Cosmology of Toril - Overview
The Material Plane that holds the world of Toril is one of many planes of existence. Beyond Toril lie the Elemental Planes, the Positive and Negative Energy planes, and the many realms of the deities, demons, and devils (collectively called the Outer Planes). The Ethereal and Shadow planes overlap the Material, with the Astral Plane connecting to all of them.
The Elemental Planes: The Elemental Planes embody the fundamental nature of Air, Earth, Fire, and Water. Inhospitable places of pure matter, they are inhabited by elementals, elemental rulers (often called "lords"), genies, and outsiders appropriate to the element in question (such as salamanders on the Plane of Fire). The Elemental Planes contain the home of Kossuth and the other elemental rulers worshiped by the people of Toril.
The Energy Planes: The Positive Energy Plane is the source of the energy of life, representing the constant force and drive of creation, and its effects bleed into and permeate the Material Plane. The Negative Energy Plane represents entropy and the inevitable decay of life into death, and it tugs at the matter of Toril on the Material Plane just like its bright twin.
The Ethereal Plane: The Ethereal Plane is a misty continuum that coexists with the Material Plane. Individuals within the Ethereal can see into the Material Plane, but not vice versa. It is accessed by spells such as etherealness and ethereal jaunt.
The Shadow Plane: The Shadow Plane is a coexistent plane that looks like a photographic negative of the Material. It is accessed through common shadows using specific spells, such as shadow walk. Shadow stuff may be manipulated to create objects and creatures by those skilled in its use. Sages theorize that the Shadow Plane may lead to planes currently unknown in the cosmology of Toril.
The Astral Plane: The Astral Plane is an open, weightless plane with connections to all other planes. It is an empty, mostly barren expanse of nothingness, broken only by shards of matter from other planes and portals leading to new dimensions. Spells such as astral projection and gate access the Astral Plane.
The Outer Planes: The other known planes are the homes of deities and outsiders. The best-known planes of this type include the Abyss, home of the countless hordes of demons (tanar'ri), and the Nine Hells, home of the hierarchies of devils (baatezu).
The planes of the deities are usually held in common between several divine powers of the same pantheon or of similar interest or temperament. Each deity associated with a plane has a private realm attached to and part of that plane, much as rooms in an inn are connected to a main hall. Within their own realms, deities rule supreme and can alter physical laws at will, but in the shared areas the physics of the plane generally conform to the rules of the Material Plane. Deities that are more powerful tend to have larger realms, although the more conservative are content with less ostentatious displays of power.
Isolationist, hostile, or paranoid deities prefer to maintain their own individual planes, the entirety of which are their realms. While this makes them each the master of an entire plane, they also become more vulnerable to a concerted attack from other deities, whereas a deity sharing a plane can rally neighbors in times of need.
Moving from One Plane to Another: All of these planes connect to Toril on the Material Plane in some way, whether through the coexistent overlap of the Astral, Ethereal, and Shadow planes or via portals through the Astral that connect to the deities', Elemental, or Energy planes. In a sense, the cosmology of Toril resembles a tree, with the branches (planes) growing from the center and some branches having secondary branches (realms) growing from them. It is far easier and safer to take advantage of the existing connectivity to travel between planes, using the common ground of Toril as a stopping point, rather than forcing a direct connection between two locations. To use the tree model as an analogy, it is more advantageous to climb down one branch to the trunk and then climb up another than it is to try to jump from your current branch to a distant one.
However, planar beings sometimes choose to force a direct path between two planes (at the expense of some of their available energy) rather than use the existing paths. Reasons for doing so include a hazard waiting along a more convenient path (such as a hostile power), a limited amount of time, or a desire for secrecy. In addition, deities who are friendly to each other but live in different planes sometimes create permanent connections (portals) to their allies for convenience. Such artificial methods are generally beyond the reach of mortals, although certain artifacts may be able to duplicate this capability.
The Outer Planes
The Faerûnian pantheon is unusual in that its deities have many different origins and come from many worlds. This lack of commonality prevents them from creating a common planar realm, and so they are scattered over many planes. In addition to the Faerûnian powers, the planar system of Toril houses interloper deities, humanoid pantheons, elemental beings worshiped as deities, monster-pantheons, and the homes of the beings venerated in distant parts of the world.
