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After chatting on Twitter with some other folks about what would make the ideal cosmology for D&D Next, somehow I ended up organising a blog carnival in which we would try and answer the following question:

Imagine Mike Mearls has given you the job of coming up with the #dndnext cosmology. What would you keep from prior editions and what would you bin?

Soon after agreeing to organise the carnival I realised I’d have to actually write something myself for it! This is my post.

The main aim of my benevolent dictatorship as Supreme Ruler Of The Entire Multiverse is to keep the things I like about the current D&D cosmology, while reintroducing the Great Wheel (well, sort of) and bringing back some of the fun stuff from Planescape that disappeared in 4e.

So, working backwards from the current 4e planar setup, what would I keep?

First of all, I really like the Gods vs Primordials world creation myth that appears in the 4e Dungeon Master’s Guide and Essentials DM’s Kit. I’m going to be keeping the Elemental Chaos and the Astral Sea (more on this in a minute) so the creation story makes sense and can remain pretty much as is. I also want to keep the Feywild and the Shadowfell as light and dark reflections of the material plane, so it’s fine to have the primordials throw the bits of the world that were too bright and too dark away to become these two planes.

My Shadowfell includes Barovia, Sithicus, Darkon and the other Domains of Dread from Ravenloft, the atmospheric city of Gloomwrought, Moil (the City That Waits), the Raven Queen and plenty of undead. If the_monkey_king would let me, I’d like to add the Courts of the Shadow Fey here too.

The Feywild is unchanged as the home to the eladrin and the Court of Stars, with the fomorians skulking beneath the surface in their dank caverns. We’ll come back to Sigil though – there is no way the coolest city in the multiverse is floating about in the middle of nowhere in my cosmology! It belongs in one place, and one place only.

If I really wanted to go back to the old skool planar structure of AD&D and Planescape, I’d probably leave it there and get rid of the Elemental Chaos, but I’m afraid to say the original elemental planes (in fact, all of the Inner Planes for that matter!) don’t do anything for me. Instead, I’ll keep the Elemental Chaos more or less as is, but remove The Abyss – that needs to be reunited with the other Lower Planes. The slaadi and githzerai can stay here though – I don’t think we need both Limbo and a whirling elemental maelstrom as well. I’m a big fan of the City of Brass, and the other cool genie strongholds described by the_monkey_king in Secrets of the Lamp such as the Great Dismal Delve of the dao and the Citadel of Ten Thousand Pearls of the marid can all fit comfortably here too. The Elemental Chaos also serves as home for the Princes of Elemental Evil and Blibdoolpoop, but not the giants and their gods Thyrm and Surtr – I’ve somewhere else for them to go.

I’m going to keep the Astral Sea as well – the githyanki ships are just too cool, and I want to keep the floating corpses of the dead gods as an unconventional adventuring location. As in 1e AD&D, colour pools will provide access to the Outer Planes, the homes of (most of) the gods, now back in a Great Wheel/Ring arrangement. The astral dominions bobbing around in the Sea are gone.

My Great Wheel is a stripped down, sleeker version of the one that’s existed since the early days of D&D. There are now eight Outer Planes, one for each alignment, forming the rim of the wheel, and a ninth, its hub. I’ve ditched the in-between planes or incorporated them into neighbouring planes. Is anyone really going to miss Arcadia, Bytopia or Gehenna? I don’t think so. As in Planescape, the dark River Styx, complete with Charon the Boatman and his marraenoloths, connects the Lower Planes, and the sweet waters of River Oceanus act as a link between the Upper Planes.

These are my Outer Planes:

Mechanus (LN), clockwork home to Primus and the modrons who march around the Great Ring every 17 years.

Mount Celestia (LG), the Seven Heavens, home to Bahamut and Moradin, and the archons of earlier editions (sword, hound, lantern etc).

