5E Wandering Monsters 1/15/14: Reinventing the Great Wheel

GSHamster

Villager
I wonder why the simplest cosmology is not a reasonable option. Something like:

- Heavens above.
- Hells below.
- "Variants" (Feywild, Shadowfell, Faerie, that one universe with cars and without magic) alongside.
- Require portals/ruptures/dimensional rifts to slip between realities.

I think this covers 90% of what you need a cosmology for, without the "explicitness" of the Great Wheel or any of the other major cosmologies.
 
Core rules need to be setting neutral.
No such thing. How much damage a sword does is a decision that cuts out many settings, whatever option you pick. From AD&D's nerf-swords where you can flail away for a minute or more to take out the lowliest goblin if you aren't a fighter to GURPS combats being over in seconds.

I wonder why the simplest cosmology is not a reasonable option. Something like:

- Heavens above.
- Hells below.
- "Variants" (Feywild, Shadowfell, Faerie, that one universe with cars and without magic) alongside.
- Require portals/ruptures/dimensional rifts to slip between realities.

I think this covers 90% of what you need a cosmology for, without the "explicitness" of the Great Wheel or any of the other major cosmologies.
Should I mention that that's close to the 4e cosmology?
 

dd.stevenson

Super KY
I think a lot of FR fans didn't like 4e realms, but not because of the "cosmology". It's not that the planes didn't work how they wanted, it's that they advanced the time line far into the future, blew up most of what had been established, killed tons of important characters, made the primary authors of the Realms cry and feel like they had no say at all in what happened to the Realms, and essentially created a whole new thing and slapped the FR name on it.

That's not cosmology. I think a lot of people could have swallowed 4e if the Realms had been the same as before, but the ordering of the planes was changed.
Speaking personally, I did not care too much about the cosmology, but the fact that they changed it only reinforced my impression of a management team determined to bulldoze the entire D&D IP to suit their business plan of the hour.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
I wonder why the simplest cosmology is not a reasonable option. Something like:

- Heavens above.
- Hells below.
- "Variants" (Feywild, Shadowfell, Faerie, that one universe with cars and without magic) alongside.
- Require portals/ruptures/dimensional rifts to slip between realities.

I think this covers 90% of what you need a cosmology for, without the "explicitness" of the Great Wheel or any of the other major cosmologies.
It seems ok for core rules to use creature type keywords without implying any plane:

• Celestial/(Outsider)
• Infernal/Fiend/(Outsider)
• Astral
• Fey/Ethereal
• Shade/Shadow
• Natural/Material
• Elemental



Probably most players agree the Planescape Wheel represents a significant minority that cannot be ignored. By extension, especially where core rules are setting-neutral, it is important to ensure it is possible to ‘build’ the Planescape Wheel cosmological setting, seemlessly.
 
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GSHamster

Villager
Should I mention that that's close to the 4e cosmology?
I think the mistake 4E makes is the separation is Outer Planes vs Inner Planes. Imo, the Heaven/Hell or Realm of the Gods/Underworld separation is more natural, corresponds to more real world beliefs and mythologies.

Honestly, I think the pure Elemental planes are a mistake, and are not really necessary. Elementals can just be a pure form of that element, they don't necessarily need to be extraplanar creatures. Ifrit/Djinn, etc, can come from a parallel or variant plane.
 

pemerton

Legend
Alternatively, you define how people see the outer planes in terms of what their particular cultural religion sees them. that way one culture can worship the norse gods and see the meta-world in the way that implies, another can worship the Egyptian pantheor and see the world that way. In which case Set is a part of the world, regardless of whether the Norse recognise him or not.
Glorantha for the win!

In hindsight, when 4e came out, its core rules should have emphasized setting-neutrality, so as not to interfere with ongoing settings and personal campaigns. Its World Axis cosmology with natural Nerath history needed to be a separate optional setting book that came out at the same time as the core rule books did. Players who wanted to explore the new setting with its new cosmology would have purchased the 4e Nerath Setting Guide at the same time as the 4e Players Handbook.
Generalisations are tricky things.

At least in my case, it was Worlds and Monsters that sold me on 4e, and had the game not come with its cosmology and mythic history built in - which for me are such a big part of the game - I might have just not returned to playing D&D.
 

