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D&D 5E Making sense of D&D's Lore, History and Cosmology

Warpiglet-7

Adventurer
I can think of one reason to bother - so that you know enough of it to choose what you want.
I don’t think you have to unify and make sense of multiple editions’ take on lore to decide what you like. 🤷‍♂️

in fact you might not be able to make it line up, as seems to be the case. I still think you can pick the parts that appeal.
 

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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I don’t think you have to unify and make sense of multiple editions’ take on lore to decide what you like. 🤷‍♂️

Please go back and see where "have to..." was mentioned. We'll wait...

(...Musak version of The Girl From Ipanema plays...)

Okay, so, having established that his was a strawman, can we move on?

Next time, when someone mentions a possible tool, please don't recast it as a necessary thing in order to dismiss it. Thanks.
 

Warpiglet-7

Adventurer
Please go back and see where "have to..." was mentioned. We'll wait...

(...Musak version of The Girl From Ipanema plays...)

Okay, so, having established that his was a strawman, can we move on?

Next time, when someone mentions a possible tool, please don't recast it as a necessary thing in order to dismiss it. Thanks.
your response seemed pedantic so I just drew attention to it.

your response to that was to parse words and make a semantic argument.

Ok. You win? I don’t think I have anything to drive home at this point.
 



Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
This is highly edition dependent. In 1e, Gary seemed to assume a gods relative power was based on its worship on a plane and its overal power was based on its total worship (at least I think it was Gary who wrote the article in Dragon). Of course, that is somewhat contradicted by 1e Deities and Demigods.

Regarding primordials, there is a difference between the lore and the stats provided (in 4e). On several occasions the lore describes how it took multiple gods (usually 3) to bind or imprison or slay some primordials; while other times a god could slay a primordial 1v1. I think primordials seemed to cover a range from at least lesser to greater or higher rank deity

I'm not really sure if you're disagreeing with me? I did say in my post that you should treat 5E material as the most relevant, as the current edition lore overrides that of previous editions (or at least it should if you care about "canon").

Although it seems consistent that more worshippers = more power, this doesn't seem universally true either. The biggest example being that Overgods like Ao are more powerful than any other divine rank, but have few if any worshippers. This metric also doesn't seem to apply to every setting either, as in Eberron there are many faiths but true gods don't (seem to) exist.

Saying that 4E primordials power isn't consistent with 5E's stats isn't that relevant here; the 5E stats represent primordial's power level, at least how powerful they are in the age of mortals. The only gods that are statted up are Tiamat and Auril, which are both Lesser Deities. Tiamat is CR 30, the most powerful official creature in the game other than perhaps the Tarrasque. Auril's forms combined are about comparable to a CR 17 creature. The most powerful primordial statted is Magaera at CR 23, the weakest primordial being CR 18. So they both cover pretty broad ranges, though it certainly seems like the most "active" and free primordials tend to be weaker, while the most powerful were imprisoned or slain.

For example, Erek-Hus was the primordial who slew Io, but inadvertently created Bahamut and Tiamat who in turn slew him. Erek-Hus was probably stronger than even a lesser deity if it took Tiamat (CR 30) and Bahamut (likely near 30) to take down.
 

One thing I don't particularly care for is the power level (or even existence) of deities being based on their number of worshippers. Planescape hits that hard, and while I use Planescape as my baseline, I reject that point. Basically, the way I look at it, when you're divine, you stay divine, unless wrought upon by some other force. You don't need belief just to fuel your existence. I do say that your worshippers determine whether (and how much) you can exercise influence on a world or in a crystal sphere. And they might cause your power level to fluctuate slightly (but not enough to mechanically cause you to change status between demipower, lesser power, greater power rankings). With regards to powers dying due to lack of worshippers, I just say that a lot of people in Planescape areas believe they died because of lack of worshippers, but that's not really true. It might have made them vulnerable, but they actually got their head lopped off by another power that didn't like them or something. And I like the sort of stealth take 5e added that deities are just as able to return from the dead as mortals are. 3e Deities & Demigods contradicts the Planescape lore on that point in any event, and it's one of the rare cases where I go with an actual contradiction from 3e.
 

