Where does negative energy fit into the D&D chrono-cosmology?

Arch-Fiend

Explorer
Negative energy is that energy which fuels undead in a way that positive energy fuels the living. So to question where negative energy fits into the D&D chrono-cosmology we must also determine where positive energy fits. Seemingly positive energy is more understandable, its energy that fuels living things, living things live because of positive energy, however the relationship between these 2 energies and everything else in the D&D multiverse raises a myriad of questions, those questions and observations lead to a greater question, where and how do these 2 energies fit into the story of the multiverse that is D&D?

Now i understand that there are multiple settings to dungeons and dragons, and some of these questions don't apply to all, but they do tend to apply to all of D&D based on the working setting that was pushed as the main setting for each edition of the game, but only in combination, obviously 4e was different than 3e and AD&D, 5e is using forgotten realms as the base setting of the game (i think). So these questions don't apply to every setting, but some definitely do, thus i think they serve all together as the foundation for answering where the idea of negative energy fits into the the bigger narrative of these settings.

So now for the specific questions and observations


Negative and positive energy are inner planes, essentially elemental planes and are the foundations for the quasi-elemental planes. however there are no elementals of positive or negative energy (in-canon that i know of) should there be? One could argue that undead and living are elementals of positive energy, or that undead and positive energy undead are elementals of positive energy, but undead are (usually) things that once were living changed in some way (massively in some cases) into undead, fueled by negative energy. This implies that if undead are the elementals of negative energy, it requires positive energy to create the undead. Others have argued that living isint an elemental of positive energy but instead that living is a balance of the energies and the philosophies, and when an energy becomes to dominant within a living thing, it dies (potentially becoming undead) or becomes an outsider

Negative and positive energy seem more closely represented by the gods than they do by elementals, clerics channel the 2 energies, additionally there are a myriad of gods that represent death and undeath, the powers they bestow and their representation is that of negative energy. If there's less representation of positive and negative energy by the elements why are these 2 planes inner planes? Is there representations of these 2 planes by primordials? If so, by whom and where do they fit into the bigger picture of negative energies place in D&D?

Why are elemental and outsiders effected by positive or negative energy? Are outsiders and petitioners representatives of the layer of the plane that is home to them and thus they are fueled by their plane? What is the deal with lower and upper outer planes having positive and negative energy traits if those are energies? If outsiders are fueled by their plane then why does positive or negative energy effect them? Why are elementals effected by either energy? elementals are made of the energy of the inner plane they are native to. Both outsiders and elementals are not duel natured, A similar but unrelated characteristic shared by constructs (which are fueled by a trapped elemental) and undead

What do beings from the far realm relate to positive or negative energy? Logically all aspects found within the multiverse are found randomly and unimaginably throughout the far realm due to its nature being the greater khaos that the multiverse is a part from. Some of the far realm stars from warlock pacts are associated with negative energy, acamar, hadar, and zhudun. Aberrations and far realm outsiders as far as i know can be turned into undead, but there is scant few examples of naturally occurring far realm undead or far realm beings of negative energy.

If negative energy fuels undead, and positive and negative energy cancel each other out, why do some undead gain hit-points from bestowing negative levels? What is actually happening in that exchange?

What is the difference between entropy and negative energy? The 2 concepts seem deeply intertwined with one another however i have heard arguments where the 2 are not related subjects besides where they overlap, entropy in a greater philosophical sense has the association with negative energy because negative energy destroys life, but focused entropy likewise destroys unlife as well, and the greater metaphysical entities of entropy simply aim for the end and the end alone.

Why is shadow so often associated with negative energy despite the plane of shadow not being the negative energy plane, even nightshades are natives of the plane of shadow instead of the negative energy plane. Devourers lurk in the ethereal and astral. incorporeal undead are often found in the ethereal, why is there so little native to the negative energy plane?


With all of this in mind, where does negative energy come from? Where did it enter into the chronology and why?
 

Sword of Spirit

Adventurer
Morning pet peeve fix: Forgotten Realms is not the default setting. The default is "the multiverse", which is basically the AD&D/3e multiverse renovated a bit. It includes FR, Greyhawk, Dragonlance, etc, and now even Eberron. See the first few pages of the PHB, and the first chapter or two of the DMG for more explanation.

The Forgotten Realms is a major focus for most published mega-adventures and organized play, though even there there are exceptions. Only one of the four non-adventure supplements so far have been FR focused, while neither of the two adventure compilation books have been (and one is explicitly Greyhawk).
 

