The Planes of Existence
It has long been postulated that world of Orth is but one of many among infinitely diverse celestial bodies that roam the universe. The nature of the universe itself is a matter of scholarly focus, and few are those who can say they completely know the true nature of the reality they inhabit. That which one would call “reality” is in truth but a facet of the universe, a single plane of existence, with its own rules and particular disposition of denizens, elements, and sources of power.
The world sits within the Material Plane, a focal point of existence from which most mortals define the rest of the universe in relation to. It is therefore common to represent the cosmological nature of the universe as a series of concentric circles with it at the core and all the other planes structured from the center outwards. This is known as the Great Wheel.
The Great Wheel CosmologyThe Great Wheel; source Wikipedia.
This cosmological arrangement visualizes the planes of existence as a group of concentric wheels, with the Material Plane and its echoes at the center. The Inner Planes form a wheel around the Material Plane, enveloped in the Ethereal Plane. Then the Outer Planes form another wheel around and behind (or above or below) that one, arranged according to alignment, with the Outlands linking them all.
The Material Plane
The Material Plane is a relatively mundane realm that, nevertheless, is the nexus where the philosophical and elemental forces that define the other planes collide in the jumbled existence of mortal life and mundane matter.
It is here that all of those upon Orth play out their individual existences.
The Feywild and the Shadowfell are parallel dimensions occupying the same cosmological space, so they are often called echo planes or mirror planes to the Material Plane.
The Transitive Planes
The Ethereal Plane and the Astral Plane are called the Transitive Planes. They are mostly featureless realms that serve primarily as ways to travel from one plane to another.
The Inner Planes
The Inner Planes surround and enfold the Material Plane and its echoes, providing the raw elemental substance from which all the worlds are made. The four Elemental Planes — Air, Earth, Fire, and Water — form a ring around the Material Plane, suspended within the churning Elemental Chaos. These planes are all connected, and the border regions between them are sometimes described as distinct planes in their own right.
The Outer Planes
If the Inner Planes are the raw matter and energy that makes up the universe, the Outer Planes are the direction, thought and purpose for such construction. Accordingly, many sages refer to the Outer Planes as divine planes, spiritual planes, or godly planes, for the Outer Planes are best known as the homes of the deities and demigods.
The planes with some element of good in their nature are called the Upper Planes.
- The Peaceable Kingdoms of Arcadia
- The Seven Heavens of Mount Celestia
- The Twin Paradises of Bytopia
- The Blessed Fields of Elysium
- The Wilderness of The Beastlands
- The Olympian Glades of Arborea
- The Heroic Domains of Ysgard
These locations bridge the Upper and the Lower Planes, on the wheel of the Outer Planes, in opposite ends of the law and chaos spectrum.
Planes with some element of evil are the Lower Planes.
- The Infinite Battlefield of Acheron
- The Nine Hells of Baator
- The Bleak Eternity of Gehenna
- The Gray Waste of Hades
- The Tarterian Depths of Carceri
- The Infinite Layers of The Abyss
- The Windswept Depths of Pandemonium
The Concordant Domain of the Outlands, exists interconnected with the Outer Planes (conceptually at the center of this planar wheel), and is a plane of true neutrality, but not a true neutrality of nothingness. Instead it incorporates a little of everything, keeping it all in a paradoxical balance — simultaneously concordant and in opposition (thus being also known as the Concordant Opposition). It is an infinitely broad region of varied terrain, with open prairies, towering mountains, and twisting, shallow rivers, strongly resembling an ordinary world of the Material Plane.
The Outlands is circular, like a great wheel — in fact, those who envision the Planes of Existence as a wheel point to the Outlands as proof, calling it a microcosm of the planes. That argument might be (appropriately) circular, however, for it is possible that the arrangement of the Outlands inspired the idea of the Great Wheel in the first place.
Around the outside edge of the circle, evenly spaced, are the gate-towns: sixteen settlements, each built around a portal leading to one of the Outer Planes. Each town shares many of the characteristics of the plane where its gate leads.
Sigil, the City of Doors
At the center of the Outlands, like the axle of the planar wheel, the Spire shoots impossibly high into the sky. Above this thin peak floats the ring-shaped city of Sigil, the City of Doors. This bustling planar metropolis holds countless portals to other planes and worlds.
Sigil is a trader’s city. Goods, merchandise, and information come to it from across the planes. There is a brisk trade in information about the planes, in particular in the command words or items required for the operation of particular portals. These portal keys are highly sought after, and many travelers within the city are looking for a particular portal or a portal key to allow them to continue on their way.
The Positive and Negative Planes
Like a dome above the other planes, the Positive Plane is the source of radiant energy and the raw life force that suffuses all living beings, from the puny to the sublime. Its dark reflection is the Negative Plane, the source of necrotic energy that destroys the living and animates the undead.
Broadening the confines of the known universe into a veritable multiverse, existing somehow between or beyond the known planes of existence, are a variety of other realms.
Demiplanes are small extradimensional spaces with their own unique rules. They are pieces of reality that don’t seem to fit anywhere else. Demiplanes come into being by a variety of means. Some are created by spells, or generated at the desire of a powerful deity or other force. They may exist naturally, as a fold of existing reality that has been pinched off from the rest of existence, or as a baby universe growing in power.
A given demiplane can be entered through a single point where it touches another plane, or through the use of powerful spells.
The Far Realm
The Far Realm is beyond the known universe. In fact, it might be an entirely separate universe with its own physical and magical laws. Where stray energies from the Far Realm leak onto another plane, life and matter are warped and twisted into alien shapes that defy ordinary geometry and biology.
The entities that abide in the Far Realm are too alien for a normal mind to accept without damage. Gigantic creatures swim through nothingness, preoccupied with madness. Unspeakable things whisper awful truths to those who dare listen. For mortals, knowledge of the Far Realm is a triumph of mind over the rude boundaries of matter, space, and eventually sanity.
There are no known portals to the Far Realm, or at least none that are still viable. However some might still exist in Eridor, marked by the alien forces leaking through to corrupt the Material Plane around them.