The many planes in the cosmology of Toril had traits that greatly differentiated them from the Prime Material Plane with which most adventurers were familiar. Depending on your abilities, race, and even faith the different planes could be warm, welcoming places, or manifestations of pure horror.
In 1st and 2nd edition D&D, planes were not categorized by specific traits but instead were described in terms of survival: breathing, time, food and drink, gravity, direction, vision and senses, and movement. Third edition codified the various survival factors into "physical traits" and added traits relating to the elemental planes, alignment, and magic. In addition to those four categories, the Forgotten Realms World Tree cosmology added a "faith trait" that, for some planes, replaced the alignment trait. In 4th edition, the alignment system was overhauled to just four alignments and "unaligned".
- Physical Traits: set the laws of nature, including gravity and time.
- Elemental and Energy Traits: determined the dominance of particular elemental or energy forces.
- Alignment Traits: described the strength or weakness of moral (good/evil) and ethical (lawful/chaotic) forces permeating a plane.
- Magic Traits: described the efficacy, predictability, difficulty, and magnitude of magical effects.
- Faith Trait: the degree to which non-believers, heretics, and infidels (relative to the deity or deities that inhabit the plane) were hindered when performing certain skills or interacting with the inhabitants of the plane.
Physical Traits[edit | edit source]
The physical traits of a plane were the "natural" laws of the plane, the size and shape (if not infinite), the malleability of matter, the strength and direction of gravity, the flow of time with respect to the other planes, the boundaries (if any), and borders with other planes.
Gravity[edit | edit source]
If gravity operated on a plane, it might have been constant or had varying strength and direction. The types of gravity traits were:
- Normal Gravity: The majority of planes had gravity nearly identical to that of the Prime Material Plane. Travelers noticed no difference in physical abilities, encumbrance, or carrying capacity.
- Heavy Gravity: A visitor and all her equipment effectively doubled in weight upon entering a plane with intense gravity, increasing encumbrance with a likely reduction in speed. Essentially all physical activity and skills were more difficult and ranged weapons only reached half as far. Falling caused an average of thirty three percent (maximum of sixty seven percent) more damage than falls in normal gravity.
- Light Gravity: A visitor and all his equipment were effectively halved in weight, which allowed him to lift and carry more but tended to throw his balance off. Most physical activity and skills were made more difficult by this sudden change in equilibrium except for jumping and climbing. Ranged weapons could reach twice as far. Falling caused an average seventeen percent (maximum of thirty three percent) less damage than falls in normal gravity.
- No Gravity: Objects and individuals floated in space with no discernible up or down unless acted upon by other forces such as magic—a fly spell for example. In some planes, the power of movement could be derived from consciousness itself and was directed by "force of will": a being desired to travel in a particular direction and willed it to happen. Mass, momentum, and friction still applied to objects in the usual fashion but without the effect of gravity.
- Objective Directional Gravity: A visitor to a plane with this gravity trait experienced the familiar pull of normal gravity but not necessarily perpendicular to the ground or a particular surface. Direction could be at any angle with respect to a surface and this could be a local or global phenomenon. For example, if gravity pulled at a forty five degree angle to the ground, visitors would feel as if they were on the side of a steep mountain with no base or peak. If gravity pulled perpendicular to all surfaces, a traveler could walk on all sides of a cube floating in space, or on the floor, walls, and ceiling of a room. Shifts in direction could be abrupt so visitors were cautioned to beware a long hallway doesn't suddenly turn into a vertical shaft.
- Subjective Directional Gravity: This gravity trait was probably the most disorientating to non-native beings because gravity existed only for sentient creatures and pulled with normal force in the direction each individual chose. Inanimate objects and non-sentient creatures were essentially in zero gravity. Those without the ability to fly had to pick a direction to call "down" and fall in a straight line until a different direction was chosen. Coming to a stop or a soft landing was accomplished by reversing the direction of "down" to slow movement rate. Only the very wise could do this fairly reliably without concentration. Once on a surface, most visitors found it relatively easy to imagine "down" toward their feet and could move about normally.
