Planescape -- The Inner Planes

Help yourself to my Planescape Character Generator for MS-DOS.

TSR's "Planescape" series develops scenarios in a multitude of worlds each dominated by a theme. "Planescape", "AD&D", and so forth are the lawful property of TSR, Inc. This review is intended to promote interest in a neglected area of the AD&D universe. Li Po and I urge you to respect the rights of TSR. It's not just the law ... it's what's right.

For the well-realized "outer planes", each "plane" showcases some aspect of law or chaos, good or evil, and the working-out of their conflict. Among the outer planes, the various realms of "the gods" depict human-made ideals and ideologies.

The "inner planes" have offered far fewer opportunities for interesting writing and gaming. Most are dominated by one of the "elements" of prescientific thought. The original concept seems to have been that of Gary Gygax, who conceived worlds of primitive substance unconcerned with issues of meaning or ethics. These planes' composition, natural phenomena, and hazards are worked out in detail in the classic "Manual of the Planes", and additional information was published late in 1998. Yet they are seldom visited.

This page is offered

Here is a scheme of the elemental planes, para-planes, and quasi-planes. The ethereal borders all of these, and also borders the prime plane.


FIRE Fire Smoke Magma Steam Radiance Ash
AIR Smoke Air Dust Mist Lightning Vacuum
EARTH Magma Dust Earth Ooze Minerals Grime
WATER Steam Mist Ooze Water Rainbows Ice
POSITIVE Radiance Lightning Minerals Rainbows Positive Shadows
NEGATIVE Ash Vacuum Grime Ice Shadows Negative

I have modified this scheme only slightly from "Manual of the Planes"/"Planescape".

Visiting the Inner Planes

Before the party enters the planes, the referee must provide a way to get there. For most planes, there must also be a way to survive in the physical environment, and a way to breathe. For many planes, special means will also be required to see and move.

All of these are best left to the referee.

It is important that the duration of these spells and abilities be adequate, and perhaps on the inner planes, normal duration is longer. "Dispel magic" should probably inactivate devices or protections for only a round, allowing no more than 1d6 points of elemental damage. Parties are well-advised to see to all of this before starting their journeys. But if protections should wear off or be lost, a good referee would make emergency help available from the locals for a good price.

Here are the known hazards of the inner planes...

    Alternate Prime: Unknown
    Positive: Blindness, no air, exploding
    Negative: No air, energy drain
    Fire: Incineration, poison gas, no air
    Water: Drowning
    Earth: Crushing, entrapment, no air
    Radiance: Blindness, prismatic spray, no air
    Lightning: Blindness, deafness, lightning
    Rainbows: Blindness, drowning
    Minerals: Blindness, shredding, petrification
    Ash: Freezing, no air
    Vacuum: Exploding, no air
    Ice: Freezing, crushing, no air
    Grime: Disintegration, no air
    Smoke: Burning, stink
    Steam: Boiling, no oxygen
    Magma: Crushing, incineration, no air
    Mist: Lung fluid overloading
    Dust: Abrasion
    Ooze: Crushing, drowning
    Time: Unnatural aging??
    Prison: Unspeakably horrible monsters??
    Dread: Ravenloft, no escape
    Dreams: "Arabian Nights" city of djinni

Here are some ideas from the First and Second Editions about how to reach the planes. The Third Edition has the mechanics somewhat simplified.

Category Access? Enable survival? Enable breathing? Enable vision? Enable movement?
Adaptation Possible spell (M6, C7) No All planes All planes Maybe Maybe
Airy (element) Known spell (M5) No No Yes No No
Amulet of the Planes Magic item "Random" location, probably a livable one Maybe Maybe Maybe Maybe
Body control Psionics No Yes Yes Maybe Maybe
Codex of Infinite Planes Artifact Yes Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Cubic gate Magic item Five fixed locations, probably livable Maybe Maybe Maybe Maybe
Element adaptation possible spell (M5, C5) No One element One element One element One element
Element breathing Known spell (M4, C3) No No One element No No
Elemental plane protection Variant spell (C3) No Yes No No No
Ethereal travel DM's device Yes No No No No
Gate DM places One point Maybe Maybe Maybe Maybe
Gate spell Known spell (C7, M9) One dangerous place No No No No
"Just Passing Through" Proposed spells (M5 individual, M7 group) No No No No Yes
Mirror of mental prowess Magic item Yes No No No No
Polymorph self Known spell (M4) Maybe Maybe Yes Yes Yes
Plane Shift Known spell (C5) Yes Probably Probably Likely Likely
Teleport Without Error Known spell (M7) Yes, still risky Probably not Probably not Probably not Probably not
Vortex DM places Yes No No No No

Third Edition:

"Avoid Planar Effects" is a second-level cleric/druid, third-level wizard/sorcerer spell which enables one creature per level to survive and to avoid unhealthy effects of a particular plane. It lasts one minute per level and is probably intended for groups about to enter a new plane.

