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5E Reconciling the different Magic the Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons Cosmologies

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
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Hi everyone! So with the recent announcement that Magic the Gathering will be releasing a Forgotten Realms themed set of cards in 2021, it looks like the integration of the different worlds of Magic the Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons continues.

Note: Yes this thread is technically about what the "canon" cosmology is, but D&D canon is just the default assumption of people's games. The DMG makes it clear you can throw that assumption away in your own game. That means any debate about people using the "wrong" cosmology is silly, as there is no wrong way to play D&D. But this thread is about that default assumption of cosmology now that MtG and D&D are more closely connected.

Now, there is actually very little content that mentions the connection between MTG and D&D. Both the setting books for Ravnica and Theros don't mention the cosmology beyond that affecting their own planes, and no other D&D book mentions the planes of MTG except for Acquisitions Inc, which just confirms travel between the worlds of D&D and MTG is possible (but does not explain how). The best explanation of cosmology for 5E is from this Crawford interview;


Now the focus here is largely on Eberron on actually doesn't address many of the unique cosmological elements behind MTG worlds, but there are some important takeaways here.

1. The Material Plane contains a multitude, and essentially infinite, number of worlds. Unlike the Outer Planes which have certain rules, a world on the Material Plane can be completely different than another (or nearly identical).
2. Smaller cosmologies can fit within the Material Plane; the example of Eberron is used, with its Orrery cosmology actually still within the Material Plane.
3. Although the Great Wheel cosmology applies to all worlds within the Material Plane, a world within the Material Plane can be cut off from the Great Wheel, making travel to and from specific worlds extremely difficult. Again Eberron is used as an example here; traveling to and from Eberron is extremely difficult, and explains why nearly all Eberron residents are unaware of worlds beyond their own.

There! So those are actually some pretty big rules, and on their own explain most of how Ravnica and Theros work within D&D. Theros specifically has its own unique cosmology, but it stands to reason that the gods of Theros purposefully cut off their world to avoid the gods of the Outer Planes interfering in their affairs. Why Ravnica would be cutoff is less clear, though there are extremely powerful individuals like demons, sphinxes and dragons that could be responsible.

The last piece of note is the two primary means of planar travel; the planeshift spell in the case of D&D, and planeswalking in the case of MTG. For the former, I would argue that the planeshift spell would technically work for worlds cut off from the Great Wheel, but that due to them being cut off, the material needed to actually plansehift to another plane of existence would be extremely rare, and therefore extremely expensive. In the case of Planeswalking, this form of travel is able to bypass any barriers set up between worlds, but of course the limiter here is that only one in a million people have a planeswalking spark (and even fewer ever have it ignite).

So let's now establish for example, how a world like Theros works in practice, within D&D cosmology. The world begins to form its gods (Theros gods are largely created by the belief of mortals). These gods do some sort of spell or ritual to cut off Theros from the Great Wheel, to remove the competition of external forces like those of the Abyss of Mt Celestia. Once this barrier is set up, there is only one way in and out of Theros, Planeswalkers. Now, a Planeswalker could technically travel with a rod of metal from the Plane of Fire, leaving it behind and allowing a Theros wizard to use the plane shift spell to travel there with the material component. But this situation is highly unlikely; the wizard would have had to invent the plane shift spell, or been taught it from said Planeswalker. A similar network of communication and trade would need to be set up for teleportation circles and Sigil sequences to other worlds. Both a technically possible, but rely on a willing Planeswalker to set up the connection. Add that the gods of Theros are likely to act against any such connection being set up, and you have your reasoning for why planar travel to and from Theros is nearly impossible for non-Planeswalkers.

The reasoning for Theros is pretty clear; for other MTG worlds, it is less so. But here are some "rules" that every MTG world likely has, making the lack of connection to the Great Wheel more obvious;

1. Some force, either an individual, a group, or even something incidental or of the natural order, has cutoff this world from the Great Wheel (likely a barrier, much like Eberron).
2. The barrier is able to block almost all travel to and from the world, like Spelljammers, but Planeswalkers are able to bypass this block easily.
3. There are forces within the world who want to maintain the barrier, or keep connections to other worlds at a minimum. They work to thwart any attempts at material components from other worlds being traded, or the building of teleportation circles.