Arch-Fiend

Explorer
Ah, i don't actually know much about 5e, but i guess this question of the lore is even more pertinent to 5e given it attempting to be the default "the multiverse" as you put it. I think my question fits well with a grand multi-setting wide examination of D&D
 

Igfig

Explorer
The weird inconsistencies you describe with how positive and negative energy work are a big reason why, in 5e, the energy planes were moved from the Inner Planes to their own layer, separate from everything else. You can see them in this diagram, at the top and bottom:


Positive and negative energy as game mechanics exist in the same space as "divine" magic: i.e. not really a thing any more.
 

Arch-Fiend

Explorer
The weird inconsistencies you describe with how positive and negative energy work are a big reason why, in 5e, the energy planes were moved from the Inner Planes to their own layer, separate from everything else. You can see them in this diagram, at the top and bottom:


Positive and negative energy as game mechanics exist in the same space as "divine" magic: i.e. not really a thing any more.
So do Quasi-elemental planes no longer exist? If they do exist how do they relate with to positive and negative energy planes? Do those planes simply permeate the rest of the multiverse or are they on the far edges of the outer-planes as the diagram would imply?
 

Igfig

Explorer
They pretty much don't exist, yeah. The ones that were interesting—Minerals, Dust, Salt, Lightning, Ash—might exist as specific regions in some of the existing elemental planes, but they don't have any special connection to the energy planes.

The sum total of the description of the energy planes in the 5e DMG is as follows:
The Positive and Negative Planes. These two planes enfold the rest of the cosmology, providing the raw forces of life and death that underlie the rest of existence in the multiverse.
So they "enfold" and "underlie" the rest, and that's all we know.
 

gyor

Hero
So do Quasi-elemental planes no longer exist? If they do exist how do they relate with to positive and negative energy planes? Do those planes simply permeate the rest of the multiverse or are they on the far edges of the outer-planes as the diagram would imply?
They could exist as border elemental regions linked to the Shadowfell and Feywild instead of the energy planes. Example Ash could be the region where the Plane of Fire borders with the Shadowfell instead of the material plane, that part of the Plane of Fire would mirror the Shadowfell, where as the part of the Plane of Fire that borders the Feywild would be the Quasi Plane of Radiance.
 

gyor

Hero
The weird inconsistencies you describe with how positive and negative energy work are a big reason why, in 5e, the energy planes were moved from the Inner Planes to their own layer, separate from everything else. You can see them in this diagram, at the top and bottom:


Positive and negative energy as game mechanics exist in the same space as "divine" magic: i.e. not really a thing any more.
You can still visit the Negative and Positive Energy Planes via Planeshift, its just very hard to survive there, there is no "safe" border region to the energy planes unlike the elemental planes. Actually in a sense I think the energy planes provide the substance for the Outer Planes, so I figure the outer planes and Astral Plane are made up of a mixture of Positive and Negative Energy. That then flows into the Elementals Planes, mixing with the pure elements of create Elementals, and then flows with the Elemental Energies through the Ethereal Plane into the Material Plane, Feywild, and Shadowfell as well as any other mirror Planes and Ethereal Demiplanes, to create mortal life and undeath.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
So do Quasi-elemental planes no longer exist? If they do exist how do they relate with to positive and negative energy planes? Do those planes simply permeate the rest of the multiverse or are they on the far edges of the outer-planes as the diagram would imply?
They've not been specifically mentioned, but that doesn't necessarily mean they no longer exist. The way I've viewed the cosmology is a giant sphere with three axis: positive/negative, air/earth, and fire/water. The material plane is pretty much dead center of this sphere, with the Feywild slightly higher on the Positive Axis and the Shadowfell slightly towards the Negative. The elemental planes are now somewhat connected, rather then being completely separated by the Ethereal Plane, but they aren't necessarily a flat plane, allowing the possibility of elemental planes slightly higher on the Positive Axis and some slightly towards the Negative, giving us the Quasi-Elemental Planes of old.
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
I'm going to explain how I had to reconcile the plains, which isn't explicitly stated in the books, but they do give you a few pictures to interpret how it works.

Firstly, you take that picture that @Igfig posted, rotate it so you are looking at it from it's "Side edge" then take a look at this picture:
appplanes1.png



This implies, more or less, that the Positive and Negative Planes are the "z-axis" to the "x and y axes" that make up the rest of the cosmology.

Using this theory we can stipulate that The Feywild occupies the same "x/y" as the prime (namely the center), but is closer to the Positive Plane. And the Shadowfell is the same but closer to the Negative Plane. Which implies that the Quasi Elemental planes should be in similar positions.

