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The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (4e)
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The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (4e)

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Where Chaos Rules, Adventure Follows

A hotbed of adventure awaits in the rolling maelstrom of the Elemental Chaos - a tumultuous plane of primordials, titans, elementals, slaads, and demons. From the City of Brass to the githzerai monastery of Zerthadlun to the spiraling depths of the Abyss, adventure lurks behind every lava waterfall, across every icy battlefield, and beyond every raging lightning storm

The Dungeons & Dragons supplement explores the Elemental Chaos in detail, featuring key locations throughout the plane. It also presents new monsters, adventure hooks, encounters, hazards, and everything Dungeon Masters need to make the Elemental Chaos a featured setting in their campaign.

Product History

The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (2009), by Ari Marmell with Bruce R. Cordell, Luke Johnson, and Stephen Radney-MacFarland, is the first supplement to the 4e Manual of the Planes (2008). It was published in December 2009.

About the Cover.The Elemental Chaos includes the Abyss, and that's what Wizards chose to highlight in this cover, which depicts five demons: a balor, a glabrezu, and three hezrou.

Continuing the Manual of the Planes. Wizards published Manual of the Planes (2008) as one of their first 4e books, but it only provided an overview of the World Axis. To fill in more details, Wizards would publish three and a half more planar books, each of which detailed a portion of the Axis. The Plane Below moved downward, focusing on the elemental chaos and the Abyss.

As an elemental book, The Plane Below built on a long-running interest that got its first highlight in T1-4: The Temple of Elemental Evil (1985) and which reached its apex in The Inner Planes (1998). As an Abyssal book, The Plane Below built on numerous abyssal adventures from past editions of the game, as well as Planes of Chaos (1994) and demonic sourcebooks like Faces of Evil: The Fiends (1997) and Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss (2006).

Expanding the World Axis. The 4e vision of the Elemental Chaos and the Abyss had previously received some attention in Manual of the Planes, which provided an overview of both in about 20 pages of text. The Plane Below considerably expands that with a broad overview of the Chaos, another 40 pages of Elemental locations, and 20 pages on the Abyss. Many readers considered the Elemental locations to be the best part of the book because they included over a dozen new locations within the plane.

The best-known location with the Chaos, the City of Brass, had already been covered in Manual of the Planes, but The Plane Below nevertheless includes some notes on it — describing how to update the City for the events of the "Scales of War" adventure path (2008-2010), which was just then reaching its conclusion in Dungeon magazine.

Monsters of Note. The Plane Below includes background information on the most important races of the Elemental Chaos, most of which had long histories in the D&D game.

  • Archons are a celestial race that originated with the 1e Manual of the Planes (1987). They were totally revamped in 4e to instead be the angelic soldiers of the primordials.
  • Djinn and efreet first appeared in OD&D (1974) and have reappeared in most major monster manuals since, often joined by the dao, jann, and marid. The height of their popularity was in the Al-Qadim line, especially ALQ4: Secrets of the Lamp (1993).
  • Genasi are a creation from the Planescape line. The setting imagined demon-blooded tieflings and angel-blooded aasimar, so elemental-blooded genasi were a natural next step. They first appeared in the Planewalker's Handbook 1996) and later became important to the Forgotten Realms setting.
  • Giants are another classic monster dating back to OD&D (1974). They made their name with the classic Giant adventure series (1978). Titans first appeared in Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975) as a more handsome and intelligent sort of giant, but by the publication of the Monster Manual (1977) they'd become a godlike being that lived "on a plane somewhere above the material". They only returned to their gigantic roots in 4e, which portrayed them as more powerful versions of the standard giant types.
  • Githerzai and Slaad are popular extraplanar beings created by future writer Charles Stross for the original Fiend Folio (1981). They'd been featured in numerous adventures and sourcebooks over the years.

NPCs of Note. The primordials, who were introduced in the Manual of the Planes as a group of powerful elemental beings, get some attention here. However, GMs would have to wait for Heroes of the Elemental Chaos (2012) for a closer look at these powerful NPCs.

Future History. The Elemental Chaos returns in Heroes of the Elemental Chaos (2012) and the season 8 D&D Encounters adventure, "The Elder Elemental Eye" (2012). Meanwhile, Wizards returned to the Abyss in Demonomicon (2010).

The exploration of the World Axis continues in The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (2010). Afterward, 4e's carefully managed lines broke apart, and the third planar book, The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond (2011), was a different design from its predecessors. Sadly, the final part of the World Axis would never get a full sourcebook; players would instead have to be content with the scant material available in Heroes of the Feywild (2011).

About the Creators. An industry freelancer, Marmell had been working with Wizards of the Coast since 2004. In 2009, he was also writing for Adamant Entertainment, Code Monkey Publishing, and EN Publishing.

About the Product Historian

This history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

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Discussions (2)
Customer avatar
Timothy B September 15, 2017 6:59 pm UTC
This PDF is usually $7.99 on DM's Guild. The September Settings sale has actually increased the price to 33% off of the printed book's cover price, which is higher than the typical PDF price. Is there any way to get this corrected? Thank you.
Customer avatar
Dani J May 26, 2015 4:38 pm UTC
as below.
Come on give us the main rulebook to play on already.
(Didn't mean to rush you guys...keep on the good work of updating the rules en mass.)
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