Cosmology of Tolrea

The planar landscape surrounding the Prime Material Plane of Tolrea departs from the Great Wheel cosmology laid out in the Dungeon Master’s Guide v. 3.5 in Chapter 5: Campaigns. The Elemental Planes do not exist, and have been replaced by the Spirit World, a planar realm which exists as an echo or doubling of the Material Plane, separated from it by the misty veil of the Ethereal Plane. See below for a discussion of spirits and the Spirit World.

The souls of deceased mortals usually make their way (at first) to the Spirit World, as well, where they gradually fade away. Those with faith in the gods believe that they move on to join their deities beyond the realms of mortal comprehension. Pacts with evil outsiders, the transition to undeath, and some other complications can stand between the death of a mortal and the arrival of his or her soul in the Spirit World—for example, a ghost is nothing more than the spirit of a deceased mortal which has failed to complete its transition through the Ethereal Plane into the Spirit World in the normal way.

Living mortals can arrive in the Spirit World in a variety of ways, including by accident; especially in areas of unspoiled nature, portals to the Ethereal Plane can open spontaneously and allow unwary travelers to pass between the worlds. Such occurrences are especially common at the autumnal and vernal equinoxes, at dusk, dawn, and the turn of the tide, and at borders of various kinds, leading rural folk belief to discourage people from traveling in these places and at these times. Often the opening of such a doorway between worlds in the Material Plane coincides with a similar opening of ways in the Spirit World, and allows the hapless traveler to cross more or less directly; at other times the traveler wanders for some time in the Ethereal Plane before entering the Spirit World.

The following planes make up the overall cosmology of the world of Tolrea. Click the link associated with a plane to access a description including its planar traits and inhabitants.

Spirits and the Spirit World

Unlike the Great Wheel cosmology used as the default in the Core Rules v. 3.5, there are no Elemental Planes in the Tolrean cosmology. Instead, certain creatures are designated as spirits, and may reside in the Spirit World. Not all spirits are confined to the Spirit World; a great many of them travel back and forth from the Spirit World to the Material Plane, even more live in the planes beyond the Spirit World, and some spirits live permanently on the Material Plane. Spirits possess the spirit subtype, and many are treated as natives of both the Spirit World and the Material Plane.

    The following creatures possess the spirit subtype:
  • Animals and vermin with the celestial or fiendish templates
  • All elementals
  • All fey*&dagg;
  • All incorporeal undead*
  • Most outsiders
  • Creatures in astral form or with astral bodies (physical presence on the Astral Plane does not confer the spirit subtype)
  • Creatures in ethereal form or with ethereal bodies (physical presence on the Ethereal Plane does not confer the spirit subtype)
  • * Treat as a native of the Spirit World or the Material Plane, whichever the creature currently occupies

    &dagg; Creatures with the fey type possess an innate knowledge of the location of the nearest natural portal to the Ethereal Plane, the Spirit World, or the Material Plane, allowing them to travel freely from one plane to the other provided they do so under the right conditions for the portal to be functional.

The Spirit World

The souls of dead mortals make teir way here on the way to whatever final resting place awaits them. The Spirit World mirrors the Material Plane, serving as a reflection of its purest qualities—for good or ill. A lake in the Material Plane will correspond to a lake in the Spirit World, but the Spirit World’s version is likely to be deeper and colder, and water elementals, ondines, or tritons may cavort in its depths.

Spirit World Inhabitants: Allip, ancestral ghost, animals, arrowhawk, azer, barghest, belker, brownie, celestial creatures, cu sidhe (seelie, unseelie), dire animals, djinni, dryad, efreeti, elementals, fiendish creatures, grig, invisible stalker, magmin, mephits, night hag, nightmare, nixie, nymph, ondine, rast, salamanders, satyr, sluagh, specter, thoqqua, tojanidas, vermin, wraith, xorn, yeth hound.

The following traits apply to the Spirit World:

Normal Gravity

Timeless: Creatures do not feel the effects of hunger or thirst in the Spirit World. Days and nights pass within the Spirit World just as they do on the Material Plane. Mortal creatures in the Spirit World do not feel the effects of aging until they depart from the plane.

Alterable Morphic: Changing things in the Spirit World does not always affect the Material Plane; changes in the Material Plane always show their effects in the Spirit World, after a greater or lesser period of time. Spells and physical effort are as effective in the Spirit World as in the Material Plane.

