Planescape Manual of the Planes for 5e on DMSGuild

New on the DMSGuild is the Manual of the Planes for 5th edition. The cover is stunning. It's over 300 pages and the credits page includes folks from The Draconomicon, The Dragonlance Companion, Tasha's Crucible of Everything Else, Planescape: Metropolis, The Honkonomicon and I love the special thanks. This project was made possible by Roll20. Thank you for unlocking new...

New on the DMSGuild is the Manual of the Planes for 5th edition. The cover is stunning.

Manual of the Planes. An invaluable, definitive work on the most fascinating aspect of the World's Greatest Roleplaying Game

It's over 300 pages and the credits page includes folks from The Draconomicon, The Dragonlance Companion, Tasha's Crucible of Everything Else, Planescape: Metropolis, The Honkonomicon and

Screenshot 2023-10-22 at 9.37.13 PM.png

I love the special thanks.

This project was made possible by Roll20. Thank you for unlocking new horizons for the latest generation of planewalkers, bashers, berks, and touts. We’d also like to thank the giants on whose shoulders we stand when writing this book: Justice Ramin Arman, Richard Baker, Wolfgang Baur, David “Zeb” Cook, Bruce R. Cordell, Jeff Grubb, David Noonan, F. Wesley Schneider, Rick Swan, and all others who helped create and cultivate Planescape and the planes.

I've just bought it and am reading it now.

Here is the table of contents.

Screenshot 2023-10-22 at 10.18.51 PM.png

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I am here to deliver good news!

After months of prolonged issues and internal conflict, we have finally begun the process of preparing Manual of the Planes 5e for printing!

I will warn in advance that not all of the digital textures transfer over well to physical print, meaning that certain modifications to the backgrounds are in order. That said, we are working as much as possible to ensure that 100% of the text is transferred faithfully to print (save for a single quote).

The print-ready version of the PDF will also be available for sale as a lite version of the book, for those wishing for a version that doesn't take up as much storage space.

We expect that this print version will be available by mid-September. I'll be showing off photos of the print proofs as soon as they hit my door.


Well, thats a shame. Thanks for the follow up.
Apologies, I wish I had better news, but... well, I was looking forward to providing the update and seeing the POD released, the situation changed, and I was no longer interested in contributing to the planned update. I'm sure we all have our own opinions about matters and I'm disappointed that things have gone in this direction, but at this point it's time for me to move forward to other projects. I'll be proud of what this was and regret what it could have been.


Alright, so it looks Andrew is trying muddy the waters on the Manual of the Planes 5e page with private messages, so it's high time that I get the full story out. I have confirmed with my lawyer that all of this is above-board and that Andrew cannot touch these statements with accusations of defamation, so there is no reason to hold this back anymore.

As I mentioned previously in various places, there have been issues going on behind the scenes of Manual of the Planes (5e) on DMsGuild ever since the beginning of the project. The primary issues pertain to Editor Andrew Welker and his self-aggrandizing and hostile behavior towards other members of the development team.

TLDR: Andrew Welker has sabotaged the project and driven away the team to try and control the book and I believe he is stopping the print release out of spite against the team. Andrew now refuses to negotiate or explain anything unless I bring a lawyer into the conversation with him and has consistently insisted on escalating this to legal arguments rather than try to negotiate or settle matters in good faith.

In light of this behavior, we are releasing the print edition of the book using a separate DMsGuild page as is our right under the book’s Collective Ownership.

I should clarify that Manual of the Planes (5e) is currently available digitally on DMsGuild, but up until May of 2024 we had been working on numerous additional sections to add to the book for its print-on-demand release. We have nicknamed the unreleased updated version "The Fourth Draft", and among the updated materials were set to be new spells, monsters, areas, and advice sections for DMs. I can attest that Afroakuma and I have collectively written over 19,000 words of material which was planned to be added in the Fourth Draft.

