In a prior article I began adapting D&D 5e to a new cosmology with only the alignments of Law, Chaos, and Balance (plus Unaligned). Here I outline a new cosmology for these reduced alignments based on the Uncounted Worlds, a.k.a. the Frankenverse.
Below is the Uncounted Worlds model with the Astral Plane and Corporeal Worlds from another perspective.
The diagram highlights the Corporeal World of “Eordh”1, the liminal Ethereal Plane, Shadow Plane, and Faerie Realm, a few other Corporeal Worlds, the Astral Plane, and a few demi-planes: the Infernal Realms, the Supernal Realms, two Divine Realms, and Jinnistan.
What follows will reconcile the Uncounted Worlds with some standard planes of D&D.
Planes, Realms, and Worlds
To explain our terminology:
- any finite, bounded, space separate from the rest of the planes save for a few entrances and exits.
- an area over which a powerful supernatural being like a god can shape the rules of magic, laws of nature, and even the landscape.
- Liminal World
- an echo of another “base” world that are strangely distorted, such as Faerie, the Shadow Plane, or an Ethereal Plane.
- a possibly infinite space with unusual physical or magical laws, accessible through magic or weird science.
- a finite space dominated by a particular being or power which responds to its rulers’ will or whim.
- a space shared between one Plane, Realm, or World and another, which can be as small as a doorway or large as a forest.
- a large, Earth-like, usually globe-shaped place over which no being or power holds complete dominion.
Material Planes, a.k.a. Corporeal Worlds
“Alternate” Material Planes, what we call Corporeal Worlds, make up the majority of the Uncounted Worlds. The Void separates all worlds.
Eordh (pronounced much like “yordth”) is one such Corporeal World, and the subject of a future post about world building.
The Ethereal Plane
The Ethereal Plane is a liminal plane for those who have become “ethereal”, i.e. invisible and intangible. While in the Ethereal Plane corporeal beings look hazy and colorless; ethereal beings who make themselves visible to the Corporeal World look similarly insubstantial and desaturated.
Ethereal creatures cannot use most magic against corporeal creatures and vice versa. Certain mental magic, i.e. psionics, works with some difficulty.2 Ethereal creatures can touch, attack, and cast spells at each other without penalty or restriction.
The Ethereal Plane has an extra dimension, away from the Material Plane. Just plunge deeper into the plane’s cloudy depths and follow the colored fog. Allegedly there’s a passage to the Astral Plane somewhere in this Deep Ethereal. Most mortals who attempt it end up being eaten by an ethereal grue.
The Feywild, a.k.a. the Faerie Realm
Faerie is a liminal world populated by the Fae, a.k.a. fairies. Far from being wee little pixies, the denizens of Faerie come in all shapes and sizes, particularly horrible ones.
The geography of Faerie roughly corresponds to that of Eordh. Cities in Eordh are forests in Faerie, while dense forests in Eordh are settlements of the Fae.
It’s said that all the Faerie Realms are connected, so that the Faerie of Eordh has portals to the Faerie Lands of Erebus, Tellus, Terra Omnia3, and Earth, among others.
The Shadowfell, a.k.a. the Shadow Plane(s)
The Shadow World is a dimly lit liminal world of muted colors. It’s locations mostly correspond to those in the Material World. Strange monsters and even stranger people live there.
Some sources insist that the Shadow World has several layers, each more distorted than the last. It’s also the entrance for certain terrible demi-planes.
The Astral Plane
Ethereal creatures may enter the Astral Plane directly, but corporeal ones must shed their corporeal bodies. Certain spells and mystical trances allow the user to project their astral bodies into the Astral Plane while their corporeal forms lie in a trance (or coma).
For more about the Astral Plane, see this section explaining the ‘Verse, or, eventually, my entire game about the Astral Plane.
An Astral Body looks like the subject’s real body. It functions a bit differently too.
