A forked, metal rod worth at least 250 gp, attuned to a particular plane of existence. PhB 245, emphasis mine.

The metal rod must by attuned to a particular plane of existence, does that means that the rod has to be crafted on that plane? Or worked somehow on that plane?

If the answer is no, and the component is not considered a magic item, a PC should be able to build it with the crafting downtime activity in 50 days.

Can the PC build a metal rod attuned to Carceri and banish creatures to oblivion?


3 Answers 3


The 5e version of the plane shift spell is continuing a long tradition of using these forked metal rods as part of the spellcasting. A spell named plane shift, used to teleport between different planes, and requiring forked metal rods, has been present in every single edition of Dungeons & Dragons, with the sole exception of the very original, and 4e, which was very different in many regards.

Furthermore, the exact planes that exist and how to get to them is a setting detail: they are determined more by the setting than by the general rules. So far, all of the settings published for 5e have been settings that existed in prior editions, however, so in this regard 5e can be assumed to be maintaining the same setting details as in prior editions, excepting when 5e specifically calls out changes to them.

Thus, in short, my answer to your question is that the plane shift material components work the same in 5e as they have always worked in prior editions of D&D, that is, the forks are “attuned” through careful selection of materials and precise construction (originally, the forked rods were explicitly tuning forks, so they were very literally “tuned” to a frequency particular to that plane). They have never been magical (and indeed, in 5e, spell material components are not generally magic items), and they have not previously required that they be made of material of the destination plane. Therefore, yes, based on the history of the spell and the default settings used in 5e, you can create a focus for plane shift with the 50 days of downtime.

The real significance of the attunement is that a given rod can only be for one specific plane, chosen during its creation; to go to a different plane (say, where you came from), you’ll need another rod specifically crafted for that plane. On this point, the 5e Player’s Handbook implies the same functionality as previous editions, but it isn’t as clear as it could be: when it says to “specify a target destination” or “the plane of existence you specify,” you specify the plane by using the corresponding rod. When transporting yourself and others, you can indicate a more specific location on that particular plane (as described in the spell), but the rod still has to match the plane you want to go to.

But this is a setting detail, and the DM is in charge of the setting. 5e is no different from other editions in this: the plane shift spell itself has never described the construction of the rods in detail. When playing in the “canonical” versions of “canonical” campaign settings, you can create the rods without traveling to the destination plane first, but the DM can easily change these details.

As an aside, the fork being attuned with a plane has absolutely nothing to do with characters being “attuned” to magic items. A focus is not, itself, magical, it’s just used for doing magic, and in any event, the description of plane shift never says that any character has to attune to the fork; it says that the fork has to be attuned to the plane it’s to be used for.

  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ Dragon #120 (Apr. 1987) contains Jeff Grubb's article "Plane Speaking: Tuning in to the Outer Planes" (and two incidents of wordplay in the article's title alone) that details for AD&D the necessary forks for different planes, the first layer of Carceri (né Tarterus) needing an E flat iron fork, for example. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 19:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ The only adjustment to this answer I would make is the statement that you choose the place by choosing which tuning fork. I don't think that's totally accurate. I think the fork should be treated as a material component, and the caster STILL needs to "specify the plane" during casting, and if he has the right tuning fork, then the spell probably succeeds, if he has the wrong tuning fork, the spell fails ... However it may fail spectacularly, sending the caster just about anywhere because the fork was tuned wrong for the spell. \$\endgroup\$
    – Escoce
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 15:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ The 5e DMG talks about the rods, citing it would strengthen this answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 4:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ An important detail here is how does the PC know the frequency of the target plane? Learning that could.be a journey/quest/downtime prohect in and of itself. This, to me, would be a way to limit a party simply crafting all tuning forks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason_c_o
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 11:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jason_c_o The point of tuning forks is that they naturally vibrate at a particular frequency so you don’t have to know it. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 12:58

In real life, a tuning fork is an instrument that when tapped against a sturdy object, makes a sound at a consistent key. Usually that's at 440hz, known as the key of A in music talk. I imagine the tuning fork makes a noise in the same "key" as the plane. Otherwise, I think they would have used a different word for the intended use of the object.

