouldn't say the DC multiverse is superior to the D&D multiverse . . . . but it is certainly glorious in it's complexity and weirdness. This, to me, is a strength of the comics genre that is shared with D&D.

And of course, the DC multiverse has evolved over the decades . . . DC, and their counterpart Marvel, have long been okay with retcons and retrofits to their characters, stories, and cosmology. D&D, for whatever reason, got burned when trying to update and revise things (4th Edition). The awesome diagram you posted was the state of the DC multiverse at that time of publication, it has since evolved even further with the introduction of the "Dark Multiverse" from the Death Metal story. And it will continue to evolve and be retconned.

I'm perfectly fine with gamers reinventing the cosmology of D&D for their own tables, and I'm perfectly fine with WotC updating and retconning the cosmology for the next edition of the game, as they tried to do so before with 4th Edition. I'm curious if the now broader audience for D&D will be more accepting of an updated, possibly simplified, D&D cosmology than the audience was back in 2008.

The Dark Multiverse was a fantastic arc. Especially as we also have Perpetua, and other Celestials, and the Source being back. With some tinkering you actually do a version of that if you updated DnD Cosmology.

I can only hope that current gamers would be more open to a different cosmology. But 4e shared similarities with Champions Mystic World, so you could absolutely go that direction reasonably easily too.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
I actually love how gloriously convoluted and complex the D&D cosmology has become over the years. It's wonky, doesn't make sense, and is a mish-mash of ideas from mythology, literature, and philosophy. Love. It. :)

However, I do tend to simplify things somewhat in my own campaigns, not that it matters to my players as they are bashing their way through dungeons . . . . the only real change I make is that instead of each plane being infinite in scope and size, they are more bounded and exist within regions.

So, I have a "heaven" region where all of the various good-aligned realms exist . . . both together and somewhat separate in impossible geographical relationships. This region blends into others for "hell" (evil), chaos, and law. It doesn't make much of a practical difference, all the same places are there . . . it's just works better in my head.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
I agree the Players Handbook needs to avoid planar assumptions. If planes are mentioned at all, then simplify.

It is the DM and the setting that the DM chooses that decides the cosmology.

Generally, I find the useful planes to be:

Matter: the material plane.
Soul: spirit world, outofbody, incorporeal, telekinesis, ether.
Mind: mindscape, imagination, dreams, astral.

The fey and shadow are part of the spirit world.

Paradise versus Purgatory can be part of the mindscape.

Everything else can be regions. The sun itself is the "plane of fire". The ocean is the "plane of water". Etcetera.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Feywild is already in 3e MotP but it was still called the Plane of Faeries, and Shadowfell was still called the Plane of Shadows.

MotP also had Dreamscapes, Plane of Mirrors, Far Realms, a couple of unusual elemental planes (Cold and Wood), some demiplanes (the Observatory) and maybe a couple more.
Now I remember.

I would love to see more alternative version of the Material, Fey, and Shadow planes. Such as the Good or Evil tilted Materials. Or an elemental plane equivalent of the Feywild. An "Elementalwild" and "Elementalfell". Places where all elemental energies are empowered or dampened and become transitional planes as replacements or additions.

Heaven
Material- Feywild-Shadowfell-Elementalwild-Powerfall
Hell
 

Hussar

Legend
Well sometimes a minor adaptation is all you need. We played Lord of the Iron Fortress in 3ed as if Acheron was just an alternate material world rather than an afterlife, and there wasn't much to change in practice.
There's a good example of what I meant. And, at the other end of 3e, you have Savage Tide Adventure Path, which the last third of the AP might as well be renamed Planescape Adventures.

Look, I'll admit to just really not liking Planescape at all. I really, really don't. Which would be fine, except that Planescape is the basis for every planar monster, every module that deals with the planes, and everything else to do with the planes that gets released regardless of any other setting.

Oh, look, it's another demon type. Cool. Oh, look, a whole section on how it fits in the Blood War. Gee, that's great. :(
 

Instead, I would probably actually make the Shadowfell be the Plane of Law in this cosmology (you know, the inevitability of death, the order of the afterlife system, the oneness of shadows and darkness, as well as a smidge of the Gray Goo/Heat Death of the Universe and general entropy themes).

I like your idea of limiting the planes. I've done this in my homebrew by setting things near the end of the multiverse, where a lot of planes have already collapsed or been consumed by other planes. So the great wheel once existed, but has very few spokes left. Other than that I leave things pretty vague, as most people would have no idea beyond their own plane, and such things are the subject of great debate among scholars and sages in the world(s) that remain.

I just wanted to mention that I had an idea based on 'Gray goo' over the break as well. My idea was for a massive ooze that dominates an ancient maze, spilling out above it, expanded and shrinking a little each day like the tides of an ocean.

It's also got me thinking about a re-skinned version of changelings that are a a small part of the Great Gray Goo, much like Odo in DS9.

Anyway, it's a bit different from the plane of entropy you were talking about, but thought you might find it interesting, here's my initial sketch of the idea:

AE4C53F1-CC79-4B59-A596-FC8E33F79565.jpeg
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
There's a good example of what I meant. And, at the other end of 3e, you have Savage Tide Adventure Path, which the last third of the AP might as well be renamed Planescape Adventures.

Which, honestly, is great if you like Planescape and the Great Wheel, since there are very few adventures like this. Out of all the 5e modules publications, how many are really planar and based on the Great Wheel ? And how many supplements ?

Honestly, it's way worse for those who don't like the Forgotten Realms, since instead of the minority above, it's a large majority.

Look, I'll admit to just really not liking Planescape at all. I really, really don't. Which would be fine, except that Planescape is the basis for every planar monster, every module that deals with the planes, and everything else to do with the planes that gets released regardless of any other setting.

Oh, look, it's another demon type. Cool. Oh, look, a whole section on how it fits in the Blood War. Gee, that's great. :(

Well, honestly again, this is mostly fluff, and apart from Eberron, there is no alternative planar setting, while there are many for adventures in general. And reskinning/refluffing is way easier for single entries than for complete adventures.

So I get that you don't like it, but it really does not seem all that bad compared to way worse situations in terms of adventures.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
There's a good example of what I meant. And, at the other end of 3e, you have Savage Tide Adventure Path, which the last third of the AP might as well be renamed Planescape Adventures.

Look, I'll admit to just really not liking Planescape at all. I really, really don't. Which would be fine, except that Planescape is the basis for every planar monster, every module that deals with the planes, and everything else to do with the planes that gets released regardless of any other setting.

Oh, look, it's another demon type. Cool. Oh, look, a whole section on how it fits in the Blood War. Gee, that's great. :(
I am a fan of Planescape because of the plane-hopping adventures and because of the philosophy factions, but certainly not because of the blood war.

I think the factions could be anyway easily used without the great wheel.
 


Hussar

Legend
Which, honestly, is great if you like Planescape and the Great Wheel, since there are very few adventures like this. Out of all the 5e modules publications, how many are really planar and based on the Great Wheel ? And how many supplements ?

Honestly, it's way worse for those who don't like the Forgotten Realms, since instead of the minority above, it's a large majority.



Well, honestly again, this is mostly fluff, and apart from Eberron, there is no alternative planar setting, while there are many for adventures in general. And reskinning/refluffing is way easier for single entries than for complete adventures.

So I get that you don't like it, but it really does not seem all that bad compared to way worse situations in terms of adventures.

Better than Forgotten Realms seems a pretty low bar.
 


Bupp

Adventurer
I think the Great Wheel suffers from the same ailment of early monster books.
If it has a different name in a different culture, it is a new thing.
 

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