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Outer Planes

If the Inner Planes are the raw matter and energy that makes up the multiverse, the Outer Planes provide the direction, thought, and purpose for its construction. Accordingly, many sages refer to the Outer Planes as divine planes, spiritual planes, or godly planes, for the Outer Planes are best known as the homes of deities.   When discussing anything to do with deities, the language used must be highly metaphorical. Their actual homes aren’t literally places at all, but exemplify the idea that the Outer Planes are realms of thought and spirit. As with the Elemental Planes, one can imagine the perceptible part of the Outer Planes as a border region, while extensive spiritual regions lie beyond ordinary sensory experience.   Even in perceptible regions, appearances can be deceptive. Initially, many of the Outer Planes appear hospitable and familiar to natives of the Material Plane. But the landscape can change at a whim of the powerful forces that dwell on these planes, which can remake them completely, effectively erasing and rebuilding existence to better fulfill their divine needs.   Distance is a virtually meaningless concept on the Outer Planes. The perceptible regions of the planes can seem quite small, but they can also stretch on to what seems like infinity. Adventurers could take a guided tour of the Nine Hells, from the first layer to the ninth, in a single day — if the powers of the Hells desire it. Or it could take weeks for travelers to make a grueling trek across a single layer.   The Outer Planes are a group of sixteen planes that correspond to the eight alignments (excluding neutrality, which is represented by the Outlands) and the shades of distinction between them.   The planes with an element of good in their nature are called the Upper Planes, while those with an element of evil are the Lower Planes. A plane’s alignment is its essence, and an individual whose alignment doesn’t match the plane’s alignment experiences a sense of dissonance there. When a good creature visits Elysium, for example, it feels in tune with the plane, but an evil creature feels out of tune and more than a little uncomfortable.   The Upper Planes are the home of celestial creatures, including angels, couatls, and pegasi. The Lower Planes are the home of fiends: demons, devils, yugoloths, and their ilk. The planes in between host their own unique denizens: the construct race of modrons inhabit Mechanus, and the aberrations called slaadi thrive in Limbo.  

Layers of the Outer Planes

Most of the Outer Planes include a number of distinct environments or realms. These realms are often imagined and depicted as a stack of related parts of the same plane, so travelers refer to them as layers. For example, Mount Celestia resembles a seven-tiered layer cake, the Nine Hells has nine layers, and the Abyss has a seemingly endless number of layers.   Most portals from elsewhere reach the first layer of a multilayered plane. This layer is variously depicted as the top or bottom layer, depending on the plane. As the arrival point for most visitors, the first layer functions like a city gate for that plane.  

Traveling to the Outer Planes

Traveling between the Outer Planes isn’t dissimilar from reaching the Outer Planes in the first place. Individuals traveling by means of the astral projection spell can go from one plane into the Astral Plane, and there search out a color pool leading to the desired destination. Individuals can also use plane shift to reach a different plane more directly. Most often, though, characters use portals — either a portal that links the two planes directly or a portal leading to Sigil, City of Doors, which holds portals to all the planes.   Two planar features connect multiple Outer Planes together: the River Styx and the Infinite Staircase. Of course, the Cosmic Coil is another option, this option was created by mere mortals.  

The River Styx

This river bubbles with grease, foul flotsam, and the putrid remains of battles along its banks. Any creature other than a fiend that tastes or touches the water is feeble minded.   The Styx churns through the top layers of Acheron, the Nine Hells, Gehenna, Hades, Carceri, the Abyss, and Pandemonium. Tributaries of the Styx snake onto lower layers of these planes. For example, a tendril of the Styx winds through every layer of the Nine Hells, allowing passage from one layer of that plane to the next.   Sinister ferries float on the waters of the Styx, crewed by pilots skilled in negotiating the unpredictable currents and eddies of the river. For a price, these pilots are willing to carry passengers from plane to plane. Some of them are fiends, while others are the souls of dead creatures from the Material Plane.  

The Infinite Staircase

The Infinite Staircase is an extradimensional spiral staircase that connects the planes. An entrance to the Infinite Staircase usually appears as a nondescript door. Beyond the portal lies a small landing with an equally nondescript stairway leading up and down. The Infinite Staircase changes appearance as it climbs and descends, going from simple stairs of wood or stone to a chaotic jumble of stairs hanging in radiant space, where no two steps share the same gravitational orientation. It is said that one can find one’s heart’s desire on the Infinite Staircase through diligent searching of each landing.   Doors to the Infinite Staircase are often tucked away in dusty, half-forgotten places that no one frequents or pays any attention to. On any given plane, there can be multiple doors to the Infinite Staircase, though entrances aren’t common knowledge and are occasionally guarded by devas, sphinxes, yugoloths, and other powerful monsters.

Geography

There are many dimensions that connect to the Outer Planes but the Realms of Order and Chaos are among their most prominent. Those realms connect to the Outlands through physical portals, anchoring the Outer Planes.  

Realms of Order and Chaos

The higher dimensions home to the godlike powers known the Lords of Order and Lords of Chaos, these are a tightly connected set of dimensions whose structure has changed over the course of the eternal war between the two powers to suit the behaviors and beliefs of their inhabitants. Those belonging to Order are perceived by mortals as a place of unyielding logic and structure, sterile and unchanging (and therefore only remotely hospitable to “lesser” lifeforms), while those belonging to Chaos are fluidly mutable, changing with rapidity and without seeming predictability.  

Realms of Chaos

The Lords of Chaos and The Lords of Order were higher beings that existed as energy forms of great mystical power and who acted as the avatars of the concepts of entropy and stagnation within the period now called the Ninth Age of Magic. Supposedly evolved from mortal lifeforms originating on the planet Cilia in Earth’s physical dimension, the Lords in their final forms were mystical abstractions whose actual existence ranged across time and space regardless of the physical forms they showed mortals. The two groups waged a war that spanned eons and crossed multiple dimensions, considering themselves inimical to one another as a base tenet of their existence (a tenet the rogue Lords Terataya and T’Charr, who had fallen in love with each other, ultimately died trying to disprove). Each side preferred to act through agents rather than in direct confrontation, and it is through those agents, such as Doctor Fate, the Gray Man, Kestrel, and Kid Eternity, that most mortals even became aware of the struggle and existence of the two forces. In recent years, the Lords of Order had begun to withdraw in on themselves, allowing the Lords of Chaos greater sway as the cycle which they saw as dominating their existence was slowly progressing towards Chaos’ ultimate victory and Order’s inevitable rebirth. Even this changing tide came to an end at the hands of the Spectre entity who, having been deluded by Eclipso into accepting the idea that all magic was evil, destroyed the members of both groups. Currently, only the two Lords incarnated in mortal forms, Amethyst and Mordru, remain in existence.
Streamers of noxious gas streaked that crimson dome like dirty clouds. They whirled to form what looked like giant eyes staring down, eyes that were swept away before they could focus, only to form anew, again and again. Beneath the ruby glow lay a dark nightmare land of bare rock and flumes of sparks and gouting flame, where things slithered and scrambled half-seen in the shadows. Mountains clawed the ruby sky. The Land of Teeth, Azuth had once aptly called it, surveying the endless jagged rocks. This was the Greeting Ground, the realm of horror that had claimed the lives of countless mortals. He was whirling along above Avernus, uppermost of the Nine Hells.
- Ed Greenwood, Elminster in Hell

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