Most players’ Dungeons & Dragons experiences center on campaign settings that are limited to a single world or even continent, dealing with the magical (but still grounded) conflicts of heroes and villains. There’s nothing wrong with running a game that way, but players who grow bored of something so linear and traditional have another option available to them: a game spanning not just one world but an entire multiverse.
Looming largest in the modern consciousness due to Spider-Man films like No Way Home or Into the Spider-Verse, the concept of a multiverse isn’t that difficult for players to wrap their head around. Usually connected to the “prime” universe by some kind of magic spell or science-fiction device, alternate universes represent worlds similar but different to each other, usually branching at a specific decision point in the distant past.
How D&D’s Multiverse Is Different
d&d‘s multiverse features individual universes — called planes — that can bear little to no resemblance to each other. Classic worlds like the Feywild or Shadowfell are as different as they are dangerous, filled with magical beings with little regard for the safety of the adventurers who wander into their domains. They’re also usually representative of a particular concept or ideal. Typical cosmology in Fifth Edition sees the Shadowfell and Feywild as “reflections” of the Prime Material Plane, which represents the ordinary world most campaigns are limited to.
Those planes are then surrounded by the four “inner” planes, each representative of one of the classical elements of Earth, Wind, Fire or Water. The Inner Planes are further encircled by the 16 “outer” plans. Eight of those are dedicated to a specific alignment, like Chaotic Good or Neutral Evil, while the remaining eight sit in between them as transitory zones. For example, the Abyss is dedicated to Chaotic Evil, while Hades represents Neutral Evil. In between them sits Carceri, a hellscape with elements of Neutral and Chaotic Evil.
How Planar Travel Works in D&D 5e
Getting between plans isn’t easy, but it’s also not unheard of. The Outer Planes are the source of the celestial and infernal forces that show up throughout most campaigns, while the Inner Planes are accessed any time a player summons an elemental. The lowest-level way for players to travel back and forth at-will in 5e is the seventh level spell Planeshift, which is available to any of the primary spellcasting classes except for Bards, who can get around this restriction using their Magical Secrets feature.
Dungeon Masters not wanting to wait for their players to reach level 13 can instead provide access to natural planar portals, which might take any number of different forms. An old, abandoned shrine might turn into a portal to the Shadowfell on the full moon. A sufficiently advanced magical civilization might have some means of constructing permanent planar gates. Like anything in d&dthe sky is the limit, so DMs constructing their own multiversal campaign can work in whatever method of planar travel they think works best for the setting and story.
What Plans to Include in a D&D Campaign
Dungeon Masters also don’t have to stick to the layout of plans proscribed in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. While the “Great Wheel” as it’s called works fine for any campaign, part of the fun of running a d&d game is crafting a unique and creative setting. Step one should be figuring out what plans are essential for the game to function. the Dungeon Master’s Guide does a good job of illustrating this, pointing out that DMs should have plans of origin for various extraplanar beings, including fiends, celestials, gods and elementals. These might be all the same plane or all different, depending on what makes sense for each planarverse.
Less high-minded settings can also elect for something as simple as Ravenloft’s Domains of Dread. These are different material planes all connected by the mists that surround them, with players journeying into the mists rolling the dice on which plane they’ll end up in. The advantage of such a system is that it lets Dungeon Masters create a “grab bag” of different worlds they find compelling, with players hopping back and forth between them at will as they try to survive, flourish and thrive.
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