Time[edit | edit source]
Time could flow at greatly different rates from one plane to another: faster, slower, or effectively stopped with respect to certain aspects of life and magic. It is important to note that the rate of time always seemed to flow normally for the planar traveler—a month in another plane felt like a month regardless of changing planar conditions or what happened when she returned. The types of time traits were:
- Normal Time: The majority of planes had the same rate of time flow as on the Prime Material Plane.
- Flowing Time: Time on a plane with this trait flowed either faster or slower than on the Material plane, and the rates could be dramatically different. A planar traveler might spend a year exploring one plane and upon returning to her home plane discover that only a few seconds had passed since she left. Likewise, a traveler might depart his small village on the Prime Material plane for a day and come back to a thriving metropolis with a stable where his house used to be.
- Erratic Time: This trait indicated that the flow of time on a plane sped up or slowed down at random intervals. A traveler could unknowingly gain or lose time when transitioning to a different plane or back to his or her home plane.
- Timeless: A plane with this trait effectively stopped or paused some of the effects of time with respect to life conditions and/or magic. Hunger, thirst, and such processes as disease, poison, healing, and aging might be halted while a traveler is in a timeless plane. If natural healing was affected, only magic could be used to close wounds and repair damage. If a plane was timeless with respect to magic, only spells with instantaneous duration acted as normal, all others were permanent until dispelled. Spending large amounts of time on a plane with this trait was risky because when a traveler returned to a plane with a normal flow of time the effects that were halted suddenly took effect retroactively. Instant aging, severe malnutrition and hunger, or rapid disease progression could really ruin your day.
Shape and Size[edit | edit source]
In 1st and 2nd edition D&D the Inner and Outer planes of the Great Wheel cosmology were all infinite in size. Only the demiplanes had a finite size and a distinct shape. In the World Tree cosmology model, only the plane of Cynosure was finite. After the Spellplague the Astral dominions were set adrift in the Astral Sea and though vast, were finite in size. The size and shape traits that could be used to describe planes of existence were:
- Infinite: Stretching out forever in at least one dimension, an infinite plane could contain finite chunks of matter, like planets for example.
- Finite: A finite plane had definite edges, either barriers such as walls or borders with other planes. Demiplanes were usually finite.
- Self-Contained: A plane with this trait was circular in some fashion, wrapping around on itself so that traveling in any direction eventually brought you back to the same spot. This could be due to geometry, like a cubic, spherical, or toroidal plane, or due to magic teleportation from one edge to the opposite edge.
Morphic Traits[edit | edit source]
The matter that made up planes could be manipulated by various means, or not at all. The types of morphic traits were:
- Alterable Morphic: Planes with this trait were most like the Prime Material Plane. Matter stayed in place unless acted upon by a physical force or magic only. Work of some sort was required to produce physical changes in the environment.
- Static: Inhabitants of a static plane and their possessions were untouchable by outside visitors, as if they were surrounded by an aura of invulnerability or under the effect of a time stop spell. Magic spells had no effect unless the static trait could be suspended or suppressed somehow. Matter not within the aura of a living resident could only be moved by a feat of strength, if at all.
- Highly Morphic: Matter on this type of plane changed form, nature, and location easily, either reacting to magical spells, force of will, or the mere thought of a sentient being. Indeed, it often required great effort or concentration to keep a given area stable for a length of time as the substance of the plane seemed to transform of its own volition.
- Magically Morphic: The fundamental matter of a plane with this trait could be manipulated with spells specifically designed to do so. Shadow evocation is an example of a spell designed to modify the base material of the Plane of Shadow.
- Divinely Morphic: Planes with this trait were Alterable Morphic to ordinary visitors but deities and beings of great power could instantly manipulate the landscape, objects, and creatures that fell within their area of influence with dramatic results.
