D&D General the elemental planes are trash

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth (He/him)
if i were picking the quasi-planes for between the four cardinal elements, maybe not all as organically natural inbetweens but more interesting a place to explore than the plane of salt i think.
air+water=ice
air+earth=gravity
air+fire=lightning
water+earth=wood
water+fire=acid
earth+fire=metal
I've been thinking along these lines as well. I think the Manual of the Planes (1987) got the para- and quasi-elemental planes a little wrong, especially the quasi-elemental. They just don't make a lot of sense to me as presented. I prefer if, rather than a ring, the elemental planes are conceived of as arranged in a tetrahedron with six para-elemental planes forming at the edges. Here are my picks:
  • Fire and Air ~ Lightning (or Plasma?)
  • Fire and Water ~ Steam
  • Fire and Earth ~ Magma
  • Air and Water ~ Mist
  • Air and Earth ~ Dust
  • Water and Earth ~ Mud
At the vertices of the tetrahedron, where three elemental planes and three para-elemental planes all come together, I'd place the following quasi-elemental planes:
  • Fire, Air, and Water (Lightning, Steam, and Mist) ~ Tempest
  • Fire, Air, and Earth (Lightning, Magma, and Dust) ~ Thirst (Ash)
  • Fire, Water, and Earth (Steam, Magma, and Mud) ~ Suffocation
  • Air, Water, and Earth (Mist, Dust, and Mud) ~ Freezing
 

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Staffan

Legend
Can anyone tell me when the shift from elemental planes shifted from the following? Ex Air
1. When i first started the Air elemental planes where the home of Air Elementals but had all different terrain and features. You could plane shift to Air elemental plane and have a supper of hot dogs roasted over an open fire served to by an Person name Hoover.
2. Only air. No islands to dock your plane hopping ship. Just air.
Hmm. Not explaining well.
1. Past. Air Element plane was the birth place of them and they were strong there but it could look like Earth. Or some floating islands.
2. Current. Only Air.
I think almost-pure elements were the original idea, dating back at least to Manual of the Planes in 1e and carrying over to Planescape in 2e and Manual of the Planes in 3e/Core rules in 3.5e. So the plane of Air was basically just wide open air with maybe a few flying islands, Earth was "underground" with caves, Water was an endless underwater ocean, and Fire was an infinite expanse of super-hot fire that would burn you to a crisp within rounds. I think ever since the beginning you had places within the planes that were more hospitable (e.g. the City of Brass in the plane of Fire), but if you plane shifted to a random location without adequate protection you were in for a bad time.

4e merged them all into the Elemental Chaos, which was more of a mixture that was sort of like the real world with natural phenomena turned up to 11 – so a fire aspected location would be more like an eternal forest fire or a mountain range consisting of volcanoes than just FIREFIREFIRE.

5e sort of split the difference, with each plane being separate but being more subdued like in 4e.
 

4e merged them all into the Elemental Chaos, which was more of a mixture that was sort of like the real world with natural phenomena turned up to 11 – so a fire aspected location would be more like an eternal forest fire or a mountain range consisting of volcanoes than just FIREFIREFIRE.
The Elemental Chaos merged the Elemental Planes, the Abyss and Limbo together. It looked more like Limbo. The 5e version of the Elemental Planes has it where the areas closest to the Material Plane resemble the latter plane. As you move toward the Elemental Chaos, the landscape in each elemental plane starts to focus on one particular element before reality begins to break down.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Totally went down a rabbit hole last night, and realized I was subconsciously bothered by the 2-dimensionality of the Wheel and it's 9 outer planes and an inner ring.
Was thinking about a 27 zone cube, with Prime Material in the center
 

GuardianLurker

Adventurer
Totally went down a rabbit hole last night, and realized I was subconsciously bothered by the 2-dimensionality of the Wheel and it's 9 outer planes and an inner ring.
Was thinking about a 27 zone cube, with Prime Material in the center
Heh. In my 3e Campaign, my cosmology was esssentially the Great Wheel (including its version of the Inner Planes), but including a 3rd axis: Creation/Destruction. I never bothered with detailing the additional outer planes, as they never came up.

Two nested spheres - Creation lined up with the Positive Elemental Plane, Destruction with the Negative Elemental Plane, and that axis had a transitive plane with the Feywild as a sub-plane at the positive end, and the Shadowfell at the negative end. (Not that those names were used, but that would be the modern mapping.)

The other axes were also transitive planes - Ethereal was one, but I can remember if it connected Law/Chaos or Good/Evil. I don't remember what the other axis was called, but it wasn't the astral.

Because all of the planes rested in the Astral Plane.

Oh, and the various Material Planes spiraled around the Creation/Destruction axis, rising from destruction to creation, and then when it reached the absolute zenith, plunged right back down to the bottom. I'll see if I can't find my old notes/images for this.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Heh. In my 3e Campaign, my cosmology was esssentially the Great Wheel (including its version of the Inner Planes), but including a 3rd axis: Creation/Destruction. I never bothered with detailing the additional outer planes, as they never came up.

Two nested spheres - Creation lined up with the Positive Elemental Plane, Destruction with the Negative Elemental Plane, and that axis had a transitive plane with the Feywild as a sub-plane at the positive end, and the Shadowfell at the negative end. (Not that those names were used, but that would be the modern mapping.)

The other axes were also transitive planes - Ethereal was one, but I can remember if it connected Law/Chaos or Good/Evil. I don't remember what the other axis was called, but it wasn't the astral.

Because all of the planes rested in the Astral Plane.

