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Viewing blog entries in category: D&D blogs
In the last entry I talked about cosmology, who actually rules the cosmos?
This one will be about explaining these guys, who make up the top and god- tiers of D&D.
no tl;dr this time since this whole entry is a tl;dr of a much larger explanation.
Lets start with Deities, AKA Gods.
Most commonly, the masters of the Multiverse are the gods.
Gods are on another level of existence from mortals. They even have their own level system based on the concept of 'divine ranks'(DR) that goes from 0 to 21 and above.
Gods have domains of influence in the cosmos, also known as portfolios, and these often determine how high they rank on the ladder.
This ranking system divided the gods to these categories in the 3rd edition:
- Overdeities (DR 21 and up)
- Greater Deities (DR 16-20)
- Intermediate Deities (DR 11-115)
- Lesser Deities (DR 6-10)
- Demigods (DR 1-5)
- Quasi-deities (DR 0)
For example, Forgotten Realms switched to this system:
- Greater Gods
It's important to note that the power of each rank isn't uniform across settings
Now for a brief explanation of each rank:
Overgods: These are the top dogs of their settings, and generally the ones that created it.
These gods neither require nor want mortal worship and are so powerful that they are described as gods of gods. The only confirmed Overgod in primary canon that I'm aware of is Lord Ao, the overgod of forgotten realms. Although the High God of Dragonlance also fits the bill, he just hasn't been named as such.
Examples from Myth: that's a tough one actually, possibly Brahman of Hindu myth can be considered an Overgod
Greater Gods: The great powers of the multiverse are often the masters of important portfolios and have millions of worshipers. They often have entire planes of existence as their realms.
Examples from Myth: Zeus, Ra, Amaterasu, Odin, Thor and other prominent gods
(Lesser) Gods: Not quite as powerful as the stronger ones, but still gods in their own right. They control pocket dimension realms within other planes and sometimes answer to a greater power (sometimes they are independent however).
Examples from Myth: Aphrodite, Hermes, Thoth, Heimdall
Exarchs/Demigods: Lesser divinities with limited portfolios. Although in D&D they are still full on gods, just weak ones. They are often ascended mortals or the spawn of greater gods.
Examples from myth: Hercules (post-ascension), deified Pharaohs/Emperors , various local gods
Quasi-deities: Beings with a divine rank of 0. They don't have a portfolio and thus no divine powers, but are still powerful immortal beings. They generally serve the gods.
Examples from myth: Nymphs, Valkyries, Norse giants
Hero Deities: These are actually the mortal spawn of a god. they aren't immortal, but are exceptional for their kind. Often become heroes and sometimes ascend to divinity.
Examples from Myth: Hercules (per-ascension), Perseus, and many other offsprings of zeus, Gilgamesh
Chosen: not deities, these are mortals that have been gifted various powers by a god to serve as a representative of said god on Earth. Sometimes Chosen are turned into quasi-deities, but they are almost always epic level characters/creatures.
Now moving to Non-Deity Powers, these come in many shapes, but are generally the most powerful members of various Elemental/Outsider races.
Primordials: a relatively new addition, primordials are ancient enemies of the gods formed from the multiverse itself that fought them for control. Some primordials are even revered as gods and have a divine rank. They do not need worship to fuel their powers, unlike the gods.
Archfiends: The rulers of the lower planes, divided into three principle races based on alignment:
- Demons: hail from the Abyss, they represent chaotic evil.
Their rulers are the Demon lords, also known as Demon Princes.
- Devils: hail from Hell, AKA Baator, they represent lawful evil.
Their rulers are the Archdevils of the nine hells.
- Yugoloths: neutral evil fiends, neither demon nor devil. Their rulers are the Yugoloth lords.
nobody really cares about them
- The Celestial Hebdomad: the mightiest of Archons, lawful good aligned celestials.
- Queen Morwel and the Court of Stars: monarchs of the Eladrin, chaotic good celestials
(From 4th edition and onwards the Eladrin are re-classified as Fey, therefore these guys are now Archfey)
- Talisid and his champions: lords of the guardinals, neutral-good celestials
Archfey: especially powerful fey creatures who serve as the lords of the Feywild (although the court of stars resides in Arborea, or at least used to). The main two factions of Fey are known as the Seelie court led by the Summer Queen Titania and the Unseelie court led by the Queen of Air and Darkness. Other Archfey include Satyr lords and especially powerful hags.
Archomentals: also known as the Elemental Princes, these are powerful elemental entities that usually come in pairs of good and evil (for the main four elements at least). Elemental princes also exist for the Quasi-elemental demi-planes such as ice, smoke or ooze. They are not to confused with the Elemental Lords who are Gods/Primordials and the actual rulers of the elemental planes (and also much stronger).
Slaad Lords: unique powerful Slaadi, they are formed from the birthing stone in Limbo to serve an unknown purpose. Very few are known by name, but regardless they are very powerful.
Primus: the prime Modron, this is the mechanical ruler of Mechanus the true Lawful plane.
