The Twilight Struggle
1. The Outer and Inner Planes are eternal. They began much as they are now, and would have continued to do so before the Material Plane was constructed. Things change, to be sure, but the net effect is very nearly always zero. The great stories play themselves out with new, or even the same beings, and net power change is negligible. For every villain conquered a new one takes it’s place; for every hero who comes into his own, another dies.
2. None but those beings who are truly neutral enjoyed the status quo, and while their struggles may have had little purpose, they had hearts that dreamed of chaos. So, a great council in Sigil was formed by one of those rare individuals who could sway, even slightly the course the planes were on. Their name and identity have been lost to the past, and all sides claim him or her as their own (with varying details, gender, and titles, depending on the plane or entity). His plan was simple, elegant, and horrible.
It was known that as the planes themselves were bounded by each other, and in turn bound by the positive and negative energy planes, the whole of reality was bounded by the Far Realms, places of danger and chaos. It was this dynamism they so sorely needed. He proposed that all sides get together and build a gate/tear a hole into the far realm, and that all the powers at their disposal go towards shaping and molding this flood into a new realm literally made of Change. The question of where this could even be done came up and was argued, with none coming to an agreeable answer, as none wanted their realm lessened. The Lords of Balance silently withdrew, seeing the plan finally, and knowing they could do nothing to change it. Speaking up finally He told them how it would happen, and frankly possibly the ONLY way it could happen.
Before the Prime Material Plane existed, the “core” of the Great Wheel at the center of the elemental planes there was another cognitive realm. It’s true name has literally been wiped from creation, but now those with the Lore refer to it as The Balance Point (Though it was a bounded infinite realm as all others were). It was a place where even what dynamism existed in the planes was at its weakest. The plan proposed was to invade this realm, and at it’s center allow the flood of the Far Realms to invade the Planes. As all sides would attack at once, the Lords of Balance could do nothing, and with it’s destruction, the balance of power in the Planes would be affected the least.
All agreed wholeheartedly. A violent war was waged. While the Lords of Balance could not hold in the long term against the combined might of the outer and inner planes, their power and will were not insignificant. The war lasted for a long time, even compared against eternity, but in the end, the Lords of Balance all were taken down and the rest of the Planes enacted their first and last collective work. A great magic was constructed over the course of eons, with setbacks and epics all it’s own under His guidance. When it was finally set off, none could have possible expected what happened. The flood was outside the realm of experience for nearly all the entities there, but they all did their best to direct the flood (and attempt to subvert the plan to their own best interest). The main core of the energy was formed into the Prime Material plane, eating and reshaping the elemental planes as it spread farther outward than was expected. The Flow that passed through the Postiive Energy Plane ended up being the Life-positive echo surrounding and infusing the Prime Material Plane, and that which passed through the Negative Energy Plane became the shadow now known as the Shadowfell.
This flood threatened to consume all the Planes if it could not be stopped. He was able, through sacrificing himself and somehow repurposing the power formerly held by the Lords of Balance, to stem the tide by creating a firewall of sorts that shelled off the newly created realms from the rest of the Planes. The pressure of the Far Realms equalized to the point that some semblance of control could be regained, and the assembled powers were able to disassemble the magical gate to the Far Realms, mostly sealing it off again from the Planes, and then all immediately fell into conflict. However, they slowly realized that their plans went terribly, terribly wrong. The shell He created, now known as the Ethereal Plane also effectively shut this new realm off from direct access by the rest of the Planes. Over time, some things were determined:
A. The Ethereal Plane is less like a Hard Shell and more like a semi-permiable misty barrier or maze. While power cannot flow directly inward, concerted, subtle effort can be used to bridge the gap by the exceptionally clever or powerful.
B. The Planes all lost something of themselves in the roiling flood of Far Realm energy, and all of that energy ended up beyond the Ethereal Plane. This energy eventually started flowing back as entities died on the PMP, and it was determined that the entities that lived there were able to chart their own destinies, warping and shaping their souls as they moved through this dynamic realm.
