This is the first part in a series where I examine the super-trippy Dungeons & Dragons world-between-worlds known as the Astral Plane.
This section will cover:
- What is the Astral Plane?
- The Astral Plane: Expanded Rules
- Abilities on the Astral Plane
- Combat on the Astral Plane
- Magic on the Astral Plane
What is the Astral Plane?
The Astral Plane is a realm of thought and dream. For this reason, the astral plane doesn’t function like the Prime Material Plane. If you’re going to run an Astral campaign, be sure that you’ve read up on the Dungeon Master’s Guide entry for the Astral Plane.
Here’s the condensed version:
- The Astral Plane looks like a great, silvery sea that goes on in all directions.
- Most of the Astral Sea is a vast, empty expanse.
- For the most part, the Astral Plane is devoid of gravity.
- There are dead Gods floating in the Astral realm with a few chunks of rock. These are the few places where gravity can exist.
- Color pools dot the landscape, looking like stars from a distance. These are gateways leading to other planes in the cosmology.
- Creatures on the astral plane don’t age or suffer from hunger or thirst.
- Movement on the astral plane is done by thinking.
- The distance one moves in the astral plane is 3 x its Intelligence score.
- Many beings reach the Astral Plane through astral projection.
- Psychic winds are storms of thought that plague the Astral Sea.
And here are the types of encounters one can expect on the Astral Plane:
- Planar travelers and refugees from other planes.
- The githyanki are the most prominent denizens of the Astral Plane.
- Celestials, fiends, and mortal explorers scour the Astral search for color pools leading to desired destinations.
- Night hags.
Not exactly newbie friendly, is it?
The Astral Plane: Expanded Rules
The Astral Plane doesn’t function like the Prime Material. After all, it’s a realm of dreams. And when you are there, you’re simply a part of the dream. Your physical self is more or less gone, and only your mental construct remains.
The strongest barbarians on the Prime Material turn into flailing weenies on the Astral Plane. And the frail, old wizard becomes a high-flying demi-god!
Here are some of the major changes on the Astral Plane.
Time on the Astral Plane
You can’t cheat time on the Astral Plane. Even though you stop aging while on the Astral, when you return to the Prime Material your years will catch up to you. If you enter when you’re 20 and wait 50 years, then when you come back, time catches up to you and you instantly turn 70. And if you try to go back to the Astral Plane, you’ll still be 70. No reclaiming lost youth!
Eating on the Astral Plane
You don’t have to eat while on the Astral Plane. And you won’t die of starvation if you stay there for years without eating. However, once you return to a place where time functions normally, you’ll find yourself famished!
Injuries on the Astral Plane
Wounds don’t heal normally on the Astral Plane. If you’re cut, you’ll bleed. That stays the same. Only problem is you won’t heal naturally.
The only way to heal on the Astral Plane is through magical means.
Movements on the Astral Plane
To move is to think. That’s it.
And for complicated Astral Plane maneuvers, all it takes is a thought (an Intelligence check).
Swimming, climbing, jumping–everything physical is related to Intelligence checks while in the Astral Sea.
Here’s a basic set of DCs regarding Astral Plane maneuvers:
- Very Easy (DC 5) – moving in three-dimensions without locomotion
- Easy (DC 10) – stopping and changing direction mid-flight, climbing up an object, spinning in place, swimming
- Moderate (DC 15) – grabbing a non-thinking object that’s quickly drifting away, increasing one’s speed through thought (taking Dash as a bonus action), moving while concentrating
- Hard (DC 20) – catching a fast moving non-thinking object like an arrow or a dart, quick flight maneuvers
- Very Hard (DC 25) – quickly shunting and zig-zagging to avoid ranged attacks, spinning rapidly, performing multiple complicated tasks while moving
Momentum on the Astral Plane
There is nothing to stop nonthinking objects from moving in the Astral. Fire an arrow and it travels on and on forever. On the other hand…
Thinking objects must always think to move. If you aren’t thinking about moving, you won’t move. Sleeping? You’re still. Thinking about eating a donut? Still!
Vision on the Astral Plane
The astral limits normal vision. Therefore, those with normal vision can only see a maximum distance of 200 yards. However, those with true sight can see with a more “normal” viewing range.
