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Reinventing the (Great) Wheel
By James Wyatt

B efore the holidays stretched into a longer-than-expected hiatus for this column, I wrote about the various worlds of D&D and how they fit together into a single multiverse. Along the way, I mentioned how 3rd edition (starting with the Manual of the Planes, extending into Deities & Demigods, and then the Forgotten Realms and Eberron) opened the door for the DM to create a unique arrangement of planes for any particular setting. So let's talk a little more about that this week.

Building Your Own

Right in chapter two of the 3rd edition Manual of the Planes is a section called "Building Your Own Cosmology." It advised the DM to create planes and a cosmology that suited the needs of his or her campaign, while acknowledging that most D&D campaigns require at least these elements:

  • A place for deities
  • A place for fiendish creatures to come from
  • A place for celestial creatures to come from
  • A place for elemental creatures to come from
  • A way of getting from one plane to another
  • A way for spells that use the Astral Plane, the Ethereal Plane, or the Plane of Shadow to function

That section went on to present a very simple cosmology that hit the bare minimum: the Omniverse, which included the following planes:

  • A Material Plane
  • An Astral Plane, an Ethereal Plane, and a Plane of Shadow
  • A single Elemental Plane, made up of all four elemental types
  • Overheaven, where good-aligned deities and celestials live
  • Darkunder, where evil deities and fiends live

The appendix to that book presented four more alternative cosmologies:

  • In the Myriad Planes cosmology, countless planes clump together like soap bubbles, intersecting with each other.
  • In the Doppel cosmology, two mirror-image Material Planes, separated by a Plane of Shadow, hang in the midst of a single Inner Plane (a sort of Elemental Chaos) and an outer shell of unspecified Outer Planes. The Material Planes are moral mirror-images of each other—in other words, one of them is where your evil twin lives.
  • In the Orrery cosmology, all the Inner and Outer Planes orbit the Material Plane, exerting greater or lesser influence on the world as they come nearer and farther. (Eberron's cosmology is based on this model.)
  • In the Winding Road cosmology, every plane is just a stop along an infinite road. Each plane is adjacent to two others.

Drawing on Myth

With the Manual of the Planes setting the precedent, the 3rd edition Deities and Demigods included simple cosmologies for each of the three pantheons based on real-world mythologies in the book. These cosmologies had to account for the divine realms of only the deities in their respective pantheons, so they could draw on the same myths from which the gods themselves came.

In the Olympian cosmology, based on Greek myth, Mount Olympus stands at the center of the world (the Material Plane), with its peak so high that it's actually another plane of existence—Olympus, the home of the gods. All the Olympian gods except Hades have their own domains within Olympus, but it's not generally the place where dead mortals' souls go. That would be Hades, named for its ruler, where mortal souls linger as insubstantial shades until they eventually fade into nothing. Tartarus, where the titans are imprisoned in endless darkness, lies below Hades. And far to the west of the known world in the Material Plane is the blessed land of Elysion, or the Elysian Fields. This is where the souls of great heroes sometimes pass. This cosmology has Ethereal, Astral, and Shadow planes as well, though their connections to the other planes are slightly different than in the Great Wheel.

The Pharaonic cosmology, based on Egyptian myth, is defined by the daily path of the sun—across the sky of the Material Plane, down to the fair Offering Fields in the west, where the souls of the righteous live in eternal reward, and then beneath the world through the nightmarish Twelve Hours of Night. The Solar Barge is a tiny Outer Plane in its own right, though it exists within the Astral Plane and the other Outer Planes in the different stages of its journey.

Finally, the Asgardian cosmology, based on Norse myth, centers on the World Tree, Yggdrasil. The three roots of the World Tree touch the three realms: Asgard (which includes Valhalla, Vanaheim, Alfheim, and other regions), Midgard (the Material Plane), and Niflheim (the underworld). The Bifrost, the rainbow bridge, is a unique transitive plane that connects Asgard and Midgard. The Plane of Shadow links Midgard and Niflheim.

