Dragonmarks: The Astral Plane

This is actually a picture of Kythri. But, y’know, close enough.

Eberron is balanced between thirteen planes, each of which represents an iconic concept. All mortal creatures are influenced by these planes. We dream in Dal Quor and cast shadows in Mabar. We feel the martial call of Shavarath balanced by the tranquility of Syrania. Where these planes extend directly into the Material Plane they create manifest zones and wild zones, Shaping Eberron in their image. Counting those that are lost, there were thirteen planes, thirteen moons, thirteen dragonmarks.

What, then, is the role of the astral plane? What concept does it represent? Does it, too, shape the world? Why isn’t associated with a moon or with manifest zones?

While the astral plane is called a “plane,” it has little in common with the thirteen planes of the orrery. It wasn’t created to embody a concept, because it wasn’t created. The Astral Plane is the ultimate foundation of reality, the realm that existed before creation. If you interpret the creation myth literally, the astral plane was the canvas upon which the Progenitors painted existence as we know it. As such, it’s not part of creation; it’s the space that lies between and beyond it. It doesn’t have a purpose; it simply is.

With that said, the fact that the astral plane is the space between spaces gives it value. With a few exceptions—such as the Immeasurable Market of Syrania—the planes of Eberron exist as independent and isolated systems. There’s no direct path from Risia to Fernia, or from Mabar to Lamannia. All of the planes touch the material plane, but manifest zones that serve as gateways aren’t easy to find. Barring manifest gateways, travel between the planes involves passing through the astral plane. Plane shift and gate expedite this process, connecting through the astral in a blink of an eye. Without such magic, travelers must enter and depart the astral plane through the color pools. So why visit the astral plane? The first reason is to go somewhere else; the astral is just the road that will take you there. The second reason is to get away; disconnected as it is from reality and the ravages of time, the astral can serve as the ultimate sanctuary. The third reason is because you need to interact with the travelers or exiles who dwell there—or wish to explore the forgotten debris of previous ages, abandoned and forgotten in the astral plane.

Universal Properties

The astral plane is an endless silvery void. Wisps of silver and gray drift between motes of light—at first glance these seem like stars, but in fact they are the countless pools of color where the other planes bleed into the astral. There is no inherent gravity or orientation; you move by thinking about moving, and if you have no desire to move you will simply be suspended in the void. Some travelers embrace the idea of flying, while others choose to walk across the void even though there’s no ground beneath their feet.

Ancient and Enigmatic. Commune, augury, divination, legend lore and similar spells are unreliable in the astral plane. Many of the ruins and relics found in the silver sea are from previous incarnations of Eberron or predate creation itself, and spells of this age can’t unlock their mysteries.

Beyond Time and Space. Creatures in the astral plane do not age, and are immune to hunger and thirst. Time moves at the same pace within the astral plane as it does on Eberron, but creatures who spend an extensive amount of time in the astral plane often lose the ability to sense the passage of time; a hermit who’s been isolated in the astral plane for thousands of years might believe it’s been a single year.

Speed of Thought. While in the astral plane, a creature has a flight speed (in feet) equal to 3 x its Intelligence score. This replaces all other forms of movement the creature possesses, and overrides any spell or effect that grants or increases movement speed.

Suspended in the Void. Movement in the astral plane only happens by intention, and a creature that isn’t actively moving or being moved will float, suspended in the void. Thrown objects or ranged attacks travel the maximum distance they would travel in the material plane—driven by the intent of the person who launched them—and then come to a stop, floating in the air.

DENIZENS OF THE ASTRAL PLANE

There’s no native life in the astral plane. Those creatures encountered here are either immigrants, travelers passing through, or things that have been created and set here—most by beings or civilizations long forgotten. I’ll be posting a table of possible astral encounters as bonus content on my Patreon, but here’s a general look at the creatures you might find.

Travelers

While plane shift allows travelers to instantly traverse the astral plane, there are always travelers who make their way across the astral step by step. These include denizens of the outer planes, but not many; the planes are independent systems that are designed to function in isolation. With this in mind, it’s never normal for beings from the planes to be traveling through the astral, and if they are you can be sure there’s a story behind it. Perhaps an efreeti pasha wishes to serve shaved Risian ice at their next gala, and has dispatched a servant to fetch some. Perhaps a condemned archfey is being escorted from Thelanis to the Inescapable Prison of Daanvi, or an angelic Virtue of Knowledge is going to consult the Infinite Archive. Any of these things could happen, but all of them are remarkable events; it’s not like there’s a constant stream of immortals passing through the astral plane.

Mortal travelers from the material plane are likewise rare, but not unknown. The mages of the Five Nations know of the Astral Plane, but have not yet developed a sustainable form of astral travel. There are currently three civilizations that make use of astral travel.

  • The Dragons of Argonnessen. Long ago, a cabal of dragons sought to build within the astral plane; this experiment came to an end with the loss of Sharokarthel (see below). Today Argonnessen sees the astral plane purely as a conduit for travel. Since powerful wyrms will make use of plane shift, most dragons encountered in the astral plane will be in their middle years—accomplished enough to have needs that can only be met in other planes, but not capable of casting plane shift. Loredrakes (dragon scholars) may wish to consult the Infinite Archives of Daanvi or to speak with a particular immortal. Masters of the Hoard (collectors and merchants) may be seeking unique commodities, while Flames of the Forge (artisans and artificers) may be looking for resources that can only be acquired beyond reality.
  • The Elves of Aerenal. The Ascendant Councilors of the Undying Court spend a great deal of time in the Astral Plane, working on the grand experiment of Pylas Var-Tolai. Beyond this celestial realm, the Aereni follow in the footsteps of the dragons. The greatest Aereni sages may consult with Virtues in Syrania or browse the Infinite Archive, and Aereni artisans may seek materials that can only be found in the planes. Where dragons found traveling in the astral are usually young, elf travelers are most likely among the most accomplished of their kind still living; astral travel is an established practice, but only the most capable elves will risk its many dangers.
  • The Venomous Demesne. Hidden in western Droaam, the Venomous Demesne is less than two thousand years old—a pale shadow in comparison to Argonnessen or Aerenal. But the humans and tieflings of the Demesne are brilliant mages who are pushing the bounds of arcane science. Over the course of the last century they’ve begun to dig deeper into the mysteries of the Astral Plane, both as a corridor through which to reach the planes and as a resource in its own right. Some mages of the Demesne seek to bargain with the Githyanki, while others hope to find forgotten treasures in the ruins of Sharokarthel. So the Demesne doesn’t yet have a large-scale presence in the Astral Plane, but adventurers could encounter Demesne mages either as fellow travelers or as rival explorers competing for plunder and secret knowledge.

