Plane (Dungeons & Dragons)
In the earliest versions of Dungeons & Dragons, the concept of the Inner, Ethereal, Prime Material, Astral, and Outer Planes was introduced; at the time there were only four Inner Planes and no set number of Outer Planes. This later evolved into the Great Wheel cosmology. The fourth edition of the game used a different, very simplified cosmology with just six main planes called the World Axis Cosmology. The fifth edition has brought back a new version of the Great Wheel cosmology.
In addition, some Dungeons & Dragons settings have cosmologies that are very different from the "standard" ones discussed here. For example, the Eberron setting has only seventeen planes in total, most of which are unique to Eberron.
- 1 Great Wheel cosmology
- 1.1 Inner Planes
- 1.2 Material Planes
- 1.3 Outer Planes
- 1.4 Transitive planes
- 1.5 Demiplanes
- 1.6 Other Planes
- 2 Portals, conduits and gates
- 3 Alternative interpretations
- 4 Coterminous versus coexistent
- 5 Basic Dungeons & Dragons
- 6 The World Axis cosmology
- 7 Between the separate cosmologies
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Great Wheel cosmology
This standardized layout of the planes was presented for the first time in Volume 1, Number 8 of The Dragon, released July 1977. The known planes of existence were presented again in an appendix in the original (1st edition) AD&D Players Handbook, published in June 1978. The planes were expanded upon in the original Manual of the Planes, released in 1987.[date missing] It was the core cosmology in both editions of AD&D and the 3rd and 3.5 editions of D&D.
Many Outer Planes were renamed in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition in the Planescape campaign setting, released in 1994.[date missing] In the Third Edition Manual of the Planes, published in 2001,[date missing] the old and new names were combined together, the Demiplane of Shadow was promoted to the Plane of Shadow, the Prime Material Plane was shortened to the Material Plane, and it was stated that each Material Plane is connected to its own unique Ethereal Plane.
The cosmology is usually presented as a series of concentric circles, with alternating spatial and transitive planes; from the center outwards, they are ordered as follows: Inner, Ethereal, Material, Astral, Outer Planes, and the Far Realm. The Shadow Plane and the Dimension of Time, if they are included, are separate from the others, and usually represented as being connected to the Material Plane. Demiplanes, although most commonly connected to the Ethereal Plane, can be found attached to any plane. All planes, save the demiplanes, are infinite in extent.
|Positive Energy Plane||Key
|Negative Energy Plane|
The Material Planes are worlds that balance between the philosophical forces of the Outer Planes and the physical forces of the Inner Planes—these are the standard worlds of fantasy RPG campaigns. The Prime Material Plane is where the more 'normal' worlds exist, many of which resemble Earth. The 2nd edition Dungeon Master's Guide states there are several prime material planes, but several other 2nd edition products say there is only one Prime Material Plane rather than several.
Introduced in the Spelljammer setting, the Phlogiston is a part of the Material plane. It is a highly flammable gaseous medium in which crystal spheres holding various Prime Material solar systems float, traversable by Spelljammer ships.
Alignment-based planes. The home of gods, dead souls, and raw philosophy and belief.
The transitive planes connect the other planes and generally contain little, if any, solid matter or native life.
The Astral Plane is the plane of thought, memory, and psychic energy; it is where gods go when they die or are forgotten (or, most likely, both). It is a barren place with only rare bits of solid matter. The Astral Plane is unique in that it is infinitesimal instead of infinite; there is no space or time here, though both catch up with you when you leave. The souls of the newly dead from the Prime Material Plane pass through here on their way to the afterlife or Outer Planes.
The most common feature of the Astral Plane is the silver cords of travelers using an astral projection spell. These cords are the lifelines that keep travelers of the plane from becoming lost, stretching all the way back to the traveler's point of origin.
A god-isle is the immense petrified remains of a dead god that float on the Astral Plane, where githyanki and others often mine them for minerals and build communities on their stony surfaces. Tu'narath, the capital city of the githyanki, is built on the petrified corpse of a dead god known only as "The One in the Void." God-isles often have unusual effects on those nearby, including causing strange dreams of things that happened to the god when it was alive. God-isles are also the only locations on the Astral Plane that are known to possess gravity or normal time flows.