Strange New Worlds

The 3rd edition Forgotten Realms campaign setting carried this trend still further, taking the divine realms previously described in FR products and transforming them into new planes of their own. With names like the Barrens of Doom and Despair, the Gates of the Moon, and Dweomerheart, these divine realms bore little resemblance to existing planes in the Great Wheel cosmology, but they made a lot of sense in the context of the FR pantheon.


Similarly, Eberron introduced its own riff on the Orrery cosmology presented in Manual of the Planes, putting planes like Irian and Xoriat into their orbits around the world. Times when the planes drew close to the world marked some significant events in the world's history, offering a concerted effort to make the planes relevant to adventurers even if they never left the Material Plane.

With the launch of 4th edition, a whole new cosmology was born, though it had certain similarities to the FR model. This cosmology set various divine realms floating in the Astral Sea, while all the Elemental Planes merged together into the Elemental Chaos.


Problems and Solutions

I think there's a tremendous value in allowing DMs and world designers the freedom to design a cosmological system that suits the exact needs of a particular campaign. But this approach has its pitfalls as well.

Probably the biggest danger is in eroding the things that everyone knows about D&D—the D&D intellectual property, to put it in legal terms. Everyone knows that demons come from the Abyss, right? Well, except they come from the Twelve Hours of Night in the Pharaonic cosmology, and in Eberron they come from a couple of different planes. The Blood War is an important element of D&D, right? Except how does it make sense in Eberron, or in the 4th edition cosmology?

Those are relatively minor issues, all things considered. And the reality is that it's not actually very hard to reconcile even vastly different cosmologies. As I've mentioned before, the Great Wheel cosmology doesn't model an objectively verifiable truth. There isn't a being in the multiverse, except maybe an Overgod figure like Ao (and he's not talking), who can look down and see the planes in their arrangement as we look at a diagram in a book. Is the plane of Celestia sandwiched between Bytopia and Arcadia? Who can say? The only way to get from one to another is through a portal anyway, so for all anyone knows, that portal could be crossing a thin planar boundary, hopping to a different branch in a cosmic tree, or traversing incredible distances across an Astral Sea.

For that matter, is there actually a place called Celestia? A lot of lawful good deities seem to have realms with quite a bit in common—steep mountain slopes, archons all over the place, an air of beneficence to the place—but are they physically connected? Maybe. Maybe not.

For the purposes of your campaign, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if you talk about Celestia or about the Seven Heavens or about the distinct divine realms of Green Fields, Dwarfhome, and the House of the Triad.

So while we're probably going to present the Great Wheel as a default, to establish some common ground as a key part of D&D lore, I plan to make sure we talk about other options as well. As long as you don't stray too far from the baseline, the rest of your game doesn't need to change much if at all—demons, devils, angels, shadow walk spells, elemental summoning, and even planar travel can all work normally, even if your cosmology is creatively different.

Wheeling and Dealing

So far, poll results seem to indicate that you appreciate the inclusive approach I've been trying to take as much as possible. So am I still on the right track? What do you think about the role of cosmology in your game?

Previous Poll Results

Do you agree that the core rules of D&D should focus on the multiverse rather than any particular setting?
Yes, definitely. 1473 54%
I think the rules should discuss the multiverse, but consistently draw examples from a single setting. 312 11%
I think the multiverse should be an advanced concept for the Dungeon Master, while the core rules focus on a generic D&D non-setting. 784 29%
I think the multiverse should be an advanced concept for the Dungeon Master, while the core rules focus on a single, specific setting. 162 6%
Total 2731 100%

Have you ever had characters travel from one Material Plane world to another? (Choose all that apply.)
Yes, in a planar campaign (like Planescape). 712
Yes, in a Spelljammer campaign. 439
Yes, when the whole campaign shifted from one world to another. 590
Yes, in a campaign that focused on adventures in different worlds. 623
Yes, for a single adventure or very short term. 802
No, but it sounds like fun. 678
No, and I’m not interested in trying. 365

