Sage Advice: Plane and world hopping (includes how Eberron and Ravnica fit in D&D cosmology)

I think you may have misinterpretted what I was getting at, maybe if I break some of my thoughts down further it will help.

In response to your thoughts on my campaign world, you are correct, I don't care if the worlds are connected. One way or the other, does not matter to my games. I've already got seven or more planes of existence to juggle, doubling or tripling them by connecting whole other worlds does not appeal to me.


However, I think a larger part of the discussion and my personal thoughts goes to the second point. I don't care how they are connected. And that is the entire premise of settings like Planescape and Spelljammer. They seek to explain exactly how (From your list of examples) Murlynd visited Earth. They give reliable ways for any person who has the knowledge to go from Plane of Existence A to Plane of Existence B. And that's great if that is what you are into, but I find it completely unnecessary. If I wanted throw Superman, Legacy (Paulina Parsons), and Atlas into Waterdeep to fight The Cult of the Dragon... I'd just do it. I don't need to explain how those points all intersect. And it creates a series of problems when you try and spell it out.

Take Star Trek as an example, the people on a given planet may have a certain perception of reality, such as space is full of ghosts and the stars are the gods who watch over them. However, they are fundamentally wrong about that reality, and the reasons the crew of the Enterprise doesn't come down and correct them is because doing so violates the right of those civilizations to learn about the truth for themselves. However, it breeds a sense of superiority doesn't it? Anyone visiting that planet from space knows that these people have no idea what is actually going on, and therefore they are somewhat lessened in comparison.

We have that already. We have the idea that planescape scholars scoff at people stuck in one plane, because they don't know the "real story". And we can scoff at them, because the planescape people don't realize they are all characters in our made up stories to entertain ourselves (multiverse theories being what they are, all multiverses are connected with all other multiverses, and an infinite array of potential truths).



But we don't need any of it. We don't need to explain how it is all connected and what is all looks like when you zoom all the way out. We can just as easily (as @ccs points out) just use the planeshift spell, or a macguffin, and get the result of going from point A to point B.


That's the bigger thing for me personally, these settings answer questions I don't need answers to. Other people want them and other people find the neccessary to their enjoyment of the game. Great, go nuts, but I don't need flying ships through explosive magic stuff between galaxy sized crystals that are grains of sand to explain how some guy one time went from Oerth to Earth and shook hands with Stan Lee. The characters aren't going to meet Stan Lee in my game, because it would detract from the story I am telling at the time. And someone telling me that despite my dislike they are already connected anyways.... doesn't matter. I don't care how long they've been connected, how many times they've been connected, or how important it is they are connected. It is never going to come up, my players aren't interested.
Well, I see your perspective. I too feel some dissonance about focussing on snarky "gray" Sigil as *the* center and epitome of the D&D Multiverse. Since all Outer Planes, including Sigil and the Outlands, are conceptual entities, the D&D Multiverse could be presented as "pluri-centric", where any place in the Multiverse could be viewed to be the legitimate center. Granted, the Concordant Opposition/Outlands/Sigil-centered model was the default cosmology in 1E (Great Rectangle) and 2E (Great Wheel). Crawford explicitly denigrates (or at least pulls back from) the 3E pluri-centric model. Yes, it too annoys me when the Sigil scholars are presented as the only ones "in the know" and that the other worlds (such as the people of Krynn) are bumpkins. Such a presentation actually conflicts with the assertion that the Outer Planes are conceptually fluid. And also conflicts with the several alternate cosmologies offered in the 3E era (such as in the 3E MotP), which are also "official" depictions of the D&D Multiverse. If I were in charge of D&D's development, even while firming up the interconnectedness of the D&D Multiverse, I'd make sure that the "pluri-centric" visions of the multiverse--the Great Tree of Forgotten Realms), the Five Spheres of Mystara, the Orrery of Eberron, and so forth--were fully addressed by 5E cosmology.