Immigrants and Exiles

There’s no truly native life in the astral plane, but there are creatures—both mortals and immortals—who choose to live within the silver sea. Some have been stranded by mystical accidents. Others are prisoners exiled to the astral plane, cursed so that they cannot leave it; they are trapped in the timeless void, doomed never to return to the world that has forgotten them. There are hermits who have chosen this solitary existence: philosophers who appreciate having an eternity to contemplate the higher mysteries, inventors working on forbidden research, fugitives waiting for their enemies to die of old age. With no need for food or drink, some dwell in complete isolation; explorers could find a Cul’sir giant who has been meditating for the last five thousand years. Other creatures came to the astral plane in groups, and maintain some form of society in the silver sea. The most significant of these are the Githyanki, who escaped the destruction of a previous incarnation of Eberron and now dwell in fortress-ships the size of small towns. However, there are a handful of smaller communities scattered across the infinite void. Some come from lost realities, like the Gith. Others are remnants of fallen civilizations or followers of traditions that have been wiped out on the material plane. Adventurers exploring the deep astral could discover an outpost built by the dwarves of Sol Udar, or a Dhakaani garrison that knows nothing of the chaat’oor. Part of the point of these outposts is to explore the idea of isolation. They don’t need anything from the outside world; they have no need to seek out others and trade with them. Thus they can exist as flies in amber—a Dhakaani force even more isolated than the Kech Dhakaan, goblins who don’t even realize their empire has fallen. Adventurers could find an astral workshop where giants of the Sulat League have been perfecting a doomsday weapon they can use to take vengeance on the dragons, or the labyrinth-tower of an infamous prince of Ohr Kaluun, cast into the astral plane to escape the Sundering.

The Githyanki

Most of the immigrants and exiles of the astral plane exist in isolation and timeless stagnation, content to be forgotten in the trackless expanse of the void. The Githyanki are the most notable exception to this rule. Tu’narath is a bustling city, fueled by the plunder Githyanki raiders bring in from other planes. The ships themselves are communities, from small vessels that house a dozen raiders to the fortress-ships that hold hundreds. With that said, between dwelling in the astral and pillaging immortal planes, the Githyanki themselves have lost track of time. This has led to a faction in Tu’narath advocating for an invasion of the Material Plane—asserting that a foothold in the material would both allow their population to grow and to give them an anchor in time. The naysayers argue that they don’t belong in the current creation—that they’ve been able to thrive in the astral because it is beyond reality, but that if the Githyanki stake a claim in the material it could trigger unknown metaphysical defenses. The argument continues; as a DM, if you decide to explore such an invasion, you’ll have to decide if there will be unforeseen consequences to a Githyanki incursion.

The Githyanki are warlike and proud. Their ultimate goal is to build their power until they can destroy Xoriat itself, regardless of the consequences this could have to reality. They have a deep competitive streak that could be seen as a need to prove themselves superior to the world that has replaced theirs. Whether merchant or warrior, Githyanki view all interactions through the lens of conflict; every situation has a winner and a loser, and the Githyanki will always be the victors. Note that this doesn’t mean mindless aggression; the Githyanki recognize the need to outwit their enemies, to employ careful strategies and preserve their limited resources. But they are always seeking a path to victory, and they have no compunction about taking anything they desire from the people around them; in the eyes of the Githyanki, only their people are real, and all the trappings of this age are just flawed reflections of their reality. This is one reason the Githyanki raid other planes while leaving the other denizens of the astral plane alone. Even if they are from other realities, the Githyanki recognize the other exiles as kindred in suffering—and beyond that, they prefer not to start battles on their home ground. So the Gith are constantly raiding through the color pools, but they avoid the ruins and outposts of other immigrants in the astral sea. They have limited contact with the Aereni. They feel no love for these creatures of the usurping reality, but see more value in trading with them than in starting a conflict in the void. However, if the Githyanki were to launch an attack against Eberron, it’s likely they would either negotiate a treaty with Aerenal before they begin… or that they would find a way to cripple the Undying Court and launch their conquest with a devastating first strike against the elves.

The Forgotten

Most of the denizens of the astral plane have a history that can be unraveled and explored. Some come from earlier incarnations, like the Githyanki. Others come from fallen nations—remnants of Xen’drik, Sol Udar, the Empire of Dhakaan. The ruins of Sharokarthel are almost a hundred thousand years old. But there are beings in the astral plane that predate even the age of demons, constructs built and abandoned by civilizations entirely unknown… civilizations that could even predate the Progenitors and the cosmology of Eberron itself. The terrifying Astral Dreadnoughts are one example of these forgotten entities. These gargantuan entities glide through the astral sea, destroying all that they encounter. Some believe that the dreadnoughts were created by the Progenitors to fight any beings that might come from beyond Eberron’s cosmology—that the dreadnoughts exist to fight any would-be gods that might seek a foothold in Eberron. Others believe that the dreadnoughts predate the Progenitors, that they are remnants of a world truly beyond mortal understanding. The dreadnoughts are just one example of those things that may be forgotten in the depths of the astral—powers waiting to be unleashed.

LAYERS AND LOCATIONS

The astral plane isn’t divided into layers. It is a singular, seemingly infinite void in which color pools are scattered like stars. Measured using the concepts of the material plane, Tu’narath and Sharokarthel could be tens or even hundreds of thousands of miles apart. This is why it’s possible to find an astral hermitage where a giant philosopher has remained undisturbed for thousands of years… because unless you know what you’re looking for, the astral plane is so vast as to make any particular location a single grain of sand on a vast beach.

It might seem like this distance would prevent any sort of meaningful travel in the astral plane. If Tu’narath and Sharokarthel are a hundred thousand miles apart, how is an adventurer to move between them? The catch is that movement in the astral plane isn’t measured in miles or even in space; it is purely a concept. The Speed of Thought trait determines a character’s speed in combat, where people must focus on the narrow moment. Outside of combat, movement across the Astral Plane is based on knowing where you wish to go and willing yourself to get there. Travel speed is largely arbitrary; the Dungeon Master’s Guide notes that it will take about 1d4 x 10 hours to find a color pool tied to a particular plane, with the risk of psychic wind increasing travel time. But that’s just to find a random pool; think of this as searching the skies for a green star and then willing yourself in its direction. Astral color pools are tied to locations within planes; finding a specific pool, or finding a location like Sharokarthel, is a different story. If you have been to the location before, it will usually take around 1d4 x 10 hours to reach it. If you’re proficient in Arcana, you can work with a description of a location (an Aereni map, a description from a Cul’sir tomb…). In such a case, it can take 1d8 x 10 hours to reach your destination. If you have no intended destination, you can try to navigate based on the constellations formed by the scattered color pools; you’ll eventually find something, whether it’s just a pool or some more interesting outpost or ruin. Someone familiar with astral travel can make an Intelligence (Arcana) check to speed travel; this is arbitrary, but a good result can reduce travel time and help the travelers avoid the psychic wind.

