D&D General The Brilliance of the Original Gygaxian Multiverse

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
Part of it too is that 'canon' has become the watchword of the day. For many people, they want all of their fiction to "make sense" in a long-lasting, point A to point B narrative.

The idea of "canon" in a TTRPG is .... well, that seems kind of weird to me.

Even weirder when you remember that, historically, it has an infinite number of parallel planes with their own histories, differences, and so on. Not only is there a Greyhawk with Dragonborn, there is a Greyhawk in which all there is are Dragonborn.
 

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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
The idea of "canon" in a TTRPG is .... well, that seems kind of weird to me.

Even weirder when you remember that, historically, it has an infinite number of parallel planes with their own histories, differences, and so on. Not only is there a Greyhawk with Dragonborn, there is a Greyhawk in which all there is are Dragonborn.
Heh... trying telling that to some of the others here on ENWorld. ;)
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
I don't think that's true either. Quite honestly... the outer planes DO give us something for our games-- they give us Heaven and Hell.

I don't think I fully explained my point well enough.

The amount that has been gained from detailing "heaven and hell" (aka the outer planes) since, oh, 1980 (the publication date of Deities and Demigods and Q1) has been pretty minuscule.

Especially compared to the loss; we have spent so much time creating "worlds" for the outer planes that aren't necessary, given that these "worlds" could exist as places in the Prime Material plane to the extent we want something "cool" and "different." There is a place where certain deities reside and/or where devils, demons, and other things live. Okay! We've known that since at least 1977. :)

The more detail they give to Elysium, or Olympus, the less interesting it became. Or, to use your phrasing- the more they added, the more people argued over what was canon for that, instead of just creating more cool stuff.
 
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Mort

Legend
Supporter
I really think that we've lost one of our greatest assets in D&D through lack of use. It's still there, we just have forgotten about it. And it also easily answers most of the "how if the multiverse" designed questions. They don't matter if we concentrate on the infinities of the Prime Material.

I wonder if we've lost it or if people are just hesitant to mix systems/genres like they used to (or at least my groups used to). One of my fondest memories was of a campaign where I transitioned a group from Heroes Unlimited to D&D (2e) and back seamlessly several times - superheroes in D&D in Greyhawk was a fun/hilarious concept. I wonder if people would be as ready to accept such jumps today (even though the actual # of types of games is hugely more robust/available).

I've actually heard people say that they don't like gaming so much as they like 5e D&D (a statement that blew my mind).

I wonder if that's part of it really. The planes, weird as they are, are "still D&D" (I put that in quotes because I'm not stating as fact that they are, but that they are presented as such) Whereas throwing stuff in from other sources may get the dreaded "not D&D" label that some people seem so hesitant to embrace. Granted, that doesn't really apply jumping between "D&D worlds" but then I haven't actually seen much hesitation in doing THAT.

Sorry, some rambling thoughts hopefully somewhere near on topic.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I don't think I fully explained my point well enough.

The amount that has been gained from detailing "heaven and hell" (aka the outer planes) since, oh, 1980 (the publication date of Deities and Demigods and Q1) has been pretty minuscule.

Especially compared to the loss; we have spent so much time creating "worlds" for the outer planes that aren't necessary, given that these "worlds" could exist as places in the Prime Material plane to the extent we want something "cool" and "different." There is a place where certain deities reside and/or where devils, demons, and other things live. Okay! We've known that since at least 1977. :)

The more detail they give to Elysium, or Olympus, the less interesting it became. Or, to use your phrasing- the more they added, the more people argued over what was canon for that, instead of just creating more cool stuff.
Ah, gotcha! Now I understand what you meant.

It does make me waver though and I can't decide if I agree with your point or not. On the one hand, yes, giving details about a place does "lock it in" to a certain extent and thus potentially reduces its usefulness (because we no longer have an open tableau on which to paint our own picture.) But on the other... I don't know if any of the elemental or outer planes have really been that fleshed out to make me think there's no sandbox space remaining? I mean, they can tell me that Stygia, the Fifth Plane of Hell, is a frozen-over bottomless ocean... but its not like we have a world map of the plane with all the locations pinpointed (especially with all the planes being interpreted as "infinite" anyways.) Does the fact that the fifth of nine Hells has been identified as "the icy water one" really constrain me? Did I need all nine to be completely blank slates? I dunno. I happen to be one of those people who thinks that having constraints does in fact cater to creativity-- that focusing my ideas can make them better. So I don't think I need to have all 16 outer planes (plus the hundreds of sub-planes) completely devoid of info so that I'm free to make up whatever I want. That doesn't really feel beneficial to me personally.
 
