Ysgard is the Outer Plane of Chaotic Neutral / Chaotic Good alignment in the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. It is also called Asgard, Gladsheim or The Heroic Domains. It is one of a number of alignment-based Outer Planes that form part of the standard Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) cosmology, used in the Planescape, Greyhawk and some editions of the Forgotten Realms campaign settings.
The theme of Ysgard is the glory of heroic, individual struggle. According to myth, the twilight of the gods will begin on this plane. Ysgard is also a plane of inspiration and creativity. The Infinite Staircase has its beginning here, and true poetry is said to be found in giants' wells and the mead of the gods. The World Tree, Yggdrasil, has the most connections on this plane.
Ysgard is a place of raw elements, where rivers of earth, ice, and fire crash together in the howling sky; a place where waves crash in wild oceans. It's the homeland of the heroic bariaurs, the giants and their gods, and the mystical fensir.
The plane known as Gladsheim was mentioned for the first time by name in the article "Planes: The Concepts of Spatial, Temporal and Physical Relationships in D&D", in The Dragon #8, released July 1977. The plane was mentioned again in an appendix of the known planes of existence in the original (1st edition) AD&D Players Handbook, published in June 1978, where it was described as "The planes of Gladsheim (Asgard, Valhalla, Vanaheim, etc.) of chaotic good neutrals".
The goat or sheep-bodied, centauroid bariaurs roam Ysgard's layers and adjacent planes freely, battling giants and embracing their liberty and love of life. The lillends are serpentine celestials whose duty it is to guard the Gates of the Moon and the Infinite Staircase that extends from it. The squirrel-like, chattering ratatosks scamper up and down the World Ash Yggdrasil.
Fearsome giants dwell in Ysgard, mighty enough to challenge the gods themselves. Their lesser cousins, the fensir, are a wise but ravenous race found on the first layer of the plane.
Servants of the gods include angels, einheriar, and valkyries.
As an outer plane, Ysgard is spatially infinite, further consisting of three infinite layers (or sub-planes). Ysgard’s first layer shares borders with the neighboring planes of Arborea, Limbo, and the Outlands; travel is possible between Ysgard and these planes at certain locations. Portals in Ysgard are wells in the earth. They are often marked, but tend to be unreliable.
Ysgard is well known for its heavy connections to the plane-spanning tree Yggdrasil, the World Ash. Yggdrasil touches the Beastlands, Niflheim, the three layers of Ysgard, Limbo, and Elysium, as well as many other locations. Its roots can be found drinking from the Well of Urd in the Realm of the Norns and from the Well of Mimir, and one emerges near the gate-town of Glorium. It also joins various half-worlds that touch nowhere else in the multiverse. High in the branches roosts the eagle Egder, and at its Niflheim root squirms the dragon Nidhogg and her brood of linnorms. The World Ash also hosts a major sentient race, the ratatosks.
The wandering realm of the Seelie Court often appears on the plane of Ysgard, always in a different location.
The first layer of Ysgard, also known as Ysgard or Gladsheim, takes the form of rivers of earth (or "earthbergs") stretching across the sky. On the larger earthbergs are oceans and continents. The underside of the earthbergs burns with fire and molten rock.
The layer of Ysgard is the location of a number of godly realms, including Olidammara's realm of Winesong, Frey's realm of Alfheim, Selûne and Soma's shared realm of Gates of the Moon, Surtr and Thrym's realm of Jotunheim, Bast's realm of Merratet, Anhur's realm of Netaph, Branchala's realm of Soul of Music, realm of the Vanir (Frey, Freya, Noatun, and Ullr) Vanaheim, Hachiman and O-Kuni-Nushi's realm of Kenyama, and Shou Hsing's realm the Orchard of Immortality.
Muspelheim, the second layer of Ysgard, is similar to the first layer of that plane in that it is made up of shifting rivers of earth that form vast arches through the sky. Unlike the first layer (Ysgard), the earth here is covered in lava and flames as hot as the Elemental Plane of Fire.
Surtr, god of fire giants, dwells on this layer; within it is a portal to the Elemental Plane of Water known as the Silver Eye. The Mystaran Immortal Rathanos has a realm here as well. There is a fortress built by celestials called the Tower of War Triumphant; it guards a portal to the Abyss known as the Black Maw. Somewhere on the layer there is said to be a portal to the Paraelemental Plane of Ice.
Nidavellir is the third layer of Ysgard, a subterranean realm of caves and underground passages. The terrain on this chaotic plane shifts unpredictably, so caverns and byways may open and close.
A realm of magic-savvy dwarves, also called Nidavellir, is located on this layer of the plane; the dwarven god Muamman Duathal lives there when he's not wandering, and the dwarven goddess Sharindlar has a ring of standing stones nearby. It's rumored that the Norse god Hoder dwells here as well. The city of Ashbringer, also known as the Great Bellows and the Chorus of Ringing Anvils, is located in the dwarven realm of Nidavellir. Svartalfheim is a realm of chaotic neutral dark elves; the goddess Eilistraee dwells there. These dark elves are foes of the Ysgardian dwarves.
- Baur, Wolfgang, and Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel. Expedition to the Demonweb Pits. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2007.
- Cook, Monte. Dead Gods. Renton, WA: TSR, 1997.
- -----. The Planewalker's Handbook. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1996.
- -----. Tales From the Infinite Staircase. Renton, WA: TSR, 1998.
- Grubb, Jeff. Manual of the Planes (TSR, 1987).
- Grubb, Jeff, David Noonan, and Bruce Cordell. Manual of the Planes (Wizards of the Coast, 2001). ISBN 0-7869-1850-0
- McComb, Colin. On Hallowed Ground. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1996.
- Moore, Roger E. "Plane Facts on Gladsheim." Dragon #90 (TSR, 1984).
- Noonan, David. Complete Divine. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2004.
- Perkins, Christopher. Warriors of Heaven. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 1999.
- Pramas, Chris. "The Ebon Glaive." Dragon #296. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2002.
- Smith, Lester W., and Wolfgang Baur. Planes of Chaos. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1994.
- Wyatt, James, Darrin Drader, and Christopher Perkins. Book of Exalted Deeds. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2003.