Are there multiple dwarf subraces in your campaign (not counting duergar)?
No, just dwarves. 1010 37%
Yes, I have hill and mountain dwarves. 714 26%
Yes, I have shield and gold dwarves. 196 7%
Yes, I have two but they’re different from these. 165 6%
Yes, I include deep dwarves, urdunnir, sundered dwarves, and/or other subraces. 621 23%
Total 2706 100%

How do you think shield dwarves should be distinguished from other mountain dwarves (for example)?
They should be different subraces with their own rules. 468 17%
They should be the same subrace with some kind of cultural overlay that adds minor rule tweaks. 1212 44%
They should be the same subrace with different cultures, with no difference in rules. 619 23%
It’s important to stress the common culture of mountain dwarves across the worlds, so there should be no difference at all. 109 4%
They should both be just dwarves, with no subraces in the game at all, even if there are cultural differences between them. 285 10%
Total 2693 100%

James Wyatt
James Wyatt is the Creative Manager for Dungeons & Dragons R&D at Wizards of the Coast. He was one of the lead designers for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and the primary author of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. He also contributed to the Eberron Campaign Setting, and is the author of several Dungeons & Dragons novels set in the world of Eberron.
Comments
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For some reason it won't let me reply to shraknar , so I'll be putting my reply here. Shraknar you're right.

Additionally the glitch said java script void 0.

I like the shadowfell and the feywild.
  
Posted By: Miiblond (4/10/2014 7:42:16 PM)
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I like the great wheel but at the same time the feywild and the shadow fell deserve just as much attention as they had in previous editions. Not the plane of shadow that comes up in the previous editions which isn't very interesting. Also on another note, I'd like to see the elemental planes very close to each other. In my campaign the elemental chaos isn't a single plane but a bundle of plances, quite close to each others that you can open rifts into the other planes for quite cheap. Thats the kind of approach I would like. Like so they see this.
  
Posted By: Miiblond (4/10/2014 7:34:04 PM)
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Please Wizard, leave the charateristic Great Wheel (maybe with less external planes) as standard for DnD and the others as optional.
  
Posted By: Eilistraecomeback (1/27/2014 6:46:48 PM)
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Personally, I like the idea of an orbiting cosmology because it can explain things like 100 years of famine and disease. Gives the cults a drive to finish their projects in time for the next "alignment" and pushes wizards to develop portal magic to skip the entire thing about waiting until the veil between the worlds is weak so they can easily transverse the gaps between "worlds" or whatever... It is a cool method to drive events in the world and plots in the game. Fun times.
  
Posted By: Oberton (1/25/2014 11:24:54 AM)
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The problem with most of the advice reproduced above, is that it assumes that fiends/shadows/elementals etc will all exist in your campaign.

Personally, I find that all the above, plus Far Realm abominations, all fill the same niche. There are times when, not liking the style of demons in the monster manual, I have renamed shadows as 'demons' since they are more like the demons in a lot of literature and movies.

The same with Far Realm nasties, which also make better demons than DnD fiends do.

I think there should be a lot more advice on using cosmology and the monster manual as a toollbox, picking the parts you need to match the mood of your campaign and discarding what you don't require.
  
Posted By: 5Shilling (1/24/2014 6:22:23 AM)
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I say don't worry about how the planes are arranged. We don't know how ours is arranged, why do we have to know how it is arranged in a FANTASY setting. Just give descriptions and base rules for the main ones, such as the Astral, Ethereal, Elemental, etc. Who cares where they might actually be located. One thing people seem to forget is the rules have always been guide lines. If I want to call the Astral plane something else then let me. If, as a DM, I want players to stumble into another plane during one campaign but make them use a portal on another, what difference does it make. I see to much cookie cutting. The way I play the game is most likely different then the way someone else plays the game but in general the basics are the same. In fact my group has about 3 people who take turns running a game session. All of us do it a little different but we all still have fun because the basics are the same. You will do what you want which is fine you own it. Stop trying to mak... (see all)
  
Posted By: shraknar (1/22/2014 12:02:52 PM)
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I personally care a lot about having the Great Wheel as the default assumption for two main reasons:
1. Setting continuity. More material has used the Great Wheel than any other setting, and it has had decades of use.
2. Shared assumptions and compatibility.