And I likewise feel some dissonance about how other D&D concepts of outer space seem to be fully discarded in 5E, as they were in 2E - in favor of the Crystal Sphere space cosmology. In 1E, each world had it's own *universe"! Each world - Toril, Krynn, and Oerth - was an entire distinct Alternate Prime Material Plane, with its own galaxy and universe, which could not be reached via space travel, no matter how far you flew - because they existed in alternate material planes. And in BECMI D&D, outer space had galaxies, not crystal spheres - there is even a Star Trek-tech sci fi culture which rules much of the galaxy - the Galactic Federation. And yet another outer space cosmology was offered when the Immortal Set was totally revised and replaced by the Wrath of the Immortals boxed set. And what about 4E's (Nerath's) outer space cosmology where "outer space" was the Astral Sea, which could be reached via astral skiffs?

Is Crawford just shoehorning this all into a 2E cosmology? I'm all for firming up the interconnectedness, and for acknowledging and building upon the dozens of Spelljammer products. But the various other official D&D conceptions of outer space also need to be acknowledged and retconned into the 5E cosmology.

I'd do something bold like this: make the Phlogiston a "parallel plane" (similar to the Feywild or Shadowfell) that can only be reached via particular kind of magic (spelljammer magic). When on a spelljammer ship, you've shifted into a quasi-material state, and you experience the world differently.

Or you can travel in the astral plane (the Astral Sea) in an astral skiff or astral spell.

Or...you can travel using fully material means, such as a rocket engine or airship (using non-spelljammer magic). In which case, when you pass beyond the edge of the solar system ("crystal sphere"), you're in "real-world"-style outer space.

And the "crystal sphere" is experienced differently depending on what kind of vessel you're approaching it. When in the Spelljammer plane, the sphere appears as described in the Spelljammer books - a big hard shell where the stars are merely radiant dots and such. When in the astral plane, the crystal sphere is experienced differently. When in fully material mode, no Crystal Sphere at all is seen or experienced - just the cold black borderless edge of the solar system.

Outside of the solar systems: when you're in the Spelljammer plane, you enter a shared cosmos where the D&D worlds can be reached as described in Spelljammer. When you're in a material ship (rocketship, airship), you'll never find the other D&D worlds, because they actually exist in Alternate Prime Material planes.

When travelling materially, you just keep travelling along in a material universe which is not shared by any other main D&D worlds, as was implied in the 1e MotP. Each has their own entire universe with a very distinct cosmology. For example, in the Krynn Universe, the stars really are shaped like that in the sky (they're not just glowing dots on the wall of the crystal sphere). And they really did disappear. However, when shifted into the "Spelljammer Plane" in Krynn, the events were perceived as described by Spelljammer.

As for BECMI - officially the BECMI Multiverse exists in an entirely different Reality than other editions. This "Reality" concept could also be used to explain the difference between 5E Multiverse and other editions.

https://sites.google.com/site/dndphilmont/d-d-realities
https://sites.google.com/site/dndphilmont/realities-and-worlds-chart
 
Last edited:

Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
I'm quite into the concepts of the Great Wheel being as I'm very much into Planescape and it's many shades of grey, but if there's one thing about 2e's cosmology I didn't like was the Phlogistan and the physical crystal spheres in Spelljammer. I don't like the idea that there's a super flammable fluid between solar systems, even if I'm sort of OK with the gravity operating focused on a plane (the mathematical kind) aligned with the centre mass of an object exerting 1G and being strong enough to hold a pocket of air.

The 3e article on Spelljammer did sort of handwave the gravity and air thing away as being the effect of using a spelljamming helm, but it was restricted to a single solar system.
 

Chaosmancer

Villager
‘crystal spheres’ = gravitational orbits

Aristoleles along with other Hellenists observed how the planets seemed to orbit around the sky. He explained that they were fixed to ‘crystal spheres’ that rotated. The notion of the sphere shape derives from highest celestial sphere of stars − the starry globe similar to our ‘celestial sphere’ star map that we use today.

The sphere came to be characterized as ‘crystal’ only in the sense that whatever it was was transparent and symmetric. However, Aristoteles described it as being made out of ‘ether’, a defacto heavenly element that is unlike the four elements of matter, namely earth, water, air, and fire.

During the Medieval Period, the scholar Rambam described this fifth element ‘ether’ as being ‘force’. This force is completely invisible and insubstantial yet in someways like fire but in other ways like water. (Kinda reminds me of our modern descriptions of ‘particle-wave’ and ‘gravity waves’.) He characterized the shape of the planetary motion as a ‘cycle’ rather than a sphere. He characterizes Aristoteles as actually describing ‘cycles of force’ − what we would call gravitational orbits.