No Elemental or Energy Traits: However, some areas of the plane may have those traits. For example, a lake on the Material Plane may have a double in the Spirit World with the water-dominant trait.

Mildly Neutral-Aligned: Some locations may have other alignments; for example, the Spirit World equivalent of an evil temple might be mildly evil-aligned.

Enhanced Magic: In the Spirit World, divine spells and spell-like effects are cast as if affected by the Extend Spell feat.

The Astral Plane

This plane is coterminous with all planes. Its properties are identical to the Astral Plane as it is laid out in Chapter 5: Campaigns in the Dungeon Master’s Guide v. 3.5.

Astral Plane Inhabitants: Devourer, formians, inevitables.

The Ethereal Plane

This plane is coexistent with both the Material Plane and the Spirit World. The Ethereal Plane’s gravity is subjectively directional, but since the Material Plane or Spirit World are usually visible to travelers through the Ethereal Plane, most unwittingly orientate themselves to the hazy images of the surrounding planes. It is otherwise identical to the Ethereal Plane set forth in the Dungeon Master’s Guide v. 3.5. Because it is the only plane which is simultaneously coexistent and coterminous with the Material Plane and the Spirit World, the Ethereal Plane is the primary conduit through which creatures—spirit and otherwise—travel between the Material Plane and the Spirit World.

Table: Spontaneous Ethereal Travel
TerrainSurvival DC
Plains, moor or hill, with map6
Mountain, with map8
Plains, moor or hill, no map10
Mountain, no map12
Poor visibility12
Forest or swamp15
Ocean, shore in sight, with map8
Open ocean, with map10
Ocean, shore in sight, no map12
Open ocean, no map14

Travel between the Ethereal Plane and either the Material Plane or the Spirit World can happen spontaneously. Such occurrences are rare enough that they do not prevent normal travel in the Material Plane or the Spirit World, since these events first require that an individual become mundanely lost by failing a Survival check, and then travel for at least two hours without realizing it. This is difficult in settled areas, on well-defined tracks and roads, or when sailing on large, well-crewed ships. The further one goes from civilization, the greater the risk of stumbling through a crack between worlds. This risk also increases during periods of poor visibility, in areas that constitute a border, and when traveling without a map.The Survival DC from Table: Spontaneous Ethereal Travel sets the difficulty to avoid becoming lost; realizing that one is lost requires a second Survival check, with a DC equal to 20, -1 per hour of random travel.

Several modifiers may apply to the difficulty of this check, as shown in Table: Modifiers for Ethereal Travel.

Table: Modifiers for Ethereal Travel
ConditionSurvival DC modifier
For every consecutive hour spent wandering
beyond the second
Poor visibility due to fog+2
Check occurs at nightfall or dawn+2
The terrain features a natural transition between
one terrain and another
The character is moving at more than normal speed+5
The area is desolate or a wasteland+2
The area is a frontier or a wilderness+0
The area is verdant or civilized-2
The area is heavily traveled-4
The character is carrying a cold iron item-1/size category of the item
Every 3 creatures in the group-2
The character is familiar with the route traveled-4
The character is extremely familiar with the route traveled-8
The character moves at half speed-5

In an example using these tables, a character moving through a forest along an established path in the wilderness might happen upon a patrol of elves near sunset. After a brief skirmish, he or she flees off of the path to get away from the elves, fails a Survival check against DC 15, and becomes lost. Now lost but hurrying away from the elves, the character travels for an hour, failing to realize that he or she is lost, and the sun begins to set. After another hour, fog begins to rise, and the character, by now no longer hurrying, blunders across a stream. The character must succeed on another Survival check to avoid stumbling into the Ethereal Plane. Referencing the base DC of 15 for being lost in a forest, the DM adds a +2 modifier to represent the fog, a second +2 modifier because the character suffers from poor visibility due to the onset of night, and a +2 modifier due to the transition between land and water as the character crosses the stream for a total Survival DC of 21. The character, a first-level human fighter without ranks in Survival, carries a cold iron dagger, modifying the DC to 20, but nevertheless fails, and when he crosses the stream, he unwittingly crosses into the Ethereal Plane as well.