While in the Astral Plane, subjects seem like they’re floating in a vast space and drift in the direction they will themselves to go. They hear the sounds of themselves and others talking, and other sounds besides. They can touch objects which feel solid, including the floating stone eidolons that serve as landmarks and occasionally housing. But none of it’s real. They left their bodies in the Material Plane, or when they entered from the Ethereal. Most spells will not work, or at least will not work the way they work in the Corporeal World. Long-time inhabitants and explorers learn a new type of magic called Glamour which manipulates the illusion of the Astral to create seemingly real objects.
The Silver Cord
A Silver Cord connects an astral traveler to their corporeal bodies. Normally invisible, the cord is visible to the Astral Wardens and a few other natives of the Astral Plane. The traveler can always find their own Cord, and use it to immediately return to the Astral Plane unless prevented by rare magics.
The Astral Wardens and some other beings have the power to cut a Silver Cord. If they do cut the Cord, the traveler becomes a lost soul in the Astral Plane, and their body dies after a few days. Powerful magic can rejoin Astral Body and corporeal body, but if the time limit passes the character is dead, at least in the corporeal world, and cannot be resurrected while lost in the Astral Plane.
Ethereal and native Astral Beings lack a Silver Cord. This makes them less vulnerable, but also does not give them a quick escape should things turn nasty.
Ethereal to Astral
In the Ethereal Plane, a character’s ethereal body is functionally identical to their corporeal form due to morphic fields and other things only wizards understand. (Long-time residents of the astral plane like ghosts can modify their astral bodies through force of will.) The Corporeal Form, however, remains “in abeyance”, i.e. suspended in a timeless space between spaces.
When an Ethereal creature enters the Astral Plane, their Ethereal Bodies, in turn, remain in abeyance. They are stripped down to their Astral Body, which is metaphorically a thin shell around their minds, spirits, and souls.
No matter how much time seems to pass in the Astral Plane, assuming their Silver Cords are intact and no hostile magic is imprisoning them in the Astral Plane, characters return to their bodies after about eight hours of seeming sleep. They do not gain the benefits of a Short or Long Rest, however.
Characters who bailed out of the Astral Plane early must wait for the others to return, or for eight hours, whichever is longer, before they can re-enter the Astral Plane. Even if they use the right rituals or trance-inducing substances, they cannot rejoin their compatriots that trip.
The bodies of characters trapped in the Astral Plane will remain alive but unresponsive for about three days, then require artificial life support or suspended animation. Otherwise they will die, no death saves, no resurrection without their original owner’s Astral Body on hand.
Astral Entities in the Corporeal
A natively ethereal or astral being does not magically gain a body if they journey to a Corporeal World. They must remain in the Ethereal Plane (or in an ethereal state) unless they have a power that allows them to magically form a physical body. With a physical body, however, an astral or ethereal entity can make attacks and cast spells like any corporeal creature.
The Astral Plane connects to many Demi-Planes, and Astral travelers can visit them if they find a portal. What happens to an Astral Body when it enteres a Realm depends on the laws of that Realm. Typically one of four things happen:
- The subject interacts through their Astral Body, as if on the Astral Plane. Time, distance, and other fundamentals may follow new rules, according to the Realm’s laws.
- The Astral Body gains a temporary “wrapper” body that conforms to the laws of the Realm. The subject may use their Astral abilities and those of the wrapper.
- The subject is completely reincarnated into a native creature indistinguishable from a corporeal creature. Sometimes it resembles the subject’s corporeal form. Sometimes it doesn’t.
- The subject finds themselves with an avatar in a world that obeys completely different rules. (The DM will discuss this with players first.)
When characters leave the Realm, they regain their original Astral Bodies, or the more developed versions of them they gained in the Realm. They also retain all XP they gained. Physical objects, on the other hand, remain in the Realm unless the DM says otherwise.
A Divine Realm is the abode of a god. Generally one needs an invitation.
Once inside, however, a traveler may partake in any of the luxuries and experiences the god provides: wine, companions of the appropriate gender, song, gladitorial exhibitions, horse races, contests of skill, and so on. (Gods are generally very simple creatures.)
