Here’s my contribution to the If I Ruled the Multiverse blog carnival for D&D Next.
The dwarf stared into the campfire, then spat suddenly. The gob of tobacco sizzled in the flames, and the old fighter spoke, his voice gravel in the darkness.
“My pa told me Moradin himself carved the whole world out of a flawless gem, rocks ‘n’ trees ‘n’ all, to show the other gods his skills were the best. All the other gods tried to make their own realms and they kept tryin’ and trying’, and all their failed attempts became the stars. Each one is a diff’rent realm where the normal rules are broken because of flaws in their gemstones. Only Moradin made a perfect world where everything is in its rightful place, and that’s why the gods chose this world to fill with life.”
The elf gave a snort.
“Dwarves may believe that, friend, but we elves have memories and knowledge far beyond that of simple cave dwellers. This world is merely a shadow, a poor reflection of the Feywyld which is the one true realm where The Green holds sway and life blooms in glorious splendour. That is the realm from whence we elves came, and the place our spirits depart to when we die. All other planes are mere reflections, nothing more.”
Before the dwarf could reply, the Halfling spoke up, stirring the pot thoughtfully.
“Well I don’t know. I was told the whole universe is like this pot o’ stew, spinning and spinning as the gods stir the pot. We’re on some lump of potato, and other places are like this carrot, or that chunk o’ meat. Me, I think it needs more salt!”
The three friends laughed together, then brought out their bowls.
And the world continued to turn.
The universe is big. Really big, and the multiverse doubly so. In a game as fantastic as Dungeons & Dragons filled to the brim with walking mythology, deities and demons, there is room for any number of theories (true, half-true or otherwise) about the nature of the Planes. Who is to say whether the cosmology of the Great Wheel is a fair and accurate representation of the realms, or if the many realms are flawed gemstones twinkling as stars in the sky? Perhaps the planes are layers like an onion (or an ogre), or are truly nothing more than hunks of meat and vegetables in the gods’ own stew.
Each race, nation, creed or religion could have their own theories about the nature and creation of the planes (if they believe the planes exist at all, for that matter), and it’s possible that each PC have their own private thoughts and opinions on the matter. That hands one of the biggest questions about the game (where in the multiverse are we?) over for the players to mull over, and each PC can stamp something of their own personality and backstory onto their perception of the universe. The son of a blacksmith could well believe that the worlds are sparks form the High Lord’s Anvil, or a Wizard theorize that we are composed of nothing but atoms bound by magical forces. Every theory and belief could reveal just as much about the PC as they do about the world, and that’s a powerful story-telling tool indeed.
Revealing the true nature of the multiverse should be an adventure in itself, and one that is perhaps best saved until the adventurers are high enough level to discover for themselves. In a long-term campaign it could form the central pillar of epic-level play where the PCs go on a voyage to discover (and perhaps repair) the very planes themselves.
Now that would be an adventure worth sharing around a campfire, don’t you think?