3e came out and gave everything it's own cosmology. I decide I want to play a campaign that includes Spelljamming and Planescape elements. I'm left looking at a variety of cosmologies in a variety of books thinking, "ugh...how am I going to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again?"

This isn't theoretical, this is the actual situation I was in. Separating Planescape and Spelljammer into their own thematic campaign settings is great. Not every trip to the planes is about Sigil society, for instance. But separating their cosmological assumptions from other published worlds isn't such a good idea. What if I want to have someone hop a spelljammer and fly from Faerun to Oerth? That's what I could d... (see all)
  
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (1/20/2014 4:54:11 PM)
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Actually no, a "thin planar boundry" is NOT the same as a portal. A portal has to be bounded and it's an isolated part of the plane. There's nothing "behind" a border, except you know, another plane. This does imply that the two planes are nearby in a way that just having a portal does not.
  
Posted By: lord_zack (1/18/2014 5:28:43 PM)
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Incidentally...the Great Wheel and the Blood War was part of 2e Planescape...3e Forgotten Realms used the tree cosmology...
  
Posted By: ksubond (1/17/2014 5:00:42 AM)
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"With the launch of 4th edition, a whole new cosmology was born, though it had certain similarities to the FR model. This cosmology set various divine realms floating in the Astral Sea, while all the Elemental Planes merged together into the Elemental Chaos."

Way to blow off 4e's cosmology. Typical WotC BS of pretending 4e isn't part of DnD's existence.

You also forgot the Feywild, ignored the term 'shadowfell', and left Dark Sun out of everything. Your message (as always, of late), is that unless you play 3x in the forgotten realms you are doing DnD wrong.
  
Posted By: seti (1/16/2014 6:15:45 PM)
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The front of my 4e DMG 1 reads:
Dungeons & Dragons
Dungen Master's Guide
Roleplaying Game Core Rules
*James Wyatt*

(Mr Wyatt's name is also on the front cover of the PHB 1 and MM 1)

You aren't reading from people who hated 4e here. You're getting design philosophy, reasons, and statements of new directions from the same people who gave us 4e (James Wyatt also has a lot of 3e materials to his name).

I'm not trying to invalidate the frustration some people feel. I'm just saying there seems to be a misconception regarding the 5e designers' relation to 4e.
  
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (1/20/2014 4:40:14 PM)
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If you're going to have a setting where planes can merge naturally, a thinning of the boundaries of reality, the cosmology needs to explain this.
A portal is a forced construct, which could span to any plane, but a lot of fiction has the hero entering a different plane by mistake.
I for one want my adventurers to be able to wander into the fey realm on a full moon by accident.
  
Posted By: pbsoutham (1/16/2014 11:40:17 AM)
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Personally, I don't think there should be a default cosmology for Next. The basic system books might give some options and describe some of the setting-specific examples, but I don't think that's even necessary. Cosmologies should be left to their own setting-specific source books. Nor do I think that erodes the DnD intellectual property in any way.

You list the Abyss and the Blood War as examples of DnD intellectual property, but honestly they're not. They're Forgotten Realms intellectual property. Neither the Abyss nor the Blood War are essential to DnD, which is the medium and not the setting. The DnD intellectual property would be eroded if it stopped using the d20 and other polyhedral dice, or it changed from assuming fantasy to assuming hard sci-fi, or it no longer used a class-based leveling system. How the planes are aligned, who the gods are (or if there even are any), how magic works in the fiction, and which races exist aren't relevant to the DnD intellectu... (see all)
  
Posted By: Melete (1/16/2014 10:28:01 AM)
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Not sure how some of the real-world mythic areas named above count as their own planes versus magical areas, like the Hollow World's inner face, but Faerie, Hades, and the Elysion Fields are separate realms from ours with their own time or other rules, familiar to even non-DnD players, and that seems the BEST option for showing everyone what a plane IS, while examples like Bytopia, the Ethereal Plane, or the realm of dreams could help show what planes can be and how they can connect.