In my opinion, I think it is more fun to imagine each MTG world having its own unique circumstances for the above three points. However, if you need consistency, perhaps it is the same group enforcing these for some reason of your own; perhaps it is the gods of the Outer Planes themselves who purposefully cut of the worlds of MTG!

Anyway, discuss below, and please throw the criticism at me of points I probably missed. I could have gone into more details (like, can someone born in Eberron become a Planeswalker) but didn't want the first post to become too long.
 

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Hexmage-EN

Adventurer
I personally greatly dislike 5E's default position that the Great Wheel is the one true cosmology and its gods the true gods, reducing all other gods and cosmologies into being veils that hide the truth of the Great Wheel from ignorant mortals. Even 4E didn't force all the campaign settings into the same cosmology with the same gods.

I'm not a big fan of the Forgotten Realms, but from what I understand Ao is the Overgod of that setting, right? The one who once forced the other gods recognized in the Forgotten Realms out of their home planes to walk Toril? Is he also the Overgod of the D&D Multiverse, or is his authority limited to only the Material Plane of the Forgotten Realms? What of the gods like Lolth who were forced to manifest on Toril during the Time of Troubles? Was she trapped on Toril and unable to affect any other world for a time? If Ao is only all powerful in the Material Plane of the Realms why do the gods bother with a single world dominated by someone who outclasses them when they could go elsewhere?

For a more recent example, if all Material Planes share the same Feywild and Shadowfell why does the Raven Queen of Exandria not resemble the Raven Queen described in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes in the slightest? Does accessing the Shadowfell from Exandria alter how people perceive the Raven Queen and her realm, or what?

I don't see the value in insisting that there's one true cosmology and set of beings in the planes in a game where a given DM's campaign could end with Tiamat or Demogorgon destroyed or some other major shake-up that would affect the entire multiverse.
 
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Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
I'm not a big fan of the Forgotten Realms, but from what I understand Ao is the Overgod of that setting, right? The one who once forced the other gods recognized in the Forgotten Realms out of their home planes to walk Toril? Is he also the Overgod of the D&D Multiverse, or is his authority limited to only the Material Plane of the Forgotten Realms? What of the gods like Lolth who were forced to manifest on Toril during the Time of Troubles? Was she trapped on Toril and unable to affect any other world for a time? If Ao is only all powerful in the Material Plane of the Realms why do the gods bother with a single world dominated by someone who outclasses them when they could go elsewhere?

For a more recent example, if all Material Planes share the same Feywild and Shadowfell why does the Raven Queen of Exandria not resemble the Raven Queen described in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes in the slightest? Does accessing the Shadowfell from Exandria alter how people perceive the Raven Queen and her realm, or what?
Good questions! They don't all have clear answers, but I'll do my best.

Ao is indeed the Overgod of Forgotten Realms, but he is only the overgod of FR, nowhere else in the Material Plane. He has no influence in Greyhawk, Eberron, or any other world on the Material Plane.

In the case of Lolth, it looks like during the Time of Troubles she did manifest on Toril... it is unclear if she was truly trapped there. I would say no, but that Lolth was unable to influence Toril specifically anymore than her mortal manifestation there. I think she probably maintained he true form back in the Abyss concurrently.
I hesitate to comment too much on the cosmology on any time period based before 5E, as how the cosmology works then would be different to the new assumption.

As to why a god like Bane would bother with Toril when they are outclassed, I would say the biggest explanation is that it is hard to start a new church, from scratch, on another world. Gods need followers, and moving from one to another can be difficult. Some gods manage it, like Tiamat and Bahamut, others can't.

