The Planes reordered: 4E Planescape

Otogi's picture

I would like to first thank David "Zeb" Cook and the entire Planescape team for coming up with the a way to make Gary Gygax's idea of other dimensions of existence even more thoughtful, funny, cosmopolitan and all together fun, along with many anonymous planewalkers over here who helped out a green like me. I would secondly like to thank the Dungeon Master's Guide II for inspiration for this idea in a relatively short, but insightful sidebar.

You see, I'm talking about the idea of human archtypes; some players (not here, of course) many of the times pick human as they're race all the time, not for the traits it offers or because it's easier to roleplay, but because it's more historically accurate and they don't want to break the fantasy of Arthurian tales by playing dwarves of elves. Of course, sometimes they like the idea of gaining different mechanics or just playing someone that the race represents, such as the witty gnome trickster or the outcast anti-hero that half-orcs give so many opportunities to play, and of course, it breaks the fantasy if other players play a celestial feral half-dragon half-elf paragons. But, like the DMG II pointed out, you can have your cake and eat it too, and so can your players. This is represented in this example as archtypes, humans who have traits related to races, such as preternaturally charismatic and socialites (half-elves) or short, gypsy-like knaves who are especially sneaky and brave (halflings).

4th edition left a lot of people in the dumps, but my fear is that for everything it is, it left you guys in the worst area. The planes have become a haphazard place, the entire order of the multiverse becoming erratic and without any hope of the history or flavor of the planes being recovered. But, as a D&D evolutionist and a sly man of the city, I'm used to making a few changes to something to get the most out of it with the least harm, I ask you: is it? Does everything have to thrown away because the names of the planes and some of the flavor has been changed? I say no, and there's a reason in the 4th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide why you shouldn't either: Acheron. Yes, the Infernal Battlefield, the War amongst the Cubes, the medium between Baator and Mechanus is why you should not give up on the past of Planescape while staying in the present of Dungeons and Dragons. All's it takes is a little placement and reordering, and here's how.

The basic premise of the planes is 4 planes (with 2 extra if you count the Abyss located in the Elemental Chaos and the Far Realm located in the belly button of a vacuum mephit, or wherever it might be): The Feywild, Shadowfell, Astral Sea and Elemental Chaos. The planes that made these are fairly obvious (Shadowfell = Plane of Shadows, Elemental Chaos = elemental planes and Limbo, etc.) and that leaves the rest of the planes mentioned to just vanish. Sure, there's the Nine Hells and the Celestial Mountain in the astral sea, but that really seems about it. But then I heard about a Acheron in the astral sea, how from it's description, it hasn't changed in the smallest. I then realized that it hadn't changed, it was the same place as it ever was, just a part of the bigger picture. Now with this in mind, I thought what else in the astral sea? Mechanus? Bytopia? Gehenna? Then I thought about what could be in the other planes, what happened to Ysgard and Canceri and the other planes of existence that made up the multiverse and inspired a whole culture of gamers and intellectualists? So I made a list, a list of where everything went in all of existence, and here it is:

The Ethereal Plane - Split between the Shadowfell and the Feywild, as both deal with spirits of the dead and the mysterious powers of the unknown that lurks in the mists

The Plane of Shadows - Of course, this was is the basis of the Shadowfell

The Astral Plane - What became the Astral Sea

The Elemental, Paraelemental and Quasielemental Planes - As a plane alternating constantly between billowing winds and solid rock, burning magma and freezing cold, awesome colors and desiccating salt, the Elemental Chaos fits this to a key

Negative Energy Plane - if the Plane of Shadows is the basis of the Shadowfell, the faded colors and emotions and the source of many undead mark the Negative Energy Plane as the power of the Shadowfell. In fact, it is my belief that the black orb in the starless sky of this murky plane is similar to what it used to be in previous editions, perhaps being a passage way to the darker elements of the Elemental Chaos

Positive Energy Plane - if the Negative Energy Plane powers the Shadowfell, it's the Positive Energy Plane the makes up the Feywild with it's bright colors and enviorment teeming with life. Perhaps the bright orb in this plane's sky is the way to what was the positive quasielemental planes just like Shadowfell's orb.

