I’ve never really liked the D&D great wheel cosmology. The elemental inner planes and the alignment focused outer planes never really rubbed me the right way. I never liked the geocentric model, so I spent way too much time thinking about how the planes should work in my own game.
Its was a Multiverse
Even though the game take place on Miderra (The Material Plane) there were an infinite numbers of alternative worlds/realities for the players could explore. However, the gods died and the universes crashed into each other, shattered, and now the shards of those worlds lay on Miderra making it a weird stained glass window of worlds.
The Gods are Dead
This problem is actually a result of a prior campaign. My players thought it would be a great idea to plunge the blade Ragnarok into the heart of Miskah the progenitor god which killed him and his entire line (aka all the gods). The other universes, without the protection of their gods, shattered and the fragments of their reality descended on Miderra. The once dammed flow of divine magic flowed freely after their death. This magic awakened power in various living creatures that survived the cataclysm.
There is a reason the Abyss is Infinite
There may have been an infinite numbers of reality, but a large portion of them have been consumed by godless demonic forces that want for nothing but to consume more. Each ‘layer’ of the abyss was once a thriving world like Miderra, but it was consumed by the demonic hoard. Now those fragmented worlds litter the face of Miderra and threaten the lives they touch.
The space that sleeps outside of reality (astral, ethereal, far realm) is the new realm of the dead. The aberrant horrors that laid sleeping in the darkness awoke in the cacophony of noise created with the shattering of planes and began feasting on the souls of the dead that poured into their realm from the various afterlives.
This is not a place that anyone can physically travel to, but you can gaze into the realm through your dreams.
Anyway, I hope you found my way of approaching planes interesting if nothing else. I also would love to hear how you handle planes in your game. Thanks for reading 🙂