The Astral Plane: The final frontier. Well, one of them anyway. The astral plane has always been a sort of constant in the planar cosmology of any dungeons and dragons world along with the ethereal. Why? Because magic, that’s why. The use of the astral as well as the ethereal as a means of explaining away the mysteries of the arcane is a long-standing tradition both in gaming and to some extent reality. The astral plane, as postulated by classical (particularly neo-Platonic), medieval, oriental, and esoteric philosophies and mystery religions is the world of the celestial spheres, crossed by the soul in its astral body on the way to being born and after death, and is generally believed to be populated by angels, spirits or other immaterial beings. This is very similar to the view of the plane on Golarion and the stance taken by WotC. Dungeons and Dragons cosmology describe it as a plane of thought, memory, and psychic energy; a place gods go when they die and are forgotten. Barren, the Astral Plane is unique in that it is infinitesimal instead of infinite. Space and time do not exist here; though in both dungeons and dragons and Pathfinder it is a place for souls to travel. Both also describe silver cords webbing through the astral, each one tethered to something, and is the explanation of the astral projection spell. These cords serve as leashes and reminders of what lay on the other side.
The Astral Plane is barren and empty; devoid of life. In this way it should be treated like a vast ocean, with pockets of life where tremendous activity can take place. For example, in D&D the Astral contains god isles, the petrified remains of dead gods, places where the githyanki make their home. These beacons of life in a vast emptiness are ideal places for adventures to take place; away from them the basic laws of physics no long hold sway – time, gravity, directionality they are meaningless and that is where our adventure begins.
History for the GM:
The Story so Far: The PCs have found themselves lost in the Astral plane. Whether it be by mysterious portal in the bottom of the dungeon, a teleport spell gone awry, or an angered outsider casting them into perdition. The rock they’re standing on is thirty feet by thirty feet, with the opening for the cave standing ten feet tall than the rest. The players can note that while they can see over sixty feet into the cave the rock they’re standing on is only ten feet thick, seeming to float in the nothingness.
Whatever it was that brought you here, it had been brief and terrifying. There were swirling colors and throbbing sounds, and you swear for a moment there, you could taste the color mauve – it was not pleasant. You find yourselves standing at the precipice of a large cave, a torch burning at the opening illuminating a rocky interior covered in crystals. You turn to look for other distinguishing features, and there none. Not none, as in trees and nondescript geography – there is nothing. You are on an island in a vast sea of nothingness. There is a dull light in the nothingness, cast by thing silvery threads which spread through the air, up and down, left and right, giving the nothingness a greenish lavender color that smelt oddly of faint raspberry.
Observant players who have been around the block may have already pieced together their current location but the identify the Astral can be identified with a successful Knowledge Planes DC20 or Knowledge Arcana DC 25 check.
The Astral Plane has rules that do not follow the Prime Material, and those are outlined below:
Gravity: If at any time someone moves more than 500 feet from the island they find the area lacking any gravitational pull and continue to drift.
Time: Time passes as normal on the island, however for every 5 feet past 500 that someone moves roll a d20. If even that many minutes have passed on the Prime Material, if odd time moves backwards that many minutes.
Magic: All magic, arcane and divine, are cast at the users own risk. Roll a d20 + CL, and consult the chart below:
All results of 13+ cast the spell in addition to the listed effect.
1: Caster randomly Polymorphs permanently.
2: Caster randomly polymorphs for 3d6 minutes
3-5: Spell is immediately counter-spelled.
6: Spell effect has a 60’ radius centered on caster
7: The caster becomes a Halfling for 1d20 days. If the caster is already a Halfling they become a goblin.
8: Wall of Fire encircles caster.
9: Caster becomes invisible
10 -11: Spell effectiveness (range, duration, area of effect, damage, etc…) decreases 50%
12: Monster Summoning IV is cast
13: No additional spells may be cast for 1d6 minutes
14 -15: Target changes color
16: After the spell takes effect, caster and target switch places.
17 – 18: No additional Effect.
19: Caster must make a DC 19 Will save or be affected by Hideous Laughter for 2d6 rounds
20: Slow spell, CL7, centered on target.
21: Spell effectiveness increases 150%
22 – 23: A deafening bang that is treated as a sonic attack emits from the caster. Each creature within a 30-foot-radius must make a DC 15 Fortitude save or be deafened for 1 hour.
24 – 29: No additional effect.
30: Spell cast at +1 CL
31+: Spell cast at +1 CL, and all variables are maximized.
Unless otherwise noted, all spells occur at the designated target point and function normally (appropriate saving throws are allowed). The above list, is only a small fraction of the possible results of magic gone awry. The DM is free to manipulate the table as s/he sees fit. Note: Tables cannot take into account the situation as it cannot create tailored effects. Therefore, it is likely that some results will make no sense, be impossible, or have no visible effect. In these cases, feel free to simply dismiss the spell or effect if the result is negative or allow the spell to be cast with no additional effect if positive.
Never let the randomness of any table ruin the story of an adventure. As ultimate storyteller and arbiter of the game, the DM can overrule anything deemed destructive to the adventure.
That’s a good start, next week we’ll dive right into the adventure, here in the Astral Plane.