- Sentient: A plane that is under complete control of its own consciousness. Travelers that caught the attention of the overmind were presented with a landscape or environment that changed on a whim, becoming more or less hostile depending on the impressions of a vast, inscrutable, and alien awareness.
Elemental and Energy Traits[edit | edit source]
Cosmologists have determined with some degree of certainty that the universe of the Forgotten Realms is made up of four fundamental elements and two energies: air, earth, fire, water, positive energy, and negative energy. The elemental and energy planes were each completely dominated by one element or energy, but other planes in the cosmology had varying amounts of these elements. Many planes, like the Prime Material Plane, struck a balance where none were dominant. The elemental and energy traits that could be used to describe various planes of existence were:
- Air-Dominant: Planes with this trait were mostly empty of solid matter with few chunks, blobs, or bubbles of other elements floating about. Gravity, if it existed, was usually objective directional or subjective directional. The atmosphere was usually breathable unless polluted by something and travelers were cautioned to be wary of suspicious clouds that might be toxic or acidic. Creatures from earth-dominated planes found air-dominated planes uncomfortable due to the lack of gravity and solid matter.
- Earth-Dominant: Planes with this trait were almost nothing but solid matter. Unless travelers found a cavern or pocket of breathable substance quickly after arrival, they likely suffocated. Being in an earth-dominated plane was very much like being buried alive; visitors needed a way of tunneling or passing through the solid rock and dirt. These planes usually had objective directional or subjective directional gravity. Creatures from air-dominated planes found these type claustrophobic and difficult to move about.
- Fire-Dominant: If a plane had this trait it was perpetually wreathed in flames that never consumed fuel or ran out of oxygen. Protection from or immunity to heat and fire was a necessity for travelers and all their flammable possessions or else they began to burn almost immediately upon entering the plane. Conditions only got worse near outbreaks of lava or magma. Fire-dominant planes usually had the Normal Gravity trait. Creatures from water-dominated planes were extremely uncomfortable and those creatures made of water took twice the damage.
- Water-Dominant: Like earth-dominant planes, breathing was an immediate problem on planes that were almost entirely liquid. There were pockets of air, but no guarantee they were fresh. Water-dominant planes usually had no gravity or objective or subjective directional gravity. Creatures from fire-dominated planes were extremely uncomfortable and those creatures made of fire took damage constantly.
- Positive-Dominant: There were two degrees of dominance for energy-dominated planes. Those with a minor positive influence were abundant with life and energy, amplifying physical processes and boosting healing. A blacksmith's fire burned hotter, the ring of his hammer was louder, and every color shone with intensity. Those with a major influence were blindingly bright and healing was very rapid. Visitors quickly swelled with health and eventually the vitality of the plane overwhelmed their constitution and they literally exploded with energy. A positive energy protection spell could protect a traveler while on a major positive-dominant plane.
- Negative-Dominant: Planes with a negative dominance were bleak, desolate, haunted places that drained the life out of visitors. It was said that the wind carried the moans of those who succumbed to the effects and turned to ash. On those planes with a major negative dominance, beings not only felt their life draining away but their strength and abilities as well. If they exited the plane, the effects were not permanent, but only a death ward, negative energy protection, or similar magic could protect those on the plane from dying and becoming a wraith.
- Cold-Dominant: While not specifically documented as a planar trait, this feature was mentioned in conjunction with the Eighth Circle of Hell, Cania, Auril's domain in Fury's Heart, and Thrym's domain in Jotunheim and perhaps other locations in various cosmology models. It can be considered an analogue to the fire-dominant trait in that unprotected exposure resulted in continual damage, but it does not have a quintessential source in one of the four Elemental Planes. Instead, the basis for this trait is likely the Para-Elemental Plane of Ice (also called the Plane of Cold) which existed at the junction of the Elemental Planes of Air and Water, as described in the Great Wheel cosmology model.
