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If you’re like me, you’ve probably played a bunch of D&D games and heard reference to different planes of existence, particularly if you also dabble in the magic the gathering side of the wizard coast games.

But have you ever sat down to really find out what exactly is the cosmology of the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) universe? If you have, then we’re on the same page. Today we’ll dive into the different planes of existence within this marvelous universe. 

Defining Planes

So what exactly is a plane in D&D? Well, a plane, in the context of Dungeons & Dragons, is a distinct realm of existence, each with its unique characteristics and inhabitants. 

These realms aren’t physical places but dimensions that co-exist alongside our own, woven into the very fabric of reality.

A plane of existence in Dungeons and Dragons is akin to an alternate dimension, a separate realm, a world beyond the one you’re familiar with. It’s a unique piece of the cosmic puzzle, each one abounding with its own distinct scenery, its own laws of nature, and often filled with beings of startling diversity – some benign, others not so much.

Picture it as a parallel universe, often accessible through portals, magical means, or even through transcendence of mind and spirit.

The Material Plane

Think of the Material Plane as a foundation. It’s the central hub, the baseline or touchstone if you will of all existence in Dungeons and Dragons. Picture your characters home planet, their town, their local tavern. These earthly elements and familiar locales all reside within the confines of this foundational plane.

The Material Plane is the cradle of countless civilizations, homelands to heroes and villains, not to mention the birthplace of epic quests and adventures. 

The Material Plane, also known as the Prime Material Plane, is the central plane of existence in the Dungeons and Dragons multiverse. It’s similar to Earth, with similar geography, climate, and creatures.

DnD Material Plane
DnD Material Plane

The Material Plane, in its captivating complexity, not only offers a vibrant landscape filled with extraordinary creatures and captivating tales, but also serves as an essential conduit to the countless other worlds in the vast Dungeons & Dragons multiverse. This is the realm where destiny is forged and legendary heroes are born!

The Elemental Planes

Elemental Planes are some of the most raw and primal elements of existence in the D&D universe. These planes are the fundamental building blocks of reality and magic woven into the fabric of the world.

Within this plane is four separate realms, each one devoted and dominated by one of the four classic elements of fire, water, air, and earth. Distinct, yes, but also interconnected.


The Plane of Fire is a blazing inferno — a realm of eternal flames, sizzling heat, and solidified magma landscapes. Fire elementals, efreeti, and salamanders call this home, thriving amidst the surrounding blaze. 


Right at the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got the Plane of Water. Think oceans, but endless, without any surface. This is a domain of omnipresent water, replete with stormy seas, calm depths, swarming aquatic creatures, and, of course, powerful water elementals. 


The Plane of Air is a boundless sky. Clouds form floating isles, and fierce storms surge unpredictably, making this a highly volatile realm. Air elementals and magical flying creatures enjoy the freedom of this endless expanse. 


Finally, we reach the Plane of Earth. It’s a solid mass of rock, stone, and earth, filled with labyrinthine tunnels and cavernous depths. The sturdy earth elementals, along with a range of burrowing creatures, can be found echoing in these dense passages. 

While each plane is a separate dimension, they blend into each other at their borders, forming, for example, the Plane of Magma where Fire and Earth meet. These blending areas are a chaotic mix of elemental energies, often inhabited by unique beings, such as the steam mephits in the overlap of Water and Fire Planes. 

These planes, their energies, and their denizens have a profound effect on magic, the world, and even the gods of the Material Plane. So, every choice you make while traversing these planes could ripple through your entire campaign.

Exploring the Multiverse: The Elemental Plane
DnD Elemental Plane

The Elemental Planes are dangerous to those unprepared for their harsh environments. Fire burns, water drowns, earth buries, and air blows away.

the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion

The Astral Planes

Imagine floating in an endless ocean of silver mist, where islands of reality drift aimlessly and stars shimmer like a diamond’s brilliance. Welcome to the Astral Plane, one of the most enigmatic regions in the Dungeons and Dragons universe. Here, the normal rules of time, space, and reality blur, bend or at times completely break.

Think of the Astral Plane as the cosmic glue holding the other realms of existence together. The Astral Plane is vast, limitless, and serves as a crossroads connecting the different planes of the multiverse. It’s like the freeway of the cosmos, if you will, where travelers can reach any destination they desire, given they know the correct route. 

The Astral Plane is another transitive plane, serving as the space between the Material Plane and the Outer Planes. It’s a realm of thought and dream, where visitors travel as disembodied souls.

