So I've been writing a lot about a personal "remake" of mine of the whole typical D&D cosmology into something quite original, that still manages to feel "classic", at least to me, drawing a lot from real world mythology, with sprinkles of anthropology and geology notions here and there.
The problem is that I went a bit too far. Since I basically transformed the planes into various "Material Plane" places, not to mentions times, I basically was creating a campaign world along with the cosmology, and for the purpose of the "If I ruled The Multiverse" #dndnext Blog Carnival (#5eplanes on Twitter), it was a bit of an overkill, and I suspect it also made a lot of potential readers desist due to the amount of material, and the lack of clearness of my broad view.
So in this post I'll leave the most world/setting details aside and talk only about the classic planes and how they fit into my cosmology!
Aims of my cosmology
Straight up, here are the objectives of my cosmology, because of course it tries to "fix" things, or at least change them a bit towards my linking, or it wouldn't have sense making it!
- Making the Planes some perfectly fine locations for adventuring.
- Making the Planes perfectly reachable by "normal" means of travel.
- Making the Planes not too easy to reach, but easier to grasp as concepts.
- Making the Planes all very near to each other so that they can mingle.
- Making the Planes rooted into the history and ecology of the "Prime Material" world.
- Giving the Planes some sort of temporal dimension, a notion of how old or new they are.
- Making the Planes dynamic places that haven't always been as they look and won't remain so.
In my cosmology, most of the planes are tangible pieces of the world as it was in very ancient times, which due to subsequent natural and magical cataclysms, went very deep underground stacking onto each other, forming an immense Underdark going towards the center of the world and containing basically all the Lower Outer and Inner Planes, while the Upper Outer planes are more commonly just on the surface of the world or its sky, but very far from inhabited lands.
It's a big ass sentence, but somehow it manages to be one sentence.
Structure of the world and its planes.
Now I'll also try to organize this cosmology in an easy to grasp way, citing basically all the most important known planes from the classic Great Wheel and World Axis cosmologies and what they become in my idea.
The order is both chronological and geographical: this is the peculiarity of my setting!
Numbers generally go from the deepest/farthest to the shallowest/nearer plane, unless noted, but here I follow a chronological order as a first priority, marking with an asterisk the planes that do not belong in the same "spaces" of their same-age sister planes.
Everything will be clearer later...
Planes of the "First Age World":
- Far Realm
- Positive/Negative Energy Planes
- Pandemonium* (Touches other planes and is not as deep)
- Styx River* (Touches many other "planes)
- Tytherion* (Not as deep, deeply linked to Shadowfell / Shadow Web)
- Shadowfell/Shadow Web* (Out of normal space and time, connects many other planes)
- Elemental Planes / Elemental Chaos
- Hades (Defunct. Folded into Shadowfell/Shadow Web in the Third Age)
- Feywild/Faerie* (Out of normal space and time, links some of the same-age planes)
- Arvandor* (Very far from inhabited lands, into the Feywild)
- Olympus* (Very far from inhabited lands)
- Elysium* (Very far from inhabited lands)
- Nirvana* (Very far from inhabited lands, connected to Feywild)
- Arcadia* (Very far from inhabited lands, connected to Feywild)
- Gladsheim* (Very far from inhabited lands, connected to Feywild)
- Beastlands* (Not very far from inhabited lands, but "contained" by the Feywild)
- Nine Hells
- Ethereal Plane* (Out of normal space and time, more of a state than a plane)
- Material World
- Twin Paradises* (Very far from inhabited lands, some of it only reachable in Ethereal state)
- Seven Heavens* (In the sky, only reachable in Ethereal state)
- Astral Sea* (Beyond the sky)
Now a more geographical classification, which won't take chronological order in any consideration and is much more useful, since it's a scheme of where the planes are in the present time of the setting.
Again, the number tries to order the planes by depth or altitude, bottom-up. I present planes that I consider more or less at the same level separated by a slash.
- Abyss (access from Tarterus and Gehenna)
- Far Realm (isolated pockets) / Positive and Negative Energy Planes (isolated pockets)
- Tarterus / Gehenna / Styx River (Flows into many other upper and bottom planes, but more at this level)
- Nine Hells (access from Acheron, leads to Tarterus and Abyss through Styx River)
- Elemental Planes or Elemental Chaos / Limbo / Acheron
- Tytherion (Hard to find, deeply linked to Shadow Web / Shadowfell)
- Pandemonium (connected to Tarterus, Acheron, Gehenna) / Hades (ruined, folded into Shadowfell)
- Shadowfell or Shadow Web (actually not inside normal space, but never connected to places right on the surface, so this is its minimum depth)
- Olympus / Gladsheim
- Arvandor / Arcadia / Nirvana
- Beastlands / Feywild (the latter out of space, but still commonly accessed from "far places")
- Seven Heavens
- Twin Paradises
- Ethereal Plane
For this and other strange properties, some things done in the Ethereal plane affect the Material World in strange ways, and vice versa. These are nearly always magical/mystical links, more than physical, but it's a cool thing to add to the game, that maybe, for example, some objects in a room could only be seen in the Ethereal Plane/State, but they could also be brought back into the Material, with some kind of clever trick or magic. It makes for interesting puzzles.
Note that in some way, and in particular for some destinations, the Ethereal Plane/State is also the way to go for travelling. The realms of the Celestial Gods can only be accessed from Ethereal, but word says that the actual portals one must cross wile Ethereal, to reach these realms, lie very deep into or beyond the Nine Hells. This is to add more of the Dante's voyage feeling. In general, the Ethereal State is also the best to travel into those deep places if one wants to be a little more safe from physical dangers. Although physical dangers are only a very small part of the dangers.
- Miska, the Wolf-Spider
- The World Serpent / The Night Serpent
- Corellon / Seldarine / Fey pantheon (Forest Gods)
- Obad-hai / Melora (also Forest Gods)
- Baphomet-Bacchus-Dionysus (an experiment: I'd like a kind of trickster and "orgiastic god", that also has a bestial side. Creator of minotaurs, satyrs, beastmen. Could be a First Age god that "switched sides")
- Hades / Nerull / Raven Queen
- Io / Bahamut
- (classical Greek pantheon)
- (classical Norse pantheon)
- (elemental titans/primordials)
- Gruumsh / orcish deities
- St. Cuthbert
- Wee Jas
- Bane / Hextor
- (most greater deities either once having been mortals, or too abstract in nature or domains)