On April 10th, 2023, George Loki Williams and I had a discord voice call in which we discussed an outline for what would become Manual of the Planes 5e. Later that night, I contacted a colleague asking for help with assembling a team for such a project (specifically, I requested an editor and publisher, which in my mind did not entail a project lead or someone attempting to exercise directive guidance over what goes in the book).

Over the next few weeks, both Andrew and myself set out recruiting additional writers for this project, with the most important one to this story being Afroakuma. Fro (as he is often known) is best known for his exhaustive Planar Questions threads on Giant in the Playground, where he has displayed a combination of impressive writing volume, immense passion for the setting and history of Planescape, and a strong desire to educate players and DMs. Fro was willing to join the team and proved a valuable member throughout the pitching and writing phases of the book. His willingness to take on additional writing responsibilities when needed ended up being crucial to the book's completion, with all sixteen of the Outer Planes being mostly Fro's work alongside Ken Marable and other contributors.

I won't deny that Andrew's work on the book was invaluable. I certainly appreciate his editing work on the monsters I wrote for the book in addition to the monster adaptations of his own. HIs cover art is spectacular and his layout work is gorgeous. That said, this does not excuse his treatment of several other team members.

None of the material done for this book was under contract, a mistake that I regret and that I aim to rectify in any of my future projects.

One thing that I would like to say before any discussion begins is that the appointment of a sensitivity reader for this book was my proposal. Andrew put me in contact with Eleanor Tremeer and was willing to implement her suggestions, although I cannot say that his perceptions towards the hiring of a sensitivity reader were anything beyond ambivalent. I do not believe that discussions around sensitivity reading in Planescape should have any bearing on this discussion, but I have seen enough vehement opinions about Eleanor's involvement on this book that I feel the need to add this disclaimer.
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Section 1: Andrew’s Bids for Position
The first concern with this book is Andrew’s numerous attempts to place himself at the center of the development team and establish some manner of sole authority over the book and its development.

During the layout of the book, Andrew established himself in the credits as “Project Lead” despite nobody on the team agreeing to this positioning. I, meanwhile, was relegated to the position of “Writer” despite my role in assembling and coordinating the book’s writing team. After prolonged discussion, Andrew eventually changed my title to “Assistant Coordinator” despite my repeated specification that the duties I fulfilled for this project met the standard for the Project Manager role.

Only when Manual of the Planes (5e) was released did I discover that Andrew had put himself as the Project Manager and sole copyright holder of the book. When I confronted him about this, the only change he made was promoting me and Loki from Writers to Assistant Coordinators (a term I am not familiar with). At this point, I did not see it as worthwhile to fight Andrew on the copyright claim, as I was seeking to move on to new projects. I confirmed with Brian Lewis (former attorney for Wizards of the Coast) that Andrew's sole copyright claim is unfounded, and while he did eventually modify the credits page to place all authors as joint copyright holders this was only done after a month of cajoling and the threat of legal action. Even then, his statement made no consideration for legal ownership of materials which authors had published prior to the book that was republished within.

The whole reason why we had to go through Andrew on any of these matters was because he had set up the DMsGuild page for Manual of the Planes 5e with himself as the only editor. Similarly, all of the master files for the book were kept exclusively on his computer with no means for anyone else on the team to review them. Andrew leveraged this lack of access to try and go over the heads of the other writing staff at multiple points, with one example being the inclusion of the “Defying Government is Sinful and Unnatural” quote alongside the Mount Celestia writeup (seen on page 230).

During the writing of the 4th draft, Andrew would create numerous chats outside of Loki’s original server where the project would be discussed. I eventually discovered that the purpose for these side chats was to facilitate Andrew’s ejection of certain team members when such removal suited him. This will be explored later on.