The Ethereal is often likened to an ocean, but rather than water it is a sea of boundless possibility. It consists of two parts: the Border Ethereal which connects to the Inner and Prime Material planes, and the Deep Ethereal plane which acts as the incubator to many potential demiplanes and other proto-magical realms. From a Border Ethereal plane a traveler can see a misty greyscale version of the plane from which they are traveling; however, each plane is only connected to its own Border Ethereal, which means inter-planar travel necessitates entering the Deep Ethereal and then exiting into the destination plane's own Border Ethereal plane. Many demiplanes, such as that which houses the Ravenloft setting, can be found in the Deep Ethereal plane; most demiplanes are born here, and many fade back into nothingness here. Unlike the Astral Plane, in which solid objects can exist (though are extremely rare) anything and everything that goes to the Ethereal Plane becomes Ethereal. There is also something here called the Ether Cyclone that connects the Ethereal plane to the Astral Plane.
In the 3rd Edition, each Material Plane is attached to its own unique Ethereal Plane; use of the Deep Ethereal connecting these Ethereal Planes together is an optional rule.
The Plane of Shadow was a demiplane in an earlier edition of the game, but finally became a full-fledged transitive plane in the 3rd edition cosmology. It is, as one would expect, an empty plane of darkness, where shadows are cast without any source of light. The Shadow Plane connects to other planes not only through portals but also through darkness; this is especially true on the Material Plane, where a monster or mage might use the shadows as a form of transportation. It has also been speculated that the Shadow Plane connects many different cosmologies, thus making it possible for a planeswalker to travel between them. The d20 Modern campaign's Shadow Chasers, Urban Arcana, and the d20 Past campaign Shadow Stalkers, are based on this premise. In the Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition this is an optional rule.
Mirror planes were introduced in the Third Edition Manual of the Planes as an optional group of transitive planes. They are small planes that each connect to a group of mirrors that can be located in any other planes throughout the multiverse. A mirror plane takes the form of a long, winding corridor with the mirrors it attaches to hanging like windows along the walls. Mirror planes allow quick travel between the various mirrors that are linked to each, but each plane contains a mirror version of any traveler that enters it. This mirror version has an opposite alignment and will seek to slay his real self to take his place. All mirrors connect to a mirror plane, though each mirror plane usually has only five to twenty mirrors connecting to it.
In 3rd edition products, some of the detail of Temporal Prime became incorporated into the "Temporal Energy Plane" mentioned in the 3rd edition Manual of the Planes. Dragon Magazine #353 associates it also with the "Demiplane of Time" that's appeared in various forms since 1st edition.
Demiplanes are minor planes, most of which are artificial. They are commonly created by demigods and extremely powerful wizards and psions. Naturally-occurring demiplanes are rare; most such demiplanes are actually fragments of other planes that have somehow split off from their parent plane. Demiplanes are often constructed to resemble the Material Plane, though a few — mostly those created by non-humans — are quite alien. Genesis, a 9th level arcane spell or psionic power, and the 9th-level arcane spell Demiplane Seed are among the few printed methods for a player character to create a demiplane.
Neth, the Demiplane That Lives, was first presented in A Guide to the Ethereal Plane, a sourcebook for the Planescape setting of AD&D Second Edition.
Neth, the Plane That Lives, is a living, sentient plane of finite size that has an immense curiosity. The only access Neth has to the rest of the multiverse is through a single metallic, peach-colored pool on the Astral Plane. Those who look into the pool from the Astral Plane might notice a huge eye flash into focus on its surface, which quickly fades.
Sometimes, Neth will choose to encapsulate its visitors. Two folds of membrane will come together and ensnare and seal off the victims. Neth will then flood the compartment with either preservative or absorptive fluid. The preservative fluid will put the victim in temporal stasis, and the victim can be revived if the fluid is drained away. If the compartment is flooded with absorptive fluid, the victim will dissolve and be absorbed into Neth itself, including the victim’s memories.
Neth is a living membrane the size of a continent. It is folded upon itself and resembles an enormous paper ball with a radius of about twenty-five miles. The spaces between the membrane’s folds can be a hand’s span across or larger than a city. The spaces are filled with air-saturated fluid, but visitors can still breathe in them. If the plane were spread flat, it would be about five hundred miles in diameter, and the average thickness would be approximately thirty feet.
Air- and water-breathing visitors to Neth can breathe and speak in Neth’s fluid normally. If they swim around unnoticed, they might see organ buds larger than city blocks, beings behind membranous capsules, and the humanoid antibodies of Neth mindlessly going about their business. Every part of the living demiplane has a soft, pink glow. Neth can also flush the fluid wherever it wants, carrying visitors along with it, usually to the Visage Wall to be questioned.
