Dark Sun Cosmology vs Planescape Cosmology

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Dark Sun Cosmology vs Planescape Cosmology

Postby Big Mac » Sat Oct 22, 2016 12:22 pm

We have a few of these topics comparing how Planescape and another campaign setting fit together. Seeing as The Burnt World of Athas are celebrating 30 Years of Dark Sun, I thought it could be a good time to look at the fit between Dark Sun and Planescape.

Dark Sun was published in between Spelljammer and Planescape (both of which were about connecting multiple worlds) and Athas was a blasted Material Plane world where the natives were struggling to stay alive. Athas also featured a different type of wizardry: defiling, where wizards would destroy the environment around then by the very act of casting spells.

There are two potential "problems" with connecting Athas to other worlds (via Planescape or Spelljammer). The first is that people could import a ton or water (or plants, seeds and animals) to try to bring Athas back to life. The second problem is that people could export defilers or preservers and destroy life on the planes or on another Material Plane world.

So, although I've got "vs" in the title of this post, I'd like to make this a topic about how to get Dark Sun to work well with Planescape. :)

In the 3rd Edition Era, they started to make D&D campaign settings that were not connected to the Great Wheel and in the BECMI Era the Great Wheel didn't even exist. So I guess that one option would be to start with Dark Sun as a baseline and then adapt Planescape to fit in with Dark Sun's themes.

Another option would be to start with Planescape and get Dark Sun to fit in with Planescape's themes.

There is also the "middle ground" approach, where you only change things in Dark Sun that "break" Planescape and you only change things in Planescape that "break" Dark Sun and you try to make the minimum number of changes to get both settings to work together.

How would you deal with this?

Would anyone use "special rules" for the Material Plane of Athas, and try to rule that things like defiling magic and shortages of water would be localised to that one plane?

Or would you surround Athas by a set of local Inner Planes that share the Dark Sun themes?

Would you cut Athas off from the Outer Planes (to fit in with the idea that the people living on Athas seem to have lost contact with the gods)?

Is there anything else that you would do (or anything else that you think might need to be considered...even if you didn't make changes)?
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Re: Dark Sun Cosmology vs Planescape Cosmology

Postby agathokles » Sat Oct 22, 2016 1:21 pm

Athas is simply difficult to reach from the Outer Planes, which is why there are no clerics (divine power doesn't reach through to Athas). There are few portals as well -- the only NPC I remember who is known to have travelled to the Outer Planes is Dregoth -- and he is a 29th level wizard and psionicist, not to mention a quasi-dragon, a quasi-lich and a Sorcerer King. The Dark Sun boxed set explains the planar geography around Athas and why it is so difficult to reach (it has to do with the presence of the Grey and the Black, I don't remember the details out of hand).

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Re: Dark Sun Cosmology vs Planescape Cosmology

Postby Zeromaru X » Sat Oct 22, 2016 1:42 pm

Didn't the githyanki had created a portal as well? That they sealed because Athas was such dangerous world even for them.

The 4e cosmology also had Athas unreachable because of the Grey
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Re: Dark Sun Cosmology vs Planescape Cosmology

Postby apotheot » Sat Oct 22, 2016 3:26 pm

Big Mac wrote:There are two potential "problems" with connecting Athas to other worlds (via Planescape or Spelljammer). The first is that people could import a ton or water (or plants, seeds and animals) to try to bring Athas back to life.


I would guess that the a strict reading of the rules from Dragon Magazine 270's "When Worlds Collide" article would imply that such things simply could not happen....possibly in the short term it would be ok, butsince stats and gear convert to adjust to the setting it would not be a long term solution.

Big Mac wrote: The second problem is that people could export defilers or preservers and destroy life on the planes or on another Material Plane world.

Well, such things HAVE happened before *cough*Malatra*cough*.

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Re: Dark Sun Cosmology vs Planescape Cosmology

Postby agathokles » Sat Oct 22, 2016 3:28 pm

Zeromaru X wrote:Didn't the githyanki had created a portal as well? That they sealed because Athas was such dangerous world even for them.

The 4e cosmology also had Athas unreachable because of the Grey


Yes, the Githyanki opened a portal from the Astral in one of the adventure modules.

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Re: Dark Sun Cosmology vs Planescape Cosmology

Postby redking » Thu Apr 27, 2017 2:20 am

This is fairly simple to fix. The fix is in the definition of the elemental planes from the Athasian perspective.

The Gray is what separates Athas from the rest of the multiverse (lets assume the multiverse is the Great Wheel for arguments sake). However, it would seem odd and inconsistent that the Elemental Planes are accessible from Athas, but not the Outer Planes, because surely one could use the Elemental Planes as a way point, and head to the Outer Planes from there.

