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5E Where does negative energy fit into the D&D chrono-cosmology?

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Eh. It is by any reasonable meaning of the word "default", whatever WotC says!
I don't know. I don't run any published adventures and I am able to use the core "default" rules/game without any influence or knowledge of the Forgotten Realms. It doesn't feel like a default setting to me.


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.

I love this. Though in my personal understanding, the Shadowfell is more the future while the Feywild is the past, if that makes any sense. What's a castle in the Material may be an ancient forest that predated the castle in the Feywild. While in the Shadowfell, the castle is a crumbling ruin – an image of what it will be once it is long since past. But all three worlds are moving toward a future simultaneously, but echoing off each other.

That is to say, the Shadowfell is a shadow not of today's Material, but of tomorrow's yesterday. It is the fall of the world yet to come; what may yet come to pass, if not prevented. While the Feywild is a yesterday's tomorrow – it is as if the spring of the world never faded and continued onward.

You're completely outside the scope of settings then.

One can run the assumed rules of Planescape without running published adventures.

the Jester

So all this draws on a pretty extensive mix of material from various editions, and some of it is inference and deduction. If anyone wants a cite about a specific bit, please ask, and I will provide it if I can. Anyhow:

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?

So the energy planes aren't elemental planes per se, but are similar, and intermix with the elemental planes in ways that strongly resemble how the elemental planes work. For instance, opposite elemental planes don't 'touch' (e.g. water and fire don't make a paraelement), and as far as we know, the energy planes don't 'touch' either. So what differentiates them from the elemental planes? Well, for one thing, they aren't of substance (though whether you could consider fire to be a 'substance' is arguable). They seem to be significantly emptier than the elemental planes, too, with a much lower number and density of native inhabitants. And they are usually depicted as separate from the elemental planes, though I don't think that's a very strong argument- after all, we've seen multiple models of how the planes fit together over the years.

Another argument lies in the fact that the energy planes seem to 'touch' all the elemental planes (forming quasi-elemental planes at the boundaries). I suspect strongly that there are also undiscovered quasi-elemental planes where these two touch the para-elemental planes; and I also suspect that there's another set of quasi-elemental planes, because there's (at least) a third energy plane- the plane of temporal energy, also called the plane of Time (or, in pre-3e cosmology, the demiplane of Time). So based on the structure of the planes, it seems probable that there is a whole set of Time + Element (or paraelement) quasielemental planes. I have no idea what they would be, but it seems like a cool area to speculate about and explore in future.

Anyway, the energy planes do have inhabitants, though none have many. The Positive Energy Plane contains native ravids, the Negative Energy Plane is home to drelbs, trilloch, etc, and the plane of temporal energy contains a multitude of creatures, including tether beasts, time gliders, and, most germane to this discussion, time elementals (also sometimes referred to as time dimensionals).

Now- those time elementals- does their existence imply positive and negative energy elementals (or dimensionals)? I would argue yes. And to back that up, I'll point first at the deep and long-established degree of symmetry in D&D's planar cosmologies, and then at some other examples- the energons, to start with. In 1e, we met the xag-ya and xeg-yi, the positive and negative energy versions of the energons. In the 3e Planar Handbook, we see a ton more- ones that represent other energy types, including fire and cold. And I am almost 100% certain that at some point we see negative fundamentals (maybe in Return to the Tomb of Horrors?). (Fundamentals are creatures that look like tiny bat-like scraps of elemental essence.)

One could argue that undead and living are elementals of positive energy

I don't think this holds much water. Not all undead are immune to necrotic (negative) energy, and most living things overload and explode if pumped full of positive energy.

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.

Negative energy does beget undead, and there is definitely a strong connection. But other undead are strongly connected to cold or disease. And there are other things that use negative energy, though it's not common. As far as the gods, according to the lore, almost no deities make their homes on the energy planes. Those that do are usually deep students of the energies, because otherwise they can't withstand them. I think of the energy planes as more likely to be part of the raw 'stuff' that the primordials created than part of the arrangement that the gods imposed.

As for which, I don't think that has been detailed, since the energy planes weren't in the 4e cosmology that brought us primordials in the first place.

Why are elemental and outsiders effected by positive or negative energy?

Why wouldn't they be?