In the end, the Positive and Negative Planes are more or less a series of connected batteries (or perhaps even the same battery) that uses the rest of the planes as a mystic circuit.

Edit: As an aside that has absolutely no official reference, I like to make it so that the Outer Planes cosmology is slightly tilted: The Upper Planes are closer to the Positive Plane, while the Lower Planes are closer to the negative. This is why so many are obsessed with "The Balance". If things get more out of hand, the tilting will go even further out of whack, causing all kinds of problems.
 
Last edited:

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
Now I have a question:

Do you all think that because nobody can agree on the orientation of the Inner Planes, that means they must swirl around a lot?
 

Shemeska

Adventurer
The situation is muddied a bit by 4e content using its own cosmology with no continuity to Planescape, and then by 5e incorporating elements of 4e piecemeal while also attempting to harken back to the Great Wheel cosmology of pre-4e D&D (with a mixed end result I suppose, but more successes than failures I think).

5e's handling of Positive and Negative's positioning wrt the other planes unfortunately doesn't go back to the quasielemental planes as metaphysical border regions with the energy planes, but on the upside 5e seems to take a page of inspiration from Pathfinder when it alludes to the Feywild and Shadowfell as being influenced by metaphysical proximity to Positive and Negative respectively (as Pathfinder does more overtly with the First World and Plane of Shadow). Whether it's an overt influence or convergent design the end result is the same for the game play.

As far as timeline goes, the answer would be a lot easier if Planescape was still being retained as a primary source of planar continuity and history (which as of MToF seems to be suspect) rather than a very much pick and choose approach, likely as different authors are or aren't familiar with the original source material. The Planescape timeline would have had the Outer Planes developing first, prior to the appearance of mortal life, and the gods appearing later on after mortal belief began to change the landscape of the Outer Planes and worship caused the formation of the gods. The earliest outsiders would have appeared with those primordial Outer Planes (baernaloths/yugoloths, primordial pre-Spawning Stone slaadi, the pre-rilmani kamarel in the Outlands, and presumably entities of Law and Good never overtly named).

Planescape's planar timeline was heavily biased towards a focus on the Outer Planes and much of it had some in-character source bias in the telling, but the general scheme of things was there, studded with plot hooks like the chocolate chips in a giant cookie fresh from the oven.

The Far Realm has had a lot of contradictory takes over the years, but my favorite that I think meshes best with the original material is that it can be best considered as an entirely different cosmology only tangently interacting with the planes of the Great Wheel. It isn't antithetical so much as they're both hideously toxic to one another by virtue of possessing concepts that do not and cannot truly exist within the other. Think of them like adjacent soap bubbles of reality drifting atop the endless sea of possibility represented by the Deep Ethereal (a similar take seen by the Great Beyond cosmology's Maelstrom and the Abyss in Pathfinder as two competing realities grounded upon one another).

The precise timeline for the Inner/Energy Planes appearing is sometime -after- the early "pure" Outer Planes but prior to the creation of the Material Plane, as the Positive Energy plane is the source of those mortal souls that would ultimately produce belief and faith that would in turn mold the nature of the Outer Planes. I suspect some of the first outsiders might be seen as prokaryotes looking on in horror as early photosynthetic organisms / mortals produced oxygen / belief, leading to a metaphysical version of the so-called Great Oxygen Crises that forever altered the world.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
Positivity and negativity are principles of being and nothingness, respectively, that preexist the ethereal and the astral.

Ethereal (physical) and astral (mental) are partial glimpses of being within nothingness.

The stuff of ether differentiates into earth, wind, fire, and water, and other elemental energies. The stuff of aster differentiates into the diverse collective consciousnesses of various cultures.

The material weaves all of these aspects into living creatures, both physical and mental.

The fey is the lifeforce energies of these fateful living beings moving into to the future.

The shadow is the imprint of these lifeforce energies echoing from the past.

Both the celestial astral and the fey ethereal attune moreso with positivity.

Both the fiendish astral and the shadow ethereal attune moreso with negativity.
 
Last edited:

jgsugden

Adventurer
In my homebrew world the positive and negative energy planes are living planes, the first things created by the single all powerful entity that came before them. They are worshipped as Gods, but outside of granting spells play little heed to mortals. This gives the planes some significance that is not tied to a current function in the universe... they've an ancient mystery from which everything else eventually spawned. It works.
 

Advertisement

Top