D&D General Sir Plane "Not Appearing in this Cosmology"

Yora

Legend
Since way back in AD&D 1st edition, D&D settings generally were assumed to be part of a planar system consisting of 17 outer planes, 14 inner planes (later reduced to 6), an astral plane, and a variable number of other planes bordering the material plane. In 3rd edition it was decided to throw all of these out for Forgotten Realms and replace them with roughly as many new planes. Eberron also got its own planes and there were quite a number of them. Then 4th edition changes things and I believe introduced the Feywild, but otherwise still mostly just shuffled things around without meaningful changes, unless I remember wrong.

Thing is, when you look at published material outside of the 2nd edition Planescape product line, how many planes did actually ever get mentioned or covered in adventures or even novels and videogames?

There's the Abyss, the Nine Hells, the Astral Plane, and maybe if you are lucky the Elemental Plane of Fire or Limbo. The Forgotten Realms deities all have their respective home planes, but again, except for the Abyss none of these ever appear anywhere.

Anything else? Basically completely missing in action outside of Planescape for a few years in the 90s.

How come we're always ever only got to see the same three or four planes when there are so many more? Why the regular overhaul of the planar system that in the end only replaces the planes that nobody had use for with basically the same thing again?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

NotAYakk

Legend
In 4e, there is Astral Sea, Ethereal, Far Realm, Fey, Shadow, Prime, Elemental Chaos.

The Abyss is a part of the Elemental Chaos.

The other "higher" planes are all pockets within the Astral Sea, including Hell. Hell is has been sealed.

The Elemental Chaos isn't "elemental plane of fire" or anything -- it is a world where elemental forces are closer to the surface, and mixed up strangely. Rivers of fire, mountains of wind, griffons with ice wings and fire beaks -- all are fair game. There might be parts of it that are fire-heavy, but the "pure elements" aren't given special status.

The Abyss is explicitly a region within the Elemental Chaos corrupted by a shard of "pure evil". That shard was probably what gave Asmodeus the power to overthrow his deity and take over, in response the other gods trapped Asmodeus in Hell.

As the higher planes (the domains of the gods) aren't given star status, there can be as many or as few as the DM wants. The dawn war pantheon doesn't line up with the traditional L/C N/G grid however.

Fey and Shadow are "adventurerable" variants on Positive/Negative planes, and echos of the Prime.

It was a pretty serious restructuring really.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
How come we're always ever only got to see the same three or four planes when there are so many more? Why the regular overhaul of the planar system that in the end only replaces the planes that nobody had use for with basically the same thing again?

I wrote a series of articles on this before, but in a nutshell:

The original conception of the multiverse (the "Gygaxian mutliverse" as I sometimes refer to it) placed the majority of the action/emphasis on the infinite variety of alternate prime material planes. Conceptually, this was similar to the Zelazny "Amber" cosmology or some of the alternate comic universe / Star Trek universes we think of today.

In other words, there are an infinite number of Greyhawks, Forgotten Realms, home campaigns, other worlds (from Gamma Worlds to pew pew pew Star Frontiers to ol' West Boot Hill) including our current earth, all contained within the prime material plane.

The outer planes were listed, but weren't a big adventuring area because ... it's boring. Seriously ... most of the outer planes are pretty boring.

Anyway, we saw alternate material planes used in material early on- from Q1 and its gates to the pocket dimensions of EX1-2 to the idea extending into the B/X series (X2!).

After MoTP, the emphasis shifted away from these cool alternate realities (and traveling between them) to the outer planes. Trouble is, outside of a Planescape campaign, no one wants to adventure there. People love to argue the cosmology, but hate to actually go there.

That's my two cents.
 

Yora

Legend
I think the Abyss having infinite layers probably doesn't help things. Any kind of hell dimension you can imagine can always be just one more layer of the Abyss. One size does fit almost all.
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
In other words, there are an infinite number of Greyhawks, Forgotten Realms, home campaigns, other worlds (from Gamma Worlds to pew pew pew Star Frontiers to ol' West Boot Hill) including our current earth, all contained within the prime material plane.
This is exactly how I see it, and have always run it.

Further, with there being only one PM plane, in theory you can look up into the sky with a great big telescope and see the stars around which some of these places orbit...or the galaxy they're in, anyway.
The outer planes were listed, but weren't a big adventuring area because ... it's boring. Seriously ... most of the outer planes are pretty boring.
Some are, some aren't; and most can be made interesting enough to support at least one adventure. I've run adventures in the Astral, in various lands-of-the-dead (e.g. Valhalla), in the Abyss, and so on; but I don't think I'd ever want to base a whole campaign there.
Anyway, we saw alternate material planes used in material early on- from Q1 and its gates to the pocket dimensions of EX1-2 to the idea extending into the B/X series (X2!).
And extra-planar spaces appear in the game the minute someone can cast Rope Trick.
After MoTP, the emphasis shifted away from these cool alternate realities (and traveling between them) to the outer planes. Trouble is, outside of a Planescape campaign, no one wants to adventure there. People love to argue the cosmology, but hate to actually go there.
I don't have much trouble getting buy-in for non-PM-plane adventures. Hell, I've sometimes seen parties with an Amulets of the Planes mess with it just for kicks "Hey, join hands; let's see where this'll take us this time!" <spinnnnn> "Uh...where are we?"

That said, no-one wants to stay off the PM because being there means they are a very long way from home and safety, meaning that if they don't already have a known means of return Job One invariably becomes finding such.
 