Here is where we make a slight change. Athas is separated by the Gray, but so is part of the Elemental Planes, and is located on the Athas 'side' of the Gray. At some point in pre-history, the Gray cut across the Elemental Planes, excising part of the Elemental Planes and removing them from the Elemental Planes proper. Therefore there are two sets of Elemental Planes - one beyond the Gray, and the other contained behind the Gray along with Athas, and accessible by Athasians. In the eons of separation, the Elemental Planes on that Athas side of the Gray have evolved and changed, and are somewhat different from the Elemental Planes known in the Great Wheel.
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Re: Dark Sun Cosmology vs Planescape Cosmology

Postby agathokles » Mon May 01, 2017 9:18 am

Not really. In the standard cosmology, you can't go directly from inner to outer planes. So to get to the outer planes, you'll need to go back to the prime material, but far enough from Athas to avoid the Grey, and then move to the outer planes through the Astral.
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Re: Dark Sun Cosmology vs Planescape Cosmology

Postby willpell » Tue May 02, 2017 8:12 pm

redking wrote:Therefore there are two sets of Elemental Planes - one beyond the Gray, and the other contained behind the Gray along with Athas, and accessible by Athasians. In the eons of separation, the Elemental Planes on that Athas side of the Gray have evolved and changed, and are somewhat different from the Elemental Planes known in the Great Wheel.


I should probably steal something like this for my Whiteleaf setting, which has radically different Elemental Planes (more of them than even the most expansive version of the Great Wheel, since I think there are only 12 elemental, para-elemental, and quasi-elemental planes in that setting; I have 16).
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Re: Dark Sun Cosmology vs Planescape Cosmology

Postby ripvanwormer » Wed May 03, 2017 12:30 am

willpell wrote:I should probably steal something like this for my Whiteleaf setting, which has radically different Elemental Planes (more of them than even the most expansive version of the Great Wheel, since I think there are only 12 elemental, para-elemental, and quasi-elemental planes in that setting; I have 16).


There are 18 inner planes in the Planescape cosmology, counting the Positive and Negative Energy Planes. Not counting those (though they do count), there are 16. Four positive quasielemental planes, four negative quasielemental planes, four paraelemental planes, and four elemental planes.
This fan version has 26.
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Re: Dark Sun Cosmology vs Planescape Cosmology

Postby Zeromaru X » Wed May 03, 2017 12:36 am

Wow, too many elemental planes. I got lost...

That's why I like more the World Axis cosmology. It has all the elemental planes, plus all possible elemental combinations in just one place.
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Re: Dark Sun Cosmology vs Planescape Cosmology

Postby willpell » Wed May 03, 2017 4:16 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:There are 18 inner planes in the Planescape cosmology, counting the Positive and Negative Energy Planes. Not counting those (though they do count), there are 16. Four positive quasielemental planes, four negative quasielemental planes, four paraelemental planes, and four elemental planes.


I wasn't counting the Inner Planes, as those aren't elements by my definition. I didn't really figure on counting the quasi-elementals either, but included them for the sake of argument. To the best of my knowledge, there are only four para-elemental planes (Smoke, Magma, Ooze, and Ice) not six; Air/Earth and Fire/Water are "opposites", so my understanding was that they do not combine anywhere within the Great Wheel (whereas in my system, there is no such assumption, and they do indeed have "para-elements", which I treat as full elements). Now that I think of it, there would be 8 Quasi planes, though, so I stand corrected on my count of 12. I guess you could "patch" the two cosmologies by equating my various combinations to their nearest Quasi equivalents, although it's a stretch at best.
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Re: Dark Sun Cosmology vs Planescape Cosmology

Postby Khedrac » Thu May 04, 2017 3:54 pm

This is getting a bit off-topic, but...

If you are not using the Great Wheel cosmology, why stick with just four elemental planes? The Oriental elements of D&D variously add nature/wood, metal, and void as elements (sometimes replacing one of the conventional four) and the 3.5 elemental spell descriptors add sonic. Why should there not be elemental planes for some of these? (Perhaps in your setting they are covered by para- or quasi- elemental planes.)
Also if you look at the Companion D&D, here the ordering of the classic four planes is different (I don't recall it off-hand), but instead of an 'opposites' arrangement, it is a 'dominance circle'.

Willpell, I do like your idea of having boundary areas between extra planes, just because one cannot do it in 3D is no reason not to when the planes are infinite. I must remember this next time I create my own cosmology. :)

Going back towards the topic, the Companion D&D elemental planes model might be more useful for Athas! The elemental planes are not continuous expanses of the element with pockets of other things, they are their own plan - with "stars" and planets made of the solid, gaseous and liquid forms of the elements (hence the threads in the Mystara sub-forum suggesting maps of the congruent bits of the elemental planes) - if each crystal sphere has its own associated segment of elemental plane then getting to the Athasian plane of fire would mean crossing a vast void from another sphere's elemental plane. If the distances involved are equivalent to real-world solar systems and there is no phlogiston to use for the crossing, any attempt to travel across without teleportation will take centuries or millennia. Having a teleport block (perhaps a distance limitation) would not be unreasonable and result - the elemental planes do connect, just not is a useful manner.
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Re: Dark Sun Cosmology vs Planescape Cosmology