Elysium (NG), the plane of absolute goodness. I’m adding Hestavar the Bright City from 4e here, the home of Pelor, Ioun, Erathis. The main inhabitants of this plane are the guardinals although I’m ditching the dumb horsey ones (the equinals).

Arborea (CG) is the forested home of the Seldarine (the elven gods, including Corellon Larethian), as well as Mount Olympus. I’m going to incorporate the Beastlands here too – partly because the wildness of the plane fits in nicely, and partly so the Greek and Elven gods have plenty of animals to hunt.

Ysgard (CN) replaces Limbo. Made up of immense earth bergs flying through the sky, this plane is home to Kord, as well as the gods of the Norsemen and their enemies, Loki and the giants of Jotunheim.

The Abyss (CE) is back where it should be – part of the Lower Planes. This is the home of the demons and their lords Demogorgon, Orcus, Lolth and co. I’m adding the caverns of Pandemonium here too as three of the plane’s 666 layers, incorporating the miserable (fun) city of Windglum. Zehir's jungle realm is another layer, perhaps close to tropical Abysm, Demogorgon’s realm.

Gray Waste (NE). The yugoloths move back here, along with the Wasting Tower, Khin-Oin, so they can mastermind the Blood War again: the top layer, Oinos, becomes the main battleground for the conflict, as it was in the Planescape era. The fallen primordials are imprisoned in Tarterus which becomes an extra layer of this plane designed to keep these terrible beings out of harm’s way.

Nine Hells (LE), home to the archdevils, but also Tiamat (back on Avernus in her cave), the orc god Gruumsh, and the goblin god Maglubiyet (who both lived here in the days of 1e’s Deities and Demigods)

Finally, in the centre of the Great Wheel is the Outlands (N) – a plane with gate towns leading to each of the eight surrounding Outer Planes. In the middle of the plane is a great Spire, and as a berk gets closer to it, her magic gets harder and harder to use. I’m going to bring back the rilmani here to preserve the Balance. These guys were very cool in Planescape when drawn by Tony DiTerlizzi, but for some reason in 3.x, they were depicted as lumpy-looking and naked. I’ll go with the former look, thanks. And, of course, on top of the Spire, is the doughnut-shaped Sigil, City of Doors.

That’s about it. I don’t think we need an Ethereal Plane – characters can “go ethereal” to travel from one place to another or walk through walls, but they don’t visit a full blown plane to do so. I’m going to include the Far Realm obviously – why would any DM not want a Lovecraftian alien realm from which all manner of Cthulhu-inspired monsters can originate? And I’m going to include the Dreamlands (explored briefly in the 3e Manual of the Planes) in my cosmology too because it would be daft not to.

So, there you have it. One mashed-up, awesome D&D cosmology! What do you think?


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 1st, 2012 12:11 pm (UTC)
For the Astral, I agree that the dead bodies of gods is...super cool! ...but I always found the "colour pools" & silver strings to be too...well, singular cosmology? That is, those are fine for a story, or an adventure, or a spell...but I never thought they were evocative enough to universalize.

I thought about ditching all of the side planes, too, but...well, I care about places like Bytopia & Pandemonium! Bytopia was, at least in the Planescape game I played in, where we all wanted to retire to. Hobbit heaven! With gnome craziness! Never a dull moment!

Dreamlands & the Plane of Mirrors I thought about, but never really needed...though that sounds odd, since the Mirror World of the Chambered Looking-Glass factored into my own non-D&D campaign...

Hooray for planes!
Dec. 1st, 2012 02:06 pm (UTC)
I'm not crazy about the colour pools either, but they're as good a way as any to get PCs from the Astral Sea into the Outer Planes. I don't think we need silver cords though - they always seemed a risky way to travel.

I'm glad someone likes Bytopia! Pandemonium I do like but I think those tunnels are fine as an Abyssal layer.

