Etheric Plane, and the two energy planes, it’s time to move beyond the material and into the astral. I’m going to differ with the standard D&D presentation conceptually, if not mechanically. It largely treats the Astral Plane as something of an exotic “outer space” (which is fine, in its own right, of course), but I’d like to suggest that the Astral is the “idea-space” surrounding the material world--a place of thought and emotion rather than matter. It’s an ocean with one shore being the phenomenal world (the material plane) and the other the noumenal (the outer planes).
In my previous discussion, I mentioned the astral body possessed by all intelligent beings. In a sense, they’re always there whether they know it or not. Their thoughts and dreams are given malleable form. Also, it’s the first place souls, swathed in their astral body, “rise” to upon death. Some of them stay there a long time, as I’ll discuss further later.
The near astral is a strange expressionistic or dreamscape overlay on the physical world. What places mean affect their astral appearance as much as their material appearance does. This zone is constantly disrupted, or rippled, by rising dreams and daydreams, and movements of creatures with astral presence. The deep astral is a surrealistic realm where all spatial dimensions are relative--distances may vary on different occasions and for different travelers. The distances between things are influenced by conceptual association--similar colors, elements, moods, etc., as much as anything else.
Certain inanimate objects have astral shadows. These are things that have been invested with a great deal of psychic, emotional, or magical energy. The planets, for instance, exist in the Astral, as do certain magical and ritual items.
There are cities, fortresses, and the like in the Astral. These are the sub-creations of extraplanar powers, or powerful sorcerers, or aborted fragments of the same. Physical law in these realms is more stable, having been established by the creator. The seedy astral metropolis of Interzone in the world of the City is such a place.
Other than where it would conflict with the above, the mechanics of the original and 3e Manual of Planes, work pretty well--the key is to make them a bit less mechanistic and a bit more malleable.
Tomorrow, exploration of the Astral continues with realms of death and dream.
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