Tovec

Villager
There are many issues with 4e that one can argue "drove away a significant percentage of the customer base", but I seriously doubt cosmology is one of them. Most people really don't much care. They either make their own, use one from a prior edition they like anyway, or don't mind what order things go in as long as the basic concepts are covered in the default. I am not aware of anyone who said "I was going to go with 4e over my other choices of games until I read the cosmology, and that was the line I drew in the sand!"
I disagree. Though my objections have already been partially covered I think you miss a significant part. While the concept of the planes, their arrangements and names are really minor in the grand scheme; the problem was the baked-in assumptions made because of those planes. When the base game now assumes tieflings (but not aasimars..?) in the core book and the game gives a very specific relation of where tieflings come from - then that IS cosmology interfering. I liked tieflings, I liked their vague and easily inducted backgrounds that existed pre-4e. As of 4e they got a completely new visual, came from a specific empire in a world that I did not have, had powers relating to that. Were born of Asmodeus (right?) and had other cosmological and setting requirements. The same went for archons, eladrin, evil-metallic dragons and a whole host of changes that they made for the core books to try and let the heroes be super at first level. This turned many of us off when we first started exploring the game. The cosmology itself was really minor, sure. But it hardly stopped there. With the elemental chaos came the elemental-archons. With a feywild came eladrin and fey-gnomes (as monsters, rawr). And there was very little effort to convert pre-4e material into 4e except in the most ham-fisted ways. So, I thoroughly disagree with your statements here Mistwell.

Most people won't invest the effort to change the default, I believe. If they don't like the default, it's much easier just to play a different game or go do something else entirely with their time.

I don't think it's really easy for a good set of D&D core rules to ignore setting altogether. Like, presumably gods grant clerics magical spells enough for the Cleric class to function -- what gods? How do I play the role of a cleric?

You could be setting neutral by saying "whatever you want" at this point. That's a kind of neutrality. Maybe kind of "unaligned" neutrality, opting out of the question entirely. :) I'm not sure that's the most useful, though.

I think a more useful response than "whatever you want" might be: Here's Thor. Here's Paladine. Here's Gond. Here's the Raven Queen. Here's Pelor. Here's a monotheistic-style God of Goodness. Here's the concept of Nature as a source of divine energy. They're all different examples of what gods could be like in your settings. Pick one. Pick all of them! Mix and match. Maybe make a pantheon or two.

Which is a kind of neutrality, right? The elements are designed to not depend on each other. Just because you use Gond might or might not mean you play in FR. The rulebooks don't make an assumption that you're using one particular pantheon or one cohesive world, rather they acknowledge that you might use anyone of a huge galaxy of possibilities (a few of which they present up-front in a way that makes it clear that this is just some ideas).

But rather than a cold neutrality that tries not to take sides, this is a passionate interest in all the sides. Maybe more of an "inclusive" kind of neutrality. Which totally matches how I play D&D. And how I make my own worlds and adventures. I'm stealing plots from Buffy and villains from Breaking Bad and action scenes from Die Hard and dungeons from National Geographic. I'm grabbing houses from Eberron and gods from Norse Myth and cosmologies from the Greeks.
I certainly agree with you here KM, but to a point. I think that it works best if the game is setting agnostic. Or maybe as a multi-setting-theist, or something. I think there is an element of truth here in saying 'Here are some gods, use what you find best.' But I think there is a big problem you are also showing when you talk about this and demons, from a couple pages back. Space.

I've been playing DnD for a number of years now, but I can count on one hand the amount of times I've used ANY demon in an game. Probably the same for any devil or yugoloth or similar fiendish creature. I can count on one hand the amount of times I've used all celestial races (excluding eladrin). They just don't come up very often in my games. So, while I think that demons, devils, yugoloths and all manner of outsiders can and should be in the book - I absolutely don't want them spending even more pages devoted to giving me variations on the same bloody creature. The devils, demons, and dragons, and [if pathfinder = familiars, if 3.5 = dinosaurs] already take dozens of pages to explain the base creatures in both 3e and 4e MMs. On top of that you seem to want to add in MORE content to bloat everything. I disagree with that approach.

Instead, I would like to see one base creature. Demons (let's say) are chaotic evil creatures. Try to avoid mentioning where they come from, let people decide that on their own. If you must then mention the abyss as that seems to be the most common origin for them throughout DnD cosmologies. After this, in setting books or further supplements you can introduce the other cosmological demons, from the grey, black, underworld, elemental .. - whatever/where-ever they come from in those settings. That is the job of a setting to have different information. The job of the core book is to present something we can also use, as much as possible.

Same goes for the gods, give us a pantheon, or maybe some major gods of varying pantheons. But I can't see how you can give us full pantheons (many gods) in the core books. It just won't work. Having Thor in the book might make sense, but do you also include Odin, Freya, Frigga, Sif, Loki, valhalla and ragnarok? How about Ra and his cadre? And so on? I don't think you can. It just get's to be too much. They made an entire book called deities and demigods explaining different patheons, as well as rules to stat them out (so you can kill them) and how to make your own. Do that again if you need to. But don't put that in the core books - it is too much information in the right place. Like teaching assault rifle repair in grade school. Learn the basics, enough to run the game; add in some extras so you can customize; then upgrade to 'make your own' in the advanced stages. And you can't do this by giving us all the demons in the first book.

