Why did it change: Energy Planes

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zontoxira
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Why did it change: Energy Planes

Post by zontoxira » Mon Feb 26, 2018 2:05 am

With a slight change (no pun intended) of the title, since I'm imagining a series of discussions based on design deviations of creatures, places, and/or worlds*, let us move on to a new topic that has been itching me for days.. weeks.. months. Actually, right when 5e PHB came out. I stumbled upon it after I devoured the hundreds of pages containing the new ruleset and was skimming through the appendices. And it struck me right between the eyes.

What I'm talking about, in case you haven't already figured it out by the mere title of this thread, is Positive and Negative Energy Planes. They have been transposed beyond the Outer Planes, somehow encompassing the whole multiverse, for reasons that at the moment I can't fully comprehend. DMG states that these two planes now "enfold the rest of the cosmology, providing the raw forces of life and death that underlie the rest of existence in the multiverse" (pg 43). Thus, as usual, I started doing some research to better understand the reasoning.

Manual of the Planes (1e) introduced the Positive and Negative Energy Planes, also called Positive and Negative Material Planes (or even Plane of Life and Death), in the Inner Planes section. Specifically "both planes border on the major elemental planes and where they meet are the quasi-planes" (pg 54). That tradition carried on in The Inner Planes (2e) and Manual of the Planes (3e). This image is quite representative of the inner planes (even though, to my surprise, para- and quasi-elementals weren't included in 3e cosmology**).
By 4e, things had drastically changed. The inner planes were supplanted by the Elemental Chaos, which resembled Limbo's primordial soup. And as far as I'm aware, there was no mention of elemental planes, less so of energy planes. And when 5e came, things switched once again. The four Elemental Planes, along with their respective Para-elemental Planes (however, they are all called simply Planes), "enfold the Material Plane... [and are] suspended within a churning realm known as the Elemental Chaos" (pg 52). But the two Energy Planes moved away from the inner planes and, apart from a few lines in PHB and DMG, there's no other info about them, not even how to access them. This is the official D&D 5e cosmology, as detailed in PHB (pg 303).

This thread could be the stepping stone for a major topic about the changes in the D&D cosmology, which are more than enough. I'm sure we will get to this but for the moment, I really wanted to address this peculiar transposition.

* Have a look at previous topics, the Githzerai and the Succubi.
** Strangely, I've found that 3e went even further by messing with the transitive planes (namely, Ethereal, Astral, and Shadow Plane) and positioned the inner planes inside the Astral Plane. Now, Ethereal and Shadow Planes were used to travel within the Material Plane and Astral Plane for the Inner and Outer Planes. This could make an interesting addition to my "Why did it change" next topics!
Last edited by zontoxira on Fri Mar 23, 2018 1:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why did it change: Energy Planes

Post by timemrick » Tue Feb 27, 2018 4:27 am

If i recall correctly, I've seen a 5E developer's comments somewhere that the various planar models of D&D cosmology are simply mortal attempts to understand a vast, and largely unknowable, multiverse. Therefore, each model is correct from its own perspective, but that "truth" doesn't mean other models are wrong. (For example, planar travel spells still use the same rules, regardless of cosmology.) I think this comment was made to reconcile the various editions and settings.

One benefit of this approach is that DMs running campaigns that involve travel between multiple D&D worlds don't have to determine which setting's planar model is the One True Way, because they all work as well as any other. (IIRC, even in Spelljammer, the crystal spheres model only applies to the material plane; that super-setting is compatible with pretty much any model you want for the rest of the planes.)
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Re: Why did it change: Energy Planes

Post by Cthulhudrew » Tue Feb 27, 2018 7:38 pm

I'm not familiar enough with what's going on in 5E to say what- if any- rationale has been given, but I could potentially see an argument being made that the Positive and Negative energy planes represent nothing short of the concepts of Life and Death themselves, and on a deeper level the very stuff of creation, and thus the effective origins of all other planes and beings within the cosmos.
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Re: Why did it change: Energy Planes

Post by zontoxira » Thu Mar 01, 2018 3:12 pm

timemrick wrote:I think this comment was made to reconcile the various editions and settings.
And here's where my question rises, up until 3e we had no change whatsoever, concerning Inner Planes (maybe the means to travel to one of those but, the structure remained the same). In 4e cosmology Positive and Negative Planes couldn't fit, so they were scrapped. 5e brought them back, albeit in a different place this time. That's what I'm trying to figure out.
Cthulhudrew wrote:I could potentially see an argument being made that the Positive and Negative energy planes represent nothing short of the concepts of Life and Death themselves, and on a deeper level the very stuff of creation, and thus the effective origins of all other planes and beings within the cosmos.
One of my first thoughts was that exactly. Maybe the designers wanted to keep the basic concept of the Inner Planes from 4e (hence, the Elemental Chaos), but also add these two major planes (Life and Death), them being the fundamental planes of creation.
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Re: Why did it change: Energy Planes

Post by BotWizo » Thu Mar 01, 2018 3:51 pm

zontoxira wrote:
timemrick wrote:I think this comment was made to reconcile the various editions and settings.
And here's where my question rises, up until 3e we had no change whatsoever, concerning Inner Planes (maybe the means to travel to one of those but, the structure remained the same). In 4e cosmology Positive and Negative Planes couldn't fit, so they were scrapped. 5e brought them back, albeit in a different place this time. That's what I'm trying to figure out.
Cthulhudrew wrote:I could potentially see an argument being made that the Positive and Negative energy planes represent nothing short of the concepts of Life and Death themselves, and on a deeper level the very stuff of creation, and thus the effective origins of all other planes and beings within the cosmos.
One of my first thoughts was that exactly. Maybe the designers wanted to keep the basic concept of the Inner Planes from 4e (hence, the Elemental Chaos), but also add these two major planes (Life and Death), them being the fundamental planes of creation.

I would bet that they were returned in 5e to have a place where Radiant and Necrotic (damage types) originate from.
Now this is said somewhat crudely but it will give a base for those elemental forces in the new cosmos.
You can tell in many other parts of their world design they were trying to "reconcile" things and this would have been something that need to be addressed. If it was removed from 4e, I can't remember the structure for 4e at them moment so my speculation could be wrong.
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