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atanakar

Hero
There was definitely a weird-pulp-horror-sci-fantasy mash up going on at the beginning of D&D. Temple of The Frog (DA2) is the best exemple of that. Vance's Dying Earth (1950-1966 novels) and others must have been a great influence. In those days mixing genres was very common.

I didn't have any problems with my players when we did DA2 with 5e in 2018. They liked to weird stuff going on. On the other hand when I tried to make them play Numenera, which is an hommage to Vance and Wolfe, some of the players couldn't wrap their heads around it and refused. Now, I presented an Urban Arcana idea set in Paris 1989 (Belle Epoque) using Modern AGE (with gate jumping to different worlds and alternate Earths) and the same player agreed to play. Go figure!!! I'm happy!
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
Ah, gotcha! Now I understand what you meant.

It does make me waver though and I can't decide if I agree with your point or not. On the one hand, yes, giving details about a place does "lock it it" to a certain extent and thus potentially reduces its usefulness (because we no longer have an open tableau on which to paint our own picture.) But on the other... I don't know if any of the elemental or outer planes have really been that fleshed out to make me think there's no sandbox space remaining? I mean, they can tell me that Stygia, the Fifth Plane of Hell, is a frozen-over bottomless ocean... but its not like we have a world map of the plane with all the locations pinpointed (especially with all the planes being interpreted as "infinite" anyways. Does the fact that the fifth of nine Hells has been identified as "the icy water one" really constrain me? Did I need all nine to be completely blank slates? I dunno. I happen to be one of those people who thinks that having constraints does in fact cater to creativity-- that focusing my ideas can make them better. So I don't think I need to have all 16 outer planes (plus the hundreds of sub-planes) completely devoid of info so that I'm free to make up whatever I want. That doesn't really feel beneficial to me personally.

So this is sort of what I am trying to get to with my post- this is the CRUX of it.

If you accept the pre-Manual of the Planes (really, the 70s-80s "vibe") of the multiple parallel planes in the Prime Material, you already have all of the design space. You have not just all the campaign settings, and all the homebrew setting, and all the genres, but all permutations.

In other words, an outer plane that is a "frozen-over bottomless ocean" isn't really interesting not just because it's uninteresting, but also because there are already an infinite number of worlds within the PMP that are "frozen-over bottomless oceans." Just like when you visited Q1, there were gates to worlds, including a proto-Ravenloft, and a world of endless ocean rules by the evil ocean dwellers.

The issue with the outer planes is that they are static. Once the design focus shifted from the infinite variety of weirdness that is all possibilites of the PMP, you are stuck with the cosmology of the outer planes. That means that the design space is forever getting narrowed by prior definitions (and by "canon").

The little bit of weirdness you get from the outer planes came by sacrificing an infinite amount of design space that remains unused. :(
 

dave2008

Legend
And it also easily answers most of the "how if the multiverse" designed questions. They don't matter if we concentrate on the infinities of the Prime Material.
However, they do matter if we want to concentrate outside the Prime. Personally, I like a combination where some things are explained by the many universes of the Prime and other things are explained by things outside the Prime.

One issue with stuffing all the settings in the Prime is the part you quoted about the Ethereal plane touch the Prime and inner planes. If all the settings are in the Prime, it should be fairly simple to travel through the Ether to get to any alternate universe (setting) in the Prime. But that is apparantly not the case (MtG, Eberron, & Athas are all difficult to get to).
 

Dausuul

Legend
The little bit of weirdness you get from the outer planes came by sacrificing an infinite amount of design space that remains unused. :(
This is what makes absolutely zero sense to me. All of that design space is still there. As DM, you can do anything you want with your setting. If you want parallel worlds, you've got parallel worlds. If you want your own cosmology, you can build it. The intro to the 5E DMG is all about creating your own world.

If you feel that you have to hew strictly to what's in the books, in spite of the books explicitly telling you you don't... that's on you.

What the planar books do is provide raw materials for DMs who don't want to build everything from scratch every time. I don't see why those DMs should be deprived of that material.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
The idea of "canon" in a TTRPG is .... well, that seems kind of weird to me.

Even weirder when you remember that, historically, it has an infinite number of parallel planes with their own histories, differences, and so on. Not only is there a Greyhawk with Dragonborn, there is a Greyhawk in which all there is are Dragonborn.

sputters with incoherent rage
 

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