Alignment Traits[edit | edit source]
In 1st and 2nd edition D&D the outer planes of the Great Wheel cosmology each had an alignment and they attracted beings of similar alignments. In the World Tree cosmology of 3rd edition, powerful entities like deities or demon lords directly determined the alignment traits of the planes they inhabited. Alignment traits were an indication of the ease or difficulty in social interactions between visitors and the native inhabitants of a plane. They could be moral (good vs. evil) and/or ethical (law vs. chaos), or neutral, and either mildly or strongly in effect. Note that the effects of contrary alignments were cumulative, i.e., a penalty due to a good/evil conflict would add to a penalty due to a lawful/chaotic conflict. Fourth edition D&D eliminated the alignment grid model in favor of just four alignments and "unaligned". The alignment traits were:
- Good-Aligned/Evil-Aligned: These mutually exclusive (a plane may have one or the other, but not both) traits indicated the overall moral choice of the Powers That Be on the plane.
- Law-Aligned/Chaos-Aligned: Also mutually exclusive, these traits described the general position in the spectrum of ethics for the plane and its powerful inhabitants and rulers.
- Mildly Aligned: A visitor or creature of opposite alignment was considered less charismatic and had social interactions that were tense, uncomfortable, or even hostile. Those that were neutral to the plane's alignment were tolerated without penalty.
- Strongly Aligned: A strongly aligned plane presented the same challenges to neutral visitors that mildly aligned planes did for those of opposite alignments. In addition, those with opposite views were severely hampered in all skills or social interactions requiring charisma, wisdom, or intelligence.
- Neutral-Aligned: Neutral planes were opposed to the extremes of good/evil and law/chaos. A mildly neutral plane did not present any difficulties to anyone but a strongly neutral-aligned plane was challenging to those of non-neutral alignment.
Magic Traits[edit | edit source]
Magic worked differently on different planes of existence and this trait described the differences relative to the Prime Material Plane. Note that like most planar traits, regions or pockets in a plane could exist where the general trait does not apply, especially where deities were involved. The traits that were used to describe the workings of arcane power were:
- Normal Magic: All spells and spell effects worked exactly as they did in the vast majority of the Material plane.
- Dead Magic: A dead magic plane had no magic at all, as if an antimagic field was permanently cast over the whole plane. Spells cast from outside a dead magic area could not affect or detect anyone or anything inside the dead magic zone. Wizards, priests, and spellcasting creatures were uncomfortable due to headaches while on these planes. Permanent planar portals to/from a dead magic plane still functioned normally and were the only known means of entering or leaving.
- Wild Magic: Planes with this trait were frustrating and possibly dangerous to spellcasters and anyone nearby. All spells and spell-like abilities had a good chance to go awry. Spells might fizzle or have maximum effect; spell components may or may not have been consumed; spells might rebound on the caster or some other unintentional target; spells might have a completely unintentional and seemingly random effect. The higher the level of the spell, the more difficult it was for the caster to control.
- Impeded Magic: A plane with impeded magic hindered or prevented spells of a certain type, power, nature, or school and spellcasters required great skill to cast them successfully. Often the elemental trait of the plane was the cause: fire impedes water, air impedes earth, positive energy impedes necromancy, for example.
- Enhanced Magic: Just the opposite of an impeded magic plane, an enhanced magic plane made the preparation and casting of particular types of spells easier with reduced cost, greater effect, greater area, or less delay, or any combination of these.
- Limited Magic: More strict than the impeded magic trait, a plane with limited magic acts like a dead magic plane to particular types, levels, or schools of spells and spell-like abilities. All other magics function normally.
Faith Trait[edit | edit source]
The Forgotten Realms added a faith trait to the other planar traits, sometimes using it to replace the alignment trait. The inhabitants of mildly faith-aligned planes treated visitors who did not worship one of the resident deities suspiciously. On a strongly faith-aligned plane, those who followed a deity of opposite faction were not welcome and suffered a penalty on skills and social interactions that were based on charisma, wisdom, or intelligence.