I've included the Dreamlands because I'm a big Cthulhu fan - I loved the original cover to Dreamlands with an explorer sitting atop a zebra.
Dec. 1st, 2012 03:59 pm (UTC)
I had a PC who was a ghoul who wrote a Zebra!
Dec. 1st, 2012 06:16 pm (UTC)
Dec. 1st, 2012 10:48 pm (UTC)
Dec. 1st, 2012 12:48 pm (UTC)
To Many
I so feel that there are In the older systems To Many planes. 4e had it just right slim things down to a few that become memorable. No where in my wildest dreams would i remember half of what there was and to be honest Im not one for remembering what there is now. Complexity does not make for great game, but as that is my style of play i expect a come back.
Give me no more than maybe four planer lactations.

re the saying Its all Location, location ,Location.
Dec. 1st, 2012 02:11 pm (UTC)
Re: To Many
I guess I'm used to the complicated planar structure of AD&D/Planescape because I think I've offered something more streamlined here - it's just that 4e slimmed it down even further! I haven't counted up but by keeping the Elemental Chaos I've got rid of quite a few of the old Inner Planes, and a lot of the Outer Planes I've retained carried forward into 4e's Astral Sea.
Bill Olander
Dec. 2nd, 2012 03:27 pm (UTC)
I know a lot of people have a special place in their hearts for Planescape but for me it is Spelljammer. I would probably be inclined to make everything a planet floating within the Astral sea and then cover up the inconsistencies with Portals. So the Faewyld is one (or more) planets out there as is the Shadowfell as are the 9 hells(9 hell planets?), Mt Celestia and whatever else.

"Planet" is something of a vague term here as in 4e the planets of the Astral Sea seemed to work more like Color pools than anything else.

In order to keep the uniqueness of Sigil, I would call that the Center of the Universe. It sits in the middle of the Astral plane on top of the massive spire and everything else more or less orbits around it.

Finally, for the conglomeration that is the Elemental Planes/Limbo/The Elemental Chaos/The Far Realm/The Abyss/etc, I'd probably put that at the bottom of the spire and have that serve as where things get tossed when the rest of the universe doesn't want to deal with it.
Dec. 2nd, 2012 04:08 pm (UTC)
I'm a big fan of Spelljammer too - we had a lot of fun playing games in that setting.

Some great ideas in your comments - do you fancy writing a post? Like the "Faewyld" spelling too ;)
Bill Olander
Dec. 3rd, 2012 04:16 am (UTC)
I hadn't actually put more thought into it than what I just typed out... but now I'm tempted.I took the month off from my blog for Nanowrimo, this might be a good place to start back up.
Dec. 3rd, 2012 07:30 am (UTC)
That would be great - the more the merrier!
Bill Olander
Dec. 5th, 2012 02:31 pm (UTC)
Looks like I have been Properly Convinced
Dec. 5th, 2012 03:05 pm (UTC)
Re: Looks like I have been Properly Convinced
Great! Will take a look
Jul. 31st, 2014 07:23 am (UTC)
Re: Looks like I have been Properly Convinced
I'd like to read your cosmology, but the blog is marked as "private"
Bill Olander
Dec. 5th, 2012 02:31 pm (UTC)
And marked as spam! Curses!
Dec. 5th, 2012 03:06 pm (UTC)
Jan. 16th, 2014 07:51 am (UTC)
I basically agree with this - I like it. Funnily enough, with the art especially in PS showing adventurers leaping bodily from one "plane" to another (huh?), I think the "motes floating in an astral sea" actually fits Planescape far better than the original setup of separate planes does. The floating realms can be arbitrarily big, after all - we have an infinity of space to play with! Oceanus and Styx can wend through several "lands" before they disgorge into the Astral Sea (or even flow through it, keeping a distinct identity in some mysterious way).

As for the Nine Hells (and other layered realms) - how about a multi-layered planet, with several shells, a bit like a "Russian Doll"?
Jan. 16th, 2014 08:24 am (UTC)
Re: Nice!
Great to get new comments on this post - cheers!
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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