The only reason to include a full planar map in a non-campaign product would be to show HOW one can conceive of the planes as a shape, so a few small maps with only their central idea (ie the Wheel for alignments and the Orrery for shifting planar influence) should suffice.

Beyond that, I don't need specific cosmology details or some setting's history (ie Blood War) in non-setting books; if I wanted setting, I'd buy a setting book. A shared mythology among players is better inspired b... (see all)
  
Posted By: Dreamstryder (1/16/2014 9:22:37 AM)
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The 4e cosmology; explaining the titans, dragons, the whole dawn War, was my favorite part of 4e. Love it.
  
Posted By: Austinwulf (1/16/2014 7:24:02 AM)
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I don't see why a cosmology needs to be spelled out at all. We managed just fine without the so-called Great Wheel (which was, importantly, first a Great Rectangle, since the "extreme" alignments of Lawful Good, Chaotic Good, Lawful Evil, and Chaotic Evil were further away from Neutrality than those with only one aspect, ethical or moral, e.g. Lawful Neutral) for years. In fact, I liked the evocative mentioning of such places as the "fabled City of Brass on the elemental plane of fire" or "the Abyss" or whatnot without needing to be given any specific version of it. So long as all of the mechanics available to the players work the same (e.g. magic that makes one ethereal), it doesn't matter what the cosmology is!

I'm also less than impressed by the desire to maintain intellectual property through a default cosmology. You can do so in other ways, namely, by mentioning these things in descriptive texts, without worrying about defining them. Just s... (see all)
  
Posted By: Llenlleawg (1/16/2014 6:46:14 AM)
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I like the 'great wheel' despite it's inconsistencies.

Don't ditch 4e's shadowfelll and feywild. Those mirrors of the 'prime material' are an excellent addition to the game. Also, they were really fun to DM and adventure in.

Personally; I'd mix the 3e and 4e cosmologies. 3e had all the extras and superfluous details, while 4e had the succinct simplicity of above and below.

You'll do what you want, though.

PS: I cannot believe that FOX bought the rights to a MtG movie. Crazy, crazy stuff. At best, it'll wind up shelved. Or a CGI filled remix of The Neverending Story. it could be good...There's a ripe fantasy world there. but, most likely, it'll be a poorly written michael bey-style hasbro pile of trash.
  
Posted By: seti (1/16/2014 2:28:46 AM)
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I would like cosmology tp be subjective to the characters (as it is irl) but with some sort of baseline assumption of "nothing is true, everything is permitted." As far as in-product references, I'd like them to use generic examples to illustrate points. However, I would like to see World Axis and Great Wheel cosmologies rearticulated as examples of meta-verses that can be drawn from in a DMG or MotP supplement. I also think it would be fine to assume one or more of these for novels and I think it should be requisite that ample setting-specific lore is included in Monster entries and splat-books (and, of course, in campaign setting materials as well).
  
Posted By: OskarOisinson (1/16/2014 1:53:12 AM)
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I'd like to see a lot of the metasettings become their own thing really.

Planescape is a lot more fun when you assume infinite prime planes in the middle that no one has ever heard of and infinite numbers of gods per plane that fit the ambiance of the plane. Sigil is like the distillation of all those infinites, a cross section of crazy in a comparatively teeny bit of real estate. With just Oerth in the middle it leaves the planes feeling howlingly empty. With all the published settings and real world mythology stuffed in it just gets confused and weird, because most of that stuff doesn't belong there. Glaringly so.

Spelljammer likewise should be free to be it's own thing. Crystal spheres contain their own gods and cosmologies. Spelljammers come and go to different worlds, meddle in the dealings of various gods and scram before the angels come busting in their door and sell their loot on the glass moons of Nishtib. Mixing Spelljammer with other settings never made... (see all)
  
Posted By: Grimcleaver (1/15/2014 8:15:42 PM)
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The first question really didn't have a reply that fit me so here goes: I play a lot of settings and I use the cosmology for each. When I run Greyhawk it's the Great Wheel, for Fallen Lands (4e) games I use the World Axis, in Forgotten Realms it's the Tree, the Phlogeston for Spelljammer, likewise for Eberron, Dark Sun or whatever.