I wonder why the simplest cosmology is not a reasonable option. Something like:

- Heavens above.
- Hells below.
- "Variants" (Feywild, Shadowfell, Faerie, that one universe with cars and without magic) alongside.
- Require portals/ruptures/dimensional rifts to slip between realities.

I think this covers 90% of what you need a cosmology for, without the "explicitness" of the Great Wheel or any of the other major cosmologies.
Because that pleases too few people. Some can work with it but it fails to describe the great wheel, any of the major cosmologies, and even the 4e world axis (elemental chaos below, astral sea above). It just doesn't work as a cosmology. It might work for some people, when they make it up (my own cosmology looks similar to that) but as a cosmology for a game system it isn't enough. Just like saying:

Why not have something like:
- Complete monster (evil)
- Complete puritan* (good)

When describing the WOD system. Well you can't because there are mechanical and flavour differences between that and the humanity scale that already exists and is used in that system. Downgrading to a system that barely exists won't suffice. Take a F150 and remove everything except the engine, gas pedal and wheels won't let you be better at racing. It'll get you disqualified.

*for lack of a better word

Glorantha for the win!

Generalisations are tricky things.

At least in my case, it was Worlds and Monsters that sold me on 4e, and had the game not come with its cosmology and mythic history built in - which for me are such a big part of the game - I might have just not returned to playing D&D.
Believe it or not, with all I'm saying about how 4e turned me off with its monsters and cosmology, I was also very impressed with the Worlds and Monsters gimmick. I vividly recall discussing with my friends what implications the new cosmology might have on our homebrew worlds. When we saw the GAME itself that was another matter. Especially with the baked-in godly bits, radically altered monsters, and general complete (cow-slaughtering) upheaval of the game we enjoyed. But still the cosmology stuck with me as something they were doing partially right.

Even now, as I eluded to earlier, my own personal head-canon of cosmology looks a lot more like the 4e model than the great wheel. With that said, I try to keep as much great wheel material valid as possible - something I wish WotC had at least tried to do. As a perhaps foolish prime, though, I just have another view on the planes that makes them work while keeping the existing stuff as untouched as possible. Something I think they are kind of trying to do with 5e, but still in my estimation failing at thus far. We'll see.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
Tovec said:
I absolutely don't want them spending even more pages devoted to giving me variations on the same bloody creature
Sure, but that's more about how demons aren't useful to you specifically than a problem with the methodology

What kinds of things the designers want to spend a lot of pages on is kind of a question for a team with better market research data than I have to answer. I can't tell you what would be the best use of space in an MM -- if people want demons or humanoids or dragons or beholders or dinosaurs or familiars or elementals or whatever. I'd imagine for the first monster book you'd like a big diversity of things spanning 20 levels and hitting some of the most iconic creature types. I'd imagine that the more settings the thing appears in, the better chance it has of appearing. Which also means, the better chance it has of having a few variants in with it, to reflect how different settings use it.

This doesn't mean a hugely inflated page count either, though. 2e got away with a little a little variants paragraph in certain monster entries. It doesn't need to be much more than that, and that only needs to appear when there's some strong divergences -- because the monster entries are written to be specific to their setting regardless of the existence of variants, it is already implied that they might not be like this outside of that setting (or, heck, they might be!). Present a Vrock as a Demon from the Abyss who participates in the Blood War, and if that's all the extraplanar monsters your research suggests you need in a game, you're done!

Tovec said:
On top of that you seem to want to add in MORE content to bloat everything. I disagree with that approach.
This variety already exists, I just want a game that acknowledges it and treats it as a strength rather than a game that tries to unify everything under One True X.

Tovec said:
Demons (let's say) are chaotic evil creatures. Try to avoid mentioning where they come from, let people decide that on their own.
That's the "neutrality as avoiding the question" position I outlined. And it poses real problems when you're designing a game -- the first of which for monsters is that it doesn't give anyone any reason to actually use the critter. Okay, there's this thing called a demon and it's CE and there's no reason at all for any DM to give a crap about it. It's ythraks all over again: a lack of material means that there's nothing selling the creature to you. That's especially true in a D&D that takes one of the big improvements from 4e (easy peasy monster generation) and brings it forward: you now have the ability to whip up stats in a few minutes for ANY creature you want. Which means each critter in the MM needs to justify itself even harder as an interesting story, an interesting antagonist, an interesting world element to use.