Oh, and the various Material Planes spiraled around the Creation/Destruction axis, rising from destruction to creation, and then when it reached the absolute zenith, plunged right back down to the bottom. I'll see if I can't find my old notes/images for this.
Love it, please share when willing and able
 

GuardianLurker

Adventurer
Found it. I'd change things around a little bit now, but here's how it existed back then.
The Olerran Cosmology is arranged as 2 nested spheres. The outer most sphere is the Outer Planes, with an interior vertical stalk connecting the top and bottom. This vertical stalk is only reachable from the World of the Oathbound (at the top), or the Outlands (at the bottom). The inner sphere is the Inner Planes, with two interior features. The Ethereal Plane is a horizontal sheet that connects the Elemental Planes with the Material Planes. The Shadow Plane is a vertical sheet that connects the Energy Planes with the Material Planes. The Astral Plane is the space that all planes exist within, and permeates the entire arrangement.
The view FROM Destruction, THROUGH Negative
CosmologyStructDNPole.gif


The view FROM Chaos, THROUGH Air
CosmologyStructCAPole.gif


The view FROM Good THROUGH Water
CosmologyStructGWPole.gif

And the Legend for all the pretty colors:
CosmologyLegend.gif
 

GuardianLurker

Adventurer
What I'd change these days (to include the 4e/5e additions):
1. The World Column would still be capped by the Outlands (and Sigil), and the Oathbound/Forge setting, and forming the Good-Evil axis. The interior of the World Column stalk would probably be the Ethereal Plane, and contain/interpenetrate all of the Inner and Material Planes. It would pass through Water and Fire.
2. The Ethereal Plane, in the revised scheme, would be the Elemental Plane of Spirit, and in addition to the normal Inner Plane Transit, would also serve as the conduits for the souls from the Material Planes to the Outer Planes.
3. The Plane of Shadow would also extend beyond the Inner Planes, to continue through to the Planes of Creation and Destruction. It would also contain the planes of the Shadowfell (near Negative) and Feywild (near Positive). The middle of that plane would probably be the Elemental Chaos. It'd probably get renamed - the Plane of Change, maybe? Balance?- but I don't have any good contenders.
4. I'd actually introduce a third (or fourth) axis/transitive plane, extending along the Law/Chaos axis, passing through Earth and Air. I have no idea what I would call this one.

Also note, the Para-elemental and Quasi-elemental planes are still in play, though they aren't explicitly called out.

I'd also have to consider whether the Elemental Planes are shared by the Materials, or if each Material plane receives its own copy of the Inner Planes. I'm pretty sure in the original they were shared. So your player characters could, for instance, meet their Mirror Universe selves in the City of Brass. (As well as Sigil, or the Forge).

You'll also notice that I made the Outer Planes "broader" than they are under the standard Great Wheel. That's because I was pretty sure a lot of the Outer Plane creatures would be moving around a bit, and I also wanted to make interplanar transit a bit easier, more blended (and I didn't want to think up names). I'd probably tighten these down a little more at this point, towards your 27 plane setup.
 

GuardianLurker

Adventurer
Now, back to the original topic.

I grew up with 1e.

For me, the elemental planes are intended to be the Platonic Elements - that is the first western conceptions of what made up the world (and the things inside). This is also the source behind the medieval medicinal concept of Humors. Too much Earth in you? Then you're overly Phlegmatic. (etc.) Jann, in this case, are the idealized, perfectly balanced humans.

They're also not supposed to be adventurer friendly. Parts of them are - the "Shallows" where they border the Ethereal or Material planes directly. But the deeper you go, the more alien they are.

BTW, this was the single biggest benefit to the Astral Travel spell over Plane Shift; on the destination plane, your "body" was built out of native materials, so you didn't ever have to worry about protecting yourself from the Plane of Fire, because you were fire yourself. But Astral Travel also required you to deal with off-screen complications, and Plane Shift doesn't. 🤷
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth (He/him)
I've been thinking along these lines as well. I think the Manual of the Planes (1987) got the para- and quasi-elemental planes a little wrong, especially the quasi-elemental. They just don't make a lot of sense to me as presented. I prefer if, rather than a ring, the elemental planes are conceived of as arranged in a tetrahedron with six para-elemental planes forming at the edges. Here are my picks:
  • Fire and Air ~ Lightning (or Plasma?)
  • Fire and Water ~ Steam
  • Fire and Earth ~ Magma
  • Air and Water ~ Mist
  • Air and Earth ~ Dust
  • Water and Earth ~ Mud
At the vertices of the tetrahedron, where three elemental planes and three para-elemental planes all come together, I'd place the following quasi-elemental planes:
  • Fire, Air, and Water (Lightning, Steam, and Mist) ~ Tempest
  • Fire, Air, and Earth (Lightning, Magma, and Dust) ~ Thirst (Ash)
  • Fire, Water, and Earth (Steam, Magma, and Mud) ~ Suffocation
  • Air, Water, and Earth (Mist, Dust, and Mud) ~ Freezing
I thought about this some more and didn't make many changes, but I wanted to update what I posted here with something less tentative. So the idea is the elemental planes are arranged in a tetrahedron with the following faces:
  1. Fire
  2. Air
  3. Water
  4. Earth
(The other inner planes (Material, Feywild, and Shadowfell) would be located inside the tetrahedron).

At the edges of the tetrahedron, where two faces meet, are the following six para-elemental planes:
  • Lightning between 1 and 2,
  • Steam between 1 and 3,
  • Magma between 1 and 4,
  • Mist between 2 and 3,
  • Dust between 2 and 4, and
  • Mud between 3 and 4.
In addition, at the vertices of the tetrahedron, where three faces meet in a point, are the following four trans-elemental planes (renamed from quasi-elemental because I think it fits what I'm doing better):
  • Storm where 1, 2, and 3 meet,
  • Ash where 1, 2, and 4 meet,
  • Volcano where 1, 3, and 4 meet, and
  • Frost where 2, 3, and 4 meet.
 

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