Astral Inhabitants

Inhabiting this silver void are creatures as mysterious and diverse as the plane itself. Enter, the Gith, the primary dwellers of this plane. These fiercely independent beings come in two rival factions – the Githyanki and the Githzerai. You’d also encounter Astral Dreadnoughts, and surreal beings called Astral Projections. But beware! There are also extremely powerful entities known as ‘dead gods’ who can pose monumental challenges for the unprepared. 

This is a great setting for the more experienced dungeon masters to create mind-bending campaigns within this silvery sea of nothingness, where the campaign-building opportunities are as limitless as the plane itself.

Exploring the Multiverse: The Astral Planes of Existence in Dungeons and Dragons
DnD Astral Plane

The Astral Plane is the space between the planes. When a character moves through a portal or projects her spirit to a different plane of existence, she travels through the Astral Plane. Even spells that allow instantaneous movement across a plane briefly touch the Astral Plane.

Dungeon Master’s Guide, 5th Edition.

The Outer Planes

Ever wonder where deities hang out in the Dungeons and Dragons universe? Look no further than the Outer Planes. This is where divine beings and powerful entities of both good and evil call home. True to their name, they’re located outside the known cosmology, enveloping the other planes of existence. 

The Outer Planes consist of a fantastic array of different realms, each tied to a particular alignment representing all combinations of good, evil, law, and chaos. Think of them as cosmic embodiments of these moral and ethical orientations, acting as tangible representations where gods, demigods, and other powerful beings reside. 

For instance, the Seven Mounting Heavens of Celestia is where the virtuous and righteous deities reside, reflecting benevolent order. Contrastingly, the Infinite Layers of the Abyss represent chaotic evil, home to demons and all manner of wicked, lawless entities. 

The Outer Planes are home to deities and other powerful supernatural entities. They are divided into the Upper Planes (heavens) and the Lower Planes (hells).

A Spiritual Realm

It’s key to understand that these planes aren’t simply physical places, but spiritual realms. Here, thought and reality intertwine, and a visitor’s moral and ethical alignment can drastically influence their experience. For instance, a paragon of virtue may find Celestia a land of tranquil beauty, while someone with ill intent may experience it as a confining and oppressive place. 

Exploring the DnD Multiverse: The Outer Planes
DnD Outer Plane

This is the place where alignment takes physical form, a realm defined by one’s spiritual resonance and moral gravity.

Book of Exalted Deeds

Inner Planes

A collection of the most primal and potent realms in all of Dungeons and Dragons. In the structure of the D&D universe, the Inner Planes are essentially the foundation stones, embodying the raw elements and energies that make everything else possible. Their substance and energy give birth to matter, life, and magic itself. 

The Inner Planes consist of the four Classical Planes – Fire, Water, Earth, and Air – along with two Energy Planes: the Positive and Negative Energy Planes. Rather than having a defined geography like the Material Plane, these realms are enormous swells of their respective elements, constantly in fierce turmoil.

The Inner Planes include the Elemental Planes of Air, Earth, Fire, and Water, and the Energy Planes of Positive and Negative Energy. These planes are the building blocks of the multiverse.

From roaring infernos to deep, abyssal seas, each Plane’s environment is entirely composed of its respective element. As such, the inhabitants of these Planes are typically elementals, genies, and other creatures that can survive in these extreme conditions. For instance, the Plane of Fire is home to the efreeti, formidable beings made entirely from flame. While the Plane of Earth is roamed by sturdy, stone-like elementals. 

Inner vs Elemental

At this point you may be thinking that we’ve just redescribed the elemental planes, but there is a key difference. The Inner Planes as a whole represent the building blocks of the cosmos – fundamentally, everything that exists in the Material Plane (all the energy and the matter) comes from the Inner Planes. The Elemental Planes however are direct, raw manifestations of the foundational components (fire, earth, air, and water), the Inner Planes are a broader umbrella containing those embodiments, and so much more.

Inner Inhabitants

Deities associated with these elements and energies also reside here. They rule over their realms and are worshipped with zeal by their loyal servant elementals. This makes these Planes not just a physical embodiment of the elemental forces, but also a spiritual realm for these divine beings. 

There’s a certain harmony to these wild forces of nature. One life-giving energy balances the other that drains life, and each elemental force checks and balances its opposite. This sense of balance, of interdependence, is one of the key aspects of the Inner Planes. 

Exploring the Multiverse: The DnD Inner Planes
DnD Inner Plane

The Inner Planes are raw and untamed, a confluence of elemental forces and raw magical energy. They are the building blocks of the multiverse, the foundations upon which all of existence is built. – Unknown Planar Scholar

The Ethereal Planes

Imagine, for a moment, if you will, a realm of reality where the laws of the physical world take a back seat, where your imagination and thought can manifest into tangible form. Welcome, dear adventurer, to the Ethereal Planes. This ghostly realm exists parallel to the Material Plane, creating a veil of shadow through which the other realms are perceived. 