Regarding the four elements, earth, water, air, and fire. Rambam described them as states of matter, rather than elements − in other words, solid, liquid, gas, and arguably plasma − as he associates fire with lightning and the sun which are both plasma to various degrees.

So during the 1100s, for Rambam, the five ‘elements’ are: solid, liquid, gas, plasma, plus gravity.



For D&D purposes ...

• ‘crystal spheres’ are gravitational forces that cause solar and lunar systems to cycle round
• gravity = force = ether
• ethereal plane is made out of force (!)

Phlogiston is ether − is gravity − the gravitational forces that can still be slightly detected even in remotest empty space. This ‘phlogistonic’ gravity holds solar systems and galaxies together. The difference between ‘phlogiston’ and ‘crystal sphere’ is the difference between ‘gravity’ and ‘orbit’.

Understanding ‘crystal spheres’ as a metaphor for gravitational orbits, clarifies the relationship between official D&D worlds as literally being space travel from the planet of Forgotten Realms to the planet of Eberron to the planet of Ravnica. Importantly, these planets are in different solar systems. So they are quite remote − practicably requiring faster-than-light travel, wormholes, or ... teleportation.

The material plane is empty space with all the matter within it. This matter moves around according physical forces, lives, and consciousnesses.

To sail thru space, the spelljammer ship can be explained as the ship magically bringing a bubble of breathable air and a gravity spell along with it.

I notice, the Hellenists such as Aristoteles were doing real science. And the careful assessment of his findings by Rambam and other later scholars remains true even today.


I just have to wonder. Was the point of this post solely to try and explain why they chose the terms they did for fantasy space travel? Because otherwise I'm confused why we care about how Aristotle was wrong about the universe.
 
Yaarel makes two good points:

1) Reminder that Jeff Grubb's crystal sphere's concept is taken from medieval Neo-Platonic cosmology.
2) That the crystal spheres could be (re)conceived as non-material - ethereal entities. Instead of just hard shells with glowing dots on them.
 

Chaosmancer

Villager
Yaarel makes two good points:

1) Reminder that Jeff Grubb's crystal sphere's concept is taken from medieval Neo-Platonic cosmology.
2) That the crystal spheres could be (re)conceived as non-material - ethereal entities. Instead of just hard shells with glowing dots on them.
Is it too offensive to just say "So?"

I don't see how any of that matters whatsoever. Are people supposed to like the idea more just because it matches an old model of how the universe might have worked? None of that makes the setting more interesting, unless you are already someone who knows about this medieval Neo-Platonic cosmology and thought to yourself "I wonder what it would be like to fight dragons in that sort of setting"
 
Is it too offensive to just say "So?"
Yeah, it is rude and dismissive. It is possible to simply not respond to posts which one is not interested in.

I'm genuinely interested in what Yaarel brought up. Aristotle and the Platonists were perceiving an aspect of reality. It's simplistic to just say: "Aristotle was wrong." There is a real-world branch of science - Anthroposophic / Goethean Science - which integrates the Neo-Platonic cosmology with modern material science. For example, the Crystal Sphere is the human experiential component of the Cosmic Microwave Background.

I don't see how any of that matters whatsoever. Are people supposed to like the idea more just because it matches an old model of how the universe might have worked?
Also, the crystal sphere of Laterre - the official D&D "Magical Medieval Earth" - mentioned in the Wrath of the Immortals boxed set, is probably Neo-Platonic as described in Dante.
 

Mouseferatu

Villager
Also, the crystal sphere of Laterre - the official D&D "Magical Medieval Earth" - mentioned in the Wrath of the Immortals boxed set, is probably Neo-Platonic as described in Dante.
Huh. Not being particularly familiar with the "I" part of BECMI, I had no idea there was an official D&D version of "Magic Medieval Earth." Is WotI the only place it's mentioned? What's been said about it?
 

Zardnaar

Hero
The 1st page in the Spelljammer set more or less says this is not space IRL but fantasy space.