I mean, it's a fair way to do things, but its weaknesses are pretty huge. If you hope to sell a monster book to people who don't really need monster mechanics (because the e makes it so easy to make those yourself), you're going to want to make sure you have some rich, evocative material in there that encourages DMs who read the book to want to use the creature THIS WEEK.

Tovec said:
Having Thor in the book might make sense, but do you also include Odin, Freya, Frigga, Sif, Loki, valhalla and ragnarok? How about Ra and his cadre? And so on? I don't think you can.
Nah, just Thor. Maybe the Thor description mentions other gods and places (he hates Loki, Odin his is dad, he hangs out in Valhalla) and leaves that open. Maybe a future Deities and Demigods book goes into detail about those elements, maybe its just up to a DM running a Nordic-themed game to do the legwork.

That's the thing about a building block approach: the block itself can be used alone, it can be combined with similar blocks, or it can be used with radically different blocks that nonetheless combine easily ("In this ancient Egytpian setting we're using the Norse gods, and they have animal heads, and also Waterdeep from FR, but with pyramids instead of castles. Also there are ninjas."). It doesn't depend on this complex web of supporting records to function, it just works by itself.

The big idea here is that the game makes no attempt to really reconcile these elements in any True Official Way. And a group that doesn't care about reconciling them doesn't even need to worry about it. And a group that does can pick the World Axis or the Great Ring or whatever and run with it without worrying if Pelor is a true Nordic god or not (he is if you say he is, guys), without worrying if Feywild and Arborea are the same or different (maybe they are, maybe they aren't, you tell me, DM), without having to muck about with choosing broad, flavorless defaults, without bothering themselves with excluding certain players or demoting them to "non-canon" status ("Okay, if you like eladrin in the feywild, that's how it is here").

I think my favorite aspect of this is that it encourages exploration. It always suggests that there's more over the next ridge, just left off because of page count. There's Thor. Maybe there's a Valhalla. Maybe there's an Yggdrasil. Maybe Ymir. Maybe dwarves in the mountains worship him and his hammer. Maybe the plains people where the storms pick up vast speeds and the horse hooves sound like thunder give him homage. It's not defined, jut's just possible...just waiting for someone to explore.

Tovec said:
But don't put that in the core books - it is too much information in the right place. Like teaching assault rifle repair in grade school. Learn the basics, enough to run the game; add in some extras so you can customize; then upgrade to 'make your own' in the advanced stages. And you can't do this by giving us all the demons in the first book.
The issue with this model is that playing D&D and DMing your own fun games isn't something that requires some sort of advanced degree. This is a game about make-believe: literally, 8 year olds should be able to do this. But no one's going to WANT to do it if the game is completely agnostic, refusing to take a side. Rather, I want my game to be polytheistic, to believe absolutely that there's Ra and there's Thor and there's The Silver Flame and there's no reason these can't all be alongside each other in the books, because they've all got awesome things to offer.
 
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Mistwell

Hero
I disagree. Though my objections have already been partially covered I think you miss a significant part. While the concept of the planes, their arrangements and names are really minor in the grand scheme; the problem was the baked-in assumptions made because of those planes. When the base game now assumes tieflings (but not aasimars..?) in the core book and the game gives a very specific relation of where tieflings come from - then that IS cosmology interfering. I liked tieflings, I liked their vague and easily inducted backgrounds that existed pre-4e. As of 4e they got a completely new visual, came from a specific empire in a world that I did not have, had powers relating to that. Were born of Asmodeus (right?) and had other cosmological and setting requirements. The same went for archons, eladrin, evil-metallic dragons and a whole host of changes that they made for the core books to try and let the heroes be super at first level. This turned many of us off when we first started exploring the game. The cosmology itself was really minor, sure. But it hardly stopped there. With the elemental chaos came the elemental-archons. With a feywild came eladrin and fey-gnomes (as monsters, rawr). And there was very little effort to convert pre-4e material into 4e except in the most ham-fisted ways. So, I thoroughly disagree with your statements here Mistwell.
None of that is FROM the cosmology, it was merely linked to it to try and reinforce the cosmology. As you say, the cosmology itself was really minor. If they hadn't added those creatures/races into the core books, it wouldn't have bothered you much I suspect. But, I am pretty darn sure they added those creatures/races first (because their polls said they were popular with players from 3e) and then drew links between those creatures and the new cosmology. But I seriously doubt there was a causal link between those things you object to (and others) and the cosmology. It all seemed like a pretty shallow after-thought type connection.

And I am quite sure the idea that they PCs were heroes at first level did not come from the cosmology. That's definitely an idea they decided on independent of cosmology. You can have weak or strong PCs at first level, regardless of cosmology.