There is only ever one, and in the event that he would die a Secundus Modron is immidietly elevated to replace him. It is said that while in Mechanus Primus possess power comparable to a god.
The Dark Powers: these entities rule over pocket dimensions within the Shadowfel known as the Domains of Dread, and are all kinds of evil. They cannot escape from their domains but are otherwise in full control of them. The most well known of the Dark Powers is count Strahd von Zarovich, the first vampire (at least after the retcon...).
Elder Evils: a very heterogeneous group of ancient evil beings that vary from fallen demon-lords to eldritch beasts from the far realm to undead planets.
Abstract Entities: Not much is known of them, except that they are ancient and far more powerful than gods (outside of overgods of course). The most known ones of this group are the Lady of Pain and the Serpent.
and...that's pretty much it.
In this entry I'll talk about the cosmology of D&D, which is somewhat of a weird issue
like before, I'll leave a tl;dr at the end for the lazy folk.
Okay, a few basic term that I should get out of the way before doing this:
Planes of Existence= a self contained space-time construct. Usually of infinite size. Basically a universe.
Demiplanes= work like normal Planes but are typically of finite size and often contained within other planes.
Divine Domain/Realm= a plane, or a demiplane under the absolute control of a deity. For weaker deities they often have realms within larger planes. But the strongest deities can have entire planes as their realms.
now, standard D&D cosmology often has these components in it:
The Prime Material Plane: This is the world of the living, where "Earth" (however its called within the setting) is located. Its equivalent to our universe essentially.
Transitive Planes: Planes that run in parallel to the material plane and can be accessed through magic. Such are the Plane of Shadows, the Astral plane, the Etheral plane and as of 4e the Feywild.
Inner planes: also known as the Elemental planes, each one dominated by a certain element.
Typically these were the planes of Water, Fire, Earth, Air and Positive/Negative energy.
Creatures from these planes are dubbed Elementals.
Outer Planes: Various otherworldly domains that, in classic D&D represented various alignments such as good/evil and law/chaos. Heaven, Hell, the Abyss and many others count among them.
Creatures from these planes are dubbed Outsiders.
The Far Realm: a place outside the multiverse, hypothesized to possibly be another multiverse with its own laws of nature. This is where eldritch abominations dwell.
These terms are mainly taken from Great Wheel module of the cosmos (on that later)
there are other models and of course the mess that is 4th edition.
But the main issue I want to bring up is the question: "Just how big is D&D verse?"
and this is were we run into contradictions.
The 5th edition sourcebooks paint the same picture that the Spelljammer setting is based on.
According to those, all the various worlds in D&D like Toril (Forgotten Realms), Oerth (Greyhawk), Krynn (Dragonlance), etc. are all part of the same Prime Material plane with the other planes of existence surrounding it. Suggesting that D&D is one multiverse.
This is actually immediately contradicted in the very same book where the following is stated:
This, and other sources suggests that there are countless alternate Material planes in which various settings take place, surrounded by the other planes of realty as established.
The problem with this explanation is that we run into a lot of contradictions.
If there is one multiverse containing a single or infinite material planes then surely the outer planar beings are the same across all setting due to being just one of them, right? no.
Characters such as Asmodeus or Lolth have different backstories from different settings, in the case of the latter authors have outright said Core and FR versions of her are separate.
And of course, the most glaring contradiction. If D&D is a single multiverse, then why does each setting has its own cosmology, often with different plains and gods to rule them?
I'll expand on this now by giving examples.
Let's start by reviewing the core setting and then compare it to other settings.
Up to 3rd edition, as I mentioned in my previous blog, core setting was basically the Greyhawk setting and it used the "Great Wheel" model for cosmology:
- from 3.5e DM Guide
As you can see, in the center we have the prime and transitive planes, around them the elemental planes and on the outer rim of the wheel the outer planes.
In 4th edition, core (AKA the points of light setting) adopted a new model, the World Axis:
- from 4e Manual of the planes
In this model, we have the material and its parallel planes. above is the astral sea and its dominions (a replacement to the outer planes) and below the elemental chaos (the elemental planes+limbo).
And finally, 5th edition reverts back and gives us the Great Wheel 2.0
- from 5e Player's Handbook
How about specific settings, hmm?
Well greyhawk hasn't changed from the great wheel model like Core did.
Let's look at Forgotten Realms.
Prior to 3rd edition, forgotten realms used the great wheel standard model.
However, they made their own model of the multiverse in 3rd edition called 'The World Tree'
- from the 'Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting' for 3e
Here we see the material and transitive plains for the trunk of the world tree, with the elemental planes at its roots and outer planes as its branches. Note that most of these planes are different/absent from previous models.
Following the transit to 4th edition, Forgotten Realms changed to the World Axis model
Not an official map, but it illustrates the locations of various domains that exist within the Forgotten Realms (From the 4e Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide) and not within the core setting (as the Manual of the Planes describes).
Following the Second Sundering, Abier and Toril are once again separate and the Cosmos was re-arranged into the new Great Wheel, thus making FR multiverse similar to Core 5e's multiverse.
Now looking at Eberron.