Gravity on Neth is the same strength as that on the material world; however, Neth chooses the direction of gravity’s pull and may change it at will. Time is normal on Neth. Neth can move its interior membrane at will, creating or destroying fluid-filled spaces.
The only thing native to Neth is the plane itself. Neth creates humanoid subunits of itself called Neth’s Children, sometimes for specific short-term purposes before reabsorbing them.
Neth's Children are usually identical to flesh golems and resemble a vaguely humanoid mass of flesh. Though they are free-moving, Neth’s Children react to stimuli according to the preprogrammed will of Neth. Sometimes, Neth creates his children to serve as antibodies, but they are more often sent to other planes, instructed by Neth to explore and return for reabsorption, thus giving Neth more knowledge.
On Neth, the portal to the Astral Plane appears as a twenty-foot-wide, mouth-like cavity, which Neth can open and close at will.
At Neth’s center is a thick knot of membrane at least a mile across where all the folds come together. This serves as Neth’s brain. Other parts of the membrane also serve specific functions, which include areas where the membrane can be easily deformed for communication, encapsulation, and budding Neth’s Children.
The Visage Wall is an area of Neth's membrane where Neth communicates with visitors. It contains thousands of head-shaped bumps that resemble the likenesses of those previously absorbed by Neth. Neth speaks to its visitors from about five or six of the heads simultaneously, questioning them in order to learn more of the outside universe.
The Far Realm is a plane far outside the others and often not included in the standard cosmology. It is inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft.
Plane of Dreams
The Plane of Dreams is a plane far outside the others and often not included in the standard cosmology. As its name suggests, all true dreams take place on the Plane of Dreams.
Portals, conduits and gates
Portals, conduits and gates are all openings leading from one location to another; some lead to locations in the same plane, others to different planes entirely. Although the three terms are often used interchangeably, there are notable distinctions. Portals are bounded by pre-existing openings (usually doors and arches); the portal is destroyed when the opening is. Portals also require portal keys to open; a key is usually a physical object, but it can also be an action or a state of being. Naturally occurring portals will often appear at random (a common occurrence in the city of Sigil, "City of Doors", in the Planescape campaign setting); some portals only exist for a brief period of time, or shift from one location to another. Conduits are also naturally occurring, but they are natural phenomena, the planar equivalent of whirlpools and tornadoes. Conduits are only known to occur in the Astral and Ethereal Planes. A type of conduit known as a color pool is a common gateway from the Astral Plane to the Outer Planes. A vortex is a link from a Prime Material world to the Inner Planes, which begin in areas of intense concentration of some element (e.g., the heart of a volcano might be a vortex to the Plane of Fire). There also used to be living vortices (plural of vortex) which the sorcerer-monarchs of Athas have managed to maintain, like siphoning water through a hose, and use to empower their "priests," the templars. Gates are portals that are not bounded by physical apertures; gates are rare, and usually appear as a result of magical spells and rare planar phenomena. Lastly, planar bleeding occurs when regions of two planes coexist; such phenomena are usually short-lived, and disastrous for their environs.
Planar pathways are special landscape features appearing in multiple planes or layers of a plane. Travel along a planar pathway results in travel along the planes. Pathways are crucial tactically, because they are very stable compared to portals or gates, and do not require magic spells or portal keys. One notable planar pathway in the Planescape campaign setting is the River Styx, which flows across the Lower Planes and parts of the Astral Plane. Another is the River Oceanus, which flows through the Upper Planes.
In the context of the game, there are many theories of the organisation of the planes. For instance, in some lands it is believed that there are multiple Prime Material planes, rather than one containing all the worlds or planets. In these lands the Ethereal planes are believed to surround each Prime Material plane.
See also Alternative theories of the Outer planes.
Coterminous versus coexistent
Planes may border (be coterminous) or may be coexistent. In particular, the Ethereal and Shadow planes are coexistent with the Material Plane. In effect, the "boundary" between the two extends through all of space. Thus a ghost in Dungeons & Dragons, which is an ethereal creature, has a location on the Material Plane when it is near the border of the Material and Ethereal planes. It can "manifest" itself into the Material, and force attacks launched from the Material can hit it.