"Attune Form" is a third-level cleric/druid, fourth-level wizard/sorcerer spell which enables the caster to grant as many creatures as he or she can touch to gain "avoid planar effects" for two hours per level. Apparently the party must already be on the plane from which they are to be protected. Adaptation, a possible sixth-level magician spell, allows survival without the need to breathe on any of the planes. Group adaptation, a possible eighth-level magician spell, bestows adaptation on one party member per level.

Airy element creates a sphere one foot in radius per level of the caster in the element on most planes. The party can travel as if they were in air. The spell cannot be cast on the plane of Vacuum, or the positive or negative energy planes, and does not permit such travel on the planes of Earth and Minerals.

An amulet of planes is a magic item. The destination will be a random point on one of the planes where the user can survive, move, and see comfortably. Usually it is an outer plane, but perhaps this will be an inner plane instead.

Body control: Psionic skill for surviving in curious environments. Success enables the psionicist to survive as one of the locals. The cost is 5 points/turn, or 6/2 in the "Skills and Powers" system. On d20 on the onset, the psionicist takes 1d4 points of environmental damage and must try the skill again.

A cloak of (element) for one of the four major elements could perhaps be found, or even purchased for maybe 50,000 gp. It gives the ability to survive, breathe, see, and move normally on the plane and all adjacent para- and quasi- planes (regardless of other hazards there), the ability to communicate with any inhabitants, and +4 against all attacks by elementals or based on the element. There will be liabilities.

The Codex of Infinite Planes offers transportation to any location on any plane. It is an artifact, which comes into existence on a particular world when a visionary falls in love with the Lady of Pain, and writes the images he sees. When they are completed, the visionary becomes a page in the book. Its use is extremely dangerous. Click here for one account.

A cubic gate is a magic item. It is keyed to five points on five planes. These will always be places where a human can survive, see, and move. The sixth face is the point is for returning. A single-click on one side opens a two-way gate to the plane. A double-click teleports the user and everyone within ten feet to the plane. It seems reasonable to assume that they will automatically be able to survive, see, and move there -- but be careful.

There is perhaps a 6th level spell, the dreamspell, usable by any spellcasting class. This enables a party to visit any plane on the onset of sleep. They wear only swimsuits, have no equipment, and are adapted for comfortable exploration the plane. (This adaptation will have side effects -- if, for example, it is a cold plane, they will take double damage from fire.) They may adventure for eight hours or until killed (0 hp), acquiring information and equipment (including material components) as they go. They cannot harm any inhabitants of the plane. The spell succeeds when, and only when, the area is keyed.

Elemental adaptation, a possible fifth-level magician or clerical spell, is like clerical "elemental plane protection" and also enables breathing. Group elemental adaptation: 7th level magician spell, to be researched.

Elemental aura: 9th level magician spell Like "elemental adaptation", allows free movement, renders the recipient immune to all damage related to that element, and to blows from creatures from that elemental plane.

Element breathing: 4rd level magician spell, 3rd level cleric spell. Allows only breathing, only on one of the inner planes (Earth, Fire, Water), and similar places on the outer and prime planes. The duration is up to the referee, but this seems reasonable: If cast on one recipient, it lasts for the trip. For multiple recipients (up to one per level), duration is one creature-hour per level. Group elemental breathing: a proposed 5rd level cleric spell, 6th level magician spell. One party member per level can breathe for the trip.

Elemental plane protection (Earth, Fire, Water, Positive, Negative, or some para-plane) enables survival, but not necessarily breathing, vision, or movement. This is a probable third-level clerical spell, a variant on druidical protection from fire and clerical fire walk. Usually the recipient is an individual, and protection lasts for many hours. Or it can provide protection for one recipient per level for 4 rounds + 1 round/level. The name of the plane must be selected prior to memorization. Protection from the special hazards of a particular quasi-plane is a fourth-level clerical spell. Group elemental plane protection (one party member per level, protected for many hours) is a fifth-level clerical spell awaiting research.

Ethereal travel enables travel throughout the inner planes. Adventurers can enter the border ethereal using any standard method of plane shifting, or using oil of etherealness, vanish, or getting inside a Leomund's chest. No protections are offered from hazards of the inner planes.

