Manual of the Planes (4th Edition)

A Walk Through the Planes – Part 128: Manual of the Planes (4th Edition)




I’ve found myself in a weird spot with Fourth Edition, in which my dislike for the game and the many changes with its cosmology and lore can’t help but cloud my judgment for the actual works in question. This really came to the fore with the newest Manual of the Planes, 160 pages focused largely around this primary aspect that I didn’t like, with little else to distract from its glaring issues. The problem is that when taken on its own terms, as a source for information about this new and confusing multiverse, it’s not a bad work, not at all. The book still runs into many of the issues endemic to the edition, but in terms of what it’s trying to achieve as a primer and guidebook it’s a success. This new Manual is weirdly compelling, and even when I found so many of its changes baffling or just plain bad I still enjoyed my readthrough, in awe of how much attention was devoted towards developing a fundamentally flawed world.

When we first arrived at Fourth Edition, I covered as much of the cosmology as was initially revealed, but it’s not until now that a lot of how this fits together is actually clarified. It turns out that the World Axis is a lot messier than I’d initially thought, and there aren’t really just four other planes, but rather that there are two alternate reality planes, two transitive planes, a whole lot of demiplanes peppered around within those transitives, plus the Far Plane, the Plane of Dreams, and Sigil which are located… somewhere? In short, this cosmology is strewn about the planes with little attempt at making things coherent or logical, and the decision to place many locations seems haphazard and random. Changes made to various races and species try to make sense of all of this through myriad awkward contortions (and with this are at least more logical than at first glance), but on the whole the World Axis is a shitshow, and figuring out where anything is located anymore and how it relates to other locations is a trying affair. All of the old parts of the game have to fit in somewhere, such that there’s gotta be a location for Ravenloft’s Domains of Dread, for instance, but that doesn’t mean that it fits in well. In place of Gygax’s perhaps problematic but certainly elegant conception of the multiverse, what we have now is an ugly souffle that always feels like a game world rather than a distinct reality. In short: I don’t like it, but let’s move onto the book, which did about as good a job of making all of this work as could possibly be imagined. 

The World Axis in all of its glorious messiness.

While the Manual‘s first chapter recontextualizes and even tries to redefine what a plane of existence even means, for the most part this is irrelevant enough that it’s not worth covering, though if you’re interested in figuring out what the designers were trying to do here it may help. Things don’t get terribly interesting until the map on page 11, which is the best visual depiction of this cosmology yet created, and the “Navigating the Planes” section on page 14, which includes traditional portals but also adds information on crossings, worldfalls, planar vessels, and various rituals that can move people between planes (color veils in the Astral Sea are included within the portals section even though they’re really their own thing, and given how that plane functions now they seem like an unnecessary holdover from before that should’ve been dropped). While rituals are really just a Fourth Edition thing—with the exception that Fifth Edition kept teleportation circles—the rest of these additions are genuinely worthwhile and something that probably should’ve been part of the planes from the very beginning. I genuinely like the idea of planes of reality clashing or bleeding into each other, and this adds more flexibility to DMs while also feeling like it keeps the spirit of world-traveling fantasy. “Planar Bleed,” “Planar Breaches,” and “Reality Rips” may be fringe events in the multiverse, but their inclusion helps the whole fabric of reality feel more interconnected. As for the vehicles, well, they apparently really dug that sorta awful series from the Wizards of the Coast website that no one but me remembers, but on the whole the concept of making the Astral Plane into a literal sea only causes confusion in my opinion. I don’t much care for any of the vehicles, but they’re really the least of the changes here, and I end up just shrugging about them.