cbwjm

Hero
One thing I don't particularly care for is the power level (or even existence) of deities being based on their number of worshippers. Planescape hits that hard, and while I use Planescape as my baseline, I reject that point. Basically, the way I look at it, when you're divine, you stay divine, unless wrought upon by some other force. You don't need belief just to fuel your existence. I do say that your worshippers determine whether (and how much) you can exercise influence on a world or in a crystal sphere. And they might cause your power level to fluctuate slightly (but not enough to mechanically cause you to change status between demipower, lesser power, greater power rankings). With regards to powers dying due to lack of worshippers, I just say that a lot of people in Planescape areas believe they died because of lack of worshippers, but that's not really true. It might have made them vulnerable, but they actually got their head lopped off by another power that didn't like them or something. And I like the sort of stealth take 5e added that deities are just as able to return from the dead as mortals are. 3e Deities & Demigods contradicts the Planescape lore on that point in any event, and it's one of the rare cases where I go with an actual contradiction from 3e.
I was never too fond of the requirement to have worshippers for gods to exist, makes mythology where the gods create the universe a bit difficult to fathom. I do kind of use it by combining it with the power level of the god. At minimum they might be a lesser or demi-power. They might also gain power from their realm or from being head or the pantheon (and being cast down from ruling the pantheon could shift a greater god to a lesser).
 

dave2008

Legend
I'm not really sure if you're disagreeing with me? I did say in my post that you should treat 5E material as the most relevant, as the current edition lore overrides that of previous editions (or at least it should if you care about "canon").

Although it seems consistent that more worshippers = more power, this doesn't seem universally true either. The biggest example being that Overgods like Ao are more powerful than any other divine rank, but have few if any worshippers. This metric also doesn't seem to apply to every setting either, as in Eberron there are many faiths but true gods don't (seem to) exist.
I was just commenting; neither agreeing or disagreeing. Though I agree it varies. I personally do not have worshipers = divine power in my games.
Saying that 4E primordials power isn't consistent with 5E's stats isn't that relevant here; the 5E stats represent primordial's power level, at least how powerful they are in the age of mortals. The only gods that are statted up are Tiamat and Auril, which are both Lesser Deities. Tiamat is CR 30, the most powerful official creature in the game other than perhaps the Tarrasque. Auril's forms combined are about comparable to a CR 17 creature. The most powerful primordial statted is Magaera at CR 23, the weakest primordial being CR 18. So they both cover pretty broad ranges, though it certainly seems like the most "active" and free primordials tend to be weaker, while the most powerful were imprisoned or slain.
I wasn't comparing 4e stats to 5e stats. I was comparing 4e stats to the 4e lore. In 4e it took Bahamut, Moradin, and Kord(?) to subdue Maul-Tar, yet its level was only a 34 solo while Bahamut was lvl 36 solo alone.

Also, the most powerful monster in 5e is actually mythic Tromokratis from Theros (180,000 XP vs 155,000 XP for Tiamat). Personally I wouldn't call anything below a CR 26 a primordial, but of course WotC can do whatever they want.
For example, Erek-Hus was the primordial who slew Io, but inadvertently created Bahamut and Tiamat who in turn slew him. Erek-Hus was probably stronger than even a lesser deity if it took Tiamat (CR 30) and Bahamut (likely near 30) to take down.
Well Io is generally considered a greater deity, so Erek-Hus was likely at least similarly as powerful.
 
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dave2008

Legend
One thing I don't particularly care for is the power level (or even existence) of deities being based on their number of worshippers. Planescape hits that hard, and while I use Planescape as my baseline, I reject that point. Basically, the way I look at it, when you're divine, you stay divine, unless wrought upon by some other force. You don't need belief just to fuel your existence. I do say that your worshippers determine whether (and how much) you can exercise influence on a world or in a crystal sphere. And they might cause your power level to fluctuate slightly (but not enough to mechanically cause you to change status between demipower, lesser power, greater power rankings). With regards to powers dying due to lack of worshippers, I just say that a lot of people in Planescape areas believe they died because of lack of worshippers, but that's not really true. It might have made them vulnerable, but they actually got their head lopped off by another power that didn't like them or something. And I like the sort of stealth take 5e added that deities are just as able to return from the dead as mortals are. 3e Deities & Demigods contradicts the Planescape lore on that point in any event, and it's one of the rare cases where I go with an actual contradiction from 3e.
Yep. I never tie deities solely to worship. IMO, deities can gain some power from worshipers, but is only a small fraction of their power.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
I'll add, one of the best sources is actually 1d4chan. It does a very good job of collating various D&D information across editions, so you can compare.

Demons: Tanar'ri - 1d4chan
Devils: Baatezu - 1d4chan
Gods: Gods of Dungeons & Dragons - 1d4chan
Primordials (or Archomentals): Archomental - 1d4chan

To answer your specific questions, divine ranks really just measure how powerful the god is. There is not really a set way for how gods move up and down in rank; they just do. Ao for example is an Overdeity, but has few worshippers, so rank is not technically tied to worship, although the more worshippers a god has is usually a net good for their power.