Stealth on the Astral Plane
Since there is no real “movement” in the Astral Plane, all Stealth checks are done with advantage even when wearing heavy armor.
Abilities on the Astral Plane
Here are the changes for creature abilities on the Astral Plane.
Intelligence Replaces Strength
The Astral Plane is the realm of the mind. Because of this, a character’s Intelligence score takes the place of his Strength score to determine attack and damage bonuses (or penalties), as well as carrying capacity, ability to bend bars, lift gates, and so on. Any action that would normally require a Strength ability check should use Intelligence instead including the Athletics skill.
Wisdom Replaces Dexterity
in the same vein, Wisdom takes over for Dexterity on the Astral Plane. Wisdom becomes one’s Armor Class modifier and initiative bonus. And any action that would normally require a Dexterity ability check should use Wisdom instead, including Acrobatics, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth, ranged attacks, attacks with finesse weapons, etc.
Constitution and Charisma Remain the Same
Constitution represents one’s ability to take mental fatigue while on the Astral. Ditto hit points. Same role, same numbers, just different fluff.
Charisma still functions the same way.
Combat on the Astral Plane
Combat on the Astral Plane is three-dimensional. As such, it involves some truly unique rules.
Melee Combat on the Astral Plane
There’s a whole lot more movement on the Astral, and it’s easy for the uninitiated to get caught off guard while fighting there. Furthermore, attackers can surprise people from above and below allowing extra flanking opportunities.
Attackers who have “higher ground” have advantage on their melee attacks.
Ranged Combat on the Astral Plane
Since everything is done in zero-gravity environments, ranged attacks suffer. All ranged attacks are made at disadvantage while on the Astral Plane unless there is a source of gravity (dead god’s carcass or a big ol’ rock to land on).
However, all ranges are doubled on the Astral Plane since there’s nothing to block line of sight. So a shortbow with a short range of 80 would have a range of 160 on the Astral and a long range of 640 instead of 320.
Magic on the Astral Plane
Just like combat, the Astral Plane affects magic in interesting ways.
Extradimensional Spells on the Astral Plane
The Astral Plane has no dimensions, therefore extradimensional spells such as Leomund’s Tiny Chest or the carrying capacity of a bag of holding won’t work there.
Physical Spells on the Astral Plane
Spells that rely on the physical world such as disintegrate or the effects of a sphere of annihilation don’t work on the Astral Plane.
However, spells like fireball and lightning bolt are translates to the metaphysical nature of the Astral Plane.
Spells that alter space/time also won’t work, such as time stop.
There is not a lot of “solid ground” in the Astral Plane, therefore spells like Evard’s black tentacles and Tenser’s floating disc don’t really have that much effect there, either.
Spell Potency on the Astral Plane
Spell ranges increase by 50% on the Astral Plane.
And spell times are reduced as follows:
- Spells that normally take a single action can now also be used as a bonus action.
- Any spell that takes 1 or more hours is reduced to the same number of minutes.
- And any spell that takes 1 or more minutes is reduced to the same number of rounds for casting time.
All mind-influencing spells are more potent on the Astral Plane. The duration of these spells increase by 50% and saving throws against these spells are made at disadvantage.
Haste and slow work normally except they do not affect movement.
When psychic winds occur (more on that later) there is a chance that illusions such as hallucinatory terrain and phantasmal force could get absorbed by the winds and come out completely different than what was intended. You wanted a dragon illusion? Well, now it’s a clown with a seltzer bottle. Darn those pesky psychic winds!
The Astral Plane is cut off from the Inner Planes. Therefore, elementals cannot be summoned to the Astral Plane.
Astral Projecting Spellcasters
A spellcaster that is projecting his or herself onto the Astral Plane must enchant their spell components if they wish to use them on the Astral. Only magic and enchanted items directly translate over to the Astral Plane.
The Astral Plane Will Continue…
Next up, I’ll flesh out the Astral Plane a little bit with some cool bad guys such as the githyanki, githzerai, mind flayers, and mi-go all in their Astral Plane versions, and the return of a classic monster, the Astral Dragon!
See you then!
Art by Wizards of the Coast.
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