The Ethereal Plane is, in essence, an infinite expanse of transitory, spectral existence that interconnects with all the other planes of existence. In this realm, ethereal denizens and intrepid explorers may perceive the Material Plane as a dimly lit and ephemeral mirror of its true self. However, they cannot usually interact with it or its occupants unless they have the right magic at their disposal.

The Deep Ethereal

Deeper into ethereal reality lies a region of maelstrom and chaos, known as the Deep Ethereal. Travel in the Deep Ethereal is unpredictable at best, marked by currents of thought and fragments of dream and nightmare. Stalked by enigmatic entities such as ether cyclones and ethereal curtains, the Deep Ethereal is a region of wonder and danger in equal measure. 

The Ethereal Plane is a transitive plane that exists between the Material Plane and the Inner Planes. It’s a place of mists and shadows, often used for travel or escape.

Ghosts lingering unwillingly, ethereal filchers using this plane as a hidden path for their thievery, and even powerful beings like Night Hags reside in the midst of the Deep Etheral; you can meet them all in this spectral veil of existence.

Exploring the Multiverse: The DnD Ethereal Plane
DnD Ethereal Plane

A ghostly realm of transparency and transgression. An intersection of reality and dream where magic holds sway and nothing is quite as it seems.

Richard Baker, game designer for Dungeons and Dragons

The Shadowfell

The Shadowfell, also known as the Plane of Shadow, is a mirror universe of the Material Plane infused with negative energy. It’s a darkly twisted echo of the physical world. Can you imagine your once peaceful homeland turned into a somber, decaying realm? That’s the reality in the Shadowfell. 

The inhabitants of this echo world aren’t any cheerier. From miserable souls trapped in the gloom to malevolent entities thriving in the eternal darkness. You’ll find a host of malignant undead, phantasmal creatures, and shadowy beings who have traded their humanity for the promise of raw, instinctual power. 

The Shadowfell, also known as the Plane of Shadow, is another parallel plane to the Material Plane. It’s a dark and gloomy place, filled with undead and other horrors.

An Oppressive Presence

One of the trademarks of the Shadowfell is its overlaying sense of despair and gloom. It’s so potent, in fact, that even the most hardy adventurers could feel their spirits crushed under its ethereal weight. But don’t think of this plane as purely a locus of evil; it’s more nuanced. The Shadowfell is a place of loss, regret, and unfulfillment, which manifests as tangible supernatural dread. 

It serves as a crossing point for souls that departed from the Material Plane, spiriting them toward their final resting place in the afterlife. As such, it’s a place teeming with cryptic lore and epoch-spanning secrets; a veritable goldmine for adventurers courageous enough to brave its malevolent occupants and soul-grinding ambience.

Exploring the Multiverse: The DnD Shadowfell Plane
DnD Shadowfell

Remember, the Shadowfell never forgets and seldom forgives. Leave nothing but footprints; take nothing but memories.

Sorrim, Gnome Bard

The Feywild

Imagine stepping into a world mirroring our own, yet brimming with raw magic, vibrant colors, grandeur, and emotions. You’ve just pictured the Feywild, a lush, supernatural echo of the Material Plane. It’s a realm dominated by fey creatures where the ordinary laws of nature bow to the whimsical, the unpredictable, and the enchanting. 

As you delve deeper into the Dungeons & Dragons lore, you come across this plane, which is the native home of the Fey, encompassing creatures like pixies, sprites, unicorns and the ostentatious Eladrin. It is extravagantly infused with nature and magic—a vivid wildernes where beauty and danger comingle effortlessly. 

The Feywild, also known as the Plane of Faerie, is a parallel plane to the Material Plane. It’s a place of wild emotions, vibrant life, and arcane magic.

Emotions Made Manifest

But, here’s what sets the Feywild apart—this plane thrives on the power of emotions. Here, sentiments aren’t mere human constructs; they’re potent, tangible forces that sway the very topography. Happiness could burst into blooming meadows overnight, despair might form dismal swamps, and wrath could ignite wildfire. This intense emotional energy can make time in the Feywild unpredictable and landscapes frequently shifting. 

Exploring the Multiverse: The Feywild
Dnd The Feywild

“The Feywild, a place of whimsy and trickery, where every flower hums with arcane energy, and every path might lead you to a realm untouched by mortal footstep.”