Are outsiders and petitioners representatives of the layer of the plane that is home to them and thus they are fueled by their plane?

I'm not quite clear on what you're asking here. IIRC, petitioners can't leave their Outer Plane without being destroyed, or maybe are destroyed forever if they do or something? Not so fiends and celestials.

What is the deal with lower and upper outer planes having positive and negative energy traits if those are energies?

Why shouldn't they? They can have elemental traits too.

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.

I don't think they especially relate to positive or negative energy. And as soon as you say "logically" when talking about the Far Realm, I think you're already on the wrong track. Are positive or negative energy in the Far Realm? Who knows? Probably? Maybe yes and no at the same time. Perhaps there is no answer.

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?

It's draining life. But when you're talking about mechanics from a single edition, I think you have to watch out for the tendency to read too much into them. The mechanic is there to show that they are 'eating' your life essence.

What is the difference between entropy and negative energy?

Entropy works through negative energy/decay processes, among other things. Also through cold. So negative energy is one, but not the only, sign of entropy, and one, but not the only, way that entropy manifests.

Why is shadow so often associated with negative energy despite the plane of shadow not being the negative energy plane

Probably because mortal humans fear the dark, and most information on the subjects has been reported by humans. Also, because so many undead use negative energy and are so tightly linked to the Shadowfell, it's easy to see how they could be conflated.

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

It comes from the NEP. I posit that it entered the multiverse at or near the very beginning, as one ingredient among many. Think of the elements and material stuff as the "dry" ingredients (even though water is one of them) and the energies as the "wet" ingredients.


Just a point of contention.

In 1e, though the negative and positive planes were part of the inner planes, they were just as separate from the elemental planes as the prime material plane was. They were separate, or on a separate level.

A way to view it is how the Shadowfell and Feywild are on two opposite sides of the prime material plane now, the negative and positive material planes existed in AD&D.

In diagrams, they weren't really even included (in a way you could think of the negative and positive material planes as the up and down, and the elemental material planes extending in the same direction as the Prime material plane.

The Postive material plane was not just the sources of life energy, but could also be seen as the source of light or the sun, thus when exposed you would burn up with life energy.

On the otherhand, negative energy was associated with darkness and the lack of light, and one could also be consumed by it. Shades and Shadows were some of it's occupants.

If one was on the elemental planes as they looked up or went up they would perceive the light or energy beaming from above, and if they started to dig (or swim, or fly...depending on the plane) for an eternity they would enter into darkness where light did not exist.

AD&D had some differences but there were also some similarities between it's planar ideas and current ones.

Eh. It is by any reasonable meaning of the word "default", whatever WotC says!

I look at it in comparison to the 2 editions that specifically did have default settings.

In 3e, Greyhawk was the default setting. The PHB had that pantheon (and only that pantheon) right there in the cleric section. They put out a "D&D Gazetteer" early on that was basically a super simplified Greyhawk Campaign Setting. In the core rules, every single example of a culture, character, magic item, etc, was taken from Greyhawk. Most of the supplements that weren't explicitly set in other worlds also only used examples taken from Greyhawk. You had prestige classes based on Greyhawk cultures and societies, etc. All of this was in books that didn't have a "Greyhawk" label. It was baked in. Almost all materials relating to any other campaign setting were segregated into their own books. The Forgotten Realms had an extensive line, but FR material was only found in that line. Eberron material was only in explicitly Eberron books. (There were a few specific exceptions that were directly called out--like a sidebar in a monster entry in MM2 or FF that specifically mentioned how a certain monster related to the Forgotten Realms.) You might have thought that they had separated out the IP of other campaign settings and weren't legally allowed to include anything other than Greyhawk in the core lines (which wasn't true). Now, maybe that changed in late 3.5e, but it was that way at least into early 3.5e.

I didn't follow 4e for the whole line, but isn't that basically the same thing it did with its vaguely defined Points of Light setting?

That's a default. The books assumed that you were using those gods, those lands, those cultures, unless you explicitly chose otherwise by buying a setting specific book with material that completely replaced it, or you home-brewed your own setting material. If you didn't intentionally choose to use something else, your game automatically defaulted to Greyhawk or Points of Light.