Crystal spheres are a thing. I understand if people don;t like it its a bit silly but thats is part of the thing with Spelljammer it is a bit over the top silly even by modern standards let alone 1989. Its kind of what made the setting stand out instead of being Greyhawk in space.

The 1st part of Spelljammer- the introduction to the SJ set.

"Everything you know about space is Wrong"
 
Last edited:
Not only do I not see the need to join everything up, IMO Spelljammer (and probably Planescape too) works better if you treat it as it's own setting, and remove Greyspace, Realmspace, and Krynnspace from it.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
Not only do I not see the need to join everything up, IMO Spelljammer (and probably Planescape too) works better if you treat it as it's own setting, and remove Greyspace, Realmspace, and Krynnspace from it.
Conflating all settings into a single multiverse supersetting necessarily *changes* the settings. The settings have conflicting views about the multiverse, so it is impossible to reconcile and systematize these descriptions without *changing* them to various degrees. Even recontextualizing a description changes the meaning of the description.



With regard to how changing context changes meaning. I find it unappealing to decide that the characters within one setting that has a cool compelling cosmology of the multiverse − are simply stupid ignorant morons who dont yet understand what the truth is. That seems a counterproductive way to make an appealing setting.

For example, one of the design conceits of Eberron is that religions are subjective. If there is an objective religious truth, then the inhabitants of Eberron are simply wrong − and are stupid ignorant morons − then that ruins Eberron for me.

An other player discovering as ‘fact’ a silliness of ultra-literal ‘crystal’ spheres (made out of quartz?), might find that this ‘fact’ ruins the setting for them.

If I design a D&D setting where the ‘elemental plane of water’ is simply the polar ice cap floating on the Arctic Sea, and the ‘elemental plane of fire’ is simply the Sahara Desert − or the sun − this setting that could be interesting would simply be wrong according the rules as written.

Even if one argues that the DM decides rule zero, there remains some delirious imperialistic craving to conquer all other creative imaginative settings and to subordinate them into one single supersetting empire with only one ‘truth’ to rule them all.



Crawford seems to be saying, if you dont like it, just ignore it. But if something is ‘true’, then it is impossible to ignore. For me anyway.
 
Last edited:
Huh. Not being particularly familiar with the "I" part of BECMI, I had no idea there was an official D&D version of "Magic Medieval Earth." Is WotI the only place it's mentioned? What's been said about it?
I don't have Wrath of the Immortals (WotI) with me. But here's a close summary of Laterre:

Okay, in the Classic D&D game universe (as expressed in the WotI boxed set), there are Dimensions, which are of a higher order than the Multiverse as such. Such as:

The Multiverse Dimension - includes the Material Plane, the Elemental, Ethereal, Astral, and Outer Planes.
The Old Alphatia Dimension
The Nightmare Dimension
The Vortex Dimension
The Dimension of Myth - contains Laterre. The source of "real world" mythologies.

Laterre is where the d'Amberville family came from. They're some of the most famous NPCs of Mystara. TSR borrowed the Ambervilles from Clark Ashton Smith's (CAS) Averoigne Cycle, which are part of the Cthulhu Mythos. In CAS' stories, the French province of Averoigne is a fictional replacement for the real-life province of Auvergne.

Of course "Laterre" is simply a modification of French "La Terre" (The Earth). There are also some Scottish Highlanders from Laterre who made it to Mystara. They speak "Kaelic."

There's a 2E-era web enhancement to Chronomancer which mentions the connections between Mystara and Earth - but the author (Roger Moore) confuses Modern Earth with Laterre. WotI says Laterre is specifically a magical medieval version of Earth. It presumably also has "Averoigne" province instead of "Auvergne."

***
Also, properly Wrath of the Immortals boxed set isn't "BECMI" D&D, because the "I" part of "BECMI", namely, the Immortals Set (Gold Box), was replaced and revised by Wrath of the Immortals. RC/WotI D&D ("Rules Cyclopedia + Wrath of the Immortals") is basically the ".5" edition of Classic D&D.

Lastly, to clarify, when I said "the crystal sphere of Laterre", I didn't mean to imply that crystal spheres were part of the WotI cosmology (the Classic D&D Multiverse). I just mean that Laterre's equivalent in the 2E/5E crystal sphere cosmology would presumably be modeled on the medieval (European) Neo-Platonic spheres.
 