The elves of Aerenal are the most notable astral cartographers in Eberron. The Ascendant Councilors of the Undying Court have spent countless hours exploring the astral sea as thought forms, recording the paths of its constellations and noting interesting ruins and hermitages. If adventurers wish to find adventure in the astral plane, they could just dive into the sea and start swimming… but a torn page from an Aereni atlas could be what they need to get started.

Ruins and Hermitages

The astral plane may in fact be infinite, and there’s no telling what could be waiting in that void. There’s at least one active city, Tu’narath. But there are many other points of interest scattered in the void. Most of these are ruins. Some are the remnants of actual cities once built in the astral plane, like Sharokarthel. Others are simply pieces of unknown civilizations or lands. These could be from the distant past of this Eberron. They could be remnants of a lost Eberron, such as the Eberron of the Gith. Or they could even be relics of previous creations, realities older than the Progenitors themselves. A few examples…

  • A dragon’s skull, ten miles long from snout to horn-tip. The shape doesn’t precisely match any known species of dragon.
  • A single tower, seemingly broken off of a larger castle.
  • A massive ship, apparently designed for sea travel—a distinctly different design than the Githyanki vessels.
  • A mountain peak formed from some sort of smoky crystal.
  • A mass of silvery clouds, soft but solid enough to stand on. They drift and shift, but never disperse or drift apart.
  • The empty shell of an immense dragon turtle.
  • Half of an immense bridge, sheered off sharply in the middle.
  • A manor house, preserved with mending magic and tended by unseen servants. It’s impossible to tell how long it’s stood empty.
  • A grove of colossal trees, whose roots and branches are intertwined.

There are many planes in which odd structures can be found. What differentiates the ruins of the Astral Plane from the bizarre landscapes of Xoriat is the fact that ruins generally feel like they had a purpose—they may be encountered out of context, but once the ship was in water and the skull was part of an immense dragon. What makes them unlike the wonders of Thelanis is that while they may have a purpose, the ruins of the astral plane rarely have a story—at least, not one that can be easily discerned. The skull was once part of a dragon, but there are no further clues as to who that dragon was or how it died; if it was once part of a story, that story is long over.

Ruins are generally abandoned. When immigrants or exiles lay claim to a ruin, it becomes a hermitage. Given that creatures in the astral plane are immune to starvation and thirst, people can live in places that could never support life in the natural world. A massive dragon skull could be inhabited by a clan of winged kobolds, or by a trio of Seekers of the Divinity Within. Again, unlike Xoriat, the denizens of such a realm came from somewhere; if there’s kobolds in the skull, the question is whether they’re from Eberron, a previous reality, or a forgotten creation.

PYLAS VAR-TOLAI

The Ascendant Councilors of the Undying Court spend a great deal of time in the astral plane—leaving their bodies behind and exploring through astral projection. In part, they are charting the near-infinite expanse; the Aereni have maps of many ruins and hermitages, even though they have left many of the hermits undisturbed. But astral cartography is a side project. Their true interest is something far grander. The astral plane is a place of beginnings. If the myths are true, it is here that the Progenitors laid the cornerstone of creation. The Undying Court seeks to follow in their footsteps—to create a new reality. They are still far from this goal, but using their gestalt power they have managed to create a region within the void—an island they call Pylas Var-Tolai.

The core of Pylas Var-Tolai is a vast, fortified monastery. This includes a scriptorium where monks draw maps of the astral sea, a vast library holding accounts of all the ruins they have explored, and a vault holding both wonders found in the astral and artifacts deemed too dangerous to be kept in the material plane. There is a council chamber at the center of it where the ascendant councilors commune with one another and exert their power. While the most important inhabitants of Var-Tolai are the astral forms of the ascendant councilors, there is a population of mortal elves—scholars, priests, and soldiers—who are physically present. While Pylas Var-Tolai is primarily a research outpost, it also serves as a waystation for Aereni who have business in the planes; as such it does have a small capacity for guests, and there are usually a handful of travelers along with the permanent staff. Whoever, the monastery is driven by research, not commerce. If adventurers come to the gates of Pylas Var-Tolai, the priests will be more interested in their stories than their gold.

The most important aspect of Pylas Var-Tolai is the gate at its center. This allows passage to the workshop of the Undying Court… the reality they are creating. This is very much a work in progress, fluid and unsustainable. But they are continuing to work at it. When adventurers visit, the realm on the other side of the gate could be a tiny island or a vast continent. It could be a perfect replica of Aerenal, or it could be a wondrous realm that defies the laws of physics. Visiting adventurers could be asked to explore the nascent realm—to test the creation of the councilors, and identify its flaws.

Sharokarthel

In the wake of the Age of Demons, the victorious dragons spread across the world. This lead to the first rise of the Daughter of Khyber, which led to a devastating war of dragons that destroyed the nations they’d created and forced them to withdraw later. Ten thousand years later, a loredrake presented a new idea. The Daughter of Khyber drew power when the dragons expanded across Eberron. But the Daughter herself was bound to Khyber. What, then, if the dragons spread not across the material plane, but across the outer planes? This impulse led to the creation of a number of outposts in the astral plane, culminating in the great city of Sharokarthel. This is a city built by dragons, for dragons—a city formed from magic and the immateria, unbound by gravity or weather. The dragons of Sharokarthel built arcane workshops and planar orreries, and amassed hoards drawn from across the planes. But ultimately the theory was proven wrong. The Daughter of Khyber couldn’t touch the dragons in Sharokarthel—but as their glory grew, she could corrupt those dragons still on Eberron, and these corrupted servants could carry the fight to the astral city. This led to the second great collapse. The Daughter was defeated once again, but the dragons were forced to abandon Sharokarthel. They didn’t destroy the glorious city, but they laid powerful wards and curses upon it, ensuring that no casual traveler could claim their abandoned glory.

There are a number of draconic ruins in the astral plane, but Sharokarthel is the grandest of them all. It surely holds untold wonders and treasures, but it’s protected by powerful curses and traps. Still, there are surely accounts of those defenses somewhere. Perhaps a human sage might stumble upon a book detailing a secret path into Sharokarthel… or perhaps a young dragon might recruit a group of adventurers to accompany them to the abandoned city, hoping to reclaim some treasure of their ancient ancestors.