It was a big deal getting to have unique planes and gods in different settings. It added something fresh and new to them that made them really feel like seperate worlds that presented novel wonders. I like the idea of an Egyptian themed game with the cosmology described in the Manual of the Planes. Honestly I wish it had taken a teeny step further and named the world and given the broadstrokes of a setting primer (like the mini settings in D20 Future which I've gotten endless use from) because if they had I'd probably be playing in that setting too.

I guess plugging everything back into the Great Wheel just feels like a big step backwar... (see all)
  
Posted By: Grimcleaver (1/15/2014 7:58:39 PM)
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And on a technical note, the & begins the special character code, the ; ends it, which is why a stray & without a ; will trigger an "unclosed tag" or whatever the error is.
  
Posted By: Noirsoft (1/15/2014 7:39:27 PM)
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So helpful! Thank you! I posted this huge post and it wouldn't send and I couldn't figure out why. Now it's up. Thanks!
  
Posted By: Grimcleaver (1/15/2014 7:59:57 PM)
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I can't seem to reply to the right post, so I will post as a new comment:
Ampersands are a fundamental part of HTML parsing, indicating that a special code follows for special characters, so it is unlikely that there is anything that the mods can do to make posting ampersands easy. You can, however type:
&
and get that to produce an ampersand (as I did just above) and talk about Dungeons & Dragons to your heart's content.
  
Posted By: Noirsoft (1/15/2014 7:37:25 PM)
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I took the core of the 4e cosmology, and heavily homebrewed it. It's a LOT of fun defining the gods, their Astral realms, and how their world interacts with the Natural World.
  
Posted By: DarthMacho (1/15/2014 7:28:32 PM)
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As long as the planes exist there shouldn't be a need to define how they join each other or interact. The article lists religion as having different arrangements and beliefs. Shouldn't there be a different cosmology based on race and religion? Differences that put their own societies or gods as the central point?
Worshippers of Lolth would see the cosmology different than worshippers of Corellon. Dwarves would see it differently than dragonborn.
Rather than explaining all these differences I would think there should be a few suggestions of cosmology that only take a page or two, then explain the important things in detail, like how people traverse the plains.
If a plane is only accessible by performing certain actions or rituals then it should be noted. If a spell uses shadow walk, we need to know if the caster fully enters another plane or only skims it. Can entities hitch a ride back with them; can they get stuck in the plane? Do I need a portal every time I want to go... (see all)
  
Posted By: Rartemass (1/15/2014 6:09:12 PM)
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While I actually preferred the World Axis cosmology, I started with 3E, so I have some fondness for the Great Wheel. While there are some things I don't like about the World Axis, I think my reasons for leaving the Great Wheel are because I find having an Ethereal AND a Shadow Plane as being a little superfluous; because I thought the Positive and Negative Energy planes as boring; because I *LOVE* the Elemental Chaos; because I love the additions of full-fledged Faerie and "Cthulhu" realms into the game's core assumptions; and finally, because I thought that the Great Wheel had too many iterations of the alignments in its planes (I don't see a reason for three Lawful Neutral planes, for example. I think Pathfinder's better about that).
HOWEVER. Something that I couldn't at all stand was the forceful shoehorning of the World Axis into Eberron and Dark Sun. Less so with Faerun, because the cosmology there always seemed to me more like the divine dominions of the Astral Sea... (see all)
  
Posted By: DramoxTheIronLord (1/15/2014 5:59:00 PM)
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Excuse me, had a brain-fart there. Dark Sun had the BLACK and Grey, not the white.
Really, Black and Grey fits more with the setting's brutality
  
Posted By: DramoxTheIronLord (1/15/2014 6:01:06 PM)
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@longwinded: While this might just be me conjecturing, I think that making so many planes is a result of modern Western thinking. Ancient Greeks may have believed that climbing the tallest mountain (Olympus) would take them to meet Zeus, but in the modern real world, we know that's "just not how it works". So, using the sci-fi trope of alternate universes is sort of a middle-ground between, I think. As much as people quibble about "getting sci-fi in the fantasy", the two genres have always been rather nebulous when it comes to DnD.
But again, that's just one person's conjecture.
  