Keefe the Thief

Adventurer
Conflating all settings into a single multiverse supersetting necessarily *changes* the settings. The settings have conflicting views about the multiverse, so it is impossible to reconcile and systematize these descriptions without *changing* them to various degrees. Even recontextualizing a description changes the meaning of the description.



I find it unappealing to decide that the characters within one setting that has a cool compelling cosmology of the multiverse − are simply stupid ignorant morons who dont yet understand what the truth is. That seems a counterproductive way to make an appealing setting.

For example, one of the design conceits of Eberron is that religions are subjective. If the inhabitants of Eberron are simply wrong − and are stupid ignorant morons − then that ruins Eberron for me.

An other player discovering as ‘fact’ a silliness of ultra-literal ‘crystal’ spheres (made out of quartz or glass?), might find that this ‘fact’ ruins the setting for them.



Crawford seems to be saying, if you dont like it, just ignore it. But if it is ‘true’, then it is impossible to ignore. For me anyway.
Bringing everything into a hodgepodge meta-setting has been a thing in D&D for a long time. If books stating that everything is connected ruin settings for you, that's not a good long-term prospect, I'm afraid.
 
Bringing everything into a hodgepodge meta-setting has been a thing in D&D for a long time. If books stating that everything is connected ruin settings for you, that's not a good long-term prospect, I'm afraid.
They've gone backwards and forwards on it over the years - no sooner had Spelljammer come out and joined everything up than Dark Sun came out and was explicitly separated (by a closed crystal sphere). 3e instituted different cosmologies for the supported settings (in that MotP covered the Great Wheel, but FR used the Tree, and Eberron's planes were also its moons). 4e was different again, and now 5e seems to be back to tying everything up neatly again.

I fully expect, in a few years once the current team have moved on, that we may well see the pendulum swing the other way.
 

Chaosmancer

Villager
Yeah, it is rude and dismissive. It is possible to simply not respond to posts which one is not interested in.

I'm genuinely interested in what Yaarel brought up. Aristotle and the Platonists were perceiving an aspect of reality. It's simplistic to just say: "Aristotle was wrong." There is a real-world branch of science - Anthroposophic / Goethean Science - which integrates the Neo-Platonic cosmology with modern material science. For example, the Crystal Sphere is the human experiential component of the Cosmic Microwave Background.



Also, the crystal sphere of Laterre - the official D&D "Magical Medieval Earth" - mentioned in the Wrath of the Immortals boxed set, is probably Neo-Platonic as described in Dante.

I know it is simplistic to say he was wrong, but... how do I explain this.

How often do you sit down at the table to play, and talk about the bell curves and statistical probabilities, and how all of that tells you that there shouldn't be more than a handful of large predators in this section of the gameworld, because science tells us that a large predator needs so many miles of territory and according to real world conservation science, this is an unsustainable ecology you find yourselves in.


It applies to what you are doing, technically, but it misses the real point to a degree. I don't see how the model of science and reality theorized by ancient philosophers ties into whether or not the setting allows you to tell stories that interest your players and how useful the assumptions of that setting are for the majority of tables.

And, I'm not trying to be dismissive of Yaarel's point... but the only point in Yaarel's post I could find is "this model of the universe was first put forth by Aristotle." Which is a fine point of trivia, but I don't see the larger context of how it ties into the conversations being had here.



They've gone backwards and forwards on it over the years - no sooner had Spelljammer come out and joined everything up than Dark Sun came out and was explicitly separated (by a closed crystal sphere). 3e instituted different cosmologies for the supported settings (in that MotP covered the Great Wheel, but FR used the Tree, and Eberron's planes were also its moons). 4e was different again, and now 5e seems to be back to tying everything up neatly again.

I fully expect, in a few years once the current team have moved on, that we may well see the pendulum swing the other way.

And I hope it does, because universal truths seem to hard to write. And a lot of people prefer to keep their peas and mashed potatoes separated on their plate. (Bad analogy that makes sense)
 

Kobold Boots

Villager
The beauty of the game is that the publisher can do whatever they wish to suit their needs and I can summarily edit it to whatever it is that my players and I prefer or need.

