D&D (2024) Surprisingly, the 1e cosmology map and the 5e cosmology map are roughly the same


Here is the cosmology map that appears in the 1e Players Handbook from Gygax. It is a closeup of the "Inner Planes". The features on this map are still true in 5e.

1e cosmology inner planes.png

The Inner Planes number from 1 thru 8.

1. The Material Plane is a fantasy version of our reallife universe. Both 1e and 5e have this world of matter at the center of the multiverse.

2. The 1e "Positive Material" Plane: more than Positive "Energy", this a "Material" Plane. The 5e version of this is the Feywild, a faerie spirit world, of Positive Ether that overlaps and entangles the Material world of matter.

3. Oppositely, the 1e "Negative Material" Plane is today in 5e the Shadowfell, a ghostly spirit underworld, of Negative Ether that also overlaps and entangles Material matter.

4. thru 7. These 1e planes are regions for the Classical (Hellenistic) four elements: gaseous Air, plasmic Fire, solid Earth, and liquid Water. 5e continues to refer these states of matter as the four "Elemental Planes". However the description of them is, they are more so "regions" rather than discrete planes. The elements drift into each other and overlap across fluid shifting borders. Rather, there is one "Plane", Elemental Chaos, where elements come and go in a continual flux. The regions happen to be locales where one of the elements seems to prevail. But the other three elements are also present to various degrees, and everything continues in flux. Notably, the ring of four elements on the 1e map is more like the Elemental Chaos, where the regions churn and blend into each other. Even so, for a 1e schematic diagram to map out the elements by concepts is true enough, and 5e does this too.

8. Finally, the "Ethereal Plane" overlaps everything. This Plane of the Element of Ether is what defines all of the 1e "Inner Planes". Everywhere ether exists is the Inner Planes. The surprise is, this is also true in 5e too. Note, ether is the "fifth" element, sometimes called quintessence, force, or the substance of spirit. For example, the force of gravity is made out of ether. Ether is physical, a force that propels physical objects. But ether itself immaterial lacking matter. It has no mass. Everything in the Inner Planes is made out of ether. Even the four states of matter that exist in the Material Plane are ultimately made out of immaterial ether, namely the fundamental forces of electromagnetic force, atomic forces, and the force of gravity. The 1e Ethereal Plane overlaps the other seven Inner Planes.

Because planes overlap each other, the schematic maps of them are sometimes unclear. In the cosmology map in the 5e Players Handbook, the "Ethereal Plane" appears visually as if a thin ring around the planes of Material, Feywild, and Shadow. However, the Ethereal Plane is actually a huge disk. Its ether completely overlaps the Material, Fey, and Shadow, too. This Ethereal disk also overlaps the entire Elemental Chaos as well as its regions of elements. Indeed, the entire circle of the 5e Inner Planes is the Ethereal Plane. It overlaps everything, and its presence defines what the "Inner" Planes are. The ring on the map that gets labeled "Elemental Plane", is only a small part of the vast Ethereal Plane. More precisely, this ring is the "Deep Ether", that has no connection to the Material Plane, nor the Feywild and Shadow, nor the Elemental Chaos. The Deep Ether, is only a tiny part of the Ethereal Plane, schematically.

The Feywild and Shadowfell are spirit worlds made out of ether. They are immaterial, despite having bodies made out of force that behave as virtual bodies. (Conjuration spells similarly summon creatures whose arriving bodies appear to behave like matter, but are actually avatars made out of magical force, and dissipate when the spell ends.)

More curiously, the Elemental Plane likewise seems immaterial, beyond the matter of the Material Plane. In the Material Plane, the four elements are states of matter. But in the Elemental Plane, these appear to be the "forms" of matter, a blueprint for what matter will become, and not matter in itself. It is more like the "spirit" of matter, a behavior of the mind and personality that matter has. This is closer to the reallife medieval and renaissance views, such as of Paracelsus and his conceptualization: the airy Sylphe, fiery Salamander, earthy Gnomus, and watery Undina. These are the minds of matter − yet the mind itself is immaterial.

In any case, in the 5e cosmology, the Ethereal Plane overlaps everything in the Inner Planes. The outer periphery of the circle is where the ethereal forms of elements drift into each other, forming the Elemental Chaos. The inner center of the circle is the Material Plane with Positive Feywild and Negative Shadowfell. In between them, is a thin ring that is neither the outer Elemental nor the inner Material, and this annular region is more specifically the Deep Ether where the Ethereal Plane overlaps neither.

The 1e cosmology map and the 5e cosmology are roughly the same.
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Planes overlap each other. I drew up this map for a sense of the layers. In the Astral Plane, in the Wild Space, there is a virtual reality version of a planet within it. This Astral version is made out of information, a thought construct. The virtual planet overlays the actual planet in the Material Plane as a kind of augmented reality. Between Astral and Material is the Ethereal Plane, made out of forces. It includes Positive Feywild, Negative Shadowfell, and in between the overall neutral mix of the Elemental Ether that overlaps and entangles the Material Plane. Animistic nature beings roam the ether. They come from the natural features of the Material planet, such as fiery sunlight, airy weather, watery stream, and earthy landscape feature, but they roam the overlapping ether as spiritual influences. Typically, the Ethereal creatures are present but "hidden" from Material creatures and sometimes can manifest ghostlike with various effects within the Material world of matter.

Yaarel 5e Cosmology Map.png
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