My biggest shock when first reading this book was the appearance of Sigil on page 25, which is given four and a half pages of largely contradictory space. The Outlands no longer exists in this edition, so I assumed Sigil would go with it, but instead Sigil is now a weird demiplane that exists, uhh, “outside the ordered structure of the rest of the universe and yet intricately connected to it through its unnumbered planar portals.” Wait, so it’s not in the multiverse proper now? I have so many questions about this…. Anyhow, some of the material here is directly cribbed from earlier sources, and as such it lines up with what was known about the city before. However, the city’s very shape is now a tighter and more tubular taurus, described as being “built on the inside of a gigantic, hollow ring that has no outside.” Essentially, it’s floating in an empty and endless void now, at least so far as I could tell. The other really noteworthy change to this location is that it seems to be set ambiguously after the Faction War, such that the Sons of Mercy are now its cops but the Sensates still run the festhall. There are also a few more contortions made in order to fit Sigil into the new cosmology, such as the Lower Ward now getting “its name from the large number of portals to the Elemental Chaos (often considered the “lower” part of the universe),” and Shemeshka being changed into a ravaasta because the designers are fucking morons. There’s even one new, notable NPC here, Vocar the Disobedient, who defected from Vecna and now sells secrets in the Hive; he’s not terribly interesting, but he’s also not actively bad, so if you want to include more Vecna in your campaign—I’m looking at you here, Fifth Edition—then I guess go wild with him. 

The Far Realm and the Plane of Dreams also get short write-ups in this section (the Plane of Mirrors only receives a mention), which mostly serves to remind players of the change that:

Aberrant creatures that owe their existence to Far Realm influence include mind flayers, aboleths, beholders, and carrion crawlers. Some of these, including aboleths, are actual emigrants from the Far Realm. In truth, aboleths appear not unlike the forms their relatives still possess in the amoebic realm. Mind flayers, too, came directly from the Far Realm, though their current shape is an evolution of their original life cycle. Over time, illithids have adopted humanoid form. Many other aberrant creatures are not truly native to the Far Realm, but instead exist as the result of bizarre, deranged emanations that skewed the natural processes of the world and produced truly monstrous things.

To me, this radical alteration makes the Far Realm immeasurably less remote and terrifying than it was in previous editions, as its denizens are perfectly understandable and in fact people you can meet and hang out with. It’s no longer the realm of monstrosities who will blow your mind, now it’s just inhabited by people like those weirdo long-lived fish who like bossing people around. I understand the impulse that caused this change, but suddenly the Far Realm is no longer alien, it’s now just another plane whose denizens have perhaps a few more tentacles than most people on the Prime. Meanwhile, Dream is included I think because the designers felt they had to mention it at some point, but where it exists and how it exists and what it has to do with anywhere else is ill-defined and somehow even messier than what we had in Second Edition:

The exact nature of the plane is a matter of some debate. Some claim that it’s a demiplane, standing outside the fabric of the cosmos and yet somehow connected to it all. Others argue that it’s an astral dominion, long abandoned by whatever ancient deity created it—and it seems true that most travelers who stumble into Dream reach it through the Astral Sea.

I.e., stop asking us questions about this plane, and if you absolutely have to put it somewhere then maybe try the Astral Sea.

Sigil seems even more cramped and miserable than it was before.

The next four chapters of the book are devoted to the four major planes of this cosmology, though as will quickly become clear what counts as a “plane” is convoluted, and how this all fits together is far less elegant than Wizards of the Coast would wish you to believe. First off is the Feywild, one of two parallel planes and the newer of the pair in that prior til now it was mostly the Plane of Faerie optional plane from Third Edition. I say “mostly,” though, because every major plane of this cosmology consists of at least a few random elements thrown together, and in the case of the Feywild it’s also some parts of Arborea (i.e. Olympus), plus a dash of the Beastlands, though not all of anywhere because that would be too straightforward. It also includes the Isle of Dread that we just saw *checks notes* one year earlier in the Prime with the Savage Tide adventure path, I guess because the designers couldn’t figure out what else to put there in order to make the plane interesting. 

Perhaps the most annoying thing about the Feywild, and indeed most of the planes in this new cosmology, is that while it’s nominally different from the Prime, in actuality it’s almost identical. The decision to make the whole “points of light” model central to everywhere meant that the only real difference between here and the Prime is trading elves in for eladrin, a distinction that given their own change is essentially one of name and nothing else. That’s right, the Feywild is a set of besieged kingdoms barely holding on against the tide of darkness… which is the same as anywhere else you go in this particular multiverse. 

