All players will eventually want to adventure on another plane. Chances are many DMs and players have had the same experiences that I did early on. The DM wasn't ready with all the rules, and didn't have ready answers for all the players' questions. Rules were vague, and changed often. Eventually we got together as a group and came to an agreement on a coherent and simplified set of rules (we alternated between four DMs).
No two games are likely to interpret the vague rules in the same way, and I'd be willing to bet that no other DM interprets the planes as I do. After about 20 years of play and as DM I probably asked and got hit with 90% of the possible questions regarding what's there, and what can and can't be done. If a plane existed, as a group we went there. So that led me to limit the number of planes, and to well define those that did exist.
I'm curious... how to other DM and players visualize the planes?
What do like or dislike about what you've seen?
What house rules have you adopted?
Last edited by Ed Zachary; 03-12-2007 at 04:43 PM.
When a DM challenges their players with a tough situation, they need a strong familiarity with the rules so they can make the best decisions for their characters in real time, without the do-overs because they didn't understand the rules, or the constant barrage of questions.
Some of the best role-playing happens when characters are placed under stress, and there are quick exchanges between the players and the DM.
My initial post made the claim that there were many details of running a campaign on the various planes were lacking in the core rule books (all editions), and that left each DM to fill in the blanks as they saw fit. And because of that I was asking those here what are some of the ways they filled in the blanks blanks, and what they liked and didn't like about campaigns that visit the planes.
So that brought me to my response to what I believe you were saying (see above). My objection was based on my belief that consistent and established rules were important, because they helped the game flow along. And when the game flows smoother without constant rules interpretation sessions, that better role playing happens.
Have I made myself clear?
I have a tendency to toss the rules a bit when they aren't producing the results I want for a game.
Also here, I'm feeling unsure what you mean by rules exactly. For example, if you're talking about the relationships of various dimensions to each other, that's one thing because it's a story impacting cosmological facet of the setting. On the other hand if you're referring to some chart or another like "random encounters in the Outer Planes," that's among the very first things I would simply toss out. I NEVER have random encounters of any kind, every encounter is either story relevant or a game "diversion," that is fun for its own sake.
So, what sort of rules do you mean?
Consistent and established rules for planar cosmology might very well help certain sort of campaigns. For example, if your campaign was the story of a group of plane-hopping justicars whose duty it was to protect cross-dimensional peace, then establishing how planes work is almost certainly a good idea. The story demands the PCs know.
If on the other hand, your story is a tale about people trying to find their way home after a freak dimensional rift swallowed them up, then a strong sense of mystery about planar cosmology that slowly melts away as the PCs discover the true nature of the universe could be very cool indeed.
More likely, a story will not focus on the planes and instead a cross-planar jaunt will be a side story. A complex cosmology that you spend a lot of time explaining will probably just be distracting, so the less said the better. We've come to Hell to retrieve the Thrice Cursed Star of Al-hambra called the Mad. It lies in the the iron fortress of Duke Dispater, contained within the treasure vault at the fortress's heart, said by sages to be impenetrable and inescapable. That's all we need to know!
In my own games, I'll admit a preference for mystery. Hard and fast planar cosmology is often quite boring. Lengthy essays on the difference between the elemental plane of fire and the paraelemental plane of magma aren't exactly scintillating reading. Of the published D&D worlds, I actually think Eberron with its swinging spheres and countless conjuctions has the most intriguing cosmology.
But hey all of these are just guidelines and opinion. Ultimately, any campaign you run is your story and you must make it your own. If your players enjoy complicated charts that explore the semi-quasi-demi-paraelemental plane of tossed salads without croutons, then you go.
I remember a trip to the Elemental Plane of Air. Myself and two others had a means of flying, but one character didn't. He just floated in the air without being able to move. One character placed a Potion of Flying 20 feet away from him. He eventually achieved a movement rate of 1 by directionally inhaling and exhaling, then he finally arrived at the potion.