A gate may be discovered leading to the inner planes. It may require a key, and may be permanent or ephemeral. The term portal is usually reserved for gates between adjacent outer planes. Some gates and portals will transform those passing through them to allow survival on the new plane. Users are advised to find out in advance.

Gate is a 9th level magician spell, 7th level cleric spell. This gives immediate access to any plane, if one is willing to risk running through. No protection is offered from any hazard.

Hornung's dispatcher: 8th level wild-mage spell. Beware!

I'm just passing through, a proposed 5th level magician spell, allows individual movement anywhere, but not between planes. We're just passing through allows it for the entire group.

A mirror of mental prowess is a magic item. This can be used to see a place on another plane and create a temporary two-way passage. Beware!

Polymorph self to appropriate forms enables breathing anywhere (or makes it unnecessary). A single polymorphed member enables group movement through the plane of earth and its adjoining planes, and through the plane of ice. Polymorph self: 4th level magician spell. Allows breathing and movement for the individual magician. The party members can all move if touching the magician. Survival and vision may be problems for the rest of the group.

Plane shift: 5th level cleric spell. Accesses any plane, with companions. There may be a one-round adjustment period on arrival if voluntary. Survival and breathing are probably guaranteed for the party for the duration of their visit. Vision and movement may be problems. Since high-level cleric spells are acts of "the gods", it seems reasonable that help at the destination would be available. This spell is not much used in the "Planescape" milieu, and it may not be available.

Sam Shock's Safe-fall guarantees that a party member will take a maximum of one point of damage from any collision made while traveling by the free-fall technique on an inner plane. It is a third-level spell, applicable to one party member per level.

Shadow walk: 7th level magician spell. This guarantees access, survival, breathing, vision, and movement for the party, but only on the plane of shadows, where these are seldom problematic. The magician, plus one companion per level, travels into the plane of Shadows, but not to any other planes.

Shape change: 9th level magician spell. Allows access to any plane by the clever magician. The party members can all move if touching the magician. Allows survival, breathing, vision, and movement for the magician only. It gives all the characteristics of a native except the ability to find one's own way on the new plane.

Teleport without error: 7th level magician spell. Accesses any plane, possibly with one or two companions. When used to planeshift, there is the same risk of misteleporting as for the 5th level version on one's own plane. A one-round adjustment period on arrival is likely if voluntary. Since magic-user teleportation spells are known to be hazardous, it seems unlikely that there would be any particular protections.

Well of many worlds: Magic item. Placed on the ground, this circle of black silk opens a two-way passage to a random plane. It seems unlikely that protections would be available. Beware!

Wind walk: 7th level cleric spell. It seems reasonable to allow this to access any inner plane, with up to one companion per level. Survival, breathing, vision, and movement would all be guaranteed for the party for the duration of the visit. They may fly at wind speed.

A magician's world-walk, a ninth-level spell, opens a passage to any other plane for 4 rounds+1/level. Ten living creatures can pass through per round, and they are able to live, breathe, see, and move normally. If something other than a living creature is thrown through, it teleports to the Chaotic Neutral planes.

Vanish: 7th level magician spell, which could perhaps be modified to function as "teleport without error", but the magician need not go along. It would seem unlikely that there would be any protections inherent.

A vortex is a two-way opening that leads to an elemental plane. No key is required. Those to one of the four major planes tend to be stable (volcanoes, mountain peaks, ocean depths, deep mines). Those to the lesser planes tend to be ephemeral. Passage is instantaneous but may be hazardous. A vortex will not transform those passing through, or confer any magical protections or abilities.

A referee is free to create other means of accessing inner planes. These may transform the users to allow survival, breathing, movement and perhaps even vision in the keyed areas -- but be cautious.

Visibility on the Inner Planes

Natives of each plane can sense things up to five miles away, but visitors will have difficulty seeing. Here are the limits for visibility:

Movement on the Inner Planes

On the ethereal, movement rate is each adventurer's maximum unencumbered rate. On the plane of shadows, adventurers move normally. Everyone moves at normal rate on the planes of earth, minerals, grime, magma, ooze, and ice, provided the party has magic to enable them to move at all. Elsewhere, the fastest way to move is by choosing a direction for gravity and entering free-fall. For rates of free-fall, see above. Reversing direction takes one round.

The spell "airy element" permits movement, for any elemental plane and its adjacent para- and quasi-planes, except the planes of earth and minerals. This does not result in falling or the need to fly. Adventurers can still walk or swim on planes where this is possible.