The Abyss

Imagine a place where chaos and evil run rampant, a universe within itself that’s eternally growing and changing. That, dear reader, perfectly encapsulates The Abyss in the grand schema of Dungeons and Dragons. Step into the Abyss, and you step into a realm of madness and despair. 

Home to an array of wicked beings and notorious for its treacherous landscapes, The Abyss is often likened to a cauldron of swirling chaos. The realm is composed of an infinite series of layers, or planes, each with its unique horror that can both bewildering to the rational mind and dangerous to the unguarded soul. 

The Abyss is a plane of chaotic evil, home to demons and ruled by various demon lords.

Monstrous demons are the infamous inhabitants of The Abyss. From the menacing Balor to the deceptive Glabrezu, each demon seeks to manipulate, corrupt, and ultimately consume any unlucky soul that crosses their path. These wicked denizens are indeed the nightmares of legend, hence, when The Abyss is involved in a campaign; it’s never a light-hearted venture. 

Chaotic Evil Reigns

Considered the chaotic evil counterpart to The Nine Hells (lawful evil plane), The Abyss plays a massive role in the cosmic warfare known as the Blood War. It’s here where the demons of The Abyss endlessly clash with the devils of The Nine Hells. This eternal struggle spills over into the mortal realm, setting the stage in countless D&D campaigns. 

The Abyss serves as a testing environment, a symbol of ultimate dread, and a destination where heroes brave unimaginable horrors to thwart the spread of evil. When you engage with this plane,  remember you’re dealing with pure chaos and malevolence, and tread with believable caution.

Exploring the Multiverse: The Abyss
DnD The Abyss

In the Abyss, chaos and malevolence reign supreme, anarchy runs in its blood. The brave may venture, but only the most audacious return. Enter with valor, depart with stories of horror. 

Anonymous Planeswalker

The Nine Hells

Get ready to take on an infernal journey as we delve into the Nine Hells, one of the most beguiling and daunting planes in the Dungeons and Dragons universe. Infernal hierarchies, tangles of politics, and varied landscapes mark this nefarious plane, making it a locus of relentless risk and intrigue. 

The Nine Hells operates as a highly regulated, yet deceit-ridden, dominion that is home to the lawful evil beings famously known as devils. These creatures are embodiments of corruption and treachery, desperately battling for power, status and the very souls of mortal beings. Their ceaseless yearning for power results in ruthless and often bloody competition, with each denizen vying for supremacy. 

The Nine Hells, also part of the Outer Planes, is a lawful evil plane ruled by archdevils and inhabited by devils and other evil beings.

Geographically, the Nine Hells is exactly what its name suggests: a sequence of nine distinct layers, or hells. These layers, stacked one upon the other, descend from the relatively moderate Avernus, riddled with the ravages of the Blood War, down to the frozen desolation of Nessus, where Asmodeus, the ruler of Hell itself, broods from his icy throne. 

The Layer Lords

Each layer is governed by an Archduke or Archduchess, with the exception of Nessus, which is ruled directly by the Overlord Asmodeus. As power cascades down this pyramid of malevolence, devilish lords prove their worth by the number of souls they’ve manipulated into signing devilish contracts, trapping them in Hell and rendering them fuel for the gruesome machinery of the Hells upon their death. 

Lawful Evil

The role of this plane in the D&D universe is key; it’s not just a stage for harrowing encounters and pieces of war, but it also serves as the primal source of lawful evil. Whether it’s a mortal character drawn into the diabolic soul economy, a campaign shaped by the never-ending Blood War, or a storyline fueled by treacherous politics of infernal beings, the Nine Hells offers endless threats and opportunities for heart-gripping narratives.

The Devils You Know is a fantastic ready to play tabletop campaign dealing with the theme of devilish pacts and forces.

Exploring the Multiverse: The Nine Hells
DnD The Nine Hells

Tread lightly, for every step taken in the Nine Hells is a pact signed in blood.  

Zariel, Archduke of Avernus

A Call to Adventure

These fantastic realms offer incredible opportunities for thrilling narratives, profound character growth, and the chance to encounter some of the most distinctive and thought-provoking entities in all of D&D lore. 

The diversity and complexity of these planes of existence are the reasons why Dungeons and Dragons remains an enduring pillar in tabletop RPGs, capturing the hearts and minds of players around the globe. As you prepare to step into these otherworldly realms, remember: knowledge is a powerful tool that can mean the difference between triumph and despair.

For those preparing to enter the fray – don’t forget to gear up at our tabletop miniature store – home to a vast collection of player characters, monster miniatures, and ready-to-play campaigns that will truly bring these planes of existence to life on your tabletop.

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Evan Gale
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