Section 2: Andrew’s Treatment of Team Members and their Writing
Something that I made sure of when reaching out to contributors on this book was that our team had a solid body of Planescape knowledge. Ken Marable, Loki Williams, and Afroakuma were ideal team members for this project because they have each made prominent contributions to Planescape’s community over the last several decades and each possess a strong understanding of what makes the setting compelling. Andrew, by comparison, had minimal knowledge of Planescape’s history and community at the outset of this project, and consistently appeared to have minimal interest in legacy content. This did not stop him from repeatedly trying to modify the writing of other creators against their will.

Andrew had a tendency to attempt unilateral "overrides" (his own words) of lore elements and setting material which the writers were passionate about, using the arbitrary excuses of "5e-adjacency" to remove or rewrite lore against the wishes of the authors. Objection to any of Andrew’s overrides required I rally multiple contributing authors behind me in order to stop Andrew from repeatedly deleting or modifying the material in question.

Andrew did not apply this same standard to himself, writing up extended new sections which contradicted or invalidated established lore without any input from the other writers. Any criticisms were promptly ignored, with a common tactic being the disregarding of comments only for him to ask "why didn't you say something sooner?" after writing out the section in detail. Early on, I developed a habit of keeping everything I entered on the compilation documents in a separate backup document so that it could be retrieved in case of unexpected deletion.

Some examples of Andrew’s override attempts when writing the book were as follows
-Andrew seemed to have a strong dislike for any lore that committed to Planescape’s heavier thematic elements, changing or removing descriptions that worked to establish the grit that defined the original setting.
-In the Material Plane, I added a section detailing a theory about the transformation of the Crystal Sphere-based cosmology into the current Astral Sea cosmology. Andrew tried to have that section deleted by saying it would be too confusing for new players, because it was in conflict with the 5E Spelljammer setting.
-I wasn’t permitted to include explanations of the Shadowfell connecting different versions of the same Material Plane world. This subject is well-established in multiple classic novels and adventures (most notably the Gord the Rogue novels and “Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk”). I was able to tangentially mention this subject in “Origins of the Shadowfell”.
-Andrew repeatedly demanded that unique artifacts from Planescape’s history be reduced to very rare magic items so that we could fill out that section faster (the most obvious example here is the Staff of the Lower Planes, which he insisted should also have “Staff of the Middle/Upper Planes” equivalents). He justified this by claiming that “5E design standards” demanded that such items be available to players. This matter was still in dispute at the time of my removal.
-In the Outlands, Andrew tried to erase any explanation or inclusion of the Nine Rings and their effects on magic.
-Andrew couldn’t grasp the concept of bounded infinities and tried to remove any mention of planes being infinite (by virtue of “if they were infinite they would cover all the other planes”). This led to a substantial argument during the writing of the original book as to whether planes should be infinite or have clear boundaries. As he was in charge of writing the elemental planes, he still insisted on keeping specific measurements for the elemental planes. Similarly, he ardently resisted any reference to “paraelemental” or “quasielemental” on the premise that the Elemental Chaos covered everything outside the six major Inner Planes and that to mention these legacy terms would alienate the audience.
-Andrew pushed us to close open-ended questions and mysteries with suggested “canonical” answers, despite this conflicting with the feel of the setting. As an example, he pushed to make up a specific identity for the Prisoner of Belierin and resisted the idea of leaving its nature open-ended.
-Andrew demanded that every monster listed in the book be featured in Chapter 3 content, including demands about how they be utilized; e.g. he wanted achaierai to be presented as having a complex society because otherwise they weren't noteworthy enough to include as monsters in his view.
-Andrew disliked the idea that we would name major NPCs without connecting them to statblocks; for example, he wanted to treat every member of the Celestial Hebdomad as a standard tome archon so that this statblock would “see enough use” in the book. Similarly, unique eodath were pushed to use existing statblocks rather than being left undefined. His pressure in these areas led to content being resected or not offered for inclusion as there were concerns that he would insist on watering down unique concepts to fit his perspective of how such things should be done.
-Andrew felt that the Far Realm should be whimsical and silly, and disliked being contradicted by others on how this would clash tonally with its more Lovecraftian depiction. He insisted that settlements be written in the Far Realm for players to explore

