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General The Brilliance of the Original Gygaxian Multiverse

The two problems with that are that I was explicitly discussing the Gygaxian view (which predates the MoTP), and made sure to note in the OP that the period starting with the MoTP is when it all started to go wrong in terms of the planar structure.
If it predates the MoTP, how can you assert that Gygax wasnt referring to just the Material plane that contains Oerth/ Greyhawk when he made his statement?

Krynn didnt exist yet from memory. Athas certainly didnt. Mystara was around (in a different system in BECMI). Eberron certainly wasnt. Birthright wasnt either.

Forgotten realms was around though, and it certainly used the 'multiple material plane' model.

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Tactical Studies Rules - The Original Game Wizards
FWIW, I have always thought the Prime Material Plane contains the worlds of Krynn, Greyhawk, etc., including my homebrew, yours, and everyone else's.

My own question is about if DM Guild should allow alternate timelines, for example a Gamma World with all Hasbro franchises as "guest artists", or if Conan is now public domain, then Hirboria could be remade with a different cartography, only keeping the names and adding the fantasy races, or a Spelljammer zone with all alien races from d20 Future (Star Frontiers + Star*Drive) or Krynn where the cataclysm was avoided because lord Soth from an alternate timeline travel.

What should be the limits of the canon or official lore?


The EN World kitten
D&D's multiverse first started in the campaigns being run by Gary Gygax, but the first print version that I am aware of is Dragon #8 (July, 1977), which gave us the first glimpse of the extra-planar nature of the D&D multiverse.
Allow me to nitpick: the first instance of the D&D multiverse appearing in print that I'm aware of was in The Strategic Review, vol. 2 no. 1 (February, 1976), which had this planar arrangement:



Mod Squad
Staff member
So, in a certain sense, there is never a need to worry about how something "fits into" the D&D multiverse.

Because everything is already in the D&D multiverse and always has been. :)
Well, no, not everything. Only those things that are also consistent with the standard Inner and Outer planes fit. If you run a game world that has massively different planar cosmology around it, it no longer fits into the standard Prime Material.

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!

I don't know - sometimes the funnest thing is to do something completely out there.

My current group has been exploring ruins in the Sea of Dust. And in their latest adventure escaped from the lower minions of a Suel Lich. In the process they flipped several levers to escape - one of which worked in opening an escape route (they didn't stick around to see what the other non-obvious ones did). Anyway, I'm thinking of having the players actions "accidentally" lead to the revival of an army of experimental vessels (the Suel had planned to use to save themselves in an emergency but couldn't activated quickly enough) that the Lich and his many minions will now inhabit.

In other words, once the group (hopefully) stabilize the region from the machinations of the Scarlet Brotherhood, they'll be facing an invasion of an army of warforged led by Tozhgan Ikan (The Suel lich in the body of a souped up warforged) all thanks to the PCs actions - at least that's the tenuous plan.


Morkus from Orkus
See, that's where I disagree.

The inner and outer planes are a forced expansion. They don't .... really .... add very much. Yes, there is a vocal contingent of Planescape fans, but the details about the outer planes did not expand the game so much as it constricted it.
I don't agree with that at all. I have the inner and outer planes in all their glory and details. I also have infinite prime planes in all their variation. That gives me a much more expanded game, not a constricted one. You literally cannot remove the planes and have a more expanded game than mine, in scope at least.

You ask what the expanded Prime Material did? It did everything! And in a deliberately useful way. Instead of the crabbed and useless outer planes, you had an infinite possibility of planes.
No it didn't. I did infinite variations of the prime plane. It did 0 variations of the afterlife. Going back to Amber. While there were infinite shadows, it still required both the Courts of Chaos and Amber to cast the shadows in the first place, making those places the "planes" that make up the building blocks of all the prime worlds. Much like the inner planes do. It also had 0 planes for the afterlife, which is the role of the outer planes.


Morkus from Orkus
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.
Two things with this.

First, there are not an infinite number of frozen-over bottomless oceans on the Prime Plane where devils, gods and the souls of certain mortals go to be tortured for eternity. There are zero. That right there makes this particular frozen-over bottomless ocean more interesting or at least differently interesting.

Second, even if you don't detail that level of hell at all. No matter what you come up with as a DM, it's still going to have an infinite number of similar number of Prime Planes, excepting that devils, gods and souls of certain mortals go to this layer of hell to be tortured for eternity.

Given that there is no practical difference whether I come up with it myself or TSR/WotC does, I'd prefer that they do it to save me the time and effort. My game planning time is very limited and I'd rather spend it on other things.