The following list of planes focuses primarily on the deities of Faerûn. Other Torilian pantheons (such as those of different species of humanoids, dragons, giants, other monsters, and the lands of Kara-Tur, Zakhara, and Maztica) may inhabit one plane. with many domains such as the elven realm. of Arvandor, or be divided among many planes as the Faerûnian pantheon is. Each plane is described below with the deities who have realms there, with mentions of known permanent connections between that plane and others. Two Faerûnian deities do not have a home in the Outer Planes: Gargauth and Ulutiu. Ulutiu is drowsing in the Astral Plane, and Gargauth, being outcast from the Nine Hells, dwells only on the Material Plane.
The Abyss: Many demon lords, demons.
Arvandor: The elven pantheon (the Seldarine) and Eilstraee. Hanali Celanil maintains a portal to Sune's realm in Brightwater, and the entire pantheon maintains a portal to the House of Nature. Erevan Ilesere maintains a portal to the realm of Hlal in Dragon Eyrie.
The Barrens of Doom and Despair: Bane (distant from the others), Beshaba, Hoar, Loviatar, and Talona.
Brightwater: Lliira, Sharess, Sune, Tymora, and Waukeen. Sune maintains a portal to Hanali Celanil's realm in Arvandor. Sharess also has a small realm on Heliopolis, the home of her native pantheon. Tymora maintains a portal to Green Fields.
Cynosure: No permanent residents (see below).
Demonweb Pits: Lolth and the drow pantheon. (Eilistraee has a realm here, but she rarely visits it.) The pantheon maintains portals to several layers of the Abyss.
Dragon Eyrie: The dragon pantheon. Tiamat maintains a portal to this plane. Hlal maintains a portal to the realm of Erevan Ilesere in Arvandor.
Dwarfhome: Moradin and the rest of the dwarven pantheon, excluding the duergar and derro deities.
Dweomerheart: Azuth, Mystra, Savras, and Velsharoon (who is unpopular but remains here to gain protection from Talos).
Elemental Planes: The elemental rulers Akadi (Plane of Air), Grumbar (Plane of Earth), Istishia (Plane of Water), and Kossuth (Plane of Fire).
The Fugue Plane: Jergal and Kelemvor.
Fury's Heart: Auril, Malar, Talos, and Umberlee.
Gates of the Moon: Finder, Selûne, and Shaundakul.
The Golden Hills: The gnome pantheon, not including Urdlen (whose realm is adjacent to the Abyss). The Golden Hills also connects to the realm of Gond.
Green Fields: The halfling pantheon. Brandobaris has a realm here, but he is rarely present, preferring to establish a small, temporary realm wherever he rests. Green Fields also connects to the realm of Tymora.
Hammergrim: The duergar powers Deep Duerra and Laduguer.
Heliopolis: The Mulhorandi pantheon and Tiamat. Tiamat maintains a portal to the plane of the dragon pantheon.
House of Knowledge: Deneir, Gond, Milil, and Oghma. Gond maintains a portal to the Golden Hills.
House of Nature: Chauntea, Eldath, Gwaeron, Lathander, Lurue, Mielikki, Nobanion, Shiallia, Silvanus, Ubtao, various animal lords, and the deities of many nature-oriented creatures (aarakocras, centaurs, and so on), The deities of this plane maintain a portal to Arvandor.
House of the Triad: Helm, Ilmater, Siamorphe, Torm, and Tyr.
The Nine Hells (Baator): The Lords of the Nine (archdevils), devils. A few maintain portals to the realms of Bane, Loviatar, and Talona.
Nishrek: The orc pantheon.
Plane of Shadow: Mask and Shar.
The Supreme Throne: Cyric.
Warrior's Rest: Garagos (hostile to all others), Red Knight, Tempus, Uthgar (distant from all but Tempus), and Valkur.