Primordials are essentially extremely powerful elemental beings. They are probably most comparable to lesser deities in power level.
That's some good stuff, thank you.

As for anyone asking why I'd want to make sense of it all. Fifth Edition doesn't have enough fluff about that stuff to satisfy my curiosity and give me a solid understanding of it all. And if I take it and go back to older editions to complement it, it's pretty confusing. It's hard to pick what you want and what you don't want from content you don't understand at all.
 

Voadam

Legend
If you do not find enough stuff from the sourcebooks you have, wikis, and such just keep posting more threads like your Dracomicon one asking for specific info, there is usually someone here willing to to point out other resources and to pontificate on the changing lore of Grazz't through editions or most any other D&D topic. :)
 

I use 4E Dawn War, 2E, and 3.0/3.5 books and lore for my 5E Forgotten Realms. And I second 1D4 Chan for dnd info between editions. Thanks to it, I learned Demon Orcs, the Tanarukks have different lore you can choose between the editions.

Likewise, the Merrows of 5E are A LOT cooler than water breather orcs in older editions.
 

see

Adventurer
  1. The information is split between editions. This include the 4th edition and its different cosmology, so I tend to be selective about that edition. There's some cool stuff in the 2nd edition, but a lot of it is never referred to again in further editions or often contradicts stuff from the 3rd or 5th edition.
The Great Wheel Cosmology comes in, roughly, five separate generations:
  1. The first generation, laid out in Dragon Magazine #8 ("Planes: The Concepts of Spatial, Temporal and Physical Relationships in D&D", July 1977), the AD&D Player's Handbook (Appendix IV, 1e, 1978), and Deities & Demigods (Appendix I, 1e, 1980).
  2. The second generation, found in the AD&D Manual of the Planes (1987). Mostly a systematization and rationalization of various bits and pieces added to the first generation through adventures and monster entries, its big contradiction is throwing out three of the Paraelemental Planes from Deities & Demigods in favor of new ones. Also used in brief in the pre-Planescape printings of the 2e DMG.
  3. The third generation, Planescape (1994). Grabbed and ran with the Blood War concept from the 1991 Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix, unified the alternate Material Planes into one single Prime Plane based on Spelljammer (unifying GH, FR, and DL to being on the same plane), made various changes (like to how the Plane of Fire worked) to improve adventuring in the planes.
  4. The fourth generation, D&D 3rd Edition Manual of the Planes (2001). Now demoted from the cosmology of everywhere to merely one example cosmology (undoing the Spelljammer/Planescape unification of FR, GH, and DL being on the same plane, since now FR was in its own cosmology), reworked how the Astral worked to match how 3e spells worked, decanonized the Paraelemental and Quasielemental Planes.
  5. The fifth generation, D&D 5th Edition (5e Dungeon Master's Guide, 2014). Still an example cosmology. Redefined the Elemental Planes in a way that hybridized the 4e Elemental Chaos, the vast pure elemental expanses of the early AD&D Elemental Planes, the elemental echoes of the Prime seen in BECMI and kinda-sorta in the Planescape/3e Plane of Fire, and the Second/Third Generation Paraelemental Planes.
If you try to integrate between generations, you will absolutely and certainly find contradictions. If you try to bring in stuff from BECMI, the alternate cosmologies in 3rd, and the 4th Edition World Axis, you'll get even more contradictions. Since Forgotten Realms used the first, second, and third generations of the Great Wheel, then its own World Tree (and, technically, simultaneoulsy additional csomologies depending on what part of the Realms you were in), and then the World Axis, and now seems to have defaulted to the fifth generation of the Great Wheel, its cosmological lore is utterly full of contradictions.

Incidentally, the number of godly ranks increased from Demi/Lesser/Greater in 1e to Demi/Lesser/Intermediate/Greater in 2e, and there was never a clear definition of how to progress between the ranks (there was one Dragon article in 1e that was always dubious, there were occasions where gods were declared to have changed rank, and the 3e Deities & Demigods had very fine-grained divine rank mechanics without canonical advancement rules). Primordials were introduced in 4th edition, with some earlier gods retconned into them.
 
