Planar Configurations; How Do You Design The Multiverse?

Aebir-Toril

100100101010
As the title says, I want to know how others organize their planes. Do you use The Great Wheel, are all of your planes alternate versions of the Prime Material, do you have other planes? I wish to know what you have done.

I have used a few different planar arrangements, The Great Wheel, a Myriad selection, a sci-fi style arrangement of planar 'moons', a simple system with only a few planes, and a world where all of the traditional planar locales were on the same 'plane', with the Ethereal Plane, or Atmos Ethereae, as an atmosphere.
 

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Truth be told, I rarely worry about it. I assume the planes I need for a given campaign are "out there," but I don't tend to concern myself with how they line up with each other, because such distinctions are meaningless where planar travel is concerned.

That said, if I'm playing a campaign where it matters, I tend to go with the default--so, Great Wheel for a "generic" D&D game, the orbiting planes for Eberron, etc.

I have to admit, my favorite officially published planar setup is the one from core/Nentir Vale 4E.
 

Satyrn

First Post
My table just uses the default - whatever the DM at the moment takes that to mean. when I DM, I tend to merge all of the outer evil outer planes into just Hell and the Abyss, although I'll toss in Tartarus if I need to. And I'm all set to use Mechanus. And when we've played through the other DM's adventures set in the Feywild and elemental planes, they come across as expected.
 


Afrodactyl

First Post
My group has only had dealings with the Material Plane, the Ethereal Plane, the Astral Plane and the Plane of Fire.

The plane of fire was essentially rock, and magma as far as the eye could see, with the occasional partially melted stone structures. We only had a brief visit there, as the portal that took us there collapsed and sucked us back through along with some fire elementals.

One of our players got shifted to the Astral Plane when some eldritch gribbly swallowed him and spat him out there, which was basically deep space with some weird stuff going on. He was of course in a vacuum, and we luckily managed to force feed the monster enough rope in time to get a line to him and get him back.

The same player went to the Ethereal Plane when he died, and it was pretty much just the void between worlds, limbo, whatever you want to call it. He tried to parlay with his god to be brought back and we managed to get a good enough revival spell to bring him back.

In general, we go with each plane existing in the same space in a multiverse kind of deal, but they generally don't have much overlap unless there are portals involved.
 


jgsugden

Legend
I keep it simple.

There is an infinitely wide (and flat) Prime Material Plane. It has three mirror plans - the Shadowfell, the Feywild, and the Ethereal Plane. Those planes constantly evolve to reflect the PMP in their own special ways. As the plane is infinitely huge, it allows for all sorts of campaign worlds to be set in it - and any type of PC to be played in any game.

There is an Astral Plane that is infinite in size and is the easiest way to connect the planes. My 'Spelljammers' sail this Astral Plane, allowing those with little magic to conduct business across the planes - which is lucrative. Traveling across the Astyral Sea to other gates that lead elsewhere in the Prime is also potentially a huge shortcut - something that make a lot of sense when you want to move a large amount of goods. Dwarves and Giff are the most common sailors - Dwarves have extensive mining operations in the Elemental Plane. Gith and Nezumi (Rat people - Pi Rats) are also common. My equivalent of Sigil is in the Astral Plane - a 'City' of multiple levels with a huge number of Gates, markets, and mysterious denizens. It is ruled by a Demi-God of Trickery.

There is an Elemental Plane that is filled with pockets of each element (and each paraelement). Dwarves are well known for traveling to this plane to work mines in deposits of Earth.

There is a Hell Plane. The 666 'layers' of the Abyss, the 9 Hells, etc... are all regions within this greater Hell. Asmodeus claims to rule the whole thing, but really he only controls the 9 Hells which cover a scant few billion square miles - only a small fraction of the mapped areas of the plane.

There is a Heaven Plane. It also is subdivided into various territories that align with traditional cosmologies. It is not unlimited in size. This is a reason why the Gods are selective about who is allowed to come here in the afterlife, and why many are reincarnated back to the PMP rather than enjoying an eternal blissful afterlife. Even those that are granted eternity may find ti revoked when other more worthy folks arrive...

There are Negative Energy and Positive Energy Planes. They're uninhabitable and a huge mystery.

Then there is the Far Realm - which is an alien cosmology that is slowly colliding into 'our' cosmology. The collision was first detected a few thousand years ago and has only slowly progressed in the time since discovery, but it is the source of Aberrations, Elder Gods and other alien concepts. The Far Realm is much older - and seems to be slowly collapsing.

Finally, there are pocket dimensions that connect to the Astral Sea. These may be as small as a box or seemingly infinitely large, but most of them are empty - until someone fills them. Their physics are not always like that of the PMP...
 
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I use the GW, but it is more of a shell than a wheel that keeps the Far Realm out (except when devils invaded Mechanus, and the modrons blew up part of it, which created Archeron and let a few Far Realmers get in). I also switched Bytopia and Elysium and Carcini and the Grey Wastes, which has to do with metaphysics around mountains and holes in the ground. When someone dies, they go through something like a cheese grater, where the parts of their personality that don't fit their more pure alignment get lopped off and become part of the matter of the plane it best fits (so the nice old grandmother who takes care of everyone in the village and hasn't had a cross word to say to anyone in decades would lose the "stain" of when she was a teenager and ran off to the big city where bad companionship got her involved with a gang of hooligans who terrorized a neighborhood until she realized that wasn't how she wanted to live her life would go to one of the good realms, but the stain would become a rock in the Abyss, which could eventually be absorbed into a demon on its way to become a worse demon).
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Truth be told, I rarely worry about it. I assume the planes I need for a given campaign are "out there," but I don't tend to concern myself with how they line up with each other, because such distinctions are meaningless where planar travel is concerned.

This covers most of my campaigns as well.

There is an element of "do not specify that which you don't have to" involved here. If the arrangement of the planes is not plot-relevant, don't specify it. THat way if and when it becomes relevant, you can make it what you want or need without contradicting yourself.
 

Not something i normally think about, since it almost never comes up, even in games with planar adventures. Unless the connections are relevant for an adventure, the information needed about the planes is fairly limited (mechanical changes, description, denizens, etc.).

That said, the Great Wheel (which is really a rectangle from 1E) is my default. I like the idea of switching things up for specific campaigns though, as universe building is a hobby of mine. My current idea I've floated around is that there are only three planes of existence: the Heavens (home of the gods, celestials, and redeemed souls), the Mortal Realm (material plane), and the Underworld (basically Hell, but with the Abyss underneath it). Mortals who die go to the underworld to be tortured by devils (under the rule of the god of the underworld) until the god of Justice feels they have suffered enough for their sins and are taken to Heaven. Souls driven insane by the devils are tossed into the Abyss to be torn apart by demons (who are the remnants of the nothing that existed before the All-Father brought the universe into being)
 

jgsugden

Legend
How often have we watched a TV show and noted an inconsistency? "Wait, I thought he was from Chicago, not St Louis?" "Why was he on a date with Stella - he's married to Ellen!" "He struggled to lift the back end of a car off the ground last week, but this week he is lifting and throwing a garbage truck?"

When you don't have specific answers to a question when it arises and wait to establish the answer "As needed", you often end up creating these types of inconsistencies. Further, knowing your world can make it easier to pull the PCs deeper into the story. You can spin more complex tales together when you're not making up everything as you go along.
 

cbwjm

Legend
Normally I would use the great wheel. When our campaign was moving briefly I to the elemental planes I decided that it was a mix of the 4e elemental chaos I the centre where all elemental planes mixed and the elemental borders formed para elemental planes (I think this might actually be the 5e version)

Recently, I've been playing around with having the actual cleric domains the greater planes of by the universe. Where these planes intersect, other lesser planes are formed. The material plane is formed from the intersection of all of the greater planes.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
How often have we watched a TV show and noted an inconsistency? "Wait, I thought he was from Chicago, not St Louis?" "Why was he on a date with Stella - he's married to Ellen!" "He struggled to lift the back end of a car off the ground last week, but this week he is lifting and throwing a garbage truck?"

