WotC recently opened preorders on a new collection of sourcebooks, titled Planescape. This setting is a popular one, connecting various worlds in a multiverse of unique and interesting locations. It’s also used in the more standard “Forgotten Realms” setting of the game, known there as the Great Wheel Cosmology.
For those who are unfamiliar, here’s a brief primer on the Great Wheel and its many Outer Planes.
What is the Great Wheel Cosmology?
The Great Wheel is the cosmology, or a layout of the universe/multiverse, primarily used in 5e Dungeons and Dragons. In it, the Prime Material Plane (whichever universe you happen to set your game in) is surrounded above and below by the Feywild and Shadowfell, and further by the Ethereal Plane then the Inner Planes, of which there are 6 (one for each element of fire, water, air, and earth, and one each for elemental chaos and order). Outside of those, connected by the Astral Plane, are the Outer Planes, where strange planar beings and gods reside.
The entire multiverse is typically depicted in the form of a circle, or a wheel, giving it its name. It also explained why various gods could interact with worlds where they were not worshipped, since they could communicate with the gods of those places, and even manage to make their way there through connected planes.
What are The Outer Planes?
The focus of Planescape is probably going to be the Outer Planes. These strange and varied lands are divided by alignment, each one connected to lands slightly more lawful, neutral, chaotic, good, or evil than its neighbor, which in turn connect the same way to another land. Eventually, the connection brings you back to where you started in a ‘Great Wheel’.
Most of these planes are home to powerful, otherworldly beings like demons, angels, devils, and spirits. But the most impressive of their denizens are gods, who make divine homes and unique realms there. These realms are also, typically, the afterlife location of each gods’ followers.
Outer Planes by Alignment
- Mechanus/Nirvana. Made of massive, interlocking wheels which turn synchronically.
- Arcadia. Made of precisely planted forests and orchards or magical metal trees.
- Mount Celestia/The 7 Heavens. Made of seven consecutive mountains, each with their own terrain and colored light.
- Bytopia/Twin Paradises. Made of two forested layers which hang upside down from each other.
- Elysium. Made of four layers connected by the river Oceanus, each with pleasant riverbanks of various climates and terrains.
- Beastlands/Happy Hunting Grounds. Made of three heavily forested layers filled with intelligent animals and wildlife.
- Arborea/Arvandor/Olympus. Made of three layers, all with a sprawling patchwork of climates and terrains, dominated by powerful emotions and dramatic narrative.
- Ysgard/Gladsheim. Made of tightly packed floating stones which create mountains and chasms, with rivers of radiant fire underneath.
- Limbo. Made of ever-changing bits of random material interspersed with ‘safe zones’ created by gods or sufficient sapient creatures.
- Pandemonium. Made entirely of rock carved into tunnels and caverns by an endless, powerful wind, and gravity which pulled away from the center of any given room or tunnel.
- The Abyss. Made of hundreds of layers, each led by a different power or demon lord, each reflecting their liege.
- Cerceri/Tartarus. Made of a string of planets and worlds which string together, getting progressively smaller the further down go.
- Hades/Gray Waste. Made of three layers (called “glooms”) or desolate, grey lands where no strong color or emotion other than despair and ennui survive.
- Gehenna. Made of four layers, with rivers or lava and/or water and flat slopes, with gravity that acted at a 45-degree angle.
- The 9 Hells. Made of 9 nine inhospitable layers that mirror their rulers, the devilish Dukes of Hell.
- Acheron. Made of several geometrically perfect blocks and shapes which float and collide with each other, creating a bridge between Mechanus and the 9 Hells.
What are The Outlands and Sigil?
The final outer plane, also known as The Concordant Opposition, The Friendly Opposition, or Godsland, is the True Neutral plane which connects all others. It seems to be the primary plane used in the upcoming Planescape book, which will come with a map thereof.
The Outlands are a strange, strictly neutral land where, while all forms of good, evil, law, or chaos can exist, they are muted and less influential than they ought to be. Even great magic is less potent, neutralized by the realm itself. Around its edges are 16 ‘gate-town’s which connect to the other Outer Planes, whose denizens reflect the place their town connects to.
The towns, and their connected Planes, are as follows:
- Excelsior – Mount Celestia
- Tradegate – Bytopia
- Ecstasy – Elysium
- Faunel – The Beastlands
- Sylvania – Arborea
- Glorium – Ysgard
- Xaos – Limbo
- Bedlam – Pandemonium
- Plague-Mort – The Abyss
- Curst – Cerceri
- Hopeless – Hades
- Torch – Gehenna
- Ribcage – The Nine Hells
- Rigus – Archeron
- Automata – Mechanus
- Fortitude – Arcadia
At the center of the Outlands is a giant spire, at the top of which is the city of Sigil. This city, known as the City of Doors or the City of Secrets, is the largest hub of interplanar travel in Planescape.
The crowded city is filled with portals to other planes, which are the only way in and out of the city. No god or archfiend could enter by these, or any other method. Instead of gods, the city is ruled by the Lady of Pain, a masked queen who keeps control of the city and protects it. Under her are the factions of the city, each representing a different method of philosophical thought. These factions often war with each other for greater control of the city.
Are you excited about the new Planescape collection? Are there any planes you’d like to hear more about, or have explained more thoroughly? Let us know in the comments below!