Morkus from Orkus
No, it's not.

Raistlin was born into a different material plane of existence than Mordenkainen and Elminster were.

From each of their perspectives the material plane they were born in is 'the' Prime material plane, and the other two guys inhabit different (alternate) material planes.

They're all correct. Relative to their point of view.

You're looking at the Prime material plane as if it is an objective thing. It isnt; its subjective to the inhabitants of that material plane.

This accords with similar positions you can find in Quantum mechanics and the uncertainty principle, and special relativity as well for what its worth.
I've always looked at the Prime Plane as singular. There is only one of them, but it folds or whatever and creates infinite pocketed variations. Some of which you can get to with Plane Shifting magic, the phlogiston or whatever, others like Athas you can't get to so easily.

Kobold Avenger

I wouldn't consider Gygax's or Jeff Grubb's or David "Zeb" Cook's outer planes to be separate from each other. It's more of one "built" on the others that came before, even if I know there's differences between Zeb's Outlands and the Concordant Opposition.


Morkus from Orkus
The two problems with that are that I was explicitly discussing the Gygaxian view (which predates the MoTP), and made sure to note in the OP that the period starting with the MoTP is when it all started to go wrong in terms of the planar structure.

Of the many terrible sections of the MoTP, I would say that Appendix I is the terrible-est. Has anyone ever tried to use Appendix 1? I've yet to meet that person, and this is coming from someone who, at one point, could recite the Limbo section by heart.
The 1e PHB says that the Prime has all the parallel universes, but it also very heavily implies that each of those universes is a separate Prime plane. Here is the quote.

"There exist an infinite number of parallel universes and planes of existence in the fantastic "multiverse" of ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. All of these "worlds" co-exist, but how "real" each is depends entirely upon the development of each by the campaign referee."

So you see, there are an infinite number of planes of existence. Given that we know the finite number of inner and outer planes, and the following sentence is about worlds(not planes), Gygax is very likely looking at each of those universes being a separate Prime Plane and being his usually unclear and/or contradictory self. He does that a lot in the 1e PHB and DMG.


Well, I have a theory. It's really about calcification.

In a lot of ways, people are correct when they say that D&D has expanded its purview. There are more options to play more non-human races, for example. I think people like to say that D&D is more than just the old "dungeon crawl" and "hobo-murder" that is used to be.

....but, I think a lot of people truly don't understand how completely weird D&D used to be. It's very hard to explain, but D&D used to be a game where spaceships could happen (Barrier Peaks), where crossovers to the old west (Boot Hill) or science fiction (Gamma World) were explicit parts of the core rules, adventurers would fight King Kong or the Queen of Hearts, and could fly to the moon on a roc.

Whereas today, you get a lot of "I don't want any {blank} in my fantasy." (Insert "science fiction" or "comedy" or "genre bending"). D&D has expanded to include more in fantasy, but has drastically curtailed alternate planes, and trav

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 think your correct. Which is why while picking up old school megadungeons, I am also picking up blades and blasters for sci-fi elements


At the end of the day it doesn't matter anyway. Whether there is one Prime plane with infinite worlds within it, or infinite Prime planes with one world in each... it all results in the same thing-- we run our game how we want, nothing written matters in any way unless we want it to... and there is no 'canon' to Dungeons and Dragons that applies to every part of the game.

But the original conception is that not only does Athas share the Prime with other settings (and genres, etc.), but Athas shares the Prime with other Athases!
That isn’t Gygax, that is 1960’s Star Trek.
One week the Enterprise using ‘normal’ propulsion, travels to an Earth analogue that suffered a global thermonuclear war, that the Enterprise’s Earth did not suffer through.

Next week, a rarified accident sends Kirk to the Mirror Universe where Spock has a beard.

A set of infinite possibilities just means one can do anything, even contradict oneself from session to session. Infinity includes violation of the law of the excluded middle and the law of non contradiction.
1. First, characters are explicitly portable between campaigns. This is something that always used to be assumed, but (for whatever reason) rarely happens anymore; part of the reason is because the conception people have of the setting has changed.
The reason for this is less cosmological and more a change in play style. Most games today, start with world building, and then plot, and then the dungeon.

Early D&D was the opposite. You had the dungeon. Two weeks later, another Dungeon.
World building was optional.

More importantly, an advanced character coming in from another, unknown DM’s campaign often lead to upset people, in my experience.

Either the DM did not vette the incoming character, and the power levels where quite disparate.
Alternatively, the DM did vette the new character, and the player was upset at being nerfed.

The Lake Geneva crew was a fairly calibrated group of DMs.