When you don't have specific answers to a question when it arises and wait to establish the answer "As needed", you often end up creating these types of inconsistencies. Further, knowing your world can make it easier to pull the PCs deeper into the story. You can spin more complex tales together when you're not making up everything as you go along.
The worldbuilding threads are in the other subforum. :)
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
I use a modified Great Wheel arrangement (found here), with the following changes:

1) Limbo IS the Elemental Chaos; the 4 elemental planes are stable large pockets within Limbo.
2) Limbo is the birthplace of material reality. The chaotic planes in general are home to faeries, demons, and other primordial monsters.
3) Arborea and the Gray Waste are close to the Material Plane; functionally, they are the Feywild and the Shadowfell.
4) Mechanus is replaced by Nirvana, which is an endless ocean that dissolves into stars. It's functionally the Astral Sea, and the home of all platonic concepts. (Limbo is the birthplace of physical reality, Nirvana is the place where conceptual reality is held before slowly being recycled back into Limbo.)
 

Hussar

Legend
How often have we watched a TV show and noted an inconsistency? "Wait, I thought he was from Chicago, not St Louis?" "Why was he on a date with Stella - he's married to Ellen!" "He struggled to lift the back end of a car off the ground last week, but this week he is lifting and throwing a garbage truck?"

When you don't have specific answers to a question when it arises and wait to establish the answer "As needed", you often end up creating these types of inconsistencies. Further, knowing your world can make it easier to pull the PCs deeper into the story. You can spin more complex tales together when you're not making up everything as you go along.

And yet, and yet, despite these inconsistencies, those TV shows remain incredibly popular and people keep watching them. IOW, other than a small handful of folks, no one actually cares. It's inconsistent? So what? Most folks couldn't give a rat's petoot.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
The problem is, the 5e Players Handbook fails to support DM world-building. If the official rules-as-written support DM world-building, then it will happen. If the official rules-as-written fail to support the DM, then creative worldbuilding will diminish and go extinct.
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
The elemental and energy planes are the material plane as seen through a prism.

The Plane of Fire is the material but the mountains are constantly erupting volcanoes, rivers of lava, etc..
The Plane of Earth is like that scene of the earth changing from Fantasia on a constant basis. Less volcanoes and more earthquakes.
The Plane of Water is like a Waterworld version of the world.
The Plane of Air is constantly storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, duststorms, etc...
The Celestial Plane is everything in its most pure and ideal form.
The Plane of Shadow/Abyss/Shadowfel is everything in its most corrupt and debased form.
The Ethereal Plane is a ghostly version of the material plane. Sort of like a planar limbo.
----
And I add two more planes:
The Plane of Energy (arcane energy as opposed to positive and negative energy). It's like a magical fairy version of the world.
The Plane of Life, which is a savage version of the world, with life taken to the extreme, everything bigger, faster, meaner and hungrier.

I use a more standard IRL cosmos though, there are other planets out there, other stars, and planes are not "infinite borderless expanses". So you can both travel to other worlds, and to other planes of other worlds. As long as the world exists in the material plane, it exists in the energy planes. The planar version of the world can be destroyed (or altered) which will then have mirrored consequences for the material plane. Total destruction of a planar counterpart would mean that element is effectively stripped from the Material version of the world.
 

The problem is, the 5e Players Handbook fails to support DM world-building. If the official rules-as-written support DM world-building, then it will happen. If the official rules-as-written fail to support the DM, then creative worldbuilding will diminish and go extinct.

Why on Earth would world-building be in the PHB? It's in the DMG, where it belongs, and they devote quite a bit of space to world-building, plane-building/planar configuration, etc.
 

Oofta

Legend
My world is based on norse mythology, the great tree Yggdrasil. The 9 worlds of that mythology have been tweaked a little bit so the prime material plan is Midgard, the ShadowFell is Nifleheim and so on.

So the planes exist, but they don't exactly map to the traditional D&D planes. It's also a little more difficult to get between the planes than a simple plane-shift spell. The spell opens a door, you still have to travel the "tree" of existence and there may be guardians along the way. Heimdal guards the Bifrost bridge as an example.

Of course you could also view the tree merely as a representation of the planes that mortal minds can comprehend.
 

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