This is the model for 3rd edition:
As you can see, very different then the other 3rd edition models.
In 4th edition, they adopted something similar to the World Axis, but as you can see, it is still pretty different than core, with a different number of planes and such:
Like FR, this is the latest official model for Eberron.
Finally, let's have a look at the world of Krynn from the Dragonlance setting (and we'll end it at that since I can only go over so many settings...)
The last official one is the 3rd edition model, which is quite different than what we've seen thus far
- from the Dragonlance Campaign setting for 3e
This is reminiscent of the great wheel, but more like a sphere of overlapping planes.
And of course the number and names of the planes is different.
By now I'm sure you've noticed that no two settings look the same, not even in the same edition.
So with all these discrepancies how can D&D be a single multiverse? well, it can't.
The best explanation I can give you is that each setting is its own local multiverse within the larger and infinite multiverse of D&D (or megaverse, if you will) having its own structure, planes and deities, with there existing multiple parallel versions of certain characters between settings.
All of these settings are however, still connected (likely all material planes are connected in some way) and travel between them is possible through certain means.
Each campaign setting in D&D is its own self contained multiverse with its own continuity. All of which exist within the larger world of D&D, but are still connected as to allow travel between them.
In the next blog I'll talk about the great powers of the multiverse.
So, as you know I've been doing a lot of calculations for D&D as of late, and I figured I would at some point make a respect thread to compile all the feats and lore and stuff.
But in order for that to make sense, I'll make a few blogs to make sense out of some stuff.
This one, in particular will deal with different levels of canon in D&D.
I'll make a few more later this week to deal with other things like Cosmology, High powers of the verse, etc.
There's a tl;dr at the bottom if you can't be arsed to read all of this
So, the first thing that I should clear up is that D&D isn't so much a franchise, or verse as it is a system to build franchises upon.
That said you can roughly divide material regarding D&D into four groups:
- "Core" material
- Specific settings
- 3rd Party
What is a 'Campaign Setting'?
The Campaign setting is the world in which the game is played.
Most settings have a few things in common like the existence of a Material plane as well as other planes of existence, the presence of monsters in the world, existance of gods, etc.
A campaign setting can be entirely made up by the DM, however there are some settings that have been given "official" support and status by Wizards of the Coast (the guys who make D&D).
These settings include: Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Eberron, Dragonlance, Mystara, Spelljammer and others.
Its important to note that each of this is its own continuity, and even though some characters can appear in more than one, scaling between them is shoddy to say the least.
If you don't wish to use an established setting and just want to play by the basic rulebooks then you are essentially playing the "core setting".
Which brings us to...
What is 'Core'?
Core = The essentials.
Player's handbook, DM guide, Monster Manual and all the various supplements to them (like manual of the planes, complete divine, various compendiums, etc.)
All the sourcebooks not pertaining to a specific setting are considered 'Core'.
For this reason, Core material is generally canon to most settings unless stated otherwise.
To expand on this we have to get into Editions.
Every once in a while the game system goes through revisions and a new Edition of the game is put out.
'Core setting' usually changes along with that.
The Core setting was pretty much based on the Greyhawk setting (which is the original setting in D&D) upto and including 3rd edition, its cosmology, pantheon, famous figures, everything was lifted off of Greyhawk.
This changed with 4th edition.
4th edition overhauled everything to the extreme, mainly borrowing from Forgotten Realms (which has become the most popular setting). To be honest, 4th edition Core is so different many players consider it it's own beast (it even has a fan name- "Points of light setting").
WotC have also basically retconned all of it with 5th edition anyway...
Nowadays with 5th edition D&D there is no official setting Core is modeled after. The player's handbook and DM guide for this edition just give a layout and leave much of the things that make a setting, such as the world itself, pantheon and such for the DM to decide.
WotC are however pushing mainly the Forgotten Realms as their go-to setting.
So to sum it up, Primary canon thus far is Core material+official settings
What is 3rd party material?
Exactly what it sounds like.
These are supplements made by 3rd parties using the D&D system.
Stuff made by 3rd party isn't canon to the things I wrote about above, but all those materials are canon to stuff made by 3rd party.
3rd party material is were crazy things like Neutronium Golem comes from.
It's sort of like the EU of D&D if you will.
That's the easiest to explain. Homebrew is everything the DM/Players make up as they go.
You made a new race for the game? and new world? a new pantheon of gods?
Congrats you just made homebrew.
In a vs setting including Homebrew would get you into crazy fanfic territory, but it's still relevant in the meta level I guess (yes, there's that...).
- Campaign setting = worlds to play in of which there are official ones supported by WotC
- Core Material = all the stuff in the basic rulebooks and its supplements
- 'Core setting' = The default setting presented in the core material, used to be Greyhawk before 4e, then became weird, now with 5e there isn't really a default setting
- Primary canon = Core+official settings
- No you can't scale between settings, but feats from Core material can apply to most
- 3rd party= secondary canon = sorta like an EU
- Homebrew= stuff people make up at home
And that's it for now, I'll use my next blog to discuss cosmology, which is another headache.