With 5e, from the very start, the core books have provided examples and content from a variety of D&D settings. They mention them by name. The give example gods from various pantheons in the cleric entry (as well as in the appendix). They mention named characters from a variety of settings. Of the books since then, only the adventures and campaign settings have been setting specific (and not always Forgotten Realms!) They've put out supplements with the names of 2 characters from FR and 1 from GH, but each of those supplements was actually universal D&D material presented with some in-character flavor from NPCs. It is very different than 3e where a supplement would either be universal/default material or FR, but not both.

Unless your impression is being formed by purchasing the first 3 campaign adventures that WotC put out (which were all set in the FR), your game doesn't default to anything. You have to choose what setting to play in from the very start. The PHB doesn't say, "we recommend the Forgotten Realms for those new to the game," nor does the DMG. And at this point, even buying official adventures doesn't stick you into the Forgotten Realms by default, because they have adventures that aren't set there.

Now, I suppose I can give some weight to the example human ethnicities in the PHB being chosen from the Forgotten Realms as something that might cause someone to default that direction, but there isn't anything else in the core rules that does that, and the fact that they provide a Dragonlance example right alongside the Forgotten Realms example in the section about character Backgrounds is really clear evidence that there is no default. If there was, that example wouldn't make any sense.

Nobody is disputing that there is more adventure content published for the Forgotten Realms, but I don't think relative quantity of adventure content creates any sort of default. There was probably more eventual Forgotten Realms adventure (and other) content in 2e than there was from any other setting by the end of the line, but there wasn't any default setting in 2e. The spells and magic items in the PHB and DMG had the classic Greyhawk names they've always had, but other than that you had to make your own setting or run across a campaign setting on a shelf to know it even existed. The main difference with 5e is that it tells you about the various settings that exist and provides support (example pantheons and other elements) right in the core books so you know what already published options are available to you.

I mean, I see where you're going with popularity and number of fans, but I think default implies more than that, and better communication can be had with clearer terms. If it were still the first couple of years of 5e, I'd be willing to call the Forgotten Realms the "featured adventure setting", but by now even that isn't true.

With the continuing expansion of setting publication, in a couple more years, we might have new players coming in asking us to explain why us grognards keep saying that the Forgotten Realms is the "default setting".

Just a point of contention.

In 1e, though the negative and positive planes were part of the inner planes, they were just as separate from the elemental planes as the prime material plane was. They were separate, or on a separate level.

I'm assuming your talking early edition? Because the quasielemental (and paraelemental) planes were established in the 1e Manual of the Planes.


In my primary campaign world, the first God, who was everything, bore two children - the Light and the Dark. They in turn created the Dragon Gods, and from there the chain cascaded. These two Gods are essentially the positive and negative energy planes. Unlike the other Gods, they do not manifest as beings, but instead are the end cycle for souls, with the PEP creating souls and lost souls going to the NEP to be consumed. It works very well and provides a pair of 'ultimate' Good and Evil abstract entities for PCs to worship.

All I know is that Negative Energy come from the Negative Energy plane. As mentioned before, Negative Energy is pretty much what fuels the undead. And is the reason why Negative Energy usually energizes or heals the undead. As the opposite, Positive energy cancels out negative and usually doesn't interact with the Undead in a positive(LOL) way. Although, I believe there is AN undead template that is pretty much a Positive Energy version of an Undead.

As mentioned before, too much negative energy(lvl drain//exhaustion) can have deadly consequences for living beings. Yet too much Positive energy(Positive levels) end up causing crazy stuff happening as well. I believe to be on the Positive Energy plane, without proper protection or circumstances, can cause you to literally explode due to energy overload.Being on the Negative Energy Plane without protection, undead conversion, circumstances will make you into a soulless dry husk very quickly.

The levels of Negative energy and Positive energy probably help keep the Great Wheel/Multiverse balanced. Negative energy the fossil fuel emissions and Positive energy the premium gas. Clerics Channel Positive/Negative Energy depending on what aspect they are trying to fuel. So Death Clerics would channel Negative Energy naturally.

And then Shadowfell is the Plane of Shadows. Which was created from portions of the Negative Energy Plane.

Regardless, both Negative AND Positive Energy Planes aren't really places you want to visit as a tourist. Unless your Undead: then the Negative Energy Plane is basically Disney World/Land for ya.
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