The Cosmology of Toril
As indicated in the FORGOTTEN REALMS Campaign Setting, the planar cosmology that includes the world of Toril is different and separate from the standard D&D cosmology described in the Dungeon Master's Guide and Manual of the Planes. While the D&D cosmology is easily compared to a great wheel, Toril's planes are arranged more like a tree with many branches.
The Material Plane, the Plane of Shadow, and the Ethereal Plane, which are coexistent with each other, form the trunk of this tree. Its branches are the Inner Planes (the elemental and energy planes) and the Outer Planes. Almost every outer-planar branch has smaller branches of its own, which are the divine realms of the deities dwelling there. These realms are almost like distinct demiplanes.
In the D&D cosmology, the Astral Plane surrounds all the other planes in a shapeless cloud, allowing astral travel directly from one plane to any other. But Toril's Astral Plane shares the treelike shape of the cosmology as a whole. Because of this arrangement, it is difficult (though not completely impossible) to jump from branch to branch of the tree - that is, to cross directly from one Inner Plane or Outer Plane to another. (See Traveling the Planes, below, for more information.) It is more natural - and far safer - to travel between the Inner Planes or Outer Planes by way of the trunk (the Material Plane). As part of its ability to alter the nature of its realm, a deity can forge a direct connection to any other deity's realm, so long as both deities agree. Apart from divine influence, however, such direct connections are impossible.
Three of the planes in Toril's cosmology stand out as unusual: the Abyss, the Nine Hells, and Blood Rift. None of these planes are home to any deities (although some refer to the archfiends who reside there as deities, or at least near-deities), and the three planes are coterminous to each other. In effect, these fiendish planes form one unusual branch of the planar cosmology - the site of an eternal war raging between the native creatures of the Nine Hells and the Abyss, namely devils and demons, respectively. The yugoloth natives of Blood Rift serve as mercenaries in the eternal war while pursuing their own mysterious ends.
Traveling the Planes
Toril's unique Astral Plane makes planar travel simultaneously simpler and more complicated. Getting from the Material Plane to another plane is simple enough, and the process works exactly the way it does in the standard D&D cosmology. A character need only cast the appropriate spell (plane shift or astral projection) to get onto the Astral Plane, follow it to a color pool leading to the desired plane, then pass through that pool to the destination plane. The only difference is that once a character heads out toward a given plane, only color pools leading to that one plane appear on her path. This effect is similar to a channeled Astral Plane, as described in Manual of the Planes. Once a character has set out toward a certain plane, she cannot change her mind, backtrack, and then set out toward a different one. To alter her course, she must actually reenter the Material Plane, then set out astrally for a different plane.
Travel from one Outer Plane to another is slightly more complicated. Normal astral travel cannot take a character directly from one plane to another except by way of the Material Plane. A character or monster can use plane shift to move directly from the Material Plane to any other plane or vice versa, but not from one Inner Plane or Outer Plane to a different Inner Plane or Outer Plane.
As described in Manual of the Planes, the Plane of Shadow constitutes the primary link between Toril's planar cosmology and those of other worlds. The Plane of Shadow connects Toril's Material Plane with those of other worlds, including the default world for the D&D core books - the World of Greyhawk. Naturally, in a land a full of magical portals as Faerûn is, unusual portals that connect to other Material Planes via conduits through the Plane of Shadow almost certainly exist. Some sages point to such connections as the source of spells named after the great wizards of Greyhawk, such as Otto's irresistible dance, Otiluke's freezing sphere, Tenser's transformation, and the various Bigby's hand spells.
Certain planar features actually cross from one plane to another, forming a connection that defies the treelike structure of the Astral Plane. Ironically, one of these features is a tree - the so-called World Tree that connects all the celestial planes. The other is a river - the River of Blood, which flows among most of the fiendish planes. This waterway is similar to the River Styx, as described in Manual of the Planes.
The World Tree
This cosmic tree connects many celestial branches of the astral tree. From its roots in Arvandor and Dwarfhome, the World Tree rises through all the celestial planes to the very Gates of the Moon. Brightwater, Golden Hills, and the House of Knowledge are connected to the World Tree's trunk, while its lower-lying branches extend into Dweomerheart, the House of the Triad, and Green Fields. Brave planar travelers can use the World Tree to travel among the celestial planes without passing through the Material Plane, as the angel servitors of good deities are thought to do. But this path is dangerous, since the tree is sentient and apparently dislikes being used as a planar ladder. Would-be travelers have encountered celestial treants and dryads bent on blocking their path, but even these guardians have been known to let travelers pass for good reasons.
The River Of Blood
A vast and fetid river flows through most of the fiendish planes, providing a connection similar to the one that the World Tree provides for the celestial planes. Its spring is said to lie somewhere in the Abyss, and it flows most strongly through that plane, Blood Rift, and the Nine Hells. It also winds through the Barrens of Doom and Despair, Clangor, Fury's Heart, Hammergrim, and Nishrek before spilling into the murky waters of Fated Depths. Of the fiendish planes, only the Supreme Throne and the Demonweb Pits are untouched by the River of Blood. As with the World Tree, canny travelers can use the River of Blood to get from one fiendish plane to another, but the dangers are great. All sorts of fiends swim in the river or lurk near its banks in hopes of snaring unwary travelers, and some even pilot small craft on the river's viscous surface. Any mortal who falls into or swims in the River of Blood loses all memory.