As for what’s new here, I rather like fey crossings, which is the idea of worlds accidentally meshing, as well as worldfalls, but most everything else fell flat for me. The Court of Stars is no longer the same as before, and is now a vaguely defined fey UN that seems just as ineffectual as the real organization. Archfey are an excuse to have demipower level creatures, and what’s going on with fomorians is finally explained in that they’re running the Feywild underdark, i.e. the Feydark. It’s all pretty vague, and while I realize that the lack of maps is intentional in this edition (except for battle maps, of which there are always far too many), this has the unintended effect of making it difficult to picture how any of this really fits together. Like, how close are the goblins or gnomes to any other part of the Feywild? I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone else does either.


As with all of the later planes, I’m going to offer up a few notes on all of the highlighted locations of the Feywild, though don’t be expecting too much positivity here because while I appreciate how many new locations there are and how well they fit with the intentions for these planes, for the most part they’re rarely things I’d want to actually use in my own campaigns. They tend to be focused on war in various ways, regardless of the plane, and rarely strike me as locations that have much, if anything, really planar about them. 

  • Astrazalian – Most likely the primary base for PCs, it’s a military fortress for the most part and as such dull in a way that makes little sense. It’s hard to tell how anyone ever eats in the Feywild (or anywhere else in Fourth Edition) because it seems like everything is too constantly in a state of war for agriculture. 
  • Brokenstone Vale – Where lycanthropes live, because I guess they’re now fey for some reason. Whatever. 
  • Cendriane – The ruins of what was formerly the largest eladrin city.. Nothing here is particularly unique, but cool, elven ruins are fun to explore so I’m not complaining. No one ever said to stop adding ruins.
  • The Feydark – Mostly just noteworthy because the name is so silly. It differs from the Prime in that this underdark features “Translucent, glowing purple crystals light the Feydark in an unearthly glow. Where the Underdark is bare stone, the Feydark is lined with bizarre fungi. Forests of mushrooms, as tall as a human, cling to the jagged cliffs descending deep into the earth. Waterfalls run blood red with algae that’s evolved to live off the magical emanations.” Honestly, I thought all of that was in parts of the Prime underdark, too, but then I’ve never been real keen on the setting so what do I know, maybe this is somehow cool and new. 
  • Harrowhame – A fomorian city deserving of a single paragraph in the book. 
  • The Isle of Dread – Now here in another plane because, umm… ?
  • Mag Tureah – An abandoned feydark fortress built by an unknown civilization, which is kinda odd considering that unlike with other editions of the game the world’s history is actually pretty concrete and knowable in this cosmology. It’s now ruled by a fomorian king, who tries to figure out its many portals but isn’t so good at this job and makes no progress, perhaps because he’s a fomorian. Seriously, was anyone clamoring for these weird pseudo-giants to get more coverage, or was this just a weird impulse over at Wizards of the Coast?
  • Maze of Fathaghn – A hedge mage patrolled by dryads and containing within it the “Mother Tree—the ancient tree from which all green fey races originally sprang.”
  • Mithrendain, the Autumn City – Covered most recently in Dragon and Dungeon, it’s that fascistic elfhome with a hole leading to the feydark.
  • Murkendraw – “A swamp as large as a sea,” Murkendraw is where hags come from, including Baba Yaga, who is the most powerful of all hags now. Kinda basic, but not in a bad way.
  • Nachtur, the Goblin Kingdom – Exactly what you’d expect from the name. 
  • Senaliesse – Essentially Lothlorien with the bar codes sanded off. 
  • Shinaelestra, the Fading City – A dumb ranger city, as if that’s a thing that makes any sense at all to exist.
  • Vor Thomil – Another fomorian abode in the Feydark.
The Shadowfell is all cliché, all the time.

The Shadowfell isn’t quite the Plane of Shadows from before, as it’s also heavily linked with the Negative Energy Plane, plus a bit of Hades I suppose with its melancholy, and even the Ethereal Plane from before in that it now houses all of the Domains of Dread from Ravenloft. It also has a new role that didn’t exist before in the game’s cosmology, as a stopping off point for the dead, though as with a lot of changes this is one that only added more questions about how any of this is supposed to really work; though given that this multiverse only has one pantheon it kinda makes sense, despite feeling comparatively quaint when considering what came before. Do any of these changes make for a more exciting location? Both yes and no, with both answers coming largely by default. 