Ao (ay-oh) stands outside of the power struggles of deities in Faerûn. A quiet and distant being, Ao is the overgod of Toril. He is responsible for the creation of the first deities of Toril and for maintaining the cosmic balance. Ao was completely unknown to mortals before the Time of Troubles. His presence was made known when he single-handedly banished all the deities to walk Faerûn in mortal forms as punishment because many of them had abdicated their responsibilities.
Ao has supreme power over all the deities of Toril, is capable of demoting, banishing, or destroying any of them, and can elevate mortals to any level of divinity if they accept the responsibilities and duties of the divine state. No being can be promoted to divinity without his approval. He is impervious to all attacks, even by a concerted effort of all the divine powers, and has no known realm among the planes. Ao is essentially the god of the deities of Faerûn. He answers no mortal's prayer, grants no spells to mortals, and has not been heard from since the end of the Godswar. It is unknown if he established the foundation of the cosmology of Toril or if that structure is something that evolved over time from the interaction of the deities.
Cynosure is a small plane located very close - cosmologically speaking - to Toril. Only deities can access it, and only from their own domains. It is considered neutral ground by all the powers of Faerûn, a place to settle disputes and decide upon punishments for those deities who upset the Balance (as defined by the guidelines Ao left). Cynosure cannot be used as a way station as Toril can, for the deities can only use the portals to Cynosure that lead to their own realms. Given the number of divine powers active on Toril, it is not unusual to find several meeting in Cynosure at any time, though rarely more than a dozen. At other times, the realm sits empty for several tendays. While portals from Cynosure lead to the realms of the elemental lords, none of them have ever been known to appear on the meeting plane.
When mortals die, their souls are drawn to the Fugue Plane. Most of this place is flat, gray, bland, and nondescript, with no notable topographical features. The spirits of the dead gather here, usually unaware that they have died. From time to time (anywhere from once a day to over a tenday, depending on the deities involved), the powers send representatives - usually outsiders of the appropriate alignment - to the Fugue Plane to gather the souls of their own worshipers.
A worshiper's soul automatically recognizes an agent of its own deity, knows that it needs to go with that agent, and cannot be deceived by any means into following the agent of another divine power. The agent collects the proper souls and returns to its deity's realm, where the worshiper serves the deity in whatever capacity necessary. Agents cannot take the worshipers of deities other than those they represent.
Within the Fugue Plane lurk small enclaves of baatezu. By agreement with Kelemvor, the god of the dead, they cannot harm or trick the waiting souls. However, the devils are allowed to explain to the souls that they are dead and awaiting the arrival of a divine messenger to take them back to their deity's realm. At this point, the devils attempt to bargain with souls.
The baatezu want souls that they can use to create lemures (the lowest sort of devil), which over time are transformed into more powerful devils in the service of the Nine Hells. While this probably isn't appealing to most souls, those who are pledged to evil deities or fear what punishments they may suffer in their respective deity's realm might jump at the opportunity to escape that fate. After all, in the hells you certainly know where you stand and have the opportunity for promotion, with the remote possibility of advancing to the level of a pit fiend. As a servant of an evil deity, you are always at that deity's whim and have no guarantee of being anything other than an expendable, insignificant slave.
In exchange for consigning themselves to the Nine Hells, souls may be offered early promotions from lemure to another form of devil, material riches for friends or family in Faerûn, or the execution of devilish attacks on their still-living enemies on their behalf. Especially powerful souls may bargain for automatic transformation into something other than a lemure. The success rate of the baatezu is low, but given the number of beings that die each day across Faerûn, even a small portion of that number results in enough of a gain for the hells that it's worth the fiends' time.
The City of Judgment
The shared realm of Kelemvor, Lord of the Dead, and Jergal, Scribe of the Doomed, comprises a portion of the Fugue Plane. This realm, called the Crystal Spire, stands in the center of the region known as the City of Judgment. The city itself is a gray, bland, tightly packed metropolis populated by the judged dead.
While most souls wander the Fugue Plane until their deity calls them, the Faithless and the False are compelled to enter the city and be judged by Kelemvor. The Faithless firmly denied any faith or only gave lip service to the gods for most of their lives without truly believing. The False intentionally betrayed a faith they believed in and to which they had made a personal commitment.