Good stuff though.
KB
 

Hexmage-EN

Explorer
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I recall reading somewhere that in at least one Forgotten Realms sourcebook it was stated that there were multiple Astral Planes connected to different sets of Outer Planes, and that different parts of the world were associated with different Astral Planes. I think it was supposed to be an explanation for why different regions of Toril had different pantheons of gods.
 
Not only do I not see the need to join everything up, IMO Spelljammer (and probably Planescape too) works better if you treat it as it's own setting, and remove Greyspace, Realmspace, and Krynnspace from it.
Honestly, my favorite version of Spelljammer was Shadow of the Spider Moon in Dungeon; a self-contained variant they didn't use anything not found in the 3.5 core books (no giff, no guns, no neogi) but very much felt like a unique take and a great backdrop for a sword-and-planets adventure. It had a kinda OS Star Trek/Star Wars vibe to it. It felt like its own thing, not just the ferry service that gets kenders and muls to Oerth.
 

SkidAce

Adventurer
The beauty of the game is that the publisher can do whatever they wish to suit their needs and I can summarily edit it to whatever it is that my players and I prefer or need.

Good stuff though.
KB
Speaking of which.....solar systems as spheres/planes, gods rule over similar worlds/planes, all worlds alt material planes so might have different physics/magic.

Even inner planes are worlds (fire worlds, water worlds, etc...that break up into bits at the center (thus "inner planes" of the cosmos.

Endless Sea Planar Layout.png
 

Zardnaar

Hero
They've gone backwards and forwards on it over the years - no sooner had Spelljammer come out and joined everything up than Dark Sun came out and was explicitly separated (by a closed crystal sphere). 3e instituted different cosmologies for the supported settings (in that MotP covered the Great Wheel, but FR used the Tree, and Eberron's planes were also its moons). 4e was different again, and now 5e seems to be back to tying everything up neatly again.

I fully expect, in a few years once the current team have moved on, that we may well see the pendulum swing the other way.
Way I looked at it was Spell jammer was a way to link up worlds. Not all of the world's were linked though eg Athas.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Crawford seems to be saying, if you dont like it, just ignore it. But if something is ‘true’, then it is impossible to ignore. For me anyway.
But you are already doing it. You are currently a person who is being told "there's a multiverse" out there, that there is a "truth" being presented by someone with supposed higher authority than you... and you are choosing not to believe it or accept it or are ignoring it because it seems outlandish or unnecessary or stupid or ruins things for you.

So has Eberron already been ruined?

Because right now, you are exactly like someone in Eberron. They believe what they believe is true-- that there are thirteen planes that circle the three layers of the Material plane, and that no other worlds exist. Are they "morons" for believing that? And to answer that, you just have to ask yourself "Am I, Yaarel, a moron?" Because just like the people of Eberron, you're being told this is how it is, and you have to make a decision to pretend that this has not been said. Or probably more to the point, just not care that these other people have said it.

If someone from the "D&D multiverse" is saying "those people in Eberron are morons because they don't know the truth"... the people within Eberron have absolutely no reason to respond. Because as far as they are concerned... that other person doesn't exist. Or that they don't care if he exists or not.

And its the same thing for you. You have to choose to not care what Jeremy Crawford says. Because otherwise the entirety of D&D has been ruined already. And even if you were somehow able to convince Crawford at some point to say "Ha! Psyche! I was just kidding, there's no D&D multiverse, everything is separate"... you're going to have thousands of players saying "No, actually Jeremy, you were right in the first place" and they'll ignore THAT statement by him. And all you'd be doing is keeping your head happily in the sand now that you thought someone with higher authority than you was vindicating your beliefs. But really... who made Jeremy's voice the final voice of authority? Why is his voice un-ignorable? Especially considering that at some point he's going to leave WotC and someone else is going to take over and use their own voice to "make rules" in D&D, so really, how much authority does Jeremy's voice really hold?

Thus the rest of us are going around thinking "Crawford's opinion is no more true than anyone else's. It doesn't matter what he says. I know what the truth actually is at my table, regardless of what he says."

And none of us will be able to convince the other that they are right. So we'll just do what we've always done...

...ignore that which we don't like, and just not care.
 
Last edited:

Advertisement

Top