The Plane of Shadows before now was weirdly neglected, and aside from the introduction of a city there in Third Edition it always seemed bland. There was potential, sure, but the only time anything truly interesting appeared there was with an article about Balefire in Dragon, a city that has since then seemingly been retconned out of existence. We knew that it was a dark reflection of the Prime, but for the most part that seemed to just mean inexplicable ruins and a lot of shadow-themed creatures lurking about. Why anyone would ever visit here was never explained, which is likely also why that so rarely happened. 

Now there are shadow crossings leading to this plane such that people arrive there accidentally, and it’s inhabited by not just the requisite shadow-themed bores but also vast swaths of the undead. There is a semi-compelling new goddess hanging out there, The Raven Queen, plus yet another origin for the Shadar-Kai, not to mention a largely unnecessary band of death giants running about. Dark ones return, because I guess there needed to be two shadow-themed races hailing from the same location, plus the extremely dull nightwalkers and sorrowsorn. Even the ludicrously and cartoonishly evil Dread Emperor from the Book of Vile Darkness makes an appearance, let alone all those many Domains of Dread kingdoms. In short, there’s now a ton of people in the Shadowfell, which also means there’s a ton of reasons for players to hang about, even if none of these personae are folks I actually find interesting.

  • Gloomwrought, City of Midnight – It replaces Balefire as the plane’s central hub for players, and is even given a map. Whoa. It’s also much duller and less detailed than its predecessor, but oh well. The city is weirdly ruled by the Keepers now, and the way this is managed turns them into a much less fascinating and mysterious group than they were before. Awesome!
  • Letherna, Realm of the Raven Queen – Fourth Edition really tried to make the Raven Queen happen, and it never did. She’s just not interesting compared with real world death gods, or even the fantasy ones Wizards already had before. It’s all pretty vague and messy and in general it’s a bit unclear how much power she has or what she does with it. 
  • The House of Black Lanterns – An inn.
  • Moil, the City that Waits –  They dragged this into the Shadowfell? Seriously, why? I’m going to pretend that this didn’t happen because it’s much less exciting than Moil’s previous fate. I guess if the Feywild got the Isle of Dread this is only fair, but come on, let good things exist how they were for once.
  • Nightwyrm Fortress – The fortress of a shadow dragon.
  • The Plain of Sighing Stones – A desert with an overly fancy name. 
  • The Shadowdark – That’s right, it’s yet another underdark, this time even darker than before. The Shadowdark is basically the same as the Underdark on the Prime, and what’s supposed to differentiate them is unclear. “Like the Underdark, the Shadowdark is a refuge for aberrant horrors such as creatures spawned or touched by the Far Realm. Mind flayers, grells, and other vile creatures hold vast sections of the Shadowfell’s bowels, but its depths shelter even stranger creatures.” Who these stranger creatures might be is never said, though, and so yeah, it’s just the Underdark all over again.

You might notice that this list is significantly shorter than the one for the Feywild, and in essence only the first two locations are fleshed out. There would be a later book/boxed set focused here that I’m sure does a better job detailing this world, but as it stands the plane is nearly as undefined as it was before this edition, and it’s only hinted at that there’s a lot more people and things to see there in the introductory sections. Adventuring here, as of this point, is going to ask a lot from DMs.

I miss Limbo.

The Elemental Chaos replaces all of the Inner Planes, plus Limbo, plus the Abyss… kind of. While both this and the Astral Sea are nominally single locations, in reality they’re transitive planes that contain within them a smattering of other… planes? Realms? Sub-planes? They’re distinct locations, often with their own set of rules, but are still considered part of Elemental Chaos for what some moron considered simplicity. Local denizens include archons, i.e. elemental “primordial” warriors, demons, efreets (they’re the only type of genie who made the edition’s cut), traditional elementals, githzerai, primordials (i.e. gods by a different name resembling the Greek conception of titans), slaads, and titans, who are somehow far less titan-y than the primordials. It is a lot and it is messy and difficult to conceptualize, as usual, though for this particular location that isn’t a huge issue because it’s supposed to be chaotic.