The original detail on which key for which fork applies to which plane is from Dragon Magazine 120 pages 42 & 43 in an article titled Plane Speaking: Tuning in to the Outer Planes by Jeff Grubb. There's reason to take this as plausibly canon information: Ed Greenwood, the chief designer of the Forgotten Realms, was one of the editors, and Grubb has worked with Ed Greenwood before in the Forgotten Realms setting. Grubb was in charge of the original Manual of the Planes which this is directly related to, and also had a lot to do with Spelljammer back when it was TSR and not Wizards of the Coast.

The article has an entire list on the subject at hand, the materials, and tuning of the tuning fork, or "forked rod," which is exactly a tuning fork. This is old lore, and may not be relevant in 5e, but it provides the kind of detail that you might want to add to your campaign. For example the first layer of Carceri ( Tarterus) needed an E flat iron fork. (@HeyICanChan)

  • \$\begingroup\$ I edited this to combine your other answer with this one, as I expect that comment/answer to get deleted soon. Please review and make sure it means what you want it to mean. Edit again as necessary to get it right. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 11:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've removed the other answer and further revised this one. (Thanks, @Korvin.) I've removed the link to Dragon 120 since we don't engage with links to pirated materials here, and there were valid concerns that link might count as such. (I'm wondering myself since it's ancient by our hobby's standards and out of print, but apparently a few copies are even still available on Amazon.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 11:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ This looks a lot cleaner than what I had before. Nice work, thank you both for the edit. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vexedart
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 14:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is excellent, bravo. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 14:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Although this is much improved, it still fundamentally forgets to actually answer the question — that is, nowhere does it explicitly say if “does […] the rod has to be crafted on that plane? Or worked somehow on that plane?” is right or wrong. I believe your position is “no”, that it can be crafted anywhere. Is that what you mean? If so, please edit to make your post to explicitly contain your answer to the question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 18:29

There is no evidence in the rules to support any specific interpretation of what this metal rod attunement could mean. We could extrapolate from the magical item attunement rules, which may or not be correct and would certainly be confusing. I won't do that here because the answer to this question doesn't rely on that -- it's simply one interpretation of how the end result of "planar attunement" could be achieved.

Attunement in rules terms applies specifically to magic items. Rules for attuning a magic item can be found in Chapter 7 of the DMG. Normally, a magic item is attuned to the user of the item and in order to attune the item, the user essentially meditates on the item for the length of a short rest (after having already discerned the magical properties of said item during a previous short rest or through other means). This doesn't really help us determine how a forked metal rod can become attuned to a plane. We might use this to help inform our opinion on how an item might become attuned and what attuned means in terms of magic in D&D 5e but it doesn't give us something concrete we can use to answer the question.

This spell, in particular, requires DM intervention to use correctly because we don't have rules for attuning magic items to a location or a plane. Maybe planar shift tuning forks are readily accessible from Ye Olde Magick Shoppe or perhaps one and only one exists for each plane in your particular planar model in your particular setting. There is no specific answer that can be applied to this question.

This is the only real answer I can give at this time, as this needs to be worked out with your DM and is subject to a great degree of DM interpretation. If, in your game, the DM decides this is something that is possible then perhaps the PC could take the course of action outlined in your question. The important part is that the DM is involved and is able to make a ruling on this before the PC's plans play out in game and blindside the DM, causing him or her to make a possibly uninformed ruling on the spot (which is, I assume, why you're asking here in the first place :).

The fact is, the rules make no mention at all of how this is done. You could point to previous editions of the game to infer that it means the tuning fork/metal rod is made of a specific metal which attunes it to a specific plane, or that it was crafted to produce a specific note which is associated with a specific plane.

Unfortunately, this doesn't help anyone new to D&D who doesn't have a 40+ year-spanning historical knowledge of the game and 40+ years experience playing the game to figure out how the heck this is supposed to work, and it's not fair to assume it works the same way at all, since that puts new groups and new generations of players at a disadvantage. This leads to situations where you, as a new DM or player, decide with your group that it works in a certain way (because it's left undefined and that's what you should do), then when you go to a new table with some experienced, long-time players you are told "It should work this way because of [history lesson]." How could you have known? You just bought the books last week and have never played before.


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