Bottom line - the cosmology itself, which we both agree was a pretty minor issue - is not what drove away significant portions of players. It was other stuff (some of which WOTC tried to try some weak connections to the cosmology), not the cosmology itself.
 

Shemeska

Adventurer
But, I am pretty darn sure they added those creatures/races first (because their polls said they were popular with players from 3e) and then drew links between those creatures and the new cosmology.
If that had been the case, I seriously doubt they would have radically redefined those creatures the way they did in 4e versus their 1e/2e/3e incarnation.

I suspect it was a larger, focused attempt to remake and brand the game to differentiate 4e from the OGL-linked 3e (and as a result most of D&D's past self).
 

Mistwell

Hero
If that had been the case, I seriously doubt they would have radically redefined those creatures the way they did in 4e versus their 1e/2e/3e incarnation.
They didn't. There were relatively minor alterations to the fluff, and aside from that they simply took what came before and modified it to fit the standard practices of 4e, none of which required the cosmology.
 

Tovec

Villager
Sure, but that's more about how demons aren't useful to you specifically than a problem with the methodology
It says more about me that I don't need many many demons in the book? Sure. While it may seem plain to say that if I don't use elves in my games that I don't need 8 varieties of them in the book. This might seem obvious to an extent. But it is not what I'm actually saying. I'm saying I rarely use elves (or demons as I actually said) but think that for space concerns I think they should pick a single type to start and allow others to be labeled as different types in other materials (preferably later MMs or setting books). I'm saying I understand the need for a default, even recognizing the default effect and that people won't necessarily go looking for further products. That is the price you pay, you also seem to understand this. WotC certainly does too. Given that they have said they are using a great wheel setup it seems as though they have their default. Even the default in 4e would have been fine, as long as it didn't eliminate too many things from other systems. People are smart enough to realize that kender, while taking the place of halflings in a setting, are not halflings, and so if you provide (in the MM/PHB/wherever) a source for halflings then there is no problem if they don't resemble kender. The problem is when you try to give kender AS the default halfling, using the kender description in place of the halfling one. Please note that I don't think you are advocating for this. I think that WotC did this to an extent in 4e, to its detriment.

This doesn't mean a hugely inflated page count either, though. 2e got away with a little a little variants paragraph in certain monster entries. It doesn't need to be much more than that, and that only needs to appear when there's some strong divergences -- because the monster entries are written to be specific to their setting regardless of the existence of variants, it is already implied that they might not be like this outside of that setting (or, heck, they might be!). Present a Vrock as a Demon from the Abyss who participates in the Blood War, and if that's all the extraplanar monsters your research suggests you need in a game, you're done!
First, I think it is important to note, for the actual 5e MM, that you don't have to say blood war anywhere in the book. Doesn't have to be raised in any extent. Having the great wheel basis does NOT mean you have to have a blood war or any planescape stuff along with it. Planescape is a setting, the great wheel is different. With that said, I think if you are going to say a specific plane that demons/vrocks come from then it had better be the abyss - unless you are describing a specific creature like the kender which only belong to one setting - they come from a specific place. Even in 4e they come from the abyss, where the abyss is has moved but they still come from there - and so if you are going to say their plane of origin it should be the abyss.

Second, I think that if you give variants it is going to roughly double the room it takes. That is if you give any real kind of description. The poorly explained variants in the 3e MM book for elves, gnomes, dwarves, and so on, just gave a physical description without giving us anything else to denote who or what the variants were - and that extra material basically doubled the entry in the MM. I think that given this is true that space is a concern. So, give a default monster. If you want to elude to others I think you should do so in its own book (preferably a setting book if they're trying to push the IP angle) and not in the first monster manual. For those 8 year olds you need something they can use, not to bog them down in 3 (wasn't it 3?) variants of demons from different settings they have never heard of. 8 year olds can use any version they see and don't have to go looking.

Third, I didn't mention this last time, but what you described originally was templates to modify the base creature. I think this is often unsatisfying and takes extra effort. Even quick conversion rules are just extra calculations I would rather never have to do. If I want to make something new from scratch then they are useful, but to have to remember to apply the elemental template every time is a hassle.

This variety already exists, I just want a game that acknowledges it and treats it as a strength rather than a game that tries to unify everything under One True X.
I agree with you here. Everyone's table is going to be different. I just disagree with how you do it. As you have been repeatedly told it is impossible to try and incorporate everybody's version into the game. So you need to have the game open enough that people can use whatever they want and ignore what they don't want. The monster manual by design already works like this. And again, WotC IS going to have a default setting, are you advocating they do not - and if so what does this look like beyond presenting literally every bit of information right at the get go?