During the later phases of this book's development and the 4th Draft, Andrew would continue this trend by demanding that deities from older editions have their realms moved to different planes in order to create an equality in wordcount between different planes, regardless of appropriateness. He determined that it was a “creative concession” that other writers would have to make for the sake of meeting, yet again, “5E design standards” and claimed that market research was behind this decision. Andrew attempted to impose a rule that each plane would have a specific wordcount allocation tied to its number of distinct layers, meaning that expanding the section for Limbo would require an equal amount of new material to be written for every other plane with a single layer and multiple times that amount of material would need to be added to multi-layer planes like Carceri and Mount Celestia. This sounds good in theory - who doesn’t like more content? - except it was meant to check the growth of any section beyond the confines of his planned wordcount, not to encourage us to add more across the board. There were multiple suggestions that deities or powers have their centers of power moved from the Outer Planes to the Positive and Negative Energy Plane for no other reason than to facilitate this need for balance, which he declared was reached in consultation with professional authors who had worked on first-party products

When Andrew wasn't keen on particular pieces of the book, they would sometimes be deleted from documents without explanation given. He did not appreciate being called out on these. He would also routinely challenge terms and concepts that he felt the audience would be unable to understand - for example, wanting to rename formians to “anttaurs” to avoid confusion with fomorians, when the two monsters never coexist. Having been pushed to accept the original term, he subsequently decided to introduce formians to the Feywild. This was under discussion at the time of my removal.

I have reason to believe that some of Andrew’s attempts at changes and orders were not made in good faith and were in fact attempts to demoralize team members or assert control. These imposed changes would prompt the implosion of the project later on.

Section 3: Andrew’s Retribution Efforts
In the period leading up to Manual of the Planes (5e)'s release, I reached out to several games journalists and influencers in order to raise awareness of the book. I did not name the book I was working on, but I did discuss interest with interviewing these parties down the line, and Andrew was encouraging at the time. I introduced him and Afroakuma to a number of media personalities and set up an AMA on Reddit.

The issues emerged when I announced my intention to interview with the podcast RPGBot and the youtuber Jorphdan, both of whom I had reached out to. In both cases, Andrew confronted me and actively forbade me from getting involved, trying to pull some sort of authority which I didn't fully recognize in order to make sure that I was not allowed to make verbal public statements about Manual of the Planes (5e). Every time I tried to arrange a time for the interview, Andrew would bend over backwards to explicitly ensure that I wasn't allowed to participate.

When I asked him about this behavior, Andrew’s justification was that my perspective as an old-edition veteran would make me innately biased, but even when I proposed interviewing alongside him or another designer Andrew would vehemently push back against my involvement. When the subject of the interview was raised in our team chat, Andrew openly stated that I was being pushed out of the interview as “punishment” for having arranged the interviews to promote the product we were all involved in creating and had a stake in sales of, over his explicit instruction that only he could secure interviews. Ultimately, Andrew would leverage my attempts at outreach as an excuse to remove me from the project.

Section 4: The Print-on-Demand Fallout
In April of 2024, I posted my Fourth Draft entry on Y'chak the Violet Flame on the shared compilation document only to find no trace of it next time I checked. I had to confront Andrew about this removal in order to get him to admit that he had gotten rid of the section without telling me (after a while, I got him to admit that he deleted the section because he didn’t think the plot hooks were obvious enough). I screenshotted his commentary and shared it to the Discord we were working in, saying that his overrides were unacceptable.

On May 1st, 2024, Andrew Welker sent me an email and discord message explaining that he was removing me from the project. Although I still had access to the Google Drive of files, I was removed from all Discord channels in which Manual of the Planes' development was being discussed. No justification was given and the other team members were not immediately informed, with the other members expressing surprise at my sudden ejection. Only after Afroakuma and I pulled our collective Fourth Draft writings from the shared documents did we get any response from Andrew. The previous day, Andrew and I had become heated over discussions regarding Y'chak's unexplained deletion and the implication that Andrew was going to delete several more of my written sections in the print release.