All of the Faithless receive the same punishment: They form a living wall around the City of Judgment, held together by a supernatural greenish mold. This mold prevents them from escaping the wall and eventually breaks down their substance until the soul and its consciousness are dissolved.
The False are punished according to their crimes in life and serve their sentence in the City of Judgment for eternity. Nearly all of the beings in the city are members of the False, the rest being deceased followers of Jergal and Kelemvor who enact the will of their deities upon the doomed souls. Depending upon the severity of their crimes, some of the False may receive relatively light punishments, such as escorting visiting baatezu or patrolling the city for unauthorized guests. Others are punished in ways that would surprise the cruelest demon.
As part of his agreement with the baatezu, Kelemvor allows a few groups of devils to torment the citizens of the city. There is no respite for the False unless Kelemvor wills it, and in his tenure he has not been known to change his mind. Furthermore, once Kelemvor has made his judgment, the soul cannot be raised or resurrected without the intervention of a deity (represented by at least the use of a miracle or wish spell), who will almost certainly have to negotiate with Kelemvor.
While the lawful baatezu have a contract with Kelemvor that allows them to acquire souls, the chaotic tanar'ri employ another methods: They steal them. From time to time, a demon ruler creates a portal between the Abyss and the Fugue Plane. Dozens of servitor demons spill through the opening to claw a hole in the wall of the Faithless, tearing some of the doomed free to be brought back to the Abyss. The demons then raid the city, gathering as many souls as they can before retreating. The minions of Kelemvor and Jergal act as guards and soldiers against these attacks, as do the devils, who are always willing to take on their ancient enemies. Kelemvor tolerates these attacks if they are not too frequent and don't cause much collateral damage.
However, when the demons become greedy, some of Kelemvor or Jergal's divine servants are taken, or Kelemvor feels he needs to teach the demons a lesson, he steps up his realm's defenses or makes raids into the Abyss to harass as many demons as possible. He prefers sorties and campaigns that make the demon rulers look weak and ineffectual. These reprisals are rarely needed and primarily serve to keep the number of tanar'ri attacks low.
Creatures of the Other Planes
In addition to deities and the souls of their followers, outsiders of many shapes, sizes, and temperaments inhabit the planes. These native creatures include planar animals, guardinals, tieflings, and elemental creatures. Within the realm of a divine power, the natives are loyal to that deity. Creatures native to a plane shared by several deities have an affinity for all of them.
On their home planes, these creatures are the natives and therefore not subject to outsider-based warding magic (such as the bodily contact prevention aspect of protection from evil spells, if evil) or attacks that would send them back to their home plane. Note that in the planes and realms it is still possible to use summoning spells, although quite often a summoned creature of like alignment to the current plane is actually summoned from the plane the caster is on, much as with a summon nature's ally spell.
Spells such as summon monster and other effects that bring outsiders to Toril follow rules based on the nature and resonance of Toril and its associated planes. All summoned outsiders come from a realm or plane appropriate or similar to their alignment and type. The deity living in a realm determines a, realm's alignment, and a plane created and shared by several- deities reflects all of the alignments of the powers living there. If a priest summons a creature that is appropriate to his deity's plane or realm, the creature actually comes from there.
For example, an outsider dog brought by summon monster I has a lawful good alignment and comes from any plane or realm that has a lawful good alignment, such as the realm of Torm (a lawful good deity) or the Golden Hills (a plane inhabited by lawful good, neutral good, and neutral deities). An outsider eagle brought by summon monster II has a chaotic good alignment and comes from the realm of Sune (a chaotic good deity) or from Arvandor (a plane inhabited by neutral good, chaotic good, and chaotic neutral deities). A neutral evil salamander might be a native of the Elemental Plane of Fire (because it is a fire creature), the realm of Shar (neutral evil), or the plane of Fury's Heart (chaotic evil, neutral evil).
There are some exceptions to these rules. For example, the gnome deities have an affinity for burrowing creatures such as badgers. There are badgers in the Golden Hills, even though the summoned badger listed in summon monster I is chaotic good and no chaotic good deities live in the Golden Hills.