A Beginner’s Guide to the Multiverse

Dungeons & Dragons, like so many good, fantastic games, accepts and encourages the concept of worlds other than the one we see in front of us. Whether it’s a strict heaven / hell separation or a nuanced breakdown of a diverse set of planes, the Multiverse is a way for Dungeon Masters to live out their wildest dreams!

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Whether you’re planning to add a multiverse to your own campaign or you’re a player whose DM has dropped it on you, this guide will give you a brief and easy to understand introduction to the Multiverse.

The foundations of a multiverse

Dungeons and Dragons, official art from Mordenkainen's Tome of Enemies

  • A plane: a dimension which has its own elementary, spiritual and physical laws
  • A multiverse: a collection of all planes
  • The material plan: the physical world, the plane on which most campaigns take place

You may decide to set up a campaign that includes a multiverse, but this is a huge process to go through. We can start by discussing the basics of what a multiverse is.

Essentially, a multiverse is a collection of worlds totally different from our own which constitute a universe of dimensions. These other worlds are called “planes” – places where the laws of physics, and many other things, are very different. The plane on which most campaigns play is the material plane. There may be special races, plants, magic, and other things that cannot be seen on planet Earth, but the physics and logic of the world are similar to real life.

As with many aspects of Dungeons & Dragons, there is already a preexisting multiverse that you can use, but you have all the tools to create your own multiverse from scratch if it tickles your fancy.

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Types of aircraft

Dungeons and Dragons, map of elementary planes

  • Planar category: a collection of airplanes that look alike

The pre-established Multiverse plans are divided into five unique categories. You can choose to ignore them altogether if you’re making up your own multiverse, but many dungeon masters see them as a useful starting point.

The material plane and its echoes

As previously mentioned, the hardware plane is the one that most players are familiar with and on which most campaigns take place. Its “echoes” are the Feywild and the Shadowfell, two planes supposed to reflect the positive and negative aspects of the material plane.

Transitive plans

Transitive plans are fundamentally the space that exists between one plane and another. These planes have little or no discerning characteristics and are almost exclusively used for traveling from one plane to another. In the pre-established Dungeons & Dragons multiverse, this is the Ethereal Plane and the Astral Plane.

Interior plans

The interior plans are the elementary planes, corresponding to the four basic elements: the aerial plane, the terrestrial plane, the aquatic plane and the fire plane. They form a ring around the Material Plane. There is also a plane known as Elemental Chaos, where the forces of all elements meet. Basically these planes are where all the matter in the universe comes from.

Outdoor planes

The exterior plans are intended for represent the alignments defined in Dungeons & Dragons, not counting the true neutral. The outer planes are the source of thought in the universe. Pre-existing ones include Mount Celestia, Bytopia, Elysium, Arborea, Limbo, Ysgard, The Abyss, Carceri, Gehenna, The Nine Hells, Acheron, Mechanus, and Arcadia.

The positive and negative plans

This category title is literal: it composes only two planes: the positive plane and the negative plane. That makes up the rest of the universe, everything that doesn’t fit into the other categories.

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How to travel between planes

Dungeons and Dragons, official art of Eberon

  • Portal: a bridge between planes

Portals

The most common method of traveling from one plane to another is through a portal. Portals connect a location on one map to a location on another map, but can appear like anything. A door filled with blinding light? A circle of mushrooms? The indescribable entrance to a bookstore? The choice is yours.

You’ll also want to decide how the portal is opened, as you probably don’t want to leave it open for just any Joe. Does it open with a key? A word in particular? When the full moon rises?

Spells

There is a some spells that allow access to other Plans, although they cannot completely take a player to the other realm. Those that could move a player from one plane to another are called “Plane Shift” and “Gate”, both of which are high level spells that are difficult to cast.

Places and things that exist between realms

Dungeons & Dragons notes that some locations – like a city, for example – may appear on multiple planes at once, or may travel between planes for some reason. Determining if it exists that way naturally or if it has been violently pulled from its natural state would be an excellent mystery to any group of adventurers!

Birth, death and other natural changes

One thing to consider is the natural movement of individuals through the Planes. For example, characters who die can be sent to the Nine Hells. Celestial figures can come from some kind of celestial kingdom. Perhaps a religious figure who is meditating is visiting another realm with his or her subconscious while in the meditative state.

About building your own multiverse

Dungeons and Dragons, official art of Candlekeep Mysteries

The worst thing you can do for your multiverse is to overcomplicate it. That’s a lot of information to take in all at once, and the endless possibilities are as terrifying as they are astonishing. Try to remember that you don’t have to know everything in advance. Start with an additional plane. Maybe your players are visiting Hell to retrieve an ally’s soul! Only add another aircraft when you are sure it fits your story, doesn’t conflict with your pre-existing cannon, and you can execute it without being overwhelmed.

NEXT: Dungeons & Dragons: Awesome Social Encounters To Use In Your Next Campaign


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