Once Gary Gygax started playing with PCs from other campaigns, Gary became angry and vengeful, and thus created Tomb of Horrors, to rid the multiverse of Punk Ass Player Characters.

The genius, the OP applauds is evil genius, spawning cosmic horror 🤷🏻‍♀️🥳😱
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Returning to the OP, I think it overstate the "problem." Is there a problem with bringing together Magic and D&D worlds? No, especially considering the default assumption of Rule Zero (or perhaps we should call it Rule Hyperzero to differentiate from specific in-game rulings): Every DM is the Creator of their campaign and, in this context, can decide how things are put together. This includes whether or not different worlds are in the same physical universe or not, or alternate planes, or different universes, etc.

As far as canon goes, my assumption has always been that the Prime Material Plane is basically synonymous with Multiverse--if we take that to mean the entire physical universe, other physical universes, including alternate universes--emphasis on the word physical. "Material" as in of material existence, or matter. Jeff Grubb altered this somewhat in Manual of the Planes by adding plurality based around individual campaigns. Meaning, my campaign is set in the Prime Material, while yours is an alternate Prime Material (unless I say that yours is within mine, which is entirely up to me). This is mostly just a convention of the D&D community. It doesn't really change the basic Gygaxian structure in any meaningful way; it merely states what was already implied: that we all create our own version of the game that is primary.

On a side note, it is worth noting that the esoteric philosophies that Gygax based his original conception on hold that the "planes" beyond the physical are non-physical. They are "energetic dimensions" if we understand that to mean non-physical energies and dimensions. The most common Western esoteric model holds that each of us is comprised of four "bodies," of which modern science only recognizes one: the physical. The other three are etheric, astral, and spiritual (there are variations, but that's the gist of it). Hinduism envisions these as the five koshas, or sheathes: annamaya (food/physical), pranamayakosha (breath/etheric), manomaya (mind), vijnanamaya (higher mind, or intuition), and anandamaya (bliss). Some Asian traditions see three domains, correlating with the waking world, dreaming, and deep sleep; when we're awake, we're in the material world; when we're dreaming, we're in the astral world; when we're in deep sleep, we're in the spiritual world.

Gygax, in a sense, materialized the entire structure, bringing it all down to the physical--or at least apparently physical. I don't know whether he did this out of ignorance, or utility; I would assume the latter. But if we go back to the esoteric traditions, whether of the East or West, we could imagine that the planes are actually non-physical realities translated and experienced as physical realities. Matrices, in other words, but not cybernetic or reliant upon the physical world in any way.

Now if we envision the planes as being actual other physical realities that characters go to, in a sense we're misconstruing them from the original Gygaxian idea, that all physical realities are actually Prime Material. Again, without going back and reading the text, I'm uncertain whether this was "Gygaxian confusion" or a recognition that a person identified with the Prime Material would experience non-physical realities as if they were physical.


As long as i get to be the frog
A set of infinite possibilities just means one can do anything, even contradict oneself from session to session. Infinity includes violation of the law of the excluded middle and the law of non contradiction.
This is untrue. The law of non-contradiction doesn't depend upon finiteness.

People often get the law of non-contradiction wrong. It's that "contradictory propositions cannot both be true 'at the same time and in the same sense'".

If you have a parallell universe then you have 2 earths, 2 Frogreaver's, etc. Something can be true of one and not true of the other without violating the law of non-contadiction because they would not be 'at the same time and in the same sense'"

I have to agree with the OP. I have always (since 1977) refused to accept anything published about the outer planes as canon.

My games often have planar travel, pretty much exclusively from one "level" of the prime material plane to another. And it requires the plane shift spell, not teleport.

The alternate earth's of Q1 provided a lot of inspiration. I detailed all those worlds and my players loved exploring them.

I've used Auveroigne as an alternate earth in most of my homebrew settings. Clark Ashton Smith is one of my favorite authors.

However in many ways I agree strongly.
IMHO There are two tensions in the genre.

Those that want unlimited and open fantastical settings and stories unbounded and as limitless as one's imagination. Those that want detailed and taxonomic details that list and define places, gods, lore, beasts etc. The former could be said to be Moorcock and the latter Tolkien.

Thing is, IMHO, both can be huge fun. I like both. However I do feel that for a fun and fantastical experience one does have to be able to say "canon, shmanon" and accept at your table that any lore is just a possibility, and in the next three hours "anything can happen".

But that's me.. others like the stability of canon and lore, the verisimilitude, the appearance of being true or real.

I really like this. I have always preferred Moorecock to Tolkien.

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters