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D&D General What role do the planes play in your games?

I just wrapped a short campaign where the party was trying to find a secret armory on the other side of a portal to the land of the fey, because someone who dreamed inside that armory could create magical weapons and monsters out of their dreams.

But the campaign before that was just overland travel and local adventures with no weird planes stuff. And the one before that was Star Wars.

How often do you go to other planes in your games? Is it a one-off excursion, or is traveling between planes of recurring element? How do you think about planes and what makes going to another plane different than just going to another location on the same world?

Like, that armory could have just been a magical location. It didn't have to be in another plane. So why did I put it there, I wonder?

Anyway, please brag about cool stuff you've done in your games.
 

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HJFudge

Explorer
I have used other dimensions, but never have I used the planes-as-written.

Other dimensions or planes of existence in my campaigns have always been, if I use them, either places the party gets cast off too and the adventure is 'how to get back' or I put a macguffin in one they have to go into to get the thingamajig from.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
It has been a couple of decades or more since I played or ran a D&D game that made significant use of any planes other than the Prime Material.

You know how people sometimes complain that elves are humans with pointy ears? And all the other PC races are just humans in funny costumes? That's the planes, for me. In order to make the planes viable for play for any period of time, in some sense the group needs them reduced to "the normal world in a funny suit" - either the alien nature of the place gets toned down, or the party gets kitted out with magics such that the plane, itself, isn't a big deal.

At which point, going to another plane is only going to another area of the world with different political factions and such. And I don't need to muck about with the planes to do that. And I don't need to take PCs to the planes to give them a weird physical environment for short periods of time - I can have a magically unique area in my game world do that.

So, I don't really see the point.
 

jgsugden

Legend
It changes throughout the campaign.

Levels 1 to 5 are almost always entirely on the PMP, with perhaps some jaunts to the Feywild, Ethereal or Shadowfell.

Levels 6 to 12 usually get the PCs off plane for short stints. They may go to the Cities of Iron, Brass and Gold to buy something, travel to the Ethereal to get to my version of Sigil, or go visit a mining operation in the Elemental Plane (I have one elemental plane with pockets of different types of elements).

Level 13+17 - Have Plane Shift, will travel. My world is a sandbox and there are a lot of extraplanar hooks, but there are also hooks for the PMP as well. It is up to them, but they usually get excited about something extraplanar. Assaulting a Gith City in the Astral, taking down the Dark Force controlling a plane in my Raveloft equivalent, Finding a Devil in the Hells to kill it forever... these are more interesting, it seems, than shaping empires on the mortal plane.

Levels 18 to 20 tend to be where the campaign long storyline questions get answered and we pull the PCs away from the sandbox and into a railroad. Almost all of the 'end of campaign' storylines I've run have a long climax that takes place across the planes. 3/4 of them end up in the Hells for the final moments.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Current campaign we have a Oath of the Watcher Paladin who's order of knights watch the great Netherportals, evidence of naturally occuring infernal portals that infernal gnolls are coming through at great cost and setting up more portals, and the party is currently on a mad and timeless rush through the feywild because they need to get from Here to There really quickly as their Child-Empress has been usurped, and portals to the feywild ae the only way. (Teleportation and other magics do not work across the oceans.) Really working on the alien-ness of both the people and the land itself of the Feywild.

Last completed campaign really had nothing using other material planes, though it had more exploration of the Underworld (underdark-esqe) and Overworld.

Before that I ran multiple campaigns in a world with a homebre cosmology that came up a lot. Basically, the material planes were bubbles that floated independantly in each of the four elemental planes. (Think you have an X, Y, and Z for where you are in the plane of water, an A, B and C for where you are in the plane of fire, etc.) Each with their own vectors of movement, currents, etc. All elements in the material planes were therefore "close" to their elemental forms as well. When material planes got close, it was possible to move between them through that element in the material planes. The material plane the campaign was centered around had particularly thin walls from the elements making it easier to reach, and over the ages various gods had led their sentient followers hear to escape apocalypse, geneocide, etc. So there were distinct orc cultures that originate on different planes, etc. The only original sentient inhabitants of this plane was underdark halflings.

There was also a dream realm and a shadow realm that wrapped the material plane. While it was well before (these started when 3.0 was first published - not all the core books were out when we did session 0), the Upside Down from Stranger Things is a good analog.

The elven Courts were special material planes. They were limited demiplanes, but the elves had a lot more control over where they went and would intentionally visit various material planes. So a Court might intersect with a material plane for a decade or century and eventually move on, and another Court might come at another time.

There were no dedicated god-realms, but mortal could ascend and that was actually a big theme in the second campaign, as the intermediary step was a fisher-king like "the king is the land, the land is the king" and one of the PCs trying to unite all of the warring giants and humans and such to take those first steps.
 

Shroompunk Warlord

Archdruid of the Warp Zones
I try to avoid using them at all, especially in my favorite D&D settings-- Spelljammer and Dark Sun-- to the extent I warn players that they're less accessible and they might not work the way players expect, and really, guys, the campaign's over here... and you've already probably guessed how I feel about that. I don't like the D&D Multiverse, I don't like every D&D setting having a shared cosmology, and I don't like having all of the settings that are already the most alike constantly crossing over.

In my own settings... the one that's most like a D&D setting only has Worlds (primes with similar laws of magic/physics) and the Warp Zones which individually function as different mixtures of the Astral and the Far Realm. My wuxia setting, fittingly, has about a billion different Heavens and Hells and a bunch of undefined miscellaneous outworlds; these might individually be named, but they will never be categorized. My space opera has what humans call "Hell", functioning as both the Nine Hells and the Abyss and the Far Realm; there's theoretically a Heaven where the angels come from, but the angels don't want us to find it and the devils hate us more than they hate the angels at this point.
 

SirMoogle

Explorer
Currently in a Tomb of Annihilation campaign, so no plane shenanigans. My DM's next campaign is supposed to deal with eldritch artifacts which may or may not create portals to other planes in Eberron, so who knows if us PCs will be flung into Syrania.
 

FireLance

Legend
The evil-aligned planes and the Shadowfell/Plane of Shadow are now my go-to source for creatures that have Bad Plans for the PCs' village/country/world/plane and which the PCs can fight without worrying if they are perpetuating racist tropes.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I use the planes a fair bit, but I also interpret them very differently than what’s canon. My setting used a variation on the World Axis cosmology - the World exists in the balance between the tumult of the Primordial Chaos and the stasis of the Astral Sea. It’s very rare that the PCs will actually travel to these places, but their influences can be felt strongly throughout the World.

Parallel to the World is Faerie, which is a border plane between the Material plane and the planes of Fire, Earth, Water, Air, and Aether. These elemental planes arent exactly places, as much as they are states of being or “frequencies” within Faerie, accessed by attuning one’s self sympathetically to the appropriate element. Crossings to Faerie are more commonplace the further you get from civilization, to the point that one can easily end up wandering into Faerie by accident, and the line between “the Wild” and “Faerie” is pretty subjective.

Beneath the surface of the World is the Underworld, though its status as a distinct plane is highly debatable (and indeed, hotly debated by scholars in-universe). Similarly to how one can end up crossing into Faerie entirely by accident when venturing far from civilization, one can end up in the Underworld by delving too greedily and too deep. And the farther down you go, the less like the World above your surroundings become. So one could reasonably surmise that the Underworld and Faerie are both parts of a single Otherworld. Indeed, one could make similar arguments about all of the elemental planes these worlds connect to. The Otherworld plays a role in most of my campaigns. Most dungeons are at least partially in the Underworld, and wilderness exploration often carries a risk of ending up in Faerie.

Additionally, there’s the Abyss. Its precise place in the cosmos is not well understood, but the strongest theories draw parallels between the Abyss and the Primordial Chaos - the latter seems to exist at the farthest reaches of the elemental planes, and the former occupies a similar space in the deepest recesses of the Underworld (and maybe also the ocean...? Kos, or some say Kosm... do you hear our prayers?) It’s not common for PCs to visit the Abyss, but some especially deep megadungeons do connect to it.

Finally, there’s the Far Realm. It exists beyond the stars - in fact, many believe the stars are holes in the cosmos, portals to this other place. It is not accessible from the World by any known means, though it is theorized that if one could build a vessel capable of sailing the Astral Sea far enough to reach the distant stars, one might be able to sail through one. For the most part though, the Far Realm’s influence is only felt by way of its Aberrant incursions.
 
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Li Shenron

Legend
I just wrapped a short campaign where the party was trying to find a secret armory on the other side of a portal to the land of the fey, because someone who dreamed inside that armory could create magical weapons and monsters out of their dreams.

But the campaign before that was just overland travel and local adventures with no weird planes stuff. And the one before that was Star Wars.

How often do you go to other planes in your games? Is it a one-off excursion, or is traveling between planes of recurring element? How do you think about planes and what makes going to another plane different than just going to another location on the same world?

Like, that armory could have just been a magical location. It didn't have to be in another plane. So why did I put it there, I wonder?

Anyway, please brag about cool stuff you've done in your games.
It is always part of my campaigns eventually, but I try not to drop it too soon, typically I prefer that planar travelling enters the story after the characters have adventured in the core world for a while. It's been a long time since I ran a game at high level enough however. Generally speaking I prefer expeditions to other planes rather than spending long times there, because this makes it easier to have the quest "stand out" from the rest without running too easily into inconsistencies.

The challenge is to make other worlds different enough. I don't think I am very good at that, but at least I try. Mostly I try to mess up with the laws of physics, logic or life a little bit. It doesn't necessary take that much, some basic ideas already work for me, such as altering gravity or the speed of time. For example, we've had some short quests in the plane of Air and Water: naturally, the PCs can't do much in Air without specific flight abilities or spells, or breathing in Water, but even having those available to the PCs doesn't trivialize the quest, it already feels strikingly different when you have to think of everything in 3D and there is no "up" and "down" and I think one of our players almost got seasick :D

The afterlife always offers good quests opportunities even at moderately low levels, you can easily find ideas in classic literature, but to me it is important to once again emphasize how un-earthly these places are. First of all I want to avoid any normalizing/trivializing things such as having communities of mortals "living" in the afterlife (this is a pet peeve of mine, I have always found it a huge dealbreaker). Then I make sure to tell the players that the afterlife doesn't follow the same rules... for example, hint at the possibility that if you are still alive and die in the afterlife, then you can't be resurrected by any means and have to stay there, or you are destroyed forever like it happens to devils when "killed" in hell. It doesn't even have to be true, as hopefully the PCs won't die.

Other planes which I liked using because they already work in wacky ways are the plane beyond mirrors and the plane of shadows.
 

NotQuiteANoble

Explorer
I just wrapped a short campaign where the party was trying to find a secret armory on the other side of a portal to the land of the fey, because someone who dreamed inside that armory could create magical weapons and monsters out of their dreams.

But the campaign before that was just overland travel and local adventures with no weird planes stuff. And the one before that was Star Wars.

How often do you go to other planes in your games? Is it a one-off excursion, or is traveling between planes of recurring element? How do you think about planes and what makes going to another plane different than just going to another location on the same world?

Like, that armory could have just been a magical location. It didn't have to be in another plane. So why did I put it there, I wonder?

Anyway, please brag about cool stuff you've done in your games.
In my game, Dragons and Giants have been at war for all eternity. So Tiamat and Annum didn't slog in the streets, they were each banished to an empty plane. Their sheer hatred and will transformed the plae into the Nine Hells and the Feywild. My party just ventured into Avernus, for (in my opinion) little reason, and my god are they dying. This is the first time planar travel has been used for me, because I tend to leave it to higher levels.
 

I'm generally interested in cosmology, but I don't really use planar adventures all that much. I ran Queen of the Demonweb Pits as the climax of my first 5E campaign, but before that I haven't used them since 1E. I've generally preferred to use demi-planes and alternate worlds.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
What do I use planes for in my games? Not much, as non-magical fixed-wing powered flight has yet to be invented in the setting. (though one of my PCs is trying to work on that)



What?

Oh, you mean those planes!

Yeah, use 'em all the time. Sometimes as adventure sites, sometimes as waypoint en route to/from somewhere, sometimes as destinations that strange gates might take those foolish ehough to enter; and two PCs in my current campaign have Amulets of the Planes that they haven't quite figured out how to reliably operate yet. Also, several PCs have Planeshift as a spell.
 

Puddles

Explorer
Generally they are way too high magic for the style of game I like to run. Our Tiefling Druid does Peyote rituals, and so I say those take place on the Astral Plane, but that’s really just D&D lingo for what is essentially a dream sequence.

Also, both Demons and Devils are playing a big role in the story. There’s a tale of an evil Dwarven priest that has opened a portal to the abyss, brought a Dwarven hold to ruin and flooded the land in demons. Elsewhere, they are fighting devils and understand they are only banished to their own plane when slain and so need to be imprisoned. But I have no plans for the party to entire either of those planes. Closing the portal to the abyss might be the end of the campaign, but I don’t plan that far ahead. 😛
 


Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I use a cosmology loosely based on Norse mythology so the Shadowfell becomes Nifleheim, the Feywild becomes Alfheim. Basically the planes are for the replaced by my version of the 9 worlds.

On the other hand, planar travel is not as simple as casting a spell. For the most part you have to find a portal to the other worlds and getting past Heimdal to get to Valhalla is probably not going to happen for a mortal. If you get to Helheim it's a one way trip, even for Baldur.

On the other hand Nifleheim and Alfheim are mirrors of the prime material and relatively easy to cross over.

Nifleheim is the land of spirit and dreams, it's where most mortals go first when they die before they go on to their final destination. Origin of ghosts (usually people who refuse to move on and slowly lose their humanity), and other shadow creatures and undead, people can also sometimes send their spirit there when they dream. If someone dies, you have a relatively short period of time to get them back via Raise Dead which just opens a portal to the plane so you can retrieve their spirit.

Nifleheim is, for the most part a gray and dreary place with all the color washed out and senses dulled. Think The Matrix when people are not in the "simulated" world or the Upside Down from Stranger Things. It's also a very malleable place and can sometimes record "echoes" of important past events if you know where to find them. It's dangerous here those because in the long run, the numbness and despair will wear you down.

Alfheim is home to the Sidhe, their courts and all sorts of fae creatures. In some ways it is just as dangerous or more dangerous than Nifleheim because it is so enchanting. The dew on the grass catches the sun to make brilliant jewels of light, the brook makes music so beautiful it can literally enchant you and so on.

So those are the planes people travel to on a regular basis. I've used Svartleheim as my version of the underdark with it's portals deep beneath the surface and the group will soon travel to Jotunheim with it's own distinct regions.

So I use the planes, just not all of them and not in the way described in the books.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Hello last season. Descent to Avernus. And pre5E not much since about time I wanted to DM plane travel, the group fell apart.
 


I bomb my party with F15 last week. They thought was a dragon.
I did literally air strike my players in a d20 Modern game.

And in a high-level ZEITGEIST adventure someone has invented biplanes that require magical levitationals to stay aloft. No bombs, but they did have heavy repeating rifles.
 

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