Ysgard - With it's lush, lively terrain and and resurrecting traits as well as the presence of elves, this would have to be in the Feywild, but with such extreme elemental traits and lawless atmosphere, this plane would have to border the Elemental Chaos, as well

Limbo - Despite being a former outer plane, Limbo has become the power of the elemental chaos, keeping the elements from resolving each other and leaving only one dominant, or a great big mess that would just destroy it's own section of existence.

Pandemonium - Though it's actually located in the elemental chaos, this probably belongs in the Abyss, or at least close to the end of the maelstrom where the Abyss is located.

The Abyss - The end of the Elemental Chaos, its own maelstrom of entropy and wanton destruction

Carceri - A section of the Abyss, perhaps the prison that holds Tharizdun and other malign gods, primordials and cursed artifacts

Hades - A place of despair and a home to lost souls, this plane fits the Shadowfell

Gehenna - With it's high, rocky mountains, acidic hail, deadly hurling lava balls and suffocating smoke, Gehenna is placed in the lower sections of the Elemental Chaos, but as queer and contradictory as it is, the yugoloths brought this plane down from the Astral Sea and there are still places which transfer through the plane to the godly domains.

Baator - In a place of chocking smoke, where the radiant rainbows and milky white colors become black goo that seems to stick only to the conscious and the soul. Baator, or the Nine Hells, haven't changed, berk; same thing, different place; in this case, the Astral Sea

Acheron - The inspiration of this article, Acheron is placed in Astral Sea; A place where two gods constantly do battle with each other, where soldiers suffer tragic and gruesome deaths, not once, but for all eternity fits the immortal theme of the Astral Sea.

Mechanus - Angels are physical beings formed from ideas and composed from astral threads of the plane, in this case, as the word(s) of god(s): Justice. Valor. Vengeance. Healing. Perhaps we'll hear about darker angels, ones that represent ideals such as greed, hate and darkness. But as the Elemental Chaos is a place of anarchy perfected, the idea of perfected laws and true order make the astral energies into ever churning, always moving gears with beings composed of both the metallic nature of the law and the life-like, organic parts of divinity.

Arcadia - A place of harmony and of true community, this place looks under the defence and peace of the gods that reside in the Astral Sea.

Celestia - A shining mountain that holds beings of strength and virtue on shining, opaque waters, The Shining Mountain lies on the Astral Sea

Bytopia - However tame and civilized the Twin Paradises' seem, it is still a very wild place where beasts attack visitors and the wilds are just that and thus inhabits the Feywild. Still, there are some mountains that seem to only go one way, and at the end are surrounded by a silvery white light.

Elysium - This place makes up the softer sections of the Feywild. Small marshes, pleasant bogs and other such watery areas make up this section of this plane.

The Beastlands - An wild domain of hundreds of different beasts, both natural and from planes abound, the Beastlands belong in the Feywild

Arborea - One would suspect that Arborea would fall into the Feywild, but because Correlon places his domain on Arvandor and Sehanine occasionally travels there, Arborea is set in both the Astral Sea and the Feywild

The Outlands - Strangely enough, the home of the Spire doesn't seem to exist in the standard geography of the multiverse. Rather, it seems to be outside the order of the planes, perhaps at the very center of the planes (of course, with an infinity, not to say multiple infinities, there is no real center). Because of (insert multiversal, plane shattering cataclysm here), almost a dozen gatetowns have been demolished, the ones remaining? Converted into 4 entirely different towns: Sovereign (Astral Sea), Snafu (Elemental Chaos), Sylvan (Feywild) and Umbra (Shadowfell).