And yes, I do believe that based on what world you live on impacts how you perceive gods that appear on multiple worlds. So your Raven Queen example applies, but so does that of Tiamat who is also Takhisis in Dragonlance, and was even killed there. Despite literally losing her life on Dragonlance she continues to be worshiped on Toril and Exandria, and maintains her form on Avernus.
 

Mirtek

Adventurer
During 2e the official explanation of the time of troubles was that the multispheric deities were safe and sound in their respective realms. If they wanted to continue to maintain a divine link to Toril however, they had to send in a special avatar on the level of the mortal selfs the single spheric deities of Toril found themselves confined to. This avatar had to weather the ToT without anymore outside help from it's true essence back on the planes, just like the single spheric deities.

If such an avatar was slain, the respective deity lost her divine link to Toril, but was otherwise still alive. Unlike single spheric deities, who were as dead as a deity can be upon losing their avatars
 

dave2008

Legend
I apologize that I haven't read your post yet, but I discussed my own ideas back in March here: The Cosmology of the Wheel and the Aether

EDIT: After reading the OP, I think the biggest issue that should be addressed is the difference in planeswalking and typical D&D magic. Planeswalkers travel through the Blind Eternities (or Aether) were horrible monsters reside (eldrazi). The process can drive you mad even (IIRC). So to me, that sounds most like the Far Realm. So I think planeswalking uses the Far Realm to bypass space time. However, this is very dangerous and only those with sparks, natives of the Far Realm or possibly gods can do it. However, the further you have to "travel" in the Far Realm to get to another world / plane the more dangerous it is or possible impossible.
 
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Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
I apologize that I haven't read your post yet, but I discussed my own ideas back in March here: The Cosmology of the Wheel and the Aether
I remember liking your post, but also just wanted to nail down an idea for a unified cosmology that made the fewest assumptions for how to meld the two. Meaning, I didn't want to make MTG worlds all clustered together in their own pocket. I don't feel like that's necessary to make it work, plus I know the MTG multiverse is described as "nearly infinite" and I didn't love the idea of clustering something nearly infinite together as separate as the remainder of the Material Plane which is also nearly infinite.

So this idea of mine just collects what has been said and tried to make an idea for how to make it work while changing very few assumptions.
 

Bitbrain

Black Lives Matter
I say let each setting have its own cosmology structure.

Let Forgotten Realms use the Great Wheel, Eberron the Orrery of the Planes (or whatever it’s called), and Dark Sun a version of the World Axis. Theros already has Nyx and the Underworld, I believe.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
I say let each setting have its own cosmology structure.

Let Forgotten Realms use the Great Wheel, Eberron the Orrery of the Planes, and Dark Sun a version of the World Axis. Theros already has Nyx and the Underworld, I believe.
This is in practice how it already works, just that the Great Wheel enters the picture when someone from Toril tries to travel to Theros, or vice-versa. The Great Wheel is just a method for binding the settings under one umbrella if a party ever feels the urge for cross-setting planar travel. If they don't, then it is entirely unnecessary.
 

dave2008

Legend
I remember liking your post, but also just wanted to nail down an idea for a unified cosmology that made the fewest assumptions for how to meld the two. Meaning, I didn't want to make MTG worlds all clustered together in their own pocket. I don't feel like that's necessary to make it work, plus I know the MTG multiverse is described as "nearly infinite" and I didn't love the idea of clustering something nearly infinite together as separate as the remainder of the Material Plane which is also nearly infinite.

So this idea of mine just collects what has been said and tried to make an idea for how to make it work while changing very few assumptions.
The distance and clustering is just a graphic to understand the concept. The connective tissue (Far Realm, Blind Eternities, Aether) does behave like our space/time. Theros and Ravnica could be infinitely war apart, but closely connected by the Aether. Likewise, Theros could be adjacent to Toril, yet nearly impossible to get there through the Aether. Think of the graphic as explainig relative density of the Aether. The less dense, the greater connection, The greater the density the less connection. The graphic is representing density by distance, when really that is not the case.

PS Not sure if you caught my edit, see below. But I think, while elegant in its simplicity, your model fails to account for the difference in lore.