Subspace

There are many effects—magnificent mansions, bags of holding, portable holes—that make use of extradimensional spaces. Typically, these are presented as tiny demiplanes, isolated and unconnected; some, such as secret chest, mention the ethereal plane. However, one possibility is that these extradimensional spaces are in fact in the astral plane. A bag of holding can be encountered as a floating force bubble containing objects… while a magnificent mansion is a mansion suspended in the void. If this is the case, someone might be able to find and penetrate those spaces from the outside. Of course, keep in mind that finding a bag of holding in the astral plane would be like finding a bottle dropped into an ocean; the astral plane is potentially infinite. But if a DM follows this route, they could decide that items created with the same technique occupy the same region of the astral plane; that there is a constellation of Cannith bags of holding, a neighborhood of Ghallanda magnificent mansions, or an island formed by the Kundarak Vault network. If this is the case and someone DOES find a way to access any of these things from the outside, it could cause chaos and force the houses to deploy additional security. But it could certainly make for an epic astral heist!

Tu’narath

In their early days in the astral plane, the Githyanki discovered an immense six-fingered hand floating in the void. This severed hand is charged with arcane power, not unlike Eberron dragonshards. The origins of the hand remain a mystery, but the Githyanki recognized it as a useful resource and a suitable foundation for an anchorage. Most Githyanki prefer to dwell in their ships, but Tu’nararath is the port where the city-ships come together, where the Githyanki unload their planar plunder and tell tales of their glorious battles. And should they plan a conquest, it is here that they will mass their forces.

The Githyanki have no love of outsiders; if you want a friendly place to conduct commerce, go to the Immeasurable Market of Syrania. However, the Sixth Finger is essentially a foreign quarter where travelers can find shelter and sample some of the wonders the Gith have claimed from across reality. It’s a very rough neighborhood, where you will find exiles, astral prisoners, and worse—but if you’re looking for an astral guide or some exotic planar plunder, you could make a landing at Tu’narath.

PLANAR MANIFESTATIONS

Here are ways that the astral plane can affect the material plane.

Manifest Zones, Coterminous and Remote

The astral plane doesn’t produce manifest zones on the material plane, and it never becomes coterminous or remote. It touches all of the planes at various points. These are visible in the astral plane as color pools and allow travelers to exit the astral plane into the connected region. However, these points are generally imperceptible on the other side of the pool. Identifying the astral point and opening the gate requires magical tools that the people of the Five Nations have yet to master. The three civilizations mentioned earlier—Argonnessen, Aerenal, and the Venomous Demesne—have ways to do this. This could involve a specialized ritual, or it could use an astral key that can open color pools from either side—either linked to a particular pool or potentially able to open any pool-point the adventurers can find. Using such methods, a Chamber agent could open an astral gateway to allow adventurers to escape disaster or to quickly pass between distant points in the material plane. Lacking such magic, the only ways to enter the astral plane are to use plane shift, gate, astral projection, or similar spells. With that said, a DM could always decide that there are circumstances under which unwary travelers can fall into the astral plane. Perhaps there’s a graveyard of ships, a point in the Thunder Sea where under the right circumstances, a maelstrom can draw ships entirely out of reality.

Astral Artifacts

The astral plane produces nothing on its own, and it has no unifying theme. But it is filled with the ruins and remnants of countless civilizations and worlds. Githyanki plunder can provide treasures drawn from across the planes. Ruins and hermitages could provide relics from the past; adventurers could recover titans’ treasures from a Cul’sir outpost, Dhakaani weapons from a floating piece of an Imperial garrison, draconic wonders from the ruins of Sharokarthel. Beyond that there is the possibility for astral explorers to discover tools or resources that truly have no place in this creation. This could be anything from a new form of dragonshard or some other material that simply doesn’t exist on Eberron… to an iron flask holding an entity who comes from a previous iteration or Eberron or another creation entirely.

One uniquely astral tool is the astral key, an object that allows the bearer to open an astral color pool from either side. This allows access to the astral plane, but only from a specific point. Depending on the power of the item, the key could be tied to a single specific point or it could have the power to open any pool the bearer can find. Note that the people of the Five Nations don’t currently possess astral keys; such an item could be a relic of one of the civilizations that has mastered astral travel, or it could be a unique prototype or breakthrough. Despite the name, an astral key could be any shape; it could be a dagger that slices through the veil of reality or a paintbrush they must use to paint a doorway in the air.

Astral Stories

For most creatures, the astral plane is simply the space that lies between the planes. It’s a path to be traveled, not a destination. But there are many ways that it can drive a story on its own. The adventurers might have to pursue a fugitive who’s slipped through a pool point and into a ruin. They could be tasked to explore a region of the astral sea, to bargain with a Githyanki smuggler, or to help a mad scholar who’s determined to reach Sharokarthel. They could acquire an iron flask holding some unknown spirit from a previous world—what will it take to open it, and would it be better left alone? Here’s a few other ideas.

An Ancestor’s Call. An Aereni adventurer is ordered to bring their adventuring companions to Shae Mordai, and from their send to Pylas Var-Tolai. An ascendant councilor—one of their distant ancestors—is conducting experiments in creation, and wants their descendant to test the lands beyond the portal. Is this just coincidence, or does the ascendant councilor know something about their descendent as yet undiscovered by the living?

Storming the Castle. An enemy of the players has built a fortress in the Astral Plane. Using a spell similar to magnificent mansion, they can retreat to their fortress from any location; this allows them to have their evil lair wherever the adventure is taking place. The adventurers could be on a desert island or in a small rustic village, but they’ll still have to pursue the necromancer Demise into her Tower of Death when things go wrong.

The Undiscovered Country. A Morgrave scholar has discovered three astral keys. One opens a pool-point in Sharn, and they want a group of adventurers to help them explore the other side. The pool-point leads to a Cul’sir outpost in the astral plane. Is it abandoned, or are their ancient giants still lingering in this place? Was it just good fortune that the scholar found the keys, or does someone want the adventurers to stumble into the forgotten outpost?

Q&A

This article presents my vision of the astral plane and how I will use it in my Eberron. It surely contradicts various canon sources—Eberron or otherwise—regarding the Astral Plane, and I’m not going to try to reconcile every contradiction; it’s up to the DM to decide how to handle such things in their campaign.

What’s the deal with silver cords and spirit forms?

There are multiple ways to enter the astral plane. It is possible to enter it physically by using plane shift, gate, or by opening a pool portal (using an item like an astral key). In this case, the traveler is physically present and can suffer lasting harm and death. On the other hand, astral projection separates the caster’s spirit from their body and allows them to enter the astral plane as a spirit form tethered to their body by a silver cord. The advantage of this form of travel is that you can’t be permanently harmed while in “astral form”; if you’re reduced to zero hit points, you return to your physical body.

The Ascendant Councilors of the Undying Court typically travel the astral plane in spirit form, which allows them to venture into unknown regions without fear.

What about the psychic wind?

What about it? It’s a dangerous local weather condition that operates just as described in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

If creatures in the Astral Plane do not age, do some people travel there simply to avoid death? It seems more hospitable than Risia for such a purpose.