One report contends that each Divine Realm is also an illusion, and in reality the god – a titanic, bloated humanoid form – leeches of their guests’ belief to feed their own Divinity and condition the souls of their worshippers to become new Servitors. The report came from an aide of the Queen of the Astral Wardens with a checkered past, so most choose to discount it and believe in divine paradises.
The Infernal Realms
Seemingly a single contiguous plane, the Infernal Realms join together all primary worlds, liminal worlds, regions, and demi-planes that have fallen to the influence of Chaos. Here daemons revel in destruction and torture, devils plot the corruption of mortals, eldritch horrors lurch and gibber, and other forces of Chaos sharpen their metaphorical or literal swords for the next conquest.
The demi-plane of Hell retains its own distinct identity like an ethnic neighborhood in a larger city. Here the devils torment souls who sold themselves into eternal servitude but seem less than excited on fulfilling their deal. (The minions of Hell also act as subcontractors for all of Chaos’s torturing needs.) Archdevils scout out new souls to corrupt and dispatch their minions to begin their evil work. At the very bottom of the Lowerarchy, the Devil Princes (and Princesses!) discuss strategy for the War Against Law.
The Jinn (a.k.a. Genies, a.k.a. Djinn, Ghuls, Ifreyt, Marid, and Shaitan) call the demi-plane of Jinnistan home, whether they support Law, Chaos, Balance, or simply struggle to support themselves. While powerful by mortal standards, Jinn have their own social hierarchy. Jinn rich in Fire Gems, their currency and their primary source of sustenance, can afford to travel and buy luxuries, while those who have only gold and silver must scrimp and save to afford a single Gem. Some turn to crime to steal Gems or even steal “smokeless fire” directly from a hapless Jinn.
A lucky few strike out on their own from the City of Brass to their sister city in the Astral Plane, the City of Ivory and Horn, or even to the Overworld Market where it’s said one can earn an honest living and the streets are paved with Fire Gems. (The saying is wrong on both counts.)
Noble Jinn may lament this inequality, crime, and suffering, but the system has endured for thousands of years and no one wants to change it now.
The Supernal Realms
Like their mortal enemies, the forces of Law have connected all their domains into a single contiguous land, sometimes called Paradise, where Law regulates the lives of all its formerly human inhabitants.
Unlike the Infernal Realms, the Supernal Realms keep one Realm separate, inviolate: Heaven, the home of the Angelic Host. In the Outer Court, the circle of Archangels plan the next interventions of their Angels, while the circle of Principalities coordinate with mortal princes and the Middle Court. The circles of the Middle Court – Authorities, Dominions, and Virtues – collate information and coordinate activities across the Multiverse. In the Inner Court, the Ophánim spin and conjure ex nihilo mobile fortresses for the Kerúbim while the Séraphim plot the next stages of the War Against Chaos.
Between and surrounding the Corporeal Worlds, the Liminal Worlds, even the Astral Plane and its demi-planes, lies the Void.
The Void may be infinite or infinitesimally thin. It matters not; all matter that touches it unravels.
The Void Raiders live in bubbles of reality filled with fragments of dead realities and mua, the excreta of the vast, incomprehensible Devourer of Worlds. Fortunately a Void Ship made from mua and powered by a Void Engine can somehow breach the barriers between worlds. Nobody truly understands how, but suddenly a Void Ship can emerge in one of the wondrous lands of air and light and gravity and most importantly food that wasn’t recycled through a thousand machines and just as many intestines.
As their name suggests the Void Raiders appear over unsuspecting settlements, send out flying skiffs, and take whatever they can find. Being tall and mechanically enhanced, they can take pretty much whatever they want.
Some of their loot goes to the Void King, a necromancer who sends undead Void Knights to escort food, supplies, and research subjects back to his hidden castle, and undead winged Void Messengers to announce his will.
According to rumors, in a long distant past the Void Raiders and the Astral Wardens were one species. A wise person never mentions these rumors to members of either species.
Someone with the World Jumping psychic talent can breach the barriers too. They can simply appear in a world they’ve been to before, attune themselves to an artifact from another world and jump there, or with extreme effort simply jump and arrive somewhere not immediately lethal. Nobody knows how that works either.