But Air was simple, more thought had to go into Water, Earth and Fire, and the various Outer Planes.
I've also made the family of Astral planes much simpler. There is the base Astral plane (infinite) of Concordia, Celestia (infinite) with seven progressive layers, and the Abysmal planes. The 'abysmal planes' are an infinite number (666?) of pocket (finite) planes, some with multiple layers like the Nine Hells. Mechanus and Limbo are pocket planes, as are Hades, Gehanna, Tarterus, etc. That has worked well for me (simple, functional, complete), and was adopted by a few other DMs.
Last edited by Ed Zachary; 03-14-2007 at 02:58 PM.
I'm with you. I abandoned the notion of random encounters in my games a long time ago. I follow the same principles that you find in writing fiction--if it does not advance the story in some way, it doesn't belong.The random encounter tables are just the start of a suggestion list for planned encounters.
If you read what I have written, it's all about simplifying the rules and making sure that the DM and all players are on the same page. In many all of my campaigns my characters have been severely challenged, and I did the same thing as a DM. When a party didn't understand what it was doing, the likely outcome was often character capture or death.
Last edited by Ed Zachary; 03-14-2007 at 03:08 PM.
I would strongly consider walking away from that game, not because I think the players shouldn't encounter problems, but because the problems should be interesting and worthwhile rather than take up game time with inhale/exhale locomotion issues. Of course, that problem is just a puzzle, but it needs to be a vaguely interesting puzzle and have some relevance to the larger situation.I remember a trip to the Elemental Plane of Air. Myself and two others had a means of flying, but one character didn't. He just floated in the air without being able to move. One character placed a Potion of Flying 20 feet away from him. He eventually achieved a movement rate of 1 by directionally inhaling and exhaling, then he finally arrived at the potion.
I mentioned in another thread that I was in an awful RPGA game where the DM insisted that 3 wolves were going to attack a party of 9 clanking metal covered humans because it said so in his random encounter chart, and my incredible irritation when I asked him why, he responded with "because it says so in my chart." I have no desire to play with a group that creates that kind of atmosphere about its game play style.The random encounter tables are just the start of a suggestion list for planned encounters.
Last edited by PhishStyx; 03-14-2007 at 07:30 PM. Reason: a little clarity, a little bit of forgotten text. My apologies to readers
See, my feeling on that is that if you are going to use the encounter chart, it doesn't necessarily need to be synonymous with combat. Perhaps the party happens upon the area where the three wolves prowl, but other than hearing howls or perhaps catching a glimpse of them in the woods, nothing else happens. Or, perhaps the party stumbles upon the wolves in the midst of attacking a small child and they must rescue the child quickly by running the wolves off before they tear the child apart.I mentioned in another thread that I was in an awful RPGA game where the DM insisted that 3 wolves were going to attack a clanking part of 9 humans because it said so in his random encounter chart, and my incredible irritation when I asked him why, he responded with "because it says so in my chart." I have no desire to play with a group that creates that kind of atmosphere about its game play style.
A number of possibilities come to mind. But, having the wolves mindlessly attack a large group of people, unless the wolves are starved out of their mind, makes little sense. It would make more sense to me that they would hang back and wait for an opportunity to take out the apparent weakest, most injured, etc.
Bringing the discussion back to multiple planes, I'm thinking of a campaign that involves multiple parallel prime material planes, sort of a cross between Moorcock's multiverse, H. P. Lovecraft's Dreamlands, and maybe a smidge of GURPS "Infinite Worlds". (Less "what if Queen Victoria died in childbirth", more "what if dinosaurs became the dominant sapients" or "what would a faerie realm look like".)
I'm looking for some weird physics to throw into the mix, for some of the more exotic worlds. Does the Manual of Planes cover constructing new planes, or is it all about the standard D&D planes?
"On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."
- Charles Babbage (1791 - 1871)