Once the traveler is on the Ethereal Plane, he or she makes an Intelligence check against DC 10 every 10 minutes until he or she realizes that he or she has left the world of mortals. Characters with ranks of Knowledge (nature) or Knowledge (the planes) can substitute these skill checks for the Intelligence check. Once the character realizes this, he or she makes another Survival check against DC 10. If the check fails by 5 or more, he or she is dragged further from the world of mortals, and passes spontaneously into the Spirit World. On a success, the character returns to the Material Plane. If the character succeeds by a margin of 10 or more, he or she can choose to pass back into the Material Plane, move into the Spirit World, or continue on the Ethereal Plane.

Aboard a ship, the captain or helmsman’s Profession (sailor) check can be substituted for a Survival check.

Travel from the Spirit World to the Material Plane is also possible using the rules described above, but it is rare because most inhabitants of the Spirit World either do not travel enough to stumble across a portal, or have their own means of crossing when it suits them.

Ethereal Plane Inhabitants: Allip, ancestral ghost, devourer, ethereal filcher, ethereal marauder, ghost, phase spider, specter, wraith, xill.

The Plane of Shadow

This plane is coexistent with the Material Plane, and is peopled with twisted mockeries of the objects and creatures that live there. If the Spirit World is the Material Plane magnified and intensified, the Plane of Shadow is a washed-out, grayscale equivalent. Few have reason to visit it, except on their way to someplace else; many of the sights to be seen there are disturbing. Parts of the Plane of Shadow are coterminous to other planes, and those with access to the proper magic can travel between worlds through it. See the Dungeon Master’s Guide v. 3.5 for details.

Plane of Shadow Inhabitants: Nightshades, shadow, shadow mastiff.

The Bleak Vista

Devils and other law-abiding fiends populate this dreary plane, which they rule with an iron fist as they twist the souls of evil-doers into the next wave of troops to fight in their endless war against the demons of the Roiling Hells. Unlike their chaotic adversaries, the devils of the Vista frequently seek (relatively) peaceful interactions with mortals, the better to delude them into signing away their souls in exchange for transitory rewards. Most of the plane is barren, rocky desert where nothing grows, giving way to vast cities of iron and bronze, expanses of ice or reeking volcanic disturbance, and swamps or seas filled with brackish, undrinkable water.

Unlike demons and despite the wretched conditions in the Bleak Vista, devils are relatively infrequent visitors to the Material Plane under their own power. Repression and tyranny of sufficient magnitude can open portals to the Bleak Vista, and the devils take advantage of them to flood into the Spirit World as their foes do, but their first impulse is seldom to try to find a way to move from the Spirit World to the Material Plane. Rather, they almost always try to establish a defensible toehold in the Spirit World. Once the area is reasonably secure, they seek to extend their influence into mortal affairs in the area, egging on whatever totalitarian regime or cruel dictatorship’s activities opened a door to them in the first place.

Also unlike demons, the inhabitants of the Vista prize the quality of a soul rather than the sheer quantity of them harvested. The mechanisms by which new demons are made are not known; devils are known to turn souls into larvae from which to hatch new troops to swell their legions. Even this process is poorly understood, but those knowledgeable in such matters indicate that the more powerful the individual from whom the soul was taken, the greater the soul’s potential to evolve into the most powerful forms of devils.

Myths and rumors persist regarding the existence of a primordial being of law-bound evil who rules all that he surveys in the Bleak Vista. This being is often referred to not as a devil, but as the Devil, and figures largely in the folklore of several humanoid races. Whether this being exists is a matter for debate; what is known is that devils do appear to have an established, relatively unified chain of command which can be traced back to assorted devilish generals and nobles. Whether all of them answer to some higher power remains to be seen.

The Bleak Vista is coterminous with the Spirit World, the Plane of Shadow, and the Astral Plane. Of these, the Spirit World is the easiest for devils to reach without substantial magical intervention.

Bleak Vista Inhabitants: Achaierai, devils, fiendish creatures, hellhound, hellwasp swarm, vargouille.

The following traits apply to the Bleak Vista:

Normal Gravity

Normal Time

Divinely Morphic: The majority of devils, as well as mortal visitors to the Bleak Vista, find that physical exertion and magical effects modify the landscape and objects therein in the same fashion that they might on the Material Plane. Some of the most powerful of the nobles and generals of the Vista can exercise a more advanced degree of control over the plane, reshaping its substance with a thought.