  • The City of Brass –  Another base city with its own map, though of course this version completely contradicts previous depictions of the location. Aside from this observagtion I have little to add, as the city is pretty much what you’d expect, though a bit simpler and less wondrous than the old Al-Qadim/Planescape versions. I don’t love it, but there’s a lot for DMs to work with here, and it’s fine.
  • The Keening Delve – Essentially a transplanted section of Pandemonium, but with a dumb backstory involving the new pantheon and its shenanigans with primordials. 
  • The Ninth Bastion – A fortress of law fighting against chaos because, umm, some people are just like that. It’s another of those “points of light” places, though the motivations of all involved here are a bit weird. 
  • Zerthadlun – The largest githzerai city, it’s not given much detail and there’s an implication that this wouldn’t work as a good base for PCs. 
  • The Abyss – Yup, the whole thing. It’s weirdly similar to previous versions with the exception of its weird new address and the geographical changes required to make it work there—it now “consists of uncounted layers, each one a floating piece of terrain caught in an inescapable downward spiral.” The Gaping Maw is now Abysm (I assume the previous name was too cool to make the cut for this edition), plus Twelvetrees is given more prominence than before, but as far as I’m aware everything else is pretty similar, only simplified. The word tanar’ri, for instance, is never once used, let alone obyriths or loumaras. As such, only the most basic of lords and their realms make an appearance here, and the whole place is a lot less impressive than it seemed in previous editions. 

And that’s it. Fortunately (I mean, kinda?), there would be a full book devoted to this location later, because what’s included here feels particularly limited. Of the four “new” planes, Elemental Chaos is probably the most lackluster, a loosely defined location that feels creatively sterile and sparse despite its nigh-infinite size.

The decision to change Hell’s shape was so misguided it’s almost entertaining.

The Astral Sea replaces much of the Outer Planes from before, plus the Astral Plane, plus Spelljammer’s part of the Prime. It still somehow has color veils (note: not pools, but veils like in the Ethereal Plane before), but why this is the case eludes me because unlike before you can just journey from location to location. All of the locations within it, astral domains as they’re called, are out there in Astral Sea much like they would be in the Prime. Inhabitants include githyanki, devils, and… maruts? Wait, the subrace of inevitables is a major race here? That seems even dumber than all of that fomorian business in the Feywild, that can’t be the case…. Yes, that’s right, maruts, who dwell in Astral fortresses and, uhh, enforce contracts? Yeah I don’t even know, this one’s weird even to me, and I just finished reading this goddamn book. 

Also noted in the intro to the Astral Sea chapter is that there’s currently a truce between devils and demons and so the Blood War is momentarily a cold war. Why is this the case, and how could it happen? Explanations are largely glossed over, and I suspect that none of this gets well defined before we exit the edition and pretend none of this ever took place. At least, I sure hope so.