"EDIT: After reading the OP, I think the biggest issue that should be addressed is the difference in planeswalking and typical D&D magic. Planeswalkers travel through the Blind Eternities (or Aether) were horrible monsters reside (eldrazi). The process can drive you mad even (IIRC). So to me, that sounds most like the Far Realm. So I think planeswalking uses the Far Realm to bypass space time. However, this is very dangerous and only those with sparks, natives of the Far Realm or possibly gods can do it. However, the further you have to "travel" in the Far Realm to get to another world / plane the more dangerous it is or possible impossible."
 

Bitbrain

Black Lives Matter
This is in practice how it already works, just that the Great Wheel enters the picture when someone from Toril tries to travel to Theros, or vice-versa. The Great Wheel is just a method for binding the settings under one umbrella if a party ever feels the urge for cross-setting planar travel. If they don't, then it is entirely unnecessary.
My campaigns have featured cross planar travel from day 1.

When an NPC from the Forgotten Realms in my game traveled to Eberron, he exited the Great Wheel cosmology and entered the Orrery. If he had been from Ravnica, he would have exited the Blind Eternities (or whatever its name is).
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
EDIT: After reading the OP, I think the biggest issue that should be addressed is the difference in planeswalking and typical D&D magic. Planeswalkers travel through the Blind Eternities (or Aether) were horrible monsters reside (eldrazi). The process can drive you mad even (IIRC). So to me, that sounds most like the Far Realm. So I think planeswalking uses the Far Realm to bypass space time. However, this is very dangerous and only those with sparks, natives of the Far Realm or possibly gods can do it. However, the further you have to "travel" in the Far Realm to get to another world / plane the more dangerous it is or possible impossible.
It's a good point. I'd argue that many D&D worlds, like Greyhawk and Toril, have safe routes through the Phlogiston that make planar travel far easier, through safe routes like Spelljammer. But a world like Theros or Ravnica does not. The Phlogiston is a treacherous place to travel without the safe routes, and contains Dark Regions that no one returns from. So my explanation largely assumes that if you aren't Planeswalking, traveling through the Phlogiston will kill you or drive you insane.

So in this view, the Phlogiston = Blind Eternities. I especially like this, as the Blind Eternities is described as being filled with mana and Aether, which could be various forms of the highly flammable energy the Phlogiston is filled with.

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Note, I'm not actually debating you in a "I'm right your wrong!" way, I'm just trying to justify my alternative idea. There really is no official justification for how these connect.
 

Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
For me the easy method is that the Great Wheel is a cosmology determined by "greybeards" or scholars from various planar hubs like Sigil and other places. It's the best system that they agreed on to fit together their disparate findings when trying to "map" the planes.

Like a scientific journal, there's a bunch of publications that establish the structure of the planes. Many are always proposing additions and modifications to the structure of the planes, leading to things occasionally getting reclassified like the Shadow Plane/Shadowfell becoming a full-fledged plane when previously it was listed as a demiplane (1e and 2e). The structure of the planes gets peer-reviewed often, with researchers/adventurers been sent out to confirm these theories on how the planes are structured.
 

dave2008

Legend
So this idea of mine just collects what has been said and tried to make an idea for how to make it work while changing very few assumptions.
It changes the assumption of how planeswalking works and doesn't e
It's a good point. I'd argue that many D&D worlds, like Greyhawk and Toril, have safe routes through the Phlogiston that make planar travel far easier, through safe routes like Spelljammer. But a world like Theros or Ravnica does not. The Phlogiston is a treacherous place to travel without the safe routes, and contains Dark Regions that no one returns from. So my explanation largely assumes that if you aren't Planeswalking, traveling through the Phlogiston will kill you or drive you insane.

So in this view, the Phlogiston = Blind Eternities. I especially like this, as the Blind Eternities is described as being filled with mana and Aether, which could be various forms of the highly flammable energy the Phlogiston is filled with.