No Elemental or Energy Traits: However, certain areas of the Bleak Vista may possess one or more dominant elements or energy forms.

Mildly evil-aligned and mildly law-aligned.

The Roiling Hells

Home to demons of every manner and description, this plane is the subject of many a learned scholar’s nightmares. Its inmates machinate constantly to escape into the rest of the multiverse and make their way to the Spirit Plane, where they can prosecute their endless wars against angel- and devil-kind or slip into the Material Plane to wreak havoc upon the mortal world, stealing newly-dead souls to fuel their war efforts by providing power for their unholy rituals.

The Hells themselves are varied beyond description; almost any climate and terrain imaginable in the Material Plane or the Spirit World can be found here, along with a variety of supernatural weather conditions, plants, and geological formations which are unique in the known multiverse. All of them are unpleasant at best. Space itself is unstable here; the Roiling Hells are so named for their propensity to reshape themselves without warning. Most of the time, these changes are minor, and serve only to make existing maps inaccurate; in the worst cases, however, the Hells churn and swirl so that what was once far off becomes close by. Travelers caught in such events often perish in gouts of molten rock or tumble into crevasses that open beneath their feet, or are enslaved, eaten, or simply trampled as new neighbors greet each other through warfare.

The Spirit World mirrors of Material Plane sites associated with intense or widespread suffering of an especially cruel and pointless nature are sometimes the sites of portals leading to the Roiling Hells. Demons that slip through such openings usually try to cross into the Material Plane and cause even more suffering in the same vicinity, hoping to cause larger, longer-lasting breaches of this nature and allow more of their brethren to come through.

The Roiling Hells are coterminous with the Spirit World, the Plane of Shadow, and the Astral Plane. Of these, the Spirit World is by far the easiest for demons to reach without significant magical aid.

Roiling Hells Inhabitants: Chaos beast, demons, fiendish creatures, howler, titan.

The following traits apply to the Roiling Hells:

Normal Gravity

Normal Time

Divinely Morphic: The powerful demon princes who rule over the denizens of this plane can reshape its substance with a thought. For other creatures, spells and physical effort change this plane with the same degree of efficacy as they affect the Material Plane.

No Elemental or Energy Traits: However, specific areas of the Roiling Hells may possess a dominant element or energy, or a combination of two or more of these.

Mildly chaos-aligned and mildly evil-aligned.

The Heart of Light

Unlike the forces of evil, the inhabitants of the Heart of Light are, for the most part, unified in their concern for the greater good. Such disputes that do spring up between them revolve around ways and means, rather than ultimate goals, and this poses a significant advantage to the celestial beings that live on this plane over their rivals from the Bleak Vista and the Roiling Hells. Eladrin, guardinals, and archons from this plane take advantage of temporary portals formed by acts of great sacrifice and benevolence to slip into the Spirit World in order to prosecute their struggle to counteract the effects of the demons’ and devils’ misdeeds. When possible they find their way even into the Material Plane, and sow justice and compassion as widely as they can.

The Heart of Light is a vast paradise where fruit-bearing trees grow wild and streams flow pure and sweet. There is no night in this plane, and the weather never worsens beyond a brief, warm shower to sustain the plant life which is so abundant here. Celestial animals populate the idyllic landscape.

The Heart of Light is coterminous with the Spirit World and the Astral Plane. Of these, the Spirit World is the easiest for its inhabitants to reach without substantial magical intervention.

Heart of Light Inhabitants: Angels, archons, celestial creatures, eladrins, guardinals, lillend, titan.

The following traits apply to the Heart of Light:

Normal Gravity

Normal Time

Alterable Morphic: Spells and physical effort are approximately as effective at changing the environment in the Heart of Light as they are in the Material Plane.

No Elemental or Energy Traits: However, parts of the Heart of Light possess one or more dominant elements or energy traits.

Mildly good-aligned.

The Negative Energy Plane

This plane is much as it appears in the Dungeon Master’s Guide v. 3.5. It is coterminous only with the Astral Plane, but exhibits the same planar traits detailed in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

The Positive Energy Plane

Like its negative equivalent, this plane is coterminous only with the Astral Plane. It otherwise exhibits the same features and planar traits detailed in the Dungeon Master’s Guide v. 3.5.

Positive Energy Plane Inhabitants: Ravid.