References[edit | edit source]
- Jeff Grubb (July 1987). Manual of the Planes 1st edition. (TSR), pp. 12–13, 23–24, 63–64, 75–76. ISBN 0880383992.
- Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, Skip Williams (July 2003). Dungeon Master's Guide v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 147. ISBN 0-7869-2889-1.
- Jeff Grubb, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan (September 2001). Manual of the Planes 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 7. ISBN 0-7869-1850-8.
- Richard Baker, James Wyatt (March 2004). Player's Guide to Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 142. ISBN 0-7869-3134-5.
- Bruce Cordell. Excerpts: Alignment. 4th Edition Player's Handbook.
- Jeff Grubb, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan (September 2001). Manual of the Planes 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 9. ISBN 0-7869-1850-8.
- Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, Skip Williams (July 2003). Dungeon Master's Guide v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 147–148. ISBN 0-7869-2889-1.
- Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, Skip Williams (July 2003). Dungeon Master's Guide v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 168. ISBN 0-7869-2889-1.
- Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, Skip Williams (July 2003). Dungeon Master's Guide v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 148. ISBN 0-7869-2889-1.
- Jeff Grubb, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan (September 2001). Manual of the Planes 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 9–10. ISBN 0-7869-1850-8.
- Jeff Grubb, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan (September 2001). Manual of the Planes 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 10. ISBN 0-7869-1850-8.
- Jeff Grubb (July 1987). Manual of the Planes 1st edition. (TSR), pp. 24, 73. ISBN 0880383992.
- Jeff Grubb (July 1987). Manual of the Planes 1st edition. (TSR), p. 21. ISBN 0880383992.
- Richard Baker, James Wyatt (March 2004). Player's Guide to Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 148. ISBN 0-7869-3134-5.
- Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. Edited by Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 62. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.
- Jeff Grubb, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan (September 2001). Manual of the Planes 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 11. ISBN 0-7869-1850-8.
- Jeff Grubb, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan (September 2001). Manual of the Planes 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 11–12. ISBN 0-7869-1850-8.
- Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, Skip Williams (July 2003). Dungeon Master's Guide v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 152. ISBN 0-7869-2889-1.
- Jeff Grubb, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan (September 2001). Manual of the Planes 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 12. ISBN 0-7869-1850-8.
- Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, Skip Williams (July 2003). Dungeon Master's Guide v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 148–149. ISBN 0-7869-2889-1.
- Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, Skip Williams (July 2003). Dungeon Master's Guide v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 149. ISBN 0-7869-2889-1.
- Jeff Grubb, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan (September 2001). Manual of the Planes 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 12–13. ISBN 0-7869-1850-8.
- Richard Baker, James Wyatt (March 2004). Player's Guide to Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 161. ISBN 0-7869-3134-5.
- Richard Baker, James Wyatt (March 2004). Player's Guide to Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 153. ISBN 0-7869-3134-5.
- Richard Baker, James Wyatt (March 2004). Player's Guide to Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 160. ISBN 0-7869-3134-5.
- Jeff Grubb (July 1987). Manual of the Planes 1st edition. (TSR), p. 51. ISBN 0880383992.
- Gary Gygax (August 1983). Monster Manual II 1st edition. (TSR, Inc), p. 98. ISBN 0-88038-031-4.
- Jeff Grubb (July 1987). Manual of the Planes 1st edition. (TSR), p. 73. ISBN 0880383992.
- Jeff Grubb, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan (September 2001). Manual of the Planes 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 13. ISBN 0-7869-1850-8.
- Jeff Grubb, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan (September 2001). Manual of the Planes 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 13–14. ISBN 0-7869-1850-8.
- Jeff Grubb, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan (September 2001). Manual of the Planes 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 14. ISBN 0-7869-1850-8.
- Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, Skip Williams (July 2003). Dungeon Master's Guide v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 150. ISBN 0-7869-2889-1.