  • Arvandor, The Verdant Isles – Exactly like any part of the Feywild, but also with elven gods chilling nearby. Moving this here seems like exactly the type of unnecessary doubling that Fourth Edition was trying to get rid of, but for some reason an exception was made for the elves. Expect to find eladrin, elves, and any other non-evil fey creatures cavorting here, perhaps spending the rest of their time wondering why they’re not in the Feywild.
  • Celestia, the Radiant Throne – Essentially the same as Mt. Celstia, just with different gods and far fewer details. 
  • Chernoggar, the Iron Fortress – A replacement for both Acheron and Ysgard, but with Bane fighting Gruumsh because Maglubiyet was retconned out of godhood (he’s now an “exarch,” the meaning of which I have absolutely no idea). However, it’s infinitely less interesting than Acheron in that it’s just big battlefields, fortresses, etc. with nothing weird or planar going on. It’s still as interesting as Ysgard used to be, but that’s just because that plane always really sucked.
  • Hestavar, the Bright City – The domain of three gods, and a boring enough location that I forgot about it entirely until combing through listings for this write-up. It’s set up to be the PCs’ base city in the Astral Sea, but doesn’t feel distinctive or worthwhile, particularly in contrast with the domains of deities in prior editions. It’s a basic fantasy city moved a little bit off the beaten path, but that’s pretty much it.
  • Kalandurren, the Darkened City – A couple random islands that are mostly worthwhile due to their backstory, which I’m not going to into because said backstory is boring and I don’t care. In short, a demon prince was slain here, and I’ll be highly surprised if he ever gets mentioned again in the game. Weirdly, this is where the Citadel Exhalus was moved to, the logic of which completely escapes me.
  • The Nine Hells – No longer a pit, presumably so as to differentiate it more from the Abyss, this causes problems in that its previous versions’ mythologies no longer make any sense, plus it’s now a stupid globe of layers slammed together. Entering still means falling down onto Avernus, but now moving down from there is a bit like how traveling through layers of Carceri worked before. At the center of Hell’s everlasting gobstopper is a tootsie roll ball of magma. Also geographically dumb is the Styx, which now only stops by the Astral Sea and a couple layers of Hell. Many pages are devoted to Hell, but it mostly reiterates what was established before, with slight alterations made for the newly wonky geography. The rulers are all the same, even Glasya, and there are probably a handful of minor additions, but in all it’s more of the same with plus that  one weird change. 
  • Pandemonium – Why this, of all the Outer Planes, needed to return I have absolutely no idea. And given the similar location earlier, it’s practically here twice. It’s now one layer, but otherwise pretty much the same as before, and even contains Wintervault within it, i.e. Loki’s realm with a complete lack of actual Loki to reside therein. 
  • Shom, the White Desert – You probably don’t remember it unless you were really into Planescape like I was, but there was an otherworldly desert layer in the plane of Arborea called Pelion/Mithardir. Now it has a new name, exists here, and instead of the remains of a Mulhroandi pantheon it’s a civilization of dead illumians who used to live here, a super obscure race even in Third Edition when they were introduced. So in general it’s the same but less mysterious and enticing, which is to say it fits perfectly with everything else in this edition.
  • Tytherion, the Endless Night – A maze of canyons where Tiamat and another deity live—oh yeah, Tiamat’s not in Hell anymore, I guess because that would’ve been too much consistency. It’s also ” home to a number of outcast devils. Chief among these is the archdevil Geryon, who once ruled Stygia, the fifth hell.” Essentially, it ends up as another layer of Hell (because there weren’t enough of them already…), but more boring because it’s only peripherally involved with that plane/domain/whatever the fuck’s politics.
  • Other locales – Also tossed in unceremoniously at the end of the chapter are Carceri, Haemnathuun (a dead god’s corpse), Pluton, and Tu’narath, which are shoved together as an afterthought despite these locations often receiving more information than fully listed areas in other planes. You get the sense that the author ran out of room, perhaps because they spent so many words on Hell, but had to fit these in somehow. 

The Astral Sea ends up like the Feywild in that it’s bursting with locations, to the point that it seems bigger than the rest of the multiverse combined, and in contrast the other two major planes seem anemic. For the most part, though, it’s just a disordered version of the Outer Planes from before, just with a lot less logic and thought put into things. You’re more or less told to shove anything else you want to into the Astral Sea, too, but by now you’re probably wondering why you’d want to use the place, or this cosmology, at all given how poorly it all fits together. You may hate the Great Wheel cosmology, but at least it’s intuitive and clear, whereas everything about this cosmology, especially for older D&D players, is stuck together in what feels like the quick and dirtiest manner possible. 

I tend to dislike most Fourth Edition artwork, but I did dig this dude. However, he’s just a subtype of minotaur for Baphomet.

There are two more chapters left in the book, though I’m only going to cover the first of them, “Monsters of the Planes,” because the final chapter “Planar Characters” largely eschews lore in favor of focusing on the mechanics for a version of the game I’m simply never going to play again. 