Scribe

Legend
After MoTP, the emphasis shifted away from these cool alternate realities (and traveling between them) to the outer planes. Trouble is, outside of a Planescape campaign, no one wants to adventure there. People love to argue the cosmology, but hate to actually go there.

I wonder if the recent Marvel movies wont have changed that a bit? We have now within the modern consciousness a number of examples of 'planes' that people can take ships to (spelljammer) and its all just another place of wonder and adventure.
 


Dausuul

Legend
Generally speaking, the role of the planes in a published campaign is as the lair of the Big Bad. When the time has come to take the fight to the ultimate villain, that's when you leave the Material Plane.

This being the case, it should come as no surprise that the Abyss and the Nine Hells are basically the only planes you ever see. You want your Big Bad to be really big, right? So obviously you're going to situate them in one of the two "superpower planes" of the infernal regions. What kind of lame-ass villain hangs out in Acheron, or the Elemental Plane of Air?

It's all 2E's fault for introducing the Blood War. Before that, the lower planes were, if not on equal footing, then at least comparable. You had slaad in Limbo, demons in the Abyss, daemons in Hades, demodands in Tartarus, devils in the Nine Hells. Any of them would make a fine Big Bad. The princes of elemental evil were no slouches either. But 2E elevated the Abyss and the Nine Hells into the lower-planar equivalent of the United States and the Soviet Union (I'll leave you to decide which is which), and effectively demoted all the other lower planes into client states.

As for the upper planes, they were never going to get traction. Nobody goes adventuring in nice places.
 

Incenjucar

Legend
Some of the outer planes are hard to find adventure in because they're literally good guy heaven and you have only have so much room for conflict. The closer you get to the Evil planes, the more room for conflict. This could be handled by making demi-planes that house specific chunks of multiple planes, generally within a single mythology/pantheon, so you have more room for not knowing if everyone around you is actually Lawful Good once you're out of the general area. You could also just weaken the hold of alignment on the planes outside the specific domains of the deities there a la "Points of Light" design.

A number of planes do straight up suffer from underdevelopment, too.
 


Thing is, when you look at published material outside of the 2nd edition Planescape product line, how many planes did actually ever get mentioned or covered in adventures or even novels and videogames?
The plane of Dust (Negative Earth) was in the Torment game, wasn't it? Or at least mentioned?

I've moved towards alternate primes using some of the Outer, and some Inner, planes for inspiration.
 

Incenjucar

Legend
You can build any of these into interesting settings for a campaign with enough creative license, but some of them would require a LOT of extra work, especially anything that's basically "If you are here you die in 1d4 rounds". Demi-planes and portals are cheap fixes for a lot of it. "Welcome to Bytopia, please do not sneak past the paladins in front of the Hellmouth sign, they are there for your protection." etc.
 

grimslade

Krampus ate my d20s
The planes are boring. Even Hell is boring. The problem is that planes are infinite, but we treat them as different mono flavors of Prime Material.
Hell is Lawful and Evil Prime. The Plane of Fire is hot and flickery Prime. The Feywild is Extra Prime and Shadowfell is faded, depressed Prime. You don't need an infinite space to be a BBEG lair.
 


Staffan

Legend
Since way back in AD&D 1st edition, D&D settings generally were assumed to be part of a planar system consisting of 17 outer planes, 14 inner planes (later reduced to 6), an astral plane, and a variable number of other planes bordering the material plane. In 3rd edition it was decided to throw all of these out for Forgotten Realms and replace them with roughly as many new planes. Eberron also got its own planes and there were quite a number of them. Then 4th edition changes things and I believe introduced the Feywild, but otherwise still mostly just shuffled things around without meaningful changes, unless I remember wrong.

Thing is, when you look at published material outside of the 2nd edition Planescape product line, how many planes did actually ever get mentioned or covered in adventures or even novels and videogames?

There's the Abyss, the Nine Hells, the Astral Plane, and maybe if you are lucky the Elemental Plane of Fire or Limbo. The Forgotten Realms deities all have their respective home planes, but again, except for the Abyss none of these ever appear anywhere.
I do remember the main characters in the Avatar Trilogy going to Hades to recover the Tablets of Fate, which had been stashed there by Myrkul who didn't consider that Ao might force the gods to stay off their planes. And the Obsidian Oracle had a brief jaunt into the Grey. But yeah, there's a lot of cosmology that goes unused. I blame the fact that the Great Wheel cosmology sucks.

Eberron, as usual, has a special relationship with its planes. Not only does it have its own cosmology outside the Great Wheel, but there's a different emphasis on the planes. In most settings, the planes are primarily sources of monsters, and secondarily a place where high-level characters go to adventure. But in Eberron, they influence the material plane directly. The reason they can build the towers of Sharn, and have local flying transportation, is that the city is in a location with planar influences making that sort of thing easier. Manifest zones with the influence of Irian, the Eternal Day, are believed to be what makes the Deathless possible, as well as creating some of Aerenal's unusual flora. Basically, planes create manifest zones, which the inhabitants of Eberron treat as special natural resources.
 

Incenjucar

Legend
A setting could be built that makes the outer planes a bit more relevant, it just hasn't been. It's a lot of work. Personally I'm working on something to make the inner and ethereal more accessible, but I am but a humble hobbyist.
 



Scribe

Legend
A setting could be built that makes the outer planes a bit more relevant, it just hasn't been. It's a lot of work. Personally I'm working on something to make the inner and ethereal more accessible, but I am but a humble hobbyist.
I have high hopes for Planescape to get us there this time.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top