So let's go over where the planes went in the multiverse:

Feywild - Ethereal Plane (half), Positive Energy Plane (powers), Ysgard, Bytopia, Beastland, Arborea (half), Elysium, Sylvan (gatetown)

Shadowfell - Ethereal Plane (half), Plane of Shadows (basis), Negativ Energy Plane (powers), Hades, Umbra (gatetown)

The Astral Sea - Astral Plane (basis), Gehenna (bordered), Baator, Acheron, Mechanus, Arcadia, Celestia, Bytopia (bordered), Soveriegn (gatetown)

Elemental Chaos - Elemental Plane (basis), Limbo (powers), Abyss, Canceri (Abyss), Ysgard (bordered), Gehenna (Abyss), Snafu (gatetown)

And is it with the end of this list that I would like to say that with 4th Edition we should not say goodbye to Planescape (or any other setting, really, that relies on the cosmology; things like Spelljammer and Ravenloft are just as safe), but to say hello to brand new concepts: How tieflings are now all royal heirs to a fallen empire, how angels and elementals impact the Blood War with the line of Baator and Abyss blurred into a bigger pictures, and Primordials.

Barking_Wilder's picture
Joined: 2004-05-13
Not bad at all. I for one am

Not bad at all. I for one am keeping the PS cosmology the way it is, working alignments back into the mix (I refuse to relegate my ancient Barking Wilder character sheet to Unaligned!), bringing back the gods as they always were and pretty much restoring order to the mess that Wizards are making of the general established cosmologies.

However, this is a VERY good way of organising things for less established gamers who would not have the first clue about how to do what we old schoolers are going to do Smiling Kudos

Wyrmwood's picture
Joined: 2005-11-22
I had a similar idea.

I had a similar idea. Actually currently I've begun a new PS game where the PCs, having been drawn through a portal to Sigil, find themselves in need of a way home from the Planes. As far as Cosmology I plan to wing it, as none of my players are intimately familiar with either the 4th edition cosmology, or the Planescape cannon. The idea for the campaign though hinges upon the fact that the planes have changed, dramatically from their previous makeup, but that this is due to a change in belief brought on by the above-mentioned cataclysm. Basically the titans and old gods (Tharizdun, etc.) were able to break free from their bindings and a great war began. Worlds were destroyed, crystal spheres shattered, even some gods were layed low. However, not all was lost. Eventually the gods succeeded at destroying and imprisoning some of the old gods and titans once more. The prime healed, great nations rose and fell, new races were born as others died out. The multiverse once more fell into order, but things have changed. The Blood War that defined the lower planes is over. The yugoloths, secret masters and manipulators are seemingly no more. Their rank and file having fallen in with whichever group of Fiends most appealed to their personal natures. So too were many of the exemplar races destroyed, or remade for the wars of the Powers against the Primordials. Meanwhile, among the myriad worlds where many of the more subtle philosophies of good and evil have been lost, a great change has been wrought upon neutral planes by this. Sigil floats alone in the Astral sea, or perhaps alone in a void at the center of the Multiverse. (I had had some ideas of including Darktower-esque stories inspired by older posts on this site about the Spire-Breakers.) Basically I've decided to treat each comology as a seperate section of the Astral sea and let the mythology dictate the physicalities of the plane. Overall this allows me to cherry-pick what I did and didn't like about the planes and allow some continuity from one editon to the next. Also, as far as tieflings are concerned I've informed my players that the physical traits of tieflings can differ just as much as the old 2e/3e versions, that only the Tieflings of the cannon 4e setting fit the description given in the PHB. I'm also working on stats for a few of the other planar races, i.e. Barriurs and others, but have nothing solid yet. Barriurs at least should be easy using hybrid dwarf/minotaur stats and the other races should fall into place using MM and PH races as basis. Anyway, I was glad to see others are working on adapting the best setting IMHO of AD&D to the new addition. Cheers!


Is this where I'm supposed to write something clever?

Loki De Carabas's picture
Joined: 2004-12-14
Even though I do ot intend

Even though I do ot intend to embrace 4e myself I think that work of this nature, i.e. converting PS to the newest edition of DND, is profoundly important. Thanks for hoping on that with alacrity!

I'm just curious about the rumblings of a PS setting book sometime down the line...


DungeonMasterLoki aka George Williams

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robb stark's picture
Joined: 2013-10-03
Re: Not bad at all. I for one am

Yeah to fully experience a good gaming experience one must know how to fully organize the functions. This will more likely improve your gaming abilities and performance. get real facebook fan

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