Plane Distances for free fall in one minute
Ethereal (not applicable)
Fire one mile
Air five miles
Earth ---
Water 100 yards
Smoke one mile
Magma ---
Steam one mile
Dust 50 yards
Mist one mile
Ooze 50 yards
Radiance one mile
Lightning five miles
Minerals ---
Rainbows 100 yards
Ash one mile
Vacuum five miles
Grime ---
Ice )--
Positive five miles
Negative five miles
Shadows five miles

Transit times on the inner planes are "curious", as the geometry is non-Euclidean.

On any border ethereal, it takes 1 to 1000 hours to reach a specific destination. This is due to the peculiar and unstable geometry. The better-visualized the destination, the shorter the travel time.

On the deep ethereal, it takes 1 to 100 hours to find the border to a particular plane. The better-visualized the destination, the shorter the time.

On the elemental plane, it takes 1 to 100 hours to find the border of an adjoining para- or quasi- plane, or 1 to 1000 hours to find a particular destination on the elemental plane itself. But finding a destination at all requires a guide or clerical "find the path" spell. Random encounter checks are at the DM's discretion.

Finding the Way on the Inner Planes

On the inner planes, "up" and "down" are by consensus. If folk with different ideas meet, check vs. intelligence. Higher successful check wins, and determines the directions for all concerned.

Except on the ethereal and shadow planes, adventurers will never find their way without a clerical "find the path" or a native guide. The party needs to pay elementals, genies, or grues at a rate of 100 gold pieces value per hour, in curious things:

    Air: Perfumes
    Water: Potions
    Fire: Fuel
    Earth: Gems
    Para-: Items from either of the two applicable classes
    Quasi-: Unknown
    Genies: Coined money, gems, or useful magic items
    Shades: Coined money, gems, or useful magic items
    Grues: Slain creatures (12 hp/hr)

Charmed creatures are too confused to serve as guides.

Spell Alterations on the Inner Planes

This is best left to the referee, discussable player-to-referee.

Consider the wizard who wishes to cast a "fireball" on the quasiplane of ice. Is the fireball weaker because of the distance from the plane of fire? (Could all spells based on fire, wind, earth, or positivity fail here?) Are the ice creatures more vulnerable to fire because they are cold-based? Are the ice creatures less vulnerable to fire because they are cold-based? Would the ball of bat guano, unable to penetrate through the ice, explode in the wizard's hand?

Now consider the wizard who wishes to cast a "fireball" on the plane of fire. This will surely work, and perhaps be stronger. Does the added strength allow it to damage a fire-based efreet genie? Or are the locals partly or completely immune? Or does a fireball perhaps heal them?

Different answers have been given to these during the history of AD&D.

Let me suggest that it's the most fun when heavy-damage and easy-solution spells are weakest, and players rely on their wits.

The Ethereal Plane and the Curtains

The ethereal is a foggy plane with no gravity. Nothing is totally solid here, though creatures can take damage.

Entering the border ethereal by any means is like seeing a heavy fog suddenly settle on the familiar world, which turns black-and-white. There is no gravity. Adventurers feel their gear and clothing become weightless. They can walk through most familiar structures at their normal unencumbered movement rate. Adventurers cannot move within one foot of a large living thing on the prime plane. They cannot move through metal, special mortars, or near certain spell effects. Adventurers can also enter the corresponding ethereal borders from any other inner plane.

To move from border ethereal to deep ethereal, merely concentrate on the desire to do so. Travelers seem to drift into a fog, and find themselves just beneath the ethereal color curtain. In the deep ethereal, adventurers move from plane to plane easily. Shifting in and out of the border ethereal takes one round. There is a full round of helplessness on either side.

The curtains look and sound like the northern lights. Suggested curtain colors:

Borders are recognized from the deep ethereal by color, and the contents of the planes themselves are visible from the border ethereal. Look carefully before entering.

On the ethereal plane, natural (body-part) weapons and armor, weapons and armor from the inner planes, and magic weapons and armor, are unaltered. Non-magical weapons do not do damage, period. Non-magical armor doesn't count toward armor class.

The following spells, when cast in the ethereal plane, will be permanent subject to erosion, and have a 5% chance of taking on a life of their own.