Other ways of breaching the Void Between Worlds include the aforementioned void ships, magical portals, and “The Labyrinth”, a demiplane of portals maintained by Labyrinth Goblins.
The Great Wheel vs. the Uncounted Worlds
Instead of the Great Wheel cosmology, this multiverse contains an unknown number of Prime Material Planes, demi-planes, and “realms” accessible most “easily” through the Astral Plane, as detailed in “The Frankenverse”.
- Instead of sixteen alignment planes, there are the Supernal Realms of Law, the Infernal Realms of Chaos, and the demi-planes of the gods.
- The Near Ethereal Plane is a thin layer over the Material Plane, while the Far Ethereal Plane leads to the Astral Plane.
- Instead of Elemental Planes elementals and other beings dwell in the upper air, the ocean depths, or deep under the earth surrounded by stone or flame. (Except Jinn, who dwell mostly in the Astral Plane or their demi-plane of Jinnistan.)
- The Positive Material Plane and Negative Material Plane don’t exist.
- The Feywild (a.k.a. Faerie) is a liminal world with entrances in the Material Plane.
- The Shadowdark has the same status as the Feywild.
Celestials, Fiends, and Gods
As suggested by the preceding, demons, devils, and other fiends all coexist (more or less) in the Infernal Realms. Angels live in Heaven; other servitors of Law serve in each material plane where Law still prevails. Each god has a realm – a demi-plane – of their own, accessible through the Astral Plane or a material world portal.
The last(?) article covers some of the inhabitants of these planes.
Astral Wardens and Void Raiders
Because I abolished Limbo and revamped the Astral Plane, I decided to make my own version of the Gith and swap them.
Astral Wardens are territorial and a little savage but basically impose a form of order on the Astral Plane, one that makes it a little tamer. (Just a little, though.)
Meanwhile the Void Raiders are essentially Vikings from just outside the Multiverse.
The Wardens have a deathless Queen who despite some necessary Machiavellian tendencies rules the Astral Plane wisely.
The Raiders have a tyrannical undead King who forces his people to steal and kill for him.
The capital city of the Wardens is a hollowed out and strip-mined dead god. Its title means City of the Forgotten God. At least they’re recycling.
The Raiders’ capitol, if one could call it that, is a secret fortress full of undead and a mad king performing horrific experiments for an unknown purpose.
Wardens live in tribes of fifty to two hundred members, living in the open aether. Each chieftain swears fealty to the Queen and mostly means it.
Raiders dwell in semi-pressurized tin cans, injecting oxygen (which they still need) directly into their forever altered bodies. Each Raider obeys the King or gets hacked apart by a Void Knight.
The Wardens create buildings and artifacts from prima materia, the stuff of ideas when they decay and are forgotten. Their architecture varies between graceful and grotesque, cosy and cyclopean, because the Astral has no limits.
The Raiders cobbled together their own technology from the detritus of numerous destroyed worlds. It rivals the trans-physical technology of the Overworld Market, but few know about it.
And so on.
They’re the classic dichotomy between nature and technology, past and future. Both are tribal, but Wardens still carry knives (albeit Silver Cord cutters), dress in primitive clothing, and wear Astral Items in the form of ancient weapons and armor. Raiders are techno-punk, necro-punk, cyber-punk, space-punk with technomagical equivalents of futuristic weapons that also work in vacuum. Both are horrible in their way, but the Wardens’ “noble savage” pose pales before the Raiders’ “used, devoured, digested, and shat out future” aesthetic.
Sure, if it’s D&D I could just use Gith and put them in the Astral and the Void. But this is more fun … and I own it.
In the tradition of roughly Earth-like fantasy worlds like Oerth and Yrth. ↩︎
Such magic also uses the Psychic Plane (not pictured) which connects to the Corporeal, Ethereal, and Astral and mediates all psionic abilities. ↩︎
Including Terra Australis (southern polar continent), Terra Occidentis (north-western continent), and Terra Oceanus (north-eastern archipelago). ↩︎