Absolutely! I’ve called out a few examples of this—the trio of Seekers in the dragon skull, the prince of Ohr Kaluun. You could have a Khunan archmage, another remnant of a long-forgotten society. Keep in mind that this trait isn’t unique to the astral plane of Eberron; it comes directly from the Dungeon Master’s Guide: Creatures on the Astral Plane don’t age or suffer from hunger or thirst.” So there are certainly hermits who come to the Astral Plane to experience immortality. But there’s a number of reasons why it’s not commonplace.

  • It’s actually easier to reach Risia than it is to physically enter the astral plane. Manifest zones can serve as gateways to Risia; entering the astral requires the use of powerful magic or an astral key. The people of the Five Nations don’t have access to such magic; you can’t just decide to go to the Astral Spa.
  • The Aereni don’t actually want eternal LIFE; they seek spiritual evolution and believe life and death are part of that journey. The ultimate path of the Undying Court is to become an ascendant councilor; they spend most of their time in astral form because they are no longer bound by their physical form and exist as part of the divine gestalt. There are certainly Aereni outposts; I can imagine a tower where an Aereni poet has been working on a particular poem for a century. But for most Aereni, such a retreat would be a temporary measure, not an ideal way to spend eternity. The living elves of Pylas Var-Tolai certainly cycle out every few decades or centuries.
  • The Astral Plane is essentially a vast, vast desert. If you live there you won’t age and you won’t know hunger and thirst; but you’ll also live isolated from all contact with mortal society, in a vast empty void. There are unquestionably people for whom that’s a worthwhile trade, and that’s the point of hermits; if all you want to do is to study conjuration for a thousand years, building an astral workshop is an alternative to becoming a lich. But offered the casual choice, not everyone would be interested in eternal life if it means sacrificing all contact with the world and living in an endless gray void.
  • As noted in the traits, if you spend too much time in the astral plane you actually start to lose track of time—as noted with the giant who doesn’t realize that thousands of years have passed. It’s immortality, certainly, but it does have a psychological price.

So the short form is that there definitely are hermits in the Astral Plane who dwell there because they desire immortality. There’s philosopher dragons, old Sarlonan wizards, a handful of giants. But they’re a few grains of sand in a vast desert; the odds you’ll actually encounter them when you travel in the astral plane are quite low, unless you have some hint as to where their hermitages lie.

That’s all for now! This topic was chosen by my Patreon supporters, and it’s only their support that makes articles like this possible; if you’d like to see more articles like this or have a voice in future topics, follow the link.

69 thoughts on “Dragonmarks: The Astral Plane

  1. What makes the Undying Court’s project to create a new reality more profound than simply creating a demiplane?

    • I imagine because there are things like ecosystems and climate in a full reality. Most demiplanes are at most a building. A pretty well-made building that’s got all the mod-cons, but you can’t pull a building free from the planet, suspend it in space, and expect it to work.

      A full plane would be able to work and survive indefinitely separated from Eberron, without the ‘parent plane’ supporting it. A demiplane cannot. Heck, most demiplanes barely outlive the mage that cast them.

      • I mean if we’d go by 3.5 rules, demiplanes could get very, very large. Genesis (which exists in Psionic, Arcane and Divine forms) keeps stacking. You can just have an ever expanding demiplane with that spell.
        At some point, size alone in a world with some water (and you can add water with Genesis) will create a climate and an ecosystem just requires you to introduce some life into the world (or just imagine it into existence with an Origin epic spell or the right Salient Abilities that the Undying as a whole may have access to). Sure you cannot apply planar traits which would make things radically different but you still can make a very different world come to be over time.

    • While in AD&D demiplanes existed in the Ethereal, 3E onward moved them to the Astral. There are several spells and powers to create demiplanes in 3.5 alone. The main characteristic of such demiplanes however is that they are MUNDANE. You cannot apply planar traits to them and they are simply made of dirt with a breathable atmosphere.

      The Aereni seem to be creating a reality with its own set of rules.

      And really, creating a demiplane is pretty damn epic on its own. It takes extraordinary powerful magic to do so even at a small scale. So I think that’s fairly profound?

    • What makes the Undying Court’s project to create a new reality more profound than simply creating a demiplane?
      One the one hand you have a demiplane. On the other hand you have reality as we know it: thirteen planes orbiting the material plane, with countless demiplanes within it; a reality with overlords, celestials, fiends and more. What the Undying Court has currently managed to create is basically a demiplane. Should they manage to create a new reality, it would be far more.

  2. What is the relationship between psionics and the Astral Plane? Various psionic powers have referenced the Astral Plane across the editions of D&D. Are psionicists like the quori and certain Xorian aberrations connected to the Astral Plane this way? Are the gith psionic due to prolonged exposure to the Astral Plane?

    If creatures in the Astral Plane do not age, do some people travel there simply to avoid death? It seems more hospitable than Risia for such a purpose. Do some powerful Seekers stave off death this way?

    • I’d imagine the quori and aberrations are connected to Dal Quor and Xoriat, not to the astral plane. As gith and gem dragons both seem psionically gifted, it seems their gifts might be from the former Eberron (Githberron), suggesting psionics were more common there. Keep in mind that the githzerai are on Kythri but are just as psionic

      And I’d also posit that people COULD travel to the Astral Plane to avoid death, assuming said Seekers or whomever had access to a colour pool. Whether that would be seen as correct in their faith seems dubious though, as that’s essentially hitting the pause button on the journey to nirvana, removing yourself from the struggle seems not in keeping with the goal of achieving inner divinity. But that’s why sects and heresies exist!

      • I think the part of psionics that has the strongest tie to the Astral is Ectoplasm and the many metacreative powers that use it. Honestly I don’t think esoteric resources like ectoplasm and quintessence need much further explanation though. I’d say they are just parts of the Astral pulled into the material (quintessence in particular matches the timeless property of the Astral; it’s like you are trying to pull Astral time into the Material and it condenses into an ooze that can easily dissipate)

  3. Page 92 of the original 3.5 Eberron Campaign Setting says: “Within Eberron’s Astral Plane, thirteen planes revolve in a complex orbit around the Material Plane.”

    The same page also states: “As the thirteen planes move through the Astral Plane, their paths take them closer to the Material Plane at times and farther away at other times.”

    Is there a point in the Astral Plane wherein someone can see the Material Plane and all of the other planes orbiting it?

    • > The Astral Plane is the ultimate foundation of reality, the realm that existed before creation. If you interpret the creation myth literally, the astral plane was the canvas upon which the Progenitors painted existence as we know it.

      Is there any place within a painting that one can see it all?
      Can you see the whole of a building from its foundation?
      Where would you stand on the Earth to know all of it at once?

      Less poetically, I’d say “no”, because the astral isn’t the outside, it’s the soup that the structures are suspended in as ‘bubbles’.