I mean, it's a fair way to do things, but its weaknesses are pretty huge. If you hope to sell a monster book to people who don't really need monster mechanics (because the e makes it so easy to make those yourself), you're going to want to make sure you have some rich, evocative material in there that encourages DMs who read the book to want to use the creature THIS WEEK.
Which by itself is a big downside of later monster manuals. I have more than enough fiends, undead and abberations in the first book and a half, do I need another three to tell me MORE of those creatures? Now, if you give me something different then that is another horse entirely. I'm a big fan of themed books - running a low magic then buy book A, high-epic book B, this setting book C, that setting book D, and so on. That is the way that paizo has managed to get me interested in (though my finances preclude me from) buying the later Bestiaries - different themes on creatures. They could even open it up to new types. And WotC has actual different settings they can emulate the books on. So instead of having the base MM, then the forgotten realms books which repeats half the creatures - do a base book (maybe one for beginners/newbies?), then a forgotten realms one which adds in forgotten realms ONLY type creatures. I don't know, its an idea at least.

Nah, just Thor. Maybe the Thor description mentions other gods and places (he hates Loki, Odin his is dad, he hangs out in Valhalla) and leaves that open. Maybe a future Deities and Demigods book goes into detail about those elements, maybe its just up to a DM running a Nordic-themed game to do the legwork.
Okay. If you want to introduce JUST Thor then I can get on-board. I suspect it would confuse people more than help but my objection about space is gone.

That's the thing about a building block approach: the block itself can be used alone, it can be combined with similar blocks, or it can be used with radically different blocks that nonetheless combine easily ("In this ancient Egytpian setting we're using the Norse gods, and they have animal heads, and also Waterdeep from FR, but with pyramids instead of castles. Also there are ninjas."). It doesn't depend on this complex web of supporting records to function, it just works by itself.
Which is great if you are 8 and playing with Lego - and able to use your imagination to put pieces from all sets together - with samurai fighting in the wild west with emergency vehicles driving past. The problem is that I am not 8, and the vast majority of the people who play ANY version of DnD are not 8. And even the people who ARE 8 will not be 8 forever. So, you might have to give tools (as opposed to building blocks) that allow us to actually MAKE what we want, instead of having an imitation. My point is that samurai in the wild west is fun, but yo aren't going to be able to tell the same kinds of stories as in game of thrones or even lord of the rings. Some genre-bending is fine, but it is not the same as purposeful mixing of tones. The game should probably try to cater at least in part to an older demographic.

The big idea here is that the game makes no attempt to really reconcile these elements in any True Official Way. And a group that doesn't care about reconciling them doesn't even need to worry about it. And a group that does can pick the World Axis or the Great Ring or whatever and run with it without worrying if Pelor is a true Nordic god or not (he is if you say he is, guys), without worrying if Feywild and Arborea are the same or different (maybe they are, maybe they aren't, you tell me, DM), without having to muck about with choosing broad, flavorless defaults, without bothering themselves with excluding certain players or demoting them to "non-canon" status ("Okay, if you like eladrin in the feywild, that's how it is here").
Go back and look at my posts for where I said there should be one only true official minted specific way. I didn't. I said I think there should be a default and there will be a default. And WotC seems to agree. Beyond that, I think you should leave cosmology out of the core books (I'm thinking core as in basic, intro, 3 main) as much as possible. Don't specify feywild, arborea, great wheel or any of it. Try to use language that avoids such absolutes. BUT if you have to give specification then use the one that applies most broadly. If a creature makes most sense as a feywild inhabitant then label it as such. I don't even mind if they have elemental-archons, as long as they are labeled as such. That way if people are playing a world-axis game they can pick those creatures and if they hate the world-axis they can avoid them. The problem seems obvious to me in that you get into problems when you take something or radically alter it for one setting - then apply that change universally. So, label elemental archons as such in a world axis supplement. But have celestial-archons in others - as the celestial version is most broadly applied.

There doesn't have to be one true way to do it, but there does have to be a default and that default should be as widely appealing as possible. And I don't see what your solution is beyond the WotC way being bad and adding in much more content (pages) than seems realistically possible (base demons, alternates and/or templates, for every other creature - because 4e decided it liked to be unique and mess with things).

None of that is FROM the cosmology, it was merely linked to it to try and reinforce the cosmology. As you say, the cosmology itself was really minor. If they hadn't added those creatures/races into the core books, it wouldn't have bothered you much I suspect. But, I am pretty darn sure they added those creatures/races first (because their polls said they were popular with players from 3e) and then drew links between those creatures and the new cosmology. But I seriously doubt there was a causal link between those things you object to (and others) and the cosmology. It all seemed like a pretty shallow after-thought type connection.

And I am quite sure the idea that they PCs were heroes at first level did not come from the cosmology. That's definitely an idea they decided on independent of cosmology. You can have weak or strong PCs at first level, regardless of cosmology.