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Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
Incidentally, the number of godly ranks increased from Demi/Lesser/Greater in 1e to Demi/Lesser/Intermediate/Greater in 2e, and there was never a clear definition of how to progress between the ranks (there was one Dragon article in 1e that was always dubious, there were occasions where gods were declared to have changed rank, and the 3e Deities & Demigods had very fine-grained divine rank mechanics without canonical advancement rules). Primordials were introduced in 4th edition, with some earlier gods retconned into them.
Well, gods don't "advance" like player characters, not usually anyways. How and why they gain or lose power varies by setting.

Except for BECMI D&D, where the "immortals" do advance by experience level! Probably because they ARE player characters! But, different ruleset, different setting than "core" D&D.
 
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TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
The Great Wheel Cosmology comes in, roughly, five separate generations:
  1. The first generation, laid out in Dragon Magazine #8 ("Planes: The Concepts of Spatial, Temporal and Physical Relationships in D&D", July 1977), the AD&D Player's Handbook (Appendix IV, 1e, 1978), and Deities & Demigods (Appendix I, 1e, 1980).
  2. The second generation, found in the AD&D Manual of the Planes (1987). Mostly a systematization and rationalization of various bits and pieces added to the first generation through adventures and monster entries, its big contradiction is throwing out three of the Paraelemental Planes from Deities & Demigods in favor of new ones. Also used in brief in the pre-Planescape printings of the 2e DMG.
  3. The third generation, Planescape (1994). Grabbed and ran with the Blood War concept from the 1991 Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix, unified the alternate Material Planes into one single Prime Plane based on Spelljammer (unifying GH, FR, and DL to being on the same plane), made various changes (like to how the Plane of Fire worked) to improve adventuring in the planes.
  4. The fourth generation, D&D 3rd Edition Manual of the Planes (2001). Now demoted from the cosmology of everywhere to merely one example cosmology (undoing the Spelljammer/Planescape unification of FR, GH, and DL being on the same plane, since now FR was in its own cosmology), reworked how the Astral worked to match how 3e spells worked, decanonized the Paraelemental and Quasielemental Planes.
  5. The fifth generation, D&D 5th Edition (5e Dungeon Master's Guide, 2014). Still an example cosmology. Redefined the Elemental Planes in a way that hybridized the 4e Elemental Chaos, the vast pure elemental expanses of the early AD&D Elemental Planes, the elemental echoes of the Prime seen in BECMI and kinda-sorta in the Planescape/3e Plane of Fire, and the Second/Third Generation Paraelemental Planes.
If you try to integrate between generations, you will absolutely and certainly find contradictions. If you try to bring in stuff from BECMI, the alternate cosmologies in 3rd, and the 4th Edition World Axis, you'll get even more contradictions. Since Forgotten Realms used the first, second, and third generations of the Great Wheel, then its own World Tree (and, technically, simultaneoulsy additional csomologies depending on what part of the Realms you were in), and then the World Axis, and now seems to have defaulted to the fifth generation of the Great Wheel, its cosmological lore is utterly full of contradictions.

Incidentally, the number of godly ranks increased from Demi/Lesser/Greater in 1e to Demi/Lesser/Intermediate/Greater in 2e, and there was never a clear definition of how to progress between the ranks (there was one Dragon article in 1e that was always dubious, there were occasions where gods were declared to have changed rank, and the 3e Deities & Demigods had very fine-grained divine rank mechanics without canonical advancement rules). Primordials were introduced in 4th edition, with some earlier gods retconned into them.
That's some quality distilled information there my friend. It'll really help me categorize the information in my head. I think what I'll do is focus on the fifth and third generations. The fifth because it's the most recent material and should make sense with everything else included in fifth edition, and to fill the gaps or swap with ideas from the wholeness of third generation.

I'll see how it goes.
 

Viking Bastard

Adventurer
Except for BECMI D&D, where the "immortals" do advance by experience level! Probably because they ARE player characters! But, different ruleset, different setting than "core" D&D.

My entry to the game was the RC and this has always been my baseline assumption. Sure, some gods are "born" into it, but that they are mostly ascended into the role.
 