Basic Dungeons & Dragons
The "Basic" edition of D&D had a separate, though similar, cosmology from that of its contemporary AD&D game, which is more open and less regulated than that of its counterpart.
The D&D multiverse was expanded with the D&D Immortals Rules set. The Astral Plane permeates and connects the rest of the Multiverse. Plane sizes can vary from the Attoplane (one-third of an inch across), through the Standard Plane (.085 light-years across), to the Terraplane (851 billion light years across), with stars and planets varying in size accordingly.
The World Axis cosmology
4th edition uses a simplified default cosmology with only six major planes, each of which has a corresponding creature origin. The Astral Sea, Elemental Chaos, Feywild and Shadowfell are covered extensively in the Manual of the Planes, while the Far Realm is covered briefly. Supplemental sourcebooks relating to the Elemental Chaos (The Plane Below) and the Astral Sea (The Plane Above) were released in 2009 and 2010, respectively. The Ethereal Plane has been removed entirely.
The fundamental planes are two vast expanses from which the other planes were formed. It was the conflict between the inhabitants of each fundamental plane that constituted the Dawn War. The two Fundamental Planes are theoretically infinite; it is implied that if one departs the world of one campaign setting and sets out through either the Astral Sea or the Elemental Chaos, they will eventually reach the worlds of other campaign settings.
The Astral Sea
The Astral Sea corresponds to the Astral Plane of earlier editions. The Astral Dominions, counterparts to the Outer Planes of earlier editions, are planes which float within the Astral Sea. The majority of the gods dwell in Astral Dominions. The Astral Sea itself is spacially infinite, but the Astral Dominions are all finite. Creatures native to or connected with the Astral Sea (such as angels and devils) generally have the immortal origin. The plane is described in The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea, released in 2010. In the Forgotten Realms setting, the Astral Sea was formed from the collapse of the Outer Planes into the Astral Plane after Mystra's murder, while in Eberron, the Astral Sea is equated with Siberys, the Dragon Above.
- Astral Dominions in the Points of Light setting
- Arvandor, the Verdant Isles: A realm of nature, beauty and magic similar to the Feywild. Home to Corellon and (sometimes) Sehanine.
- Baator, the Nine Hells: A place of sin and tyranny, a world of continent-sized caverns. Home to Asmodeus.
- Celestia, the Radiant Throne: A great mountain that drifts in a world of silver mists. Home to Bahamut, Moradin and, sometimes, Kord.
- Chernoggar, the Iron Fortress: The rust-pitted iron castle, where mighty warriors fight and die endlessly. Home to Bane and Gruumsh.
- Hestavar, the Bright City: a luminous metropolis which floats above sandy beaches and crystal-clear lagoons, the center of astral civilization. Home to Erathis, Ioun and Pelor.
- Kalandurren, the Darkened Pillars: A dominion that plays host to demons. It belonged to the god Amoth before he was killed by the demon lords Orcus and Demogorgon.
- Pandemonium: The former dominion of Tharizdun. The tower of the lich god Vecna is said to be hidden within it.
- Shom, the White Desert: The former dominion of the mysterious God of the Word. Astral giants loyal to the goddess Erathis fight for control of it.
- Tytherion, the Endless Night: A dark, arid wilderness where serpents and dragons lurk. Home to Zehir and Tiamat.
The Elemental Chaos
The Elemental Chaos corresponds to the Inner Planes of earlier editions (excluding the Positive and Negative Energy Planes), also containing some aspects of Limbo. The Elemental Chaos contains Elemental Realms, which are themselves planes; the Abyss is one such realm. The only god who dwells in the Elemental Chaos is Lolth, who resides on the 66th layer of the Abyss. The Elemental Chaos is spacially infinite, the Elemental Realms are not. Creatures native to or connected with the Elemental Chaos (including demons) generally have the elemental origin. The plane is described in The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos, released in 2010. In the Forgotten Realms setting, the Elemental Chaos was formed from the collapse of the Inner Planes after Mystra's murder, while in Eberron, the Elemental Chaos is equated with Khyber, the Dragon Below.
- Locations within the Elemental Chaos
- The Abyss: A place of utter evil and corruption, the result of a mad god's attempt to control the whole cosmos. Lolth's home, the Demonweb Pits, can also be found here.
- The City of Brass: The Efreeti capital and a major trade hub planar trade and travel.
