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.
When discussing anything to do with deities, the language used must be highly metaphorical. Their actual homes are not literally “places” at all, but exemplify the idea that the Outer Planes are realms of thought and spirit. As with the Elemental Planes, one can imagine the perceptible part of the Outer Planes as a sort of border region, while extensive spiritual regions lie beyond ordinary sensory experience.
Even in those perceptible regions, appearances can be deceptive. Initially, many of the Outer Planes appear hospitable and familiar to natives of the Material Plane. But the landscape can change at the whims of the powerful forces that live on these planes, which can remake them completely, effectively erasing and rebuilding existence to better fulfill their divine needs.
Distance is a virtually meaningless concept on the Outer Planes. The perceptible regions of the planes often seem quite small, but they can also stretch on to what seems like infinity. It might be possible to take a guided tour of the Nine Hells, from the first layer to the ninth, in a single day — if the powers of the Hells desire it. Or it could take weeks for travelers to make a grueling trek across a single layer.
The most well-known Outer Planes are a group of sixteen planes that correspond to the eight alignments (excluding true neutrality, which is the purview of the Outlands) and the shades of distinction between them. A plane’s alignment is its essence, and a traveller whose values don’t match the plane’s experiences a profound sense of dissonance there.
The planes with some element of good in their nature are called the Upper Planes. Celestial creatures such as angels and pegasi dwell there.
- 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, in opposite ends of the law and chaos spectrum.
Planes with some element of evil are the Lower Planes. Fiends such as demons, devils, and yugoloths dwell there.
- 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 Blood War
Throughout history, the teeming hordes of the Abyss and the strictly regimented legions of the Nine Hells have battled for supremacy in the cosmos. In the mortal world, the scant few scholars, arcanists, and adventurers who know the conflict for what it is refer to it as the Blood War.
The fighting takes place across the Lower Planes, on the Material Plane, and anywhere else that demons and devils might congregate. From time to time, demons spill out of the Abyss to invade Avernus, the uppermost layer of the Nine Hells. While the devils defend their home turf, they also make strikes against locations in the Abyss.
Although the intensity of the conflict waxes and wanes, and the front lines of the war can shift drastically, a moment never goes by when demons and devils aren’t battling each other somewhere in the multiverse.
Layers of the Outer Planes
Most of the Outer Planes include a number of distinct environments or realms. These realms are often imagined and depicted as a stack of related parts of the same plane, so travelers refer to them as layers. For example, Mount Celestia resembles a seven-tiered layer cake, the Nine Hells has nine layers, and the Abyss has a seemingly endless number of layers.
Most portals from elsewhere reach the first layer of a multilayered plane. This layer is variously depicted as the top or bottom layer, depending on the plane. As the arrival point for most visitors, the first layer functions like a city gate for that plane.
Traveling the Outer Planes
Traveling between the Outer Planes isn’t dissimilar from reaching the Outer Planes in the first place. Explorers traveling by means of astral projection can go from one plane into the Astral Plane, and there search out a color pool leading to the desired destination. Powerful beings can also plane shift to reach a different plane more directly. Most often, though, individuals use portals – either a portal that links the two planes directly or a portal leading to Sigil, the City of Doors. which holds portals to all the planes.
Two planar features connect multiple Outer Planes together: the River Styx and the Infinite Staircase.
This river bubbles with grease, foul flotsam, and the putrid remains of battles along its banks. Any creature other than a fiend that tastes or touches the water will suffer seriously debilitating effects.
The Styx churns through the top layers of the Lower Planes of Acheron, Nine Hells, Gehenna, Hades, Carceri, The Abyss, and Pandemonium. Tributaries of the Styx snake onto lower layers of some of these planes. For example, a tendril of the Styx winds through every layer of the Nine Hells, allowing passage from one layer of that plane to the next.
Sinister ferries float on the waters of the Styx, crewed by pilots skilled in negotiating the unpredictable currents and eddies of the river. For a price, these pilots are willing to carry passengers from plane to plane. Some of them are fiends, while others are the souls of dead creatures from the Material Plane.
The Infinite Staircase
The Infinite Staircase is an extradimensional spiral staircase that connects the planes. An entrance to the Infinite Staircase usually appears as a nondescript door. Beyond the portal lies a small landing with an equally nondescript stairway leading up and down. The Infinite Staircase changes appearance as it climbs and descends going from simple stairs of wood or stone to a chaotic jumble of stairs hanging in radiant space, where no two steps share the same gravitational orientation.
Is is said that one can find one’s heart’s desire on the Infinite Staircase through diligent searching of each landing.
Doors to the Infinite Staircase are often tucked away in dusty, half-forgotten places that no one frequents or pays any attention to. On any given plane, there can be multiple doors to the Infinite Staircase, though entrances aren’t common knowledge and are occasionaly guarded by devas, sphinxes, yugoloths, and other powerful monsters.