Coroc

Hero
The Great Wheel Cosmology comes in, roughly, five separate generations:
  1. The first generation, laid out in Dragon Magazine #8 ("Planes: The Concepts of Spatial, Temporal and Physical Relationships in D&D", July 1977), the AD&D Player's Handbook (Appendix IV, 1e, 1978), and Deities & Demigods (Appendix I, 1e, 1980).
  2. The second generation, found in the AD&D Manual of the Planes (1987). Mostly a systematization and rationalization of various bits and pieces added to the first generation through adventures and monster entries, its big contradiction is throwing out three of the Paraelemental Planes from Deities & Demigods in favor of new ones. Also used in brief in the pre-Planescape printings of the 2e DMG.
  3. The third generation, Planescape (1994). Grabbed and ran with the Blood War concept from the 1991 Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix, unified the alternate Material Planes into one single Prime Plane based on Spelljammer (unifying GH, FR, and DL to being on the same plane), made various changes (like to how the Plane of Fire worked) to improve adventuring in the planes.
  4. The fourth generation, D&D 3rd Edition Manual of the Planes (2001). Now demoted from the cosmology of everywhere to merely one example cosmology (undoing the Spelljammer/Planescape unification of FR, GH, and DL being on the same plane, since now FR was in its own cosmology), reworked how the Astral worked to match how 3e spells worked, decanonized the Paraelemental and Quasielemental Planes.
  5. The fifth generation, D&D 5th Edition (5e Dungeon Master's Guide, 2014). Still an example cosmology. Redefined the Elemental Planes in a way that hybridized the 4e Elemental Chaos, the vast pure elemental expanses of the early AD&D Elemental Planes, the elemental echoes of the Prime seen in BECMI and kinda-sorta in the Planescape/3e Plane of Fire, and the Second/Third Generation Paraelemental Planes.
If you try to integrate between generations, you will absolutely and certainly find contradictions. If you try to bring in stuff from BECMI, the alternate cosmologies in 3rd, and the 4th Edition World Axis, you'll get even more contradictions. Since Forgotten Realms used the first, second, and third generations of the Great Wheel, then its own World Tree (and, technically, simultaneoulsy additional csomologies depending on what part of the Realms you were in), and then the World Axis, and now seems to have defaulted to the fifth generation of the Great Wheel, its cosmological lore is utterly full of contradictions.

Incidentally, the number of godly ranks increased from Demi/Lesser/Greater in 1e to Demi/Lesser/Intermediate/Greater in 2e, and there was never a clear definition of how to progress between the ranks (there was one Dragon article in 1e that was always dubious, there were occasions where gods were declared to have changed rank, and the 3e Deities & Demigods had very fine-grained divine rank mechanics without canonical advancement rules). Primordials were introduced in 4th edition, with some earlier gods retconned into them.
please could you elaborate on the topic elemental echoes of the prime a bit?

i never heard of that, is it something like shadowfell and feywild connected closely to the prime, with some weird things going on with prominent landmarks showing up altered depending on which plane you are?
 

Voadam

Legend
please could you elaborate on the topic elemental echoes of the prime a bit?

i never heard of that, is it something like shadowfell and feywild connected closely to the prime, with some weird things going on with prominent landmarks showing up altered depending on which plane you are?
My understanding is that it is only kinda-sorta an echo. In the Rules Cyclopedia and the preceding CMI part of BECMI the elemental planes were entire universes like a prime but made up of one element and with elemental matches to types of things on the prime, but they were specifically not matches to specific things on the prime like cities or even moons. Only the base world by default even has connections to all four elemental planes.

Rules Cyclopedia Page 264:
Each elemental plane is a universe much like the Prime Plane, but all the material is a single element. The elemental matter collects in clumps (planets, moons, etc.); it can exist in solid, liquid, or gaseous form.
For instance, in the elemental plane of Water, the atmosphere is an unbreatheably thick fog, the seas are made of water, and all land, solid objects, and even solid creatures are made of ice—ice which may be so hard and imperishable that it resembles crystal and does not melt in warm temperatures.

and

When a planet exists on an elemental plane in roughly the same "position" as a planet on the Prime Plane, natural vortexes and wormholes appear, connecting the planets on each plane. Thus, for the "normal" D&D® world, there are four other planets in similar positions, one on each of the elemental planes. Other planets in the Prime universe might not have corresponding elemental planets; another world might thus be missing one or more elements.
Moons, comets, and other large moving bodies on the Prime Plane rarely have any elemental connections. They are sometimes created by temporary wormholes, which break when the corresponding body on the elemental plane moves out of position. In a similar manner, a vortex may suddenly appear on a moving body, as a corresponding moon "nears it" on the elemental plane. For example, an ocean could suddenly appear on a moon near the characters' world!

and

Components of the Elemental Planes Table
Type of Component
Atmosphere
Liquids
Solids

Air
Air
Invisible
Airy Liquid
Solid Clouds

Earth
Dust or Soil
Mud, Oil or
Lava
Earth or Stone

Fire
Plasma
Liquified
Fire or Lava
Solidified Fire

Water
Fog, Airy Water
Normal
Water
Crystalline Ice
 

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