- The Keening Delve
- The Ninth Bastion
The equivalent to the Prime Material Plane or Material Plane of earlier editions. This plane lacks a formal name and is most often referred to as the World, although titles such as the Middle World and the First Work were also presented in Manual of the Planes. Creatures native to the world generally have the natural origin. The gods Avandra, Melora and Torog have their homes in the World. The god Vecna wanders the whole cosmos (Sehanine is prone to doing this as well). In the Forgotten Realms setting, the world is named Toril (there is another, inaccessible world called Abeir), while in Eberron, the world is equated with Eberron, the Dragon Between.
One of the two parallel planes, the Feywild is a more extreme and magical reflection of the world with some thematic links to the Positive Energy Plane and the Plane of Faerie of earlier editions and settings. Creatures native to or connected with the Feywild (such as elves and gnomes) generally have the fey origin. According to the 4th edition Manual of the Planes, this plane has some sort of unspecified connection to Arvandor, and is suspected that the Dominion of Corellon can be reached by here. Important locales within the Feywild are known as Fey Demesnes. In the Forgotten Realms setting, the Feywild is also known as the Plane of Faerie and has come into alignment with Toril after countless millennia of drifting away, while in Eberron, the Feywild is equated with Thelanis, formerly known as the Faerie Court.
- Locations within the Feywild
- Astrazalian, the City of Starlight
- Brokenstone Vale
- The Feydark (Underdark of the Feywild)
- The Isle of Dread
- Mag Tureah
- Maze of Fathaghn
- Mithrendain, the Autumn City
- The Murkendraw
- Nachtur, the Goblin Kingdom
- Shinaelestra, the Fading City
- Vor Thomil
The Shadowfell is a type of underworld, and the thematic successor to the Negative Energy Plane and Plane of Shadow from earlier editions. The Raven Queen makes her home here rather than the Astral Sea. It also incorporates the Domains of Dread, areas created by the shadows cast by great tragedies in the world. Creatures native to or connected with the Shadowfell (such as undead) generally have the shadow origin. The plane is described in the boxed set The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond, released in 2011. In the Forgotten Realms setting, the Shadowfell was formed from the what was left of Plane of Shadow after Mystra's murder, while in Eberron, the Shadowfell is equated with Dolurrh, the realm of the dead.
- Gloomwrought, the City of Midnight
- Letherna, Realm of the Raven Queen
- The House of Black Lanterns
- Moil, the City That Waits
- Nightwyrm Fortress
- The Plain of Sighing Stones
- The Shadowdark (Underdark of the Shadowfell)
Demiplanes are relatively small planes which are not part of larger planes. The most prominent demiplane is Sigil, the City of Doors, which is largely unchanged from earlier editions.
Anomalous planes are planes which do not fit into other categories. The most prominent of these planes are the Realm of Dreams, which can be reached via the Astral Sea, and the Far Realm, which breaks through into the remote parts of the Astral and the world.
The Far Realm
An anomalous plane, the Far Realm is a bizarre, maddening plane said to be composed of thin layers filled with strange liquids – at least, that is what the most coherent descriptions say, for though some escape the Far Realm with their lives, most do not do so with their sanity. Visitors to the Far Realm can only exist in one layer at a time, but large Far Realm natives can exist in multiple layers at once. Creatures native to or connected with the Far Realm generally have the aberrant origin. A crystalline structure connected to the Far Realm, known as the Living Gate, once stood in the Astral Sea, but has since shattered enabling freer transit between the planes than should be allowed. Classic creatures such as aboleths, beholders, and mind flayers originate in the Far Realm. The Far Realm is occasionally referred to as "Outside", because it seems to exist outside of reality as defined by the world, the fundamental planes and the parallel planes. In Eberron, the Far Realm is equated with Xoriat, the Realm of Madness.
Between the separate cosmologies
In D&D 3.5e, a realm known as "The Void" separates all the possible cosmologies much like the astral plane, separates the different planes. Theoretically it is possible to traverse the Void and appear in an entirely different cosmology. 4e rules do not describe the Void the same way.
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- Gygax, Gary (1978). Players Handbook. TSR. ISBN 0-935696-01-6.
- Cook, “Zeb” David, Designer. Planescape Campaign Setting: A DM Guide to the Planes. Ed. David Wise. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR, Inc., 1994. Print.
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- Manual of the Planes (2008)
- Cordell, Bruce R; Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel (2004). Planar Handbook. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-3429-8.
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- Plane of existence, D&D Glossary