  4. The astral plane is known to house the corpses of gods, for eberron Siberys would be the one to fit the criteria. Think the ring of siberys might be as the moons are for the planes?

    On Psychic Wind, would the dragons be sickened by such phenomenon?

    The bagman presented in van richten seems a candidate for something that is interacting with the subspace of bag of holdings, as a gate to eberron. However what first came to mind was the episode “Schisms” from star trek TNG. Where aliens where able to interact with the crew of the enterprise due to a subspace technology on the ship. Performing experiments in their sleep. Perhaps bringing bag of holdings to a special area has the same effect. Moving the subspace of the bag to these astral aliens.

    • re Psychic Wind: there’s nothing in the DMG to suggest it wouldn’t affect dragons, except for their general resilience on saves.

    • On Psychic Wind, would the dragons be sickened by such phenomenon?

      Per Dragons of Eberron, dragons run into trouble when they attempted to channel psionic power. However, they aren’t called out as being abnormally vulnerable to psychic damage or psionic powers. The Psychic Wind would affect them as it would any other creature.

  5. Is there anything you would do with the concept of the “Outer Darkness,” as presented in page 121 of the 3.5 Player’s Guide to Eberron? “Some imagine that the Astral Plane is bounded in its most distant reaches by an encircling realm of utter dark, the end of all things. They call this region the Outer Darkness. Some claim that the shining realm of the Sovereign Host lies somewhere beyond this Outer Darkness, and that the Outer Darkness is the home-in-exile of the Dark Six. No mortal has ever visited this place, let alone any divine realm beyond it, so its existence is a matter of pure speculation.”

    Page 104 of 3.5 Faiths of Eberron mentions that some Greensingers who transgress against the druidic order are “pinned to the sky” (trapped on the Astral Plane). Is it fair to say that some societies use the Astral Plane as a prison?

    Page 22 of 3.5 Magic of Eberron claims that “The tools used by the daelkyr are mad in their reach and disregard for the natural order of the multiverse. Each time a daelkyr, or its minion, attempts to create a new symbiont, minion, or other corruption, it essentially ‘spins up’ a series of miniature realities from unstable astral material, then rapidly screens for anything that even remotely resembles some sort of specified ideal, typically a unique ability or trait that the daelkyr would find useful in a new creation. These created minirealities are born and die in mere minutes, and most of what occurs within their boundaries is sick nightmare.” Is it reasonable to say that daelkyr creations are actually spun up from the material of the Astral Plane?

    • Keith did not write Faiths or Magic of Eberron. They are canon if you want but ultimately the answer is going to be “how do you want it to work?” Player’s Guide to Eberron was MASSIVELY written by committee from the looks of it and huge swathes of it contradict current “kanon”, but the hook in that book is largely that, a hook for you to use or discard as a DM. Few have been out that far and much like “what’s after Dolurrh” it’s in-universe a metaphysical question more than an adventure path.

      Regarding Faiths of Eberron’s note, this very article suggests exiles and fugitives go to the Astral plane, but I’d imagine the Greensingers (or other groups) would need A) access to a colour pool and B) a way to stop someone walking back through the portal

    • Is there anything you would do with the concept of the “Outer Darkness,” as presented in page 121 of the 3.5 Player’s Guide to Eberron?
      It’s not something I personally use. Mabar fills the role of “utter dark, the end of all things.” I prefer the astral plane to be seemingly endless. Beyond that, my view of the astral plane is that it’s OUTSIDE creation—while I’d expect the domain of the Sovereigns to be part of creation.

  6. “Speed of Thought. While in the astral plane, a creature has a flight speed (in feet) equal to 3 x its Intelligence score. This replaces all other forms of movement the creature possesses, and overrides any spell or effect that grants or increases movement speed.”

    Are unintelligent constructs/undead/etc. powerless in the Astral Plane?

    “In their early days in the astral plane, the Githyanki discovered an immense six-fingered hand floating in the void. This severed hand is charged with arcane power, not unlike Eberron dragonshards. The origins of the hand remain a mystery, but the Githyanki recognized it as a useful resource and a suitable foundation for an anchorage”

    Would it be appropriate to make items like the Hand of the Mage, Hand of Glory, and (the more obscure) Hand of the Oak Father (from MiC) have their origins in Githyanki attempts to imitate this hand? Severed and preserved hands of humanoids on amulets are particularly distinctive magic items that (as far as I’m aware) have no lore origin.

    • That trait of the Astral Plane is a 5e thing, where golems and zombies have a low intelligence score. In 3rd ed you’d make a Wisdom check and all creatures, even mindless ones, have Wisdom and Charisma. You might end up with a situation where a Formian Queen (normally unable to move) can speed through the astral plane in fact.

      But ultimately? Might be a cool thing to do to make constructs, plants, undead and vermin unable to move in the astral plane OR might be cool to give them a minimum movement.

  7. Can I ask – what do you mean by “previous incarnations of Eberron”? Is there some degree of cyclical time or new universes involved?

    • Short answer, some monsters and creatures (if you want them to) could be remnants of other incarnations of Eberron, either parallel or previous to this one. Though gem dragons, gith, illithids and obyriths have perfectly logical origins otherwise as well, they all may originate from prior realities (and this article assumes at least the gith believe they do)

      • I think “prior” might not be the best term because it implies linear time. My understanding is that these realities are Otherwhens, not just previous iterations. I could very well be wrong though

  8. Can creatures of Dal Quor or Xortiat enter the Astral Plane? Can they travel to eberron from the Astral? How does the Githyanki plan to defeat Xoriat if it cant ve accessed from the Astral Plane?

  9. Given the ability of the astral plane to make anyone immortal, why there are no civilizations who choose to live there by their own choice(different from The Gith, who are more like refugees)? And the Undying court? Why bother Doing all those rituals to keep their elders immortal, when they could be living in the astral plane instead, a place which is capable of doing that passively?

    • I’ve just added an answer at the end of the Q&A. Short form: the civilizations of Khorvaire aren’t advanced enough for it to be an option. The dragons tried it and it was a disaster. The elves are happy to stay there for a while, but it’s not the sort of immortality they’re looking for. With that said, the astral plane is effectively infinite space. There could BE multiple civilizations out in the trackless void if you want to have them there, a nation whose people left Eberron in the distant past; if so, they’re simply so isolated that the people of modern Eberron don’t even know they exist.

      • I think the main concern of a civilization in the Astral is birth. New life does not age in the Astral. I am not sure if it is the same in Eberron but the Githyanki have to move pregnant females to the material and the creches in the material are where githyanki spend their childhood until they fully mature.

        Now you could move your elders only to the Astral and just leave them there. Would they be equipped to deal with it? The Aereni’s entire culture teaches them to dissociate from the pleasure of mortal existence. Move to the Astral and you lose all concept of time, the pleasure of food, even the physical sensation of movement. It would drive most material creatures insane in the long term imo.