Postby willpell » Thu May 04, 2017 8:14 pm

Khedrac wrote:If you are not using the Great Wheel cosmology, why stick with just four elemental planes? The Oriental elements of D&D variously add nature/wood, metal, and void as elements (sometimes replacing one of the conventional four)


The game only provides stats for the four "classic" elementals, and in some editions for para-elementals. I've never once seen a "metal elemental" anywhere, and the "wood elemental" material in Manual of the Planes (3.0) is very tenuous.

and the 3.5 elemental spell descriptors add sonic. Why should there not be elemental planes for some of these? (Perhaps in your setting they are covered by para- or quasi- elemental planes.)


Right, but in order to homebrew up these other elements, I need to know what my starting point is, so I use the classics. Each other element is regarded as a "combination" of 0, 2, 3, or 4 other elements, unique in every case, but this is only true from a somewhat arguable viewpoint; in-game, they're all equal in merit for the most part (aside from issues like the Cults of Elemental Evil, which still number four as in all versions), but obviously lack of rules support makes it difficult.

Also if you look at the Companion D&D, here the ordering of the classic four planes is different (I don't recall it off-hand), but instead of an 'opposites' arrangement, it is a 'dominance circle'.


Don't know that book. Is this a rock-paper-scissors kind of a setup?

Willpell, I do like your idea of having boundary areas between extra planes, just because one cannot do it in 3D is no reason not to when the planes are infinite. I must remember this next time I create my own cosmology. :)


I'm pretty sure I didn't originate this idea.
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Re: Dark Sun Cosmology vs Planescape Cosmology

Postby ripvanwormer » Thu May 04, 2017 10:43 pm

The d20 Blackmoor setting has wood and metal elementals and wood and metal mephits.

Necromancer Games' City of Brass boxed set details a new inner plane that borders the elemental planes of Earth, Air, and Fire, with distinct border regions for each.
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Re: Dark Sun Cosmology vs Planescape Cosmology

Postby Zeromaru X » Fri May 05, 2017 5:25 am

willpell wrote:
Khedrac wrote:I've never once seen a "metal elemental" anywhere.


4th edition has metal elementals.
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Re: Dark Sun Cosmology vs Planescape Cosmology

Postby Khedrac » Fri May 05, 2017 11:28 am

willpell wrote:
Khedrac wrote:Also if you look at the Companion D&D, here the ordering of the classic four planes is different (I don't recall it off-hand), but instead of an 'opposites' arrangement, it is a 'dominance circle'.


Don't know that book. Is this a rock-paper-scissors kind of a setup?

Exactly, iirc it is double damage against one element, half against another and normal against the third.
The details should also be in the Rules Cyclopedia somewhere.
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Re: Dark Sun Cosmology vs Planescape Cosmology

Postby willpell » Fri May 05, 2017 7:12 pm

Zeromaru X wrote:
willpell wrote:
Khedrac wrote:I've never once seen a "metal elemental" anywhere.


4th edition has metal elementals.


Well I've never seen 4th edition, so that's not surprising. Although I could swear I've heard the name Anaxim before...wonder if they used to be extraplanar Constructs or something.
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Re: Dark Sun Cosmology vs Planescape Cosmology

Postby Angel Tarragon » Sun May 07, 2017 1:13 am

willpell wrote:
Zeromaru X wrote:
willpell wrote:
Khedrac wrote:I've never once seen a "metal elemental" anywhere.


4th edition has metal elementals.


Well I've never seen 4th edition, so that's not surprising. Although I could swear I've heard the name Anaxim before...wonder if they used to be extraplanar Constructs or something.

In D&D 3.5 they are Epic Level abominations. Page 158 in the Epic Level Handbook.
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Re: Dark Sun Cosmology vs Planescape Cosmology

Postby willpell » Sun May 07, 2017 3:27 am

Angel Tarragon wrote: D&D 3.5 they are Epic Level abominations. Page 158 in the Epic Level Handbook.


Sweet! Yep, I remember them now. Neutral-but-insane clockwork creations of obsessive forge-gods; sort of arch-Inevitables. Very neat. But definitely not even close to Elementals.
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Re: Dark Sun Cosmology vs Planescape Cosmology

Postby Angel Tarragon » Sun May 07, 2017 3:32 am

willpell wrote:
Angel Tarragon wrote: D&D 3.5 they are Epic Level abominations. Page 158 in the Epic Level Handbook.


Sweet! Yep, I remember them now. Neutral-but-insane clockwork creations of obsessive forge-gods; sort of arch-Inevitables. Very neat. But definitely not even close to Elementals.
Yep, they're one of my favorite non-humanoid epic critters.
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