  • audible glamer

  • hallucinatory terrain

  • hypnotic pattern

  • Leomund's hut

  • major creation

  • minor creation

  • phantasmal force (all variants)

  • phantom steed

  • veil

Inhabitants include the gingwatzim. Less common are the gk'loc-loc, colonial organisms which grow like evergreen trees, spending their long lives savoring the memories of those who have died on the ethereal plane. Visitors may also find the chronolilies, huge flowers in which a spellcaster can check vs. prime requisite to see the past, present, or probable future, depending on the color of the lily. Perhaps these flowers may serve as portals

As described in classic AD&D, the ethereal makes it much too easy to intrude on others. In some cosmologies, the ethereal is the home of powerful protectors of our own world's creatures, perhaps the guardian angels and/or the revered ancestors. Or perhaps these protectors simply show up when an ethereal intruder approaches their charges.

The "Believers of the Source" philosophic sect, which looks for all creatures to evolve into divinity, has its headquarters someplace here. ("As we are, so were the gods. As the gods are, so shall we be.")

The Arabian Nights "City of Dreams" rests in a pocket dimension where it was taken by the djinni. There is all manner of wealth here, but it all disappears on leaving, except perhaps for a magic item. There are many dead bodies here, and a few live folks.

There is an automatic encounter with a creature aligned like the party leader one turn following entry into the border ethereal. Following this, encounters will be with gingwatzim, devas, elementals, genies, and (less often) upper and lower plane types (especially lowlifes), rakshasas, mindflayers, other adventurers, color curtains, and the ether cyclone.

Near graveyards, the ethereal is likely to be populated by spirits of the dead.

In "Die, Vecna, Die!", the Lady of Pain speaks and changes the configuration of the planes for the Third Edition. Evidently this caused the Deep Ethereal to wink out of existence. The ethereal plane now has color curtains (or perhaps shrines) that allow entry to all planes, both inner and outer.

Inhabitants of the Inner Planes

Elementals prefer living in their pure element and avoid pockets of other elements on their own planes. Elementals typically have 1-24 hit dice, and ability scores close to hit dice. Each typically has two attacks per round which do maximum damage around 2x hit dice. Elemental behavior and psychology are incomprehensible to us. Attempts to use "ESP" will pick up only a sense of the element, plus a prevailing emotion. Elemental clerics are mostly druids or clerics devoted to the element. Elemental druids can only "charm" other elementals, and summon animentals as druids do animals. Among other clerics, extreme alignments are rare. "Elemental servants" are unpleasant, taciturn creatures that include "aerial servants". Choose your servant's plane of origin according to the task at hand.

Encounters on the para- and quasi- planes resemble those on adjacent planes. Para-elementals lack leadership. Quasi-elementals are a crazy bunch. Quasi-elementals have a bolt attack:

On positive quasi-planes, seek out elemental pockets, as they are immune to incursions from positive energy planes. There are only a few elemental pockets on negative quasi-planes, but the natives are immune to their harmful effects.

Genies are people native to any of the elemental, para-elemental, or quasi-elemental planes. They are much like us and think as we do. They all prefer mixes of elements, with their own predominating, and are responsible for many of the features of the planes. They are very diverse, and genies from any neutral plane may have any alignment. Genie culture resembles Arabian Nights scenarios. Genie characters roll 4d6 for ability scores. Most genies have some spell-like powers. These often duplicate illusionist spells (spectral forces, creation, and wishes) and spells dealing with their element. Genies may be of any character class. Genie clerics may be of any alignment.

Some genies and elementals (especially those from near the negative plane) might be bad enough to be damaged by holy water and be specially subject to clergy.

The Gingwatzim are the major inhabitants of the ether. They are colored spheres, and their principal attack is to drain points of strength. The weaker ones are similar to animals except in appearance. The stronger ones are of great intelligence and more inclined to evil.

Infinite Fish -- thanks for the background

The Roaming Genasi Tavern -- "for those touched by the iner planes
Eight New Quasi-Planes

The Alignment Planes

The Abyss -- Chaotic Evil
Acheron -- Lawful, Evil Tendencies
Arborea -- Chaotic Good
Arcadia -- Lawful, Good Tendencies
Baator -- Lawful Evil
The Beastlands -- Good, Chaotic Tendencies
Bytopia -- Good, Lawful Tendencies
Carceri -- Evil, Chaotic Tendencies
Elysium -- Neutral Good
Gehenna -- Evil, Lawful Tendencies
The Gray Waste -- Neutral Evil
Limbo -- Chaotic Neutral
Mechanus -- Lawful Neutral
Mount Celestia -- Lawful Good
The Outlands -- True Neutral
Pandemonium -- Chaotic, Evil Tendencies
Ysgard -- Chaotic, Good Tendencies
The Inner Planes
What "Planescape" could be
AD&D and the Religious Right
Li Po's Hermitage (character generators, more)

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