When Andrew did finally give me an explanation, he cited my attempts at arranging interviews as a violation of an arrangement made with a third party. This runs counter to what Andrew said at the time, where he not only stated that I could speak about the project publicly (provided this arrangement was honored) but actively encouraged me to make connections and promote the book at Gamehole Con 2023. Lawyers have reviewed the arrangement with the third party and confirmed that I made no violations.

Afroakuma withdrew from the Fourth Draft and was removed from project development channels several days later. In the wake of my ejections, there have been concerns that Andrew would attempt to use our inability to respond to alter or delete our contributions to the book. Numerous times over the last month, I have attempted to contact Andrew asking to negotiate, only to be met each time with deflections or stonewalling. During this period, other team members have since left the project, effectively leaving Andrew and Paolo as the only remaining members willing to contribute to the book under Andrew’s self-appointed leadership.

The issue of Andrew falsely citing himself as the sole copyright holder remained until a revision on June 6th. This change was only made once I pressed for legal action against Andrew, who refused to negotiate or explain anything unless I bring a lawyer into the conversation with him. For weeks, he consistently insisted on escalating this to legal arguments rather than try to negotiate or settle matters in good faith. This led into the next step.

Section 5: The Legal Affairs
On June 6th, acting on the guidance of several other veteran game designers and publishers, I enlisted a lawyer to clarify the ownership of Manual of the Planes 5e and engage in negotiations with Andrew on our behalf. Upon hearing confirmation from a lawyer that Andrew did not possess any singular ownership of the book that was not shared with the other creators under joint ownership, Andrew refused to answer emails for several days and only responded after being told that the lawyer endorsed the actions described in section 6. In his final response, Andrew made clear that he has no intention of ever engaging or cooperating with myself or Afroakuma and stands by his decision (and authority) to forcibly remove us from the project.

Section 6: Going Forward
Myself, Fro, and numerous other contributors on the book agree that the best course of action, given that the book as originally published is ready for a physical release, is to make the current draft available as print-on-demand and agree that no further content modifications are necessary. As Andrew controls the original product page, there is no way for any of us to accelerate the book’s release. Otherwise, it would have come out long ago.

Andrew also seems reluctant to release Manual of the Planes 5e in his current state in spite of what has happened. In brief, as there is no market incentive for him to refuse the print-on-demand solution (as feedback on the product page and elsewhere indicates there is a demand for the print edition of the original publication, regardless of expanded content), and no content incentive (Andrew having already indicated several times over both in public and privately that he would like to move on to other projects, as would we all), it is hard to understand his motivation to prolong this frustration without attributing it to plain old ego. Just like he felt the need to “punish” me for the high crime of arranging an interview to promote our work, I now believe he wants to “punish” me once more for refusing to walk away and let him claim squatters’ rights over this book.

Fortunately, I have spoken to my lawyer, representatives of Roll20, and our new layout artist Taron Pounds (also known as Indestructoboy) about a new solution which we have confirmed as within our means.

Using what assets we are able to obtain and reverse-engineer, we are now currently working on a Print Edition of Manual of the Planes 5e which will be released on its own product page in the coming months. Save for one egregious flavor quote which Andrew added with the objections of the team, this book will contain all of the text from the original PDF release.

Eventually, I hope to collaborate with other contributors including Afroakuma on a new Planescape book using the nearly 20k words of material that we wrote to be included in the 4th draft.

In the event that Andrew does release a new book in print, everyone here should know that neither myself nor Afroakuma have signed off on the material within. We do not approve of any changes made in our absence and do not wish to be associated with any materials within this revision.

I intend never to work without a contract again and intend never to work with Andrew Welker again. I encourage every one of you reading this to do the same.

If you have any further questions or wish me to provide screenshots, I will answer to the best of my ability.
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