While the planes of the standard D&D cosmology are identified primarily by alignment, Toril's Outer Planes are identified solely by the deities who call them home. Each plane is the demesne of a small group of deities, a racial pantheon, or - in one case - a single deity. A plane's alignment traits, if any, derive from the deities who live there, and not the other way around.
In addition to the types of planar traits detailed in the Dungeon Master's Guide, nearly every plane in Toril's cosmology has a faith trait, often in place of an alignment trait. On a plane with a mild faith trait, any visitor who does not claim one of the deities that lives on the plane as her patron takes a -2 penalty on all Charisma-based checks. On a plane with a strong faith trait, the same penalty applies. Furthermore, a character who worships a deity opposed to the residents of the plane (as specified in the plane's description) takes the same penalty on Intelligence- and Wisdom-based checks as well.
This section provides a brief description of each plane in Toril's cosmology; including its planar traits (as described in the Dungeon Master's Guide) and a list of creatures.
Toril's Ethereal Plane and its Inner Planes are identical to those detailed in the Dungeon Master's Guide, so they do not have entries here. Likewise, the Astral Plane differs primarily in its shape, as described at the beginning of this chapter. The only functional difference between the Astral Plane as described in the Dungeon Master's Guide and the one in the Toril cosmology is that direct travel from one plane to another without passing through the Material Plane is not possible in the latter version.
The elemental lords Grumbar, Akadi, Istishia, and Kossuth have realms on the elemental planes.
- The Abyss
- The Barrens of Doom and Dispair
- Blood Rift
- Deep Caverns
- The Demonweb Pits
- Dragon Eyrie
- Fated Depths
- Fugue Plane
- Fury's Heart
- The Gates of the Moon
- Golden Hills
- Green Fields
- The House of Knowledge
- The House of Nature
- The House of the Triad
- The Nine Hells
- The Supreme Throne
- Warrior's Rest
The cosmology detailed here accounts for the homes of the deities in the Faerûnian pantheon, various nonhuman pantheons (dragon, giant, goblinoid, orc, drow, dwarven, elven, gnome, and halfling), and the Mulhorandi pantheon. Toril is also home to a number of additional faiths, and the gods of those faiths live in additional planes connected to Toril. Little is known in Faerûn about most of these planes, and the exact nature of their connection to Faerûn is rather mysterious.
Toril actually connects to several different Astral Planes, each one linking Toril's Material Plane to the outer-planar homes of a different group of deities. These Astral Planes are based on the geographical areas of control held by the different pantheons. The Astral Plane known to characters in Faerûn leads to the planes of the Faerûnian pantheon, as well as the nonhuman pantheons (whose geographical area of control overlaps that of the Faerûnian deities) and the Mulhorandi pantheon. Characters in other areas can enter different Astral Planes with links to the Outer Planes inhabited by their own deities. Ao is thought to supervise the separate Astral Planes just as he adjudicates conflicts between the pantheons.
The Astral Plane of Zakhara connects to the same elemental planes that connect with Faerûn, as well as to a plane where the souls of the righteous are rewarded (the Garden of Delight) and one where the wicked are punished (the Place of Fire). The many genies that are so active in Zakhara live on the elemental planes, while the deities of the Zakharan faiths live either on the Material Plane in Zakhara itself or on some other plane unknown to mortals and unreachable from the Material Plane.
The Spirit World
The Spirit World described in the Appendix in Manual of the Planes is coexistent with and coterminous to the Material Plane, but only in Kara-Tur. Each deity of Kara-Tur's Celestial Bureaucracy has a small realm attached to the Spirit World. Because it is a transitive plane, the Spirit World replaces the Astral Plane in Kara-Tur.
The Astral Plane of Maztica connects to the planes of the Maxtican deities. These planes can be visualized as many planar layers stacked both above and below the earth. Each celestial layer is the home of a deity and a sacred bird; each underworld layer is a challenge for the souls of the dead, who must progress all the way to the bottom layer to find their eternal peace. These planes are populated by outsiders as well as deities.
As in the standard D&D cosmology, the cosmology of Toril is rife with demiplanes - small, homogeneous planes with few inhabitants. Some of these planes were created by powerful spellcasters or psions; others seem to have formed spontaneously. Both Cynosure and the Fugue Plane might be considered demiplanes - in fact, Cynosure is somewhat similar to Common Ground, as described in Manual of the Planes. The Random Demiplane Generator in Manual of the Planes works as well for demiplanes in Toril's cosmology as it does for the standard D&D cosmology, and the example demiplanes in Manual of the Planes could also exist in Toril's cosmology. The malaugryms are native to a small demiplane attached to the Plane of Shadow.
When deities or entire pantheons die, the planes they called home apparently cease to exist. One theory holds that they simply implode without any divine power to sustain them. Another theory maintains that the Astral Plane expels them, and they drift somehow outside it, severed from their connections to other planes. The largest of these lost planes is Zigguraxus, former home of the Untheric pantheon. With its demise or disappearance, Tiamat has relocated to Dragon Eyrie. The planes and realms of the dead gods have also vanished from Toril's cosmology. These include Amaunator's Keep of the Eternal Sun, Bhaal's Throne of Blood, Ibrandul's Ibrandyllaran, Leira's Courts of Illusion, and Moander's Offalmound. Occasionally a slain deity's realm is taken over by another deity before it can vanish.
This was the case with Myrkul's Bone Castle on the Fugue Plane, which is now inhabited by Kelemvor, who transformed it into the Crystal Spire.