View attachment 125886

Note, I'm not actually debating you in a "I'm right your wrong!" way, I'm just trying to justify my alternative idea. There really is no official justification for how these connect.
Ii admit the Phlogiston = Blind Eternities makes a lot of since. I personally rejected it for 2 reasosns:
  1. We don't know if Phlogiston is a thing in 5e. As far as I know, there as been no mention of it yet.
  2. I despise Phlogiston. My biggest gripe with Spelljamer is Phlogiston, but I will not get into that here. So if it is a "thing" in 5e, I will have to excise it and come up with a different explanation anyway.
Fundamentally there is little difference between: Far Realm = Blind Eternities & Phlogiston = Blind Eternities as conduits to travel to different worlds.

PS Neither am I trying to suggest their is a "right way." Even if there becomes and "official" way, that doesn't make it the right way for me and my group. Just a discussion of ideas. Thanks for sharing!
 

Hexmage-EN

Adventurer
I've only been into D&D since 3.5 and am not that knowledgeable about how things worked before. Maybe if I'd entered the hobby in the 90's when both Planescape and Spelljammer were connecting all the campaign settings I'd be more of a fan of the default 5E "the Great Wheel is the true cosmology" stance. Instead I started in a time period where Greyhawk was in the Great Wheel, the Forgotten Realms was in the World Tree, Eberron was in the Orrery, and Ghostwalk was in whatever its cosmology was called.

4E came along and put both the Points of Light setting and the Forgotten Realms in two different World Axis cosmologies. Apparently the World Axis cosmology was first created for the Forgotten Realms but became the cosmology for the Points of Light setting. Eberron kept the Orrery save for the addition of Baator. Dark Sun had very little info regarding its cosmology save for the Feywild, which was damaged due to the condition of Athas and had only small pockets of it left (Heroes of the Feywild would later contradict this by saying all worlds share the same Feywild, possibly an early example of how cosmology would work in 5E). The gods of each setting were said to be unique to that setting. The Bames of the Forgotten Realms and the World Axis were explicitly different, and I doubt the Asmodeus of the Forgotten Realms who killed Azuth, banished the Abyss to the Elemental Planes and inadvertently created the Elemental Chaos is the same being as the Asmodeus lived in a multiverse where the Elemental Chaos always existed and took a piece of the Heart of the Abyss to become both a god and the first devil by killing He Who Was.

Now in 5E the Great Wheel is the one true cosmology and its gods the true gods. The Orrery of Eberron is a mere pseudo-cosmology believed in by the ignorant, Ao is the Overgod of a single Material Plane (seriously, why don't the gods unionize and threaten to all leave Toril unless Ao gives into their demands?), and all the planes of Magic: The Gathering are part of a more elaborate pseudo-cosmology that is also truly just a small part of the Great Wheel cosmology that surrounds it (would M:tG fans coming into D&D really appreciate that Magic's planes are of inferior status to those of the Great Wheel?).
 
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dave2008

Legend
Now in 5E the Great Wheel is the one true cosmology and its gods the true gods. The Orrery of Eberron is a mere pseudo-cosmology believed in by the ignorant, Ao is the Overgod of a single Material Plane (seriously, why don't the gods unionize and threaten to all leave Toril unless Ao gives into their demands?), and all the planes of Magic: The Gathering are part of a more elaborate pseudo-cosmology that is also truly just a small part of the Great Wheel cosmology that surrounds it (would M:tG fans coming into D&D really appreciate that Magic's planes are of inferior status to those of the Great Wheel?).
Actually, I don't think that is true. I believe they have been vague enough to allow multiple interpretations of "official" cosmology. Of course that matters about 0 for anyone at their gaming table (unless they want it too).
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Actually, I don't think that is true. I believe they have been vague enough to allow multiple interpretations of "official" cosmology. Of course that matters about 0 for anyone at their gaming table (unless they want it too).
Absolutely, there are at least two versions of the Realms Cosmology. The great wheel has been folded in as part of the Forgotten Realms default schtick but there DMG acknowledges alternatives.