  10. At first, I was like, “Okay, so Pylas Var-Tolai means something like ‘Great Silver Gate’? That’s awesome!” Though it screwed with my previous assumption that Tolai translated to ‘bone’ (as in Shae Tirias Tolai–City of Silver & Bone).

    But then someone over on the Discord pointed out that Tira/Tiraleth/Tirias actually probably means ‘silver’ given other examples. Tira Miron, Shaelas Tiraleth, etc.

    So… does Pylas Var-Tolai mean ‘Great Bone Gate’ then? (dang fantasy languages!)

    • Fun fact: I actually misnamed it. I meant to name it Pylas Var-Doresh, The Gate of the Great Dream… but I actually got Shae Tirias Tolai and Taer Lian Doresh stuck in my brain. So the question is whether I rename it or leave it as is. I’ll put it to a vote on the Threshold channel…

      • As someone that just got into dnd with 5e and found (and fell in love with) Eberron just a couple years ago, I find the depth of these languages fascinating. Is there a good book of yours to pick up that goes into the etymology of these languages even briefly? Reading Exploring Eberron and the Dhakaani language in it, there clearly is a “formula” to your languages i just wanted to know if you have it written down somewhere, or do you just have the rules in your head and want to keep the “exact” translation/rules to yourself?

  11. Is the Astral Plane completely cut off from the Draconic Prophecy, with absolutely nothing Prophecy-related referencing it?

    • I think the answer you’re going to get here is “What Makes Sense For Your Game”.

      Personally, I don’t see the Prophecy extending outside of the Material. Perhaps it references another plane in the sense of a planetouched or you need a Fernian-forged artefact, but you can get both of those on the Material. So I’d say no, no Astral in the Prophecy because the Prophecy is a metaphysical pillar of the Material.

    • The primary differences between the two are the same as those outlined in the DMG; the astral is a void that only touches other planes through color pools while the ethereal overlaps directly with other planes. Going into more detail about the unique role of the ethereal plane in Eberron would be a different article.

  12. Personally I love using the deepest furthest reaches of the astral plane as a method to cross cosmologies/campaign settings.

    How did Warforged end up in Toril? Through the Astral Plane!
    The Elves of Evermeet on Toril explore the planes looking for their home plane, and instead find PYLAS VAR-TOLAI.

    Spelljammers! The possibilities are endless!

    • Personally I love using the deepest furthest reaches of the astral plane as a method to cross cosmologies/campaign settings.
      It’s certainly an option!

    • Ran a backdoor Eberron mini-campaign in a Spelljammer game once. Their navigator ended up falling out into slow-flow and they crashed, first into the Eberron Astral, and then into Eberron proper. I treat Eberron as not being along any flow rivers; part of its distance from the rest of the D&D multiverse is that you have to manually navigate there.

      What resulted was a race to figure out how to get off the rock, maybe grab some dragonshards as an exotic ware to hawk, and to keep the tech of their astral ship out of the hands of two different Cannith factions and a few other ambitious, dangerous forces who really shouldn’t be able to travel outside of Eberron.

  13. Given that they are both Astral wayfarers, how do you feel about Aereni tinkering with new realities as a potential reason for the apparent animosity of the Dragons? I’m thinking of this quote from p. 217 of the ECS, “But those who have studied the elves—and their conflicts with the dragons in particular—are convinced that the deathless have a goal whose fruition may still be centuries away.” Also, by canon the attacks by the Dragons don’t start until the Undying Court is formed, which presumably coincides with Ascendant Councilors having ready access to the astral plane.

    Also wondering whether the state of arcane science is far enough along that, say, Orien might be working on figuring out astral travel, perhaps with the assistance of Kundarak is developing astral keys?

    • I think Orien was already experimenting with Khyber demiplanes. While Astral Keys would be much safer, you’d still be extremely limited by
      a) location of color pools
      b) the dangers of astral travel; going between two pools still requires time spend in the astral which practically begs for Gith raiders or Astral Dreadnaughts to eat your clients
      c) the inability to move merchandise through the portals; it would still at best be great for VIP travel and couriers but not more than that, things Orien already has stable solutions for

      That said, teleportation IS astral travel. Material plane portals still use Astral Conduits to function in D&D. So Orien probably is and should be studying the Astral if they ever hope to be able to build stable portals.

    • Given that they are both Astral wayfarers, how do you feel about Aereni tinkering with new realities as a potential reason for the apparent animosity of the Dragons?
      It’s certainly a story a campaign could choose to explore.

      Also wondering whether the state of arcane science is far enough along that, say, Orien might be working on figuring out astral travel, perhaps with the assistance of Kundarak is developing astral keys?
      Again, it’s an option. The point is that in default 998 YK the Five Nations don’t have easy access to the astral plane. They have the POTENTIAL because they’re already messing with it through things like the Vault network, but they don’t understand it. So the question is if you want such a breakthrough to be part of your campaign and how it would influence the player characters. Orien is always looking for shortcuts; the question is whether it’s more interesting to explore them using astral travel, shortcuts through Thelanis, or something else. Astral travel could also take the place of the Space Race, as described in previous articles.

    • Why not? Either they’re part of the material plane, in which case they connect to the astral, or they’re part of the outer planes, which also connect to the astral. The only question is which color pool will get you there.

  14. Hi Keith and thanks!
    Whilst I love the description that you give of the Astral Plane and the Gith society, do you think there are different explanations of them (your take on the Astral Plane and the Giths) that don’t need a previous creation or incarnation of Eberron?
    Could the Giths be wrong about their own story?
    Second question: can Astral plane be a source of arcane magic for a pc? How do you see it as a story hook?

    Thanks in advance and I hope everything is fine with you.

    • do you think there are different explanations of them (your take on the Astral Plane and the Giths) that don’t need a previous creation or incarnation of Eberron?
      Sure! I think canon sources (The Player’s Guide to Eberron?) has a different approach to the Gith.

      can Astral plane be a source of arcane magic for a pc?
      Sure, it would be a variant of the Externalist theory presented in this article. You could say that the character is trying to harness the pure power of creation, a far smaller version of what the elves are doing with Pylas Var-Tolai.

        • Everything I write on this website is what *I* would do in *MY* campaign; you’re always free to go in a different direction in yours. I explain why I chose this path for the Gith in this article. Key point: “I was intrigued by the idea of this deeply alien society—of a civilization that had abandoned the material world and carved out a place in the planes… The PGtE suggests that the Gith were created from human or hobgoblin stock during the daelkyr invasion of Eberron, and that they escaped when the Gatekeepers bound the daelkyr. There’s a number of things I don’t like about this explanation. Essentially, it downgrades the Gith to being discarded dolgrims—which is also strange because for creatures ‘created by the mind flayers from hobgoblin stock’ they’re not aberrations and are far less disturbing than the dolgaunts and dolgrims. More than that, I want the Gith to be the heroes of their own story—not playing second fiddle to the Gatekeepers. They may have failed to save their world, but at least they fought to the bitter end.”