Bottom line - the cosmology itself, which we both agree was a pretty minor issue - is not what drove away significant portions of players. It was other stuff (some of which WOTC tried to try some weak connections to the cosmology), not the cosmology itself.
I don't entirely follow what you are saying here.

The cosmology establishes that there a world axis. That axis is reflected in:
A. The gods that exist, their roles and relations to one another.
B. The alignment system that exists, its relation to mortals.
C. The 'outsiders' (you'd call them immortals?) definitions, their homes and you guessed it their relations to one another.
C i. No more blood war is one thing, no more traipsing between hell and the abyss is another (but also fine), but how they did things made no sense form a long standing history of relations between the two 'races'. No continuity to follow, entirely bizarre from what was given to use even a year prior.
C ii. Eladrin are now no longer celestials or 'outsiders'. This definition was always kind of hazy as to how they could be celestial AND fey so the change to pure fey wasn't too hard. But eladrin lost even that and became grey elves - what?
C iii. Archons.. what happened now?
D. For all the claims that 3e changed things from 2e at least there was an attempt at backward compatibility as far as the fluff went. I mean our players never knew why it was called Melf's acid arrow, but it was still called that.
E. As I already said, the races themselves. Gnomes are now monsters, dragonborn are now everywhere (as opposed to special) and no longer resemble what came before, tieflings are now everywhere and no longer came from where they did before. The reasons for this was to be tied to cosmology - gnomes are now fey from the feywild, tieflings now related to the god asmodeus (again, fuzzy on this because I have long since stopped following or caring about the alterations and am going purely from memory).
F. All of these, now mixed with settings that are not the world axis. Why are there so many tieflings and dragonborn in faerun all of a sudden? Why is Dark Sun using the elemental chaos?

Now, you say the layout of the planes doesn't matter. To an extent this is true. But it is VERY tricky to untie cosmology from all of what I just said. Trust me I've done it in my own setting a half dozen times in a half dozen ways. One change begets another and then another and keeps going seemingly without end, often in the most surprising ways. I can't say if the cosmology layout came first or last but it IS linked to the changes that were made and does matter. If there is no feywild then there is no reason gnomes and eladrin would be from there, for example.
 

Cadence

Villager
They didn't. There were relatively minor alterations to the fluff, and aside from that they simply took what came before and modified it to fit the standard practices of 4e, none of which required the cosmology.
I thought some of the fluff changes were more than minor and seemed tied into the cosmology/backstory like @Tovec; is arguing too. ( @Shemeska; 's point in post #90 seemed to me like a plausible reason as to why they might want to do this.)

As one example from the monster descriptions, the giants are now as much elemental as humanoid (is one of them in the picture actually animated rocks?), they enslaved the dwarves, the azer are actually dwarves now, and the galeb duhr are former dwarves too (instead of rock-ent's from 2e). WotC even explicitly said that the cosmology is what allowed them to make these changes: https://www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4ex/20080512b

In a lot of the racial descriptions the campaign setting tie-in is put in a lot later in the descriptions and less intrusively so than I remembered. The biggest exception seems to be the Tieflings where the description starts right off with Bael Turath and their conflict with the Dragonborn - which ties the Dragonborn down specifically to Arkhosia. That and the change in appearance seemed pretty large.

The Eladrin and Deva also forcibly disconnected 4e from the previous fluff if they are matched up to the high elves (as the PhB does) and the aasimar (as the FRPG does). Was the former's change decided on before or after the increased importance of the Feywild in the cosmology? Was the later's change pushed along by the default campaign induced change to the Tiefling background or decided before that?
 
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SkidAce

Adventurer
If that had been the case, I seriously doubt they would have radically redefined those creatures the way they did in 4e versus their 1e/2e/3e incarnation.

I suspect it was a larger, focused attempt to remake and brand the game to differentiate 4e from the OGL-linked 3e (and as a result most of D&D's past self).
Yup...
 

Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
There were many things about 4e's fluff that turned me off from it cosmology is certainly one of them, along with ugly Dryads and homogenized Tieflings. Probably the Tiefling one being one of the biggest ones, as there hasn't been an version of the Tiefling I liked since 2e, 3e I hated the fact they had a charisma penalty and level adjustment, and while I was happy that in 4e their charisma bonus returned I hated the fact that they were all homogenized. I certainly like the Great Wheel as Planescape is my favourite setting, but it isn't a complete factor as I've been playing a lot of stuff in Golarion which doesn't have the Great Wheel (even though technically they wouldn't be allowed to use it being another company).

