Great Beyond

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The Great Beyond. Click or tap this image to enlarge it for improved readability.
A map of the River of Souls that depicts much of the Great Beyond.

The Great Beyond is a term that encompasses all the planes of existence that make up the known multiverse. These realities beyond our reality are the domains of the gods, and play home to non-godly powers fit for worship, planar dragons, and entirely alien races.1

There are nineteen major planes that comprise the Great Beyond, modeled as two spheres: the Inner Sphere and the Outer Sphere. Connecting the two spheres is the Astral Plane. The spaces between the primary nineteen planes contain countless demiplanes. Despite the names implying a spherical layout, the planes exist on dimensions incomprehensible to mortals, thus these terms are used to represent the planes in two or three dimensions.2

Inner Sphere

The Inner Sphere is the center of the Great Beyond, sitting at the hub of creation surrounded by the Astral Plane, and is the source of souls and origin of quintessence.3 It is composed of the immensely huge, yet finite layers of the Elemental Planes, which surround the Universe and Netherworld, which are in turn separated by the Ethereal. At the metaphysical center of these sit the dualistic Creation's Forge and Void.4

  • The Universe, also known as the Material Plane

Elemental planes

Transitive planes

Energy planes

Astral Plane

The Astral Plane surrounds the Inner Sphere, and fills the space between planes of the Outer Sphere. The Plane of Fire, outermost of the inner planes, is often depicted in maps of the multiverse as a dot or burning sphere floating in the Astral Plane at the center of the Outer Sphere.6

Outer Sphere

While the Inner Sphere contains the elemental planes, the Outer Sphere contains nine planes, each with a strong link to a particular philosophy and alignment.6 Composed of quintessence,78 these are the dwelling places of Golarion's gods,9 as well as the afterlife for mortals' departed souls.10

Lower planes

Upper planes

Demiplanes and dimensions

The Reading Room of the Akashic Record, a finite demiplane with numerous special properties.

The multiverse is hardly a neatly-organized system, and innumerable planes and demiplanes exist outside the schema of the Inner and Outer Spheres. Demiplanes are generally small, finite planes, most of which are connected to either the Astral or Ethereal Planes. Most are created when reality is sufficiently warped that small pieces of its substrate fragment and fuse together, thereby creating a stable dimension.111213 The Akashic Record is an example of a demiplane.14

Dimensions have recently also been understood as discrete extraplanar realms that defy categorization and simultaneously overlay all other dimensions and planes. Modern scholars uniformly agree that two infinite realms, that had previously been classified as demiplanes, should be classed as dimensions: the Dimension of Time and the Dreamlands.15

Planar metaphysics

The mortals of Golarion have several philosophies that attempt to describe the metaphysical relationships of the planes to each other. The most prominent is known as the arcane tradition or the orthodox scheme, which envisions the planes as nesting spheres of realities with the Inner Sphere at the center and Outer Sphere as the infinite exterior. In this model, Creation's Forge and the Void govern the powers of creation and destruction in opposition to one another.16

An alternative philosophy, known as the esoteric tradition or ancient wisdom, suggests that Creation's Forge and the Void are instead complementary to each other, serving as the source and destination of all creation and forming a cycle that is temporally and dimensionally infinite. All forms of life in this cycle are part of the monad, a transcendental oneness that unites all souls into a single spiritual existence, with aeons existing closest to the source of creation and mortal souls existing further away. This tradition minimizes the role of the Outer Sphere as well as the Elemental and Transitive planes.16

Researchers of planar metaphysics also suggest that the multiverse is itself one of many, and point to the indeterminable depths of planar rifts in the Outer Rifts that might extend beyond the Outer Sphere into an undefined space untouched and uncontrolled by any deity and exempt from the laws of dimensionality.12 Dou-Bral traversed the undefined space beyond the Great Beyond long ago and returned as Zon-Kuthon;17 it is unclear whether this space is one in the same with the Dark Tapestry.18

References

For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.

  1. F. Wesley Schneider. (June 25, 2008). "There Are More Things in Heaven and Earth...", Paizo Blog.
  2. James Jacobs. (July 2, 2008). How are the planes handled in PfRPG?, Paizo Messageboard.
  3. Logan Bonner, et al. “2: Tools” in Gamemastery Guide, 138. Paizo Inc., 2020
  4. Erik Mona, et al. “Chapter 3: Religion” in Campaign Setting, 178. Paizo Inc., 2008
  5. Logan Bonner, et al. “2: Tools” in Gamemastery Guide, 140. Paizo Inc., 2020
  6. 6.0 6.1 Erik Mona, et al. “Chapter 3: Religion” in Campaign Setting, 182. Paizo Inc., 2008
  7. Paizo Inc., et al. “Monsters A-Z” in Bestiary 3, 209. Paizo Inc., 2021
  8. Logan Bonner, et al. “2: Tools” in Gamemastery Guide, 137. Paizo Inc., 2020
  9. James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 241. Paizo Inc., 2011
  10. Tanya DePass, et al. “Overview” in World Guide, 10. Paizo Inc., 2019
  11. Amber Stewart. “Other Dimensions” in The Great Beyond, A Guide to the Multiverse, 48. Paizo Inc., 2009
  12. 12.0 12.1 Robert Brookes, et al. “Introduction” in Planar Adventures, 5. Paizo Inc., 2018
  13. James Case, et al. “Planar Allies” in Plane-Hopper's Handbook, 27. Paizo Inc., 2018
  14. Robert Brookes, et al. “Chapter 3: The Great Beyond” in Planar Adventures, 210. Paizo Inc., 2018
  15. Logan Bonner, et al. “2: Tools” in Gamemastery Guide, 144–145. Paizo Inc., 2020
  16. 16.0 16.1 Jason Bulmahn, et al. “Chapter 6: Running an Occult Game” in Occult Adventures, 239. Paizo Inc., 2015
  17. Robert Brookes, et al. “Chapter 3: The Great Beyond” in Planar Adventures, 108. Paizo Inc., 2018
  18. Dennis Baker, et al. “Hungry Undead” in Undead Slayer's Handbook, 10. Paizo Inc., 2014