Posted By: DramoxTheIronLord (1/15/2014 5:39:47 PM)
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If you present the Great Wheel as the baseline, default cosmology (and you should since it has the longest history with DnD and a connection to most of the most popular campaign settings), above all you need to remember the following: actually present the Great Wheel. Don't attempt to force fit parts of the 4e World Axis into it because you'll end up pleasing neither fans of the Great Wheel or the 4e World Axis cosmology. You'll just end up with a hot mess.

For the sake of fans of Ravenloft, please don't attempt to overly define it beyond the 2e conception. Don't compromise the setting for the sake of branding purposes rather than just using something like the Plane of Shadow for the purpose of having a plane between the Material and Negative Energy (which is how Pathfinder approached the topic as well).

And this goes for other settings as well. Don't sacrifice setting continuity and integrity for the sake of whatever new idea is a darling at the time. That worked... (see all)
  
Posted By: Shemeska_the_Marauder (1/15/2014 5:37:44 PM)
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I think a good way to go about it is to stress that cosmologies are how characters _make_sense_of_ and organize the myriad planes. As James points out, there's nothing that actually stresses the "adjacence" or "distance" between planes in the game anymore. (There used to be some rules about how it affected divine characters, since planes that were contrary to the their alignment we considered "far from their gods" which limited their spellcasting powers there.) The planes could be stacked, strung out, spread out, or joined any number of ways. Some might emphasize the world tree and river of blood that spans planes, while others may insist that the great wheel is the only cosmology that puts the powers in their proper place. You could even have differing opinions in the same world without conflict. I prefer the Great Wheel for the sake of D&D nostalgia. It's not easy for new people, but it does give everything a place of its own.

The only thi... (see all)
  
Posted By: longwinded (1/15/2014 3:58:51 PM)
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On the one hand, I've never been a fan of the Great Wheel because it doesn't necessarily make sense in a particular setting. If you don't have Vikings and their mythos, what is the point of Asgard? On the other hand, it at least provides an "industry standard" so that DMs who just want to get on with the campaign can do so. Having a default cosmology can work in terms of the game. It also provides a template for coming up with one's own cosmology. If I have some realm called Ultesia, then I can use the Seven Heavens as the basis of what that realm is like. The new DMG could easily include the information in the above "Building Your Own" segment, expand it and take up three pages and that's it.
  
Posted By: Maerlius (1/15/2014 3:56:28 PM)
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The "default 4th edition cosomology" is called The World Axis, btw.

  
Posted By: Tony_Vargas (1/15/2014 3:29:14 PM)
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What I'd really like to see is something between "no default cosmology" and "puzzle pieces." Provide examples, discuss plane and cosmology design, let DMs do the rest on their own, either assembling bits you've given them or building from scratch or building their own material around the planes the book provides. Throughout its history the DnD rules have been used to support all kinds of cosmologies, and this is one area where there's no real downside to letting a thousand different flowers bloom.

Also, software's still not passing ampersands. Can nothing be done about that?
  
Posted By: RadioKen (1/15/2014 3:24:19 PM)
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While I'm a fan of the Great Wheel, there definitely needs to be other cosmologies for different settings and the ability to design your own like there was in the 3e Manual of the Planes and the 3.5 DMG. To me that's the most important thing regardless of what the default cosmology.

Over all, though, please no more shoehorning one cosmology into other settings. That''s just bad form and should be avoided.

And don't alter the existing cosmologies (it was bad enough that 3e made the Demiplane of Shadow into a full plane), please don't go Franken-cosmology on us and make Ravenloft a full plane and dump 4e's Shadowfell into it. That's not pleasing to either fans of the Great Wheel or fans of the 4e cosmology.
  
Posted By: Azzy1974 (1/15/2014 2:28:35 PM)
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