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I think people forget that the great wheel is theoretical. Each plane is infinite and linked in an endless number of ways. Yggdrasil and The River Styx being the most famous. These are just the ways mortals and the gods of mortals have made sense of the infinite and incomprehensible forces of the multiverse.

Its perfectly reasonable for things to not make sense.
 

cbwjm

Hero
There have been quite a few different cosmologies, Forgotten realms used the infinite staircase, the norse uses the great tree, greeks have their own cosmology. The dawn war seemed to touch everything in 4e, Athas being a world for which the gods lost the battle. I like keeping everything a little bit indistinct, even the greatest sages in Sigil don't know what's going on and none of the gods, the only ones who might have a clue about the planes, aren't telling any one what's what.

Ao is the Overgod of a single Material Plane (seriously, why don't the gods unionize and threaten to all leave Toril unless Ao gives into their demands?)
Where would they go and why would they think that threatening to leave would be an issue for Ao? He already cast them down once and from that, new gods arose to replace some of the old. I'm pretty sure he could find plenty of mortals who would be willing to take the place of the old gods.
 

Hexmage-EN

Adventurer
Where would they go and why would they think that threatening to leave would be an issue for Ao? He already cast them down once and from that, new gods arose to replace some of the old. I'm pretty sure he could find plenty of mortals who would be willing to take the place of the old gods.
I'd just think that the gods of the Outer Planes (the evil ones in particular) who have presences in several Material Planes would be angry about being bossed around by someone who only has power in one Material Plane and be trying to find some way to undermine him.

Another thing: the Wall of the Faithless is a thing that explicitly affects only the dead of Toril. I understand the Wall is a very controversial subject, too. When the Realms had its own unique cosmology it was located in the Fugue Plane, but apparently now it's in Hades in the Great Wheel cosmology, so what's stopping a deity or deities who don't associate with the Realms and oppose the idea of the Wall from destroying the Wall of the Faithless? I'd assume in editions where the Realms had its own unique cosmology Ao was the Overgod in all planes, but if he's relegated to the Material Plane of Toril in 5E there's nothing he can do about what happens in the Outer Planes of the Great Wheel. It'd be better for him in 5E if he'd established a psuedo-cosmology like Eberron's to keep the Wall of the Faithless within his jurisdiction.
 
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cbwjm

Hero
I'd just think that the gods of the Outer Planes (the evil ones in particular) who have presences in several Material Planes would be angry about being bossed around by someone who only has power in one Material Plane and be trying to find some way to undermine him.

Another thing: the Wall of the Faithless is a thing that explicitly affects only the dead of Toril. I understand the Wall is a very controversial subject, too. When the Realms had its own unique cosmology it was located in the Fugue Plane, but apparently now it's in Hades in the Great Wheel cosmology, so what's stopping a deity or deities who don't associate with the Realms and oppose the idea of the Wall from destroying the Wall of the Faithless? I'd assume in editions where the Realms had its own unique cosmology Ao was the Overgod in all planes, but if he's relegated to the Material Plane of Toril in 5E there's nothing he can do about what happens in the Outer Planes of the Great Wheel. It'd be better for him in 5E if he'd established a psuedo-cosmology like Eberron's to keep the Wall of the Faithless within his jurisdiction.
Honestly, I don't think Ao would even oppose the walls destruction in much the same way he didnt oppose its creation (though part of this may have been that Ao didn't exist at the time of writing the wall). Also, we don't really know the extent of hos power. For all we know, the realms of the gods on the outer planes are also within his purview.
 

glass

(he, him)
I am not an expert on the planes of Magic, but my understanding is that individual M:tG worlds can have their own local cosmologies with subplanes (Theros being an example I think). Assuming that I have not go the WEOTS, it makes more sense to me that the the Great Wheel be another such local cosmology within the greater whole rather than the other way around. With TGW being a plane in the Magic sense, and its various components the subplanes.

Also, if there anyone is interested in the Wall of the Faithless, there is a lively debate going on about it on RPGnet right now....

_
glass.
 

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