That's not to say I hate everything about the World Axis, certainly I feel that parts of Feywild and Shadowfell would fit alright in the Great Wheel. I certainly agree about the point brought up in that article about how does any mortal know how infinite planes are actually linked to each other. I remember a point in Planescape where they mentioned the fallacy of "Ringwalking" and mapping the planes, which probably went along with calling someone a Berkshire Hunt which rhymes with something beginning with the letter C.
 

pemerton

Legend
I thought some of the fluff changes were more than minor and seemed tied into the cosmology/backstory
That was how I found it, too.

For me the cosmology is not just the diagrammatic presentation of the planes (I don't think 4e actually had that until the MotP): it's the mythic history and integration of all the story elements that relate to that that I'm interested in. So I think I'm also closer to agreement with [MENTION=95493]Tovec[/MENTION].
 

Cyberen

Villager
This article is excellent news !!!
It even makes me feel warm inside : WotC take on cosmology seems to please both [MENTION=22779]Hussar[/MENTION] and [MENTION=11697]Shemeska[/MENTION] at the same time, which is no small feat ! I hope their decision-making was influenced by our passionate debates on these very matters...
Also, kudos for [MENTION=2067]Kamikaze Midget[/MENTION] : I think your Tagging System (TM) for the Jigsaw Cosmology (C) is elegant, inspirational, and page-count effective (as it doesn't multiply statblocks, it only adds a few evocative lines to the fluff part of monster description).
Concerning "Demons are from the Abyss" : yeah, "abyssal" is a D&Dism synonymous with "demonic", so it's kind of a tautology. Yet, I agree with KM : I think reconsidering some elements of the early editions in a Core System vs Setting Specific light should make for a leaner, stronger game and IP (for instance, untying the Druid & Monk classes chassis from their organization in the world, or fireball from its bat guano economy).
Concerning cosmology : the layout of the planes is not really important (even if I would like transition from plane to plane not to be considered solely as discrete : plane hopping vs plane walking). But I think the level structure of D&D makes an overarching, cosmic conflict mandatory : episodic conflicts are fine for short campaigns or low-level play, but you would soon need something bigger to encapsulate those episodes. This is, IMHO, the purpose of "cosmology", and it definitely has a lot of influence on the game. Concerning default/baseline, I hope they provide both Great Wheel (sacred cows...) and World Axis, which is so much easier to use out-of-the-box as a source of conflict and drama... (also, even if Law vs Chaos is a trope at least as old as Greek mythos, I dare say that Elemental Evil is a great D&D trope WotC should keep on building upon)
 

Klaus

Villager
(also, even if Law vs Chaos is a trope at least as old as Greek mythos, I dare say that Elemental Evil is a great D&D trope WotC should keep on building upon)
Judging by the mentions of the Princes of Elemental Evil in Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle, I'd say WotC agrees with you!

IMHO, I think the rejection of the World Axis cosmology by some fans of previous editions had less to do with the actual cosmology, or its implications to the races and mosters (which are both rather easy to sidestep/adjust), and more with its assumptions being pushed into previous settings (so now Syberys is the Astral Sea and Khyber is the Elemental Chaos, etc). It's okay to have a default setting (as the Nentir Vale was to 4e), but it shouldn't intrude other settings.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
Cyberen said:
I think the level structure of D&D makes an overarching, cosmic conflict mandatory : episodic conflicts are fine for short campaigns or low-level play, but you would soon need something bigger to encapsulate those episodes. This is, IMHO, the purpose of "cosmology", and it definitely has a lot of influence on the game.
That's a good point. Epic conflicts involve epic stories which shake the stars in the sky and rattle the heavens themselves. Totally the kind of thing high-level D&D should truck in.

Klaus said:
It's okay to have a default setting (as the Nentir Vale was to 4e), but it shouldn't intrude other settings.
I'm sympathetic to the 4e setting designers' concerns here. I get that if you put setting material in the Core Books and people start to associate that with playing D&D, that it then becomes something that you kind of WANT to include in every product. Like, if people are used to the Feywild, or the Elemental Chaos, or teleporting blink elf PCs, because that's the "default," the thrust is to include the "default" in every setting so that someone coming from just the Core Books still gets to play with their favorite game element. Arguably, this is why so many settings have elves and dwarves and halflings and gnomes, and why they're kind of vaguely similar to each other in most settings: the default intrudes on other settings by its nature as a default.

I kind of get that pressure. Which is part of why I've come to the idea of "no default, just examples." That way it's clear from the outset that D&D itself doesn't necessarily involve X, Y, or Z, but it is only by the choice of the DM and the group that their particular game has it. Which frees you up when you're making a setting to do what makes sense for the setting without having to accommodate an assumption that X, Y, or Z, because it's in the core rules, should be part of every D&D game.
 

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