  • Archon, Air – I still hate that archons are now just martial elementals. Fourth Edition’s obsession with making everyone and everything exist only to be punched by PCs is so tiresome.
  • Astral Dreadnought – They’re given new lore that I hate, which I suppose isn’t a surprise. “Astral dreadnoughts were once angels of the Chained God, but their master’s madness corrupted them.” It’s much less interesting to link everything with the game’s dopey cosmology than it is just to have a bunch of weird creatures existing because the world is weird. I find most things having to do with Tharizdun boring, and would definitely stick to the old lore.
  • Bladeling – Acheron’s gone, so now they’re just dopey creations of Bane. They’re so much lamer now that I wouldn’t want to use them anymore.
  • Baphomet – Much like with the Fourth Edition Monster Manual, a few individuals are randomly included with their own entries. Mostly he’s the same as before, though I guess now he’s also mad at “the goddess Melora,” whoever the hell that is. 
  • Demon
    • Canoloth – Ugh, I hate the removal of yugoloths/daemons so much. Loth is in the goddamn name, why did they have to do this? I’d rather they weren’t included at all—there’s a ton of other demons to pick from, why not grab one of those if you don’t want to make a new one?
    • Chasme – The only real change is that they now “spontaneously emerge from the
    • corpses of creatures slain in the Abyss.” *shrug*
    • Shadow Demon – I’ve never used them even though they’ve been part of the game since nearly its inception, and they seem fine enough here, I suppose. The author couldn’t even figure out how to fill up a whole page for their entry, and it’s hard to blame them. 
    • Solamith – The one demonic inclusion I really like, Solamiths are still horrifying and unique. 
  • Devil
    • Barbed Devil – It’s mostly just weird they weren’t in this edition earlier.
    • Brazen Devil – New, and never seen again after this. They mostly just chill in Malsheem and are crazy powerful
    • Pain Devil – Previously known as excruciarchs, all of their interesting lore is now gone.
    • Storm Devil – New, and very dull. Thus why we’ve never heard of them again.
  • Dispater – The archdevil chosen to profile. Nothing seems to have changed, though his artwork sure is unintimidating. 
  • Graz’zt – Yet another demon lord. I get the sense that Wizards of the Coast greatly overestimated how many groups were going to get into the epic-level tier of their game. There’s a bit of expansion to his lore explaining about how he was initially a devil, a backstory I’m fine with. See, not all of the new lore is bad, just most of it. The reasoning behind this involves the dumb “heart of the Abyss” Fourth Edition nonsense, but as a root idea there’s some potential here.
  • Keeper – Keepers are now so much less interesting than they were before that it makes me sad. They essentially seem indistinguishable from every other humanoid race with these changes, except that they dissolve like a video game enemy when killed.
  • Korred – Dark fey gnomes or some such nonsense, whatever, who even gives a fuck?
  • Raavasta – Look what they did to arcanoloths! Just look at it! No no no no no no no no no.

As can be quickly surmised, I pretty much hated all of the changes made to monsters in this book. Somehow, they struck me as more obnoxious than the ones in the Monster Manual, perhaps because concentrating all of the planar material in one place like this really highlights how different it is from before, and with this how more ordinary every creature now is. In general the whimsy and wonder of the planes was removed in favor of endless grim battles and boring fantasy archetypes indistinguishable from those of every second-tier video game. The monsters aren’t badly crafted per se, they’re just imminently forgettable and spark nothing in the imagination. 

So would I recommend purchasing a copy of this Manual of the Planes to Planescape fans, or any other fans of weird and wild fantasy? Hell no, and not just because of how it’s intentionally inconsistent with every other version of the game and their lore. The more you learn about it, the clearer it becomes how messy and half-baked this entire cosmology really is. It’s not unusable, but it’s simply not as good as what came before it. Wizards of the Coast essentially fixed something that wasn’t broken, altering their game’s cosmology seemingly just because they could, and this rushed version of things had no chance to stand up to what was developed over decades by dozens of intelligent authors. Some of this is probably usable, both for a traditional Planescape game and for a Fifth Edition D&D campaign, but it’s always going to require adaptation, and in almost all cases it’s possible to find a better version of this material elsewhere. It’s not a bad book, in fact it’s an excellent work considering the constraints, but it’s built on a truly bad foundation and so ends up mostly a curio in the history of the game. 

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