Planes of Existence

Planes are dimensions governed by distinct laws of physics, magic, and other principles. Planes vary greatly in size and the space they occupy. Some contain hundreds of individual worlds. Some consist of a single continent or are home to one entity. They can exist next to one another or occupy the same space, intersecting or layered atop one another.

Many spells and magic items draw energy from another plane, summon creatures that dwell there, open communication with their denizens, and allow adventurers to travel there. Therefore, most game settings include some model for how the planes are ordered and how creatures travel from plane to plane. The following types of planes are assumed to be included in some capacity.

The Material Plane

The Material Plane is most similar to our world. Everything in the Material Plane is governed by consistent and measurable principles such as gravity, mortality, and entropy. All fantasy worlds exist within the Material Plane, making it the starting point for most campaigns and adventures. Because it is the default, other planes are defined in relation to the Material Plane.

Transitive Planes

The Ethereal Plane and the Astral Plane are called the Transitive Planes. They are mostly featureless, primarily serving as ways to travel between planes. Spells such as etherealness and astral projection allow PCs to enter these planes and use them to reach other planes.

The Ethereal Plane is a misty, fog-bound dimension. Its edges overlap with the Material Plane (and often other planes). Every location on the Material Plane has a corresponding location in the Ethereal. Because of this overlap, spirits of mortals who die in the Material Plane can become trapped in the Ethereal, wandering the two planes as ghosts or other supernatural entities. Some creatures can see into the Ethereal, and spells like see invisibility and true seeing also grant this ability. Some magic effects like the spells forcecage and wall of force affect space in the Material Plane and its corresponding location in the Ethereal.

The Astral Plane is a realm of thought and dream. It constantly shifts to fill spaces between bordering planes. It resembles a great silvery sea, studded with swirling motes of light that resemble stars. Occasional islands of solid matter coalesce here, but most of the Astral Plane is an endless open expanse.

Other Planes

Planes beyond the Material and Transitive Planes are realms of myth and mystery. They are governed by qualities completely alien to the Material Plane. The types of planes mentioned here go by many different names, but usually appear in fantasy game settings.

  • Celestial Planes. Celestial creature types are summoned from or banished to these planes. Some celestial planes are ruled by different deities or pantheons. Realms of this type are typically associated with universal forces of good or law.
  • Fiendish Plane. Fiend creature types are summoned from or banished to these planes. Some fiendish planes are ruled by different categories of Fiend, such as the Hells of devils and the Abysses of demons. Realms of this type are typically associated with universal forces of evil or chaos.
  • Elemental Plane. Elemental creature types are summoned from or banished to these planes. There are often four separate planes, one associated with each element: air, earth, fire, and water.
  • A Place for the Dead. When mortals die, their spirits need an otherworldly place to return from when resurrected or contacted. Spirits might go to a celestial or fiendish plane or a land of the dead beyond the Material Plane.
  • A Home for Deities. Gods, deities, and pantheons usually dwell in a plane and can be contacted there. This could be in one of the previously described planes or their own demiplanes.

Travel Between Planes

Travel into other planes of existence is a legendary journey to a mythic destination. You can go beyond the Material Plane in two ways: casting a spell or using a planar portal.

Spells. A number of spells open to other planes. Plane shift and gate can transport you directly to any other plane. Etherealness lets you enter the Ethereal Plane. The astral projection spell lets you enter the Astral Plane.

Portals. Portals (sometimes called “gates” or “gateways”) are crossing points that allow a creature to travel from one specific location to another specific location on a different plane. Some portals are like doorways, and stepping through (knowingly or unknowingly) activates its travel property. Other portals are distinct locations of their own: circles of standing stones, soaring towers, sailing ships, or even whole towns that exist in multiple planes at once, transporting all creatures within as they flicker from plane to plane.

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