C. Through subtle manipulation of these agents of change, those in power in the Planes could influence entities in the PMP and change how the entities there are shaped. In this way, the powers that be in the planes realized they could harness this effect to shift the balance of power in the Planes. While the Blood War still raged, much of the energy and effort of all powers in the Planes was redirected to influencing the PMP and the souls there.
D. It was found that some entities could bridge the Ethereal Plane with much of their power, but it required a concerted effort of entities on the other side. The power required scaled with the power of the individual entity. So, while imps could fairly easily be summoned by those with even the weakest of wills, god-like beings of the upper echelons could rarely manifest even a fraction of their will there, and generally even that required a wholehearted act of will (faith and worship).
1. Standard Cosmology (for the most part) – The Great Wheel as stated in the PHB.
2. Gods, as such, is a term that more refers to powerful extraplanar beings, not specifically creation entities. Extraplanar entities are very interested in the Prime Material Plane (PMP), and often lend their power or influence to people (more powerful or uniquely positioned people often get more attention as one would expect). One who worships a specific entity usually will refer to them as their “god”, but not using the term to imply that other gods don’t exist, just using the word to define their relationship with that particular entitiy.
a. Extraplanar entities all want different things, often the less powerful ones want to be summoned to the realm to act directly there, whereas the more powerful, more standardly “deific” entities can’t easily manifest here and instead offer their power to whole cults or churches or groups of people/priests. So less powerful entities tend to focus on single entities, investing more of themselves, and more powerful entities focus on quantity, and only focus on a small number more strongly.
b. Extraplanar entities cannot act or manifest on this plane without the consent (express or otherwise) of a native. In addition, unusually strong acts or rituals are often necessary as well. Often this serves the purpose of allowing an entity to exist more strongly here (physically or mentally), and also showing the supplicants interest in the entity and dedication (as less powerful entities have to be more frugal with where they spend their time and attention.
c. While there is a great amount of interest in the PMP, it is VERY difficult for Extraplanar entities to do so. Therefore, their existence tends to be shown in ways that are standard. i.e. Clerics and cultists of religions or powerful entities, Warlocks binding themselves to specific entities, sorcerors (usually the events or blood that grants them power was caused by an extraplanar entity, or a pact made with one int he past by an ancestor, etc… There ARE still times that single events or miracles can happen, but they are incredibly rare, and almost always mediated by a native.
3. In the cosmology, The Far Realm is “closest” to the PMP. This is manifest in the night sky. Before actions were taken by extraplanar entities (gods, etc…), the prime material plane was dark, and had only a few “stars” in the sky. These stars were manifestations of Far Realm Entities, places where their influence, however slight, still was able to touch the world. Their baleful light shone down influencing reality further. To combat this extraplanar entities with help from the elementals (much as they hate the outer planes), were able to cause the Sun and the Stars to fill the sky along with the Far Realm Entities (those can be thought of as bracing for the Seal that shuts away the Far Realm). In reality this makes it about as difficult for Far Realm Entities to interact with the PMP as it is for Outsiders, though they also have the added difficulty of being entirely Other.
4. Nations in the world come in many varieties, and for the most part are fairly cosmopolitan. Some nations are less or more so than others (Orcish barbarian tribes tend to be almost entirely Orcish, with very few individuals from other species, wheras many nations are not even racially defined, and are more defined by their governmental structure, with more or less equal rights for every sentient species [EQUAL, not necessarily good or beneficial rights]). As the races clearly exist and each race is different, stereotypes are rampant as one would expect, though by no means binding, also as one would expect. As an analogy, cosmopolitan nations can be thought of sort of like America, in that there is a sense of nationalism towards the government, the races that make it up can be thought of as expatriats [Elvish-American, Dwarven-American, etc…] even though these people would not have necessarily come from another place at all, much less one that is racially segregated. If a nation or tribe is racially segregated, it is much more likely to be small, rather than large.