          I also like the idea that mind flayers are to Gith as dolgrims are to hobgoblins, in part because it is a completely different approach to their vendetta than in other settings. Rather than the mind flayers creating the Gith, the mind flayers were created FROM Gith and were the tools the daelkyr used to destroy their people… and now they serve the daelkyr and help them destroy other worlds. It preserves the idea of Gith-Illithid enmity, but adds a different angle for a Gith player to explore; because while they are mortal enemies, the mind flayers are themselves victims of the daelkyr. But again, that’s the story I tell in MY campaign; you definitely don’t have to use it in yours.

  15. Now I have a legitimate question. Everyone playing in their own Eberron is playing in a parallel universe, correct? Hence, [i]your Eberron[/i]. In mine, there’s a lawful good Death Knight serving King Kaius III. Queen Aurala of Aundair is dissatisfied with how the Last War turned out, and is trying to rule over Aundair like a witch. King Kiaus acts like Henry V. King Boranel is trying to save the monarchy of Breland. And the Theocracy of the Silver Flame is complicated.

    Although the question is: everyone’s Eberron is a parallel universe? Same thing with the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance.

    • I’d say everyone is playing in the one true version of the world which is unique to their campaign?
      Eberron’s other possible realities are not real; they are just possibilities. Things could happen to make them real (that’s what Xoriat is for) but there is only one Reality. Everything else is just possible or even simply was real before and is now destroyed with a new reality taking its place.

  16. I came across this problem in forgotten realms. The astral projection spell says when you enter one of the pools then your possessions and real body travel along the cord and you are “whole” again in the new plane, but in the DMG when discussing Astral Projection on page 47 they specifically mention when going to outer planes (Avernus, Celestia any plane where souls go) your body doesn’t travel along the cord but instead you can explore those planes in your “projected form” so that death isn’t a threat and if they die they just return to their body. So you essentially can explore Avernus and interacting with the denizens there in two ways, one by physically going and one by astral projecting and finding a portal and only spiritually going so its much safer. This I guess is my long way of asking, in your eberron are there any planes (I’m thinking Dolurrh) where this is the case as well where you can visit it as your astral form?

    • I don’t see a reason there needs to be any restriction on places you can visit in astral form. Astral projection a 9th level spell; it SHOULD be better than the 7th level spell plane shift. We also describe the Ascendant Councilors exploring reality in astral form, suggesting that it’s possible. If anything, I’d say that Dolurrh might be the most DANGEROUS place to enter in astral form, because it’s a prison build to hold spirits; I’d argue that while DEATH might disrupt your astral form and send you home, the ennui of Dolurrh can affect astral forms normally, and you can easily have your will drained and your spirit form forever trapped. I could easily imagine that other planes could have defenses especially designed to guard against astral projections; Daanvi could well employ dimensional anchors that can trap projections or sever silver cords. Beyond that, I see no reason to limit places that people can astrally project. Again, it’s a 9th level spell, the equivalent of a wish; it SHOULD be exceptionally useful.

      • Is it safe to assume that the astral projection the Ascendant Court use is a special exception and essentially the only 9th level spell they can cast? I thought I remember reading the Aereni top out usually at 7th level.

        Also did all the “pools” to Dal Quor disappear when all other travel to the plane was cut off? I would assume so but giving the rarity of people traveling to the astral plane I could see it still having a path there that hasn’t been discovered.

        • Is it safe to assume that the astral projection the Ascendant Court use is a special exception and essentially the only 9th level spell they can cast? I thought I remember reading the Aereni top out usually at 7th level.
          You may be thinking of the Undying Councilor presented in Rising From The Last War, or of the fact that everyday magic is two levels higher than in the Five Nations. Neither of these things apply to Ascendant Councilors. According to page 276 of the ECS, “ Ascendant Councilors are the most holy, powerful, and revered of the ancient dead of Aerenal, and their power is nothing short of divine. They are incredibly ancient, some as old as the practice of necromancy on Aerenal. They rarely inhabit their physical forms, preferring to explore the universe in astral form…” They produce spell like effects as 20th level spellcasters, and can use astral projection (self only) at will… among other powerful effects.

          So, yes, the ability of the Ascendant Councilors to astrally project IS a special exception, and it’s not something that’s commonplace in Aereni society. The Aereni elves found in Pylas Var-Tolai are there PHYSICALLY, having entered through an eldritch gate (itself created by the Undying Court and not something that could be casually produced by living Aereni); they aren’t astral projections like the Ascendant Councilors. Astral travel of any sort isn’t something the elves do CASUALLY; but it is something that is POSSIBLE for them because of the divine power wielded by the Ascendant gestalt.

          • The Ascendant Councilors of Aerenal are, essentially, much like Jaela Daran in Flamekeep. They wield divine power far beyond what is typically possible in their society, but the REACH of that power is limited. The Undying Court can repel dragons when they attack Aerenal, but they can’t unleash that same power in Sharn.

        • The Astral pools table is from Exploring Eberron, which explains that Dal Quor hasn’t been accessible since the Age of Giants and that portals through the transitive planes to Dal Quor are impassable. Made a bit easier now that quori don’t interact with the Ethereal Plane as part of their possession ability like they did in 3.5e.

          • Awesome thanks. I’ve read exploring eberron and assumed as such but must have missed or forgot that part.

  17. Elephant in the room question. Bags of Holding are particularly easy to make in Eberron being an uncommon magic item. PC Artificer’s can make them at level 2 and I assume House Cannith practically has warehouses of them. If one is placed inside another one it destroys them and sucks everyone within 10 feet into the Astral Plane. Given how you have noted the Houses haven’t started astral pioneering yet, it must mean they haven’t tried this method yet. I can think of a few reasons why this would be the case but curious what your’s is. A couple i’ve thought of:
    No one has had this accident yet (Not likely IMO).

    Its unreliable as it dumps you to a random location on the astral plane so you can’t keep going to the same spot.

    Or while this phenomenon has been observed no one knows what happens when two bags are put together, someone watched it happen to a Cannith inventor once and saw them collapse into time and space never to be seen again and while we know they went to the astral plane they don’t know this, anyone seeing it just assumed they died in a magical compression accident and no one this has happened to has returned from the Astral Plane yet.

    • Astral travel is extremely dangerous. The psychic wind is capable of dealing up to 4d10 psychic damage, which will easily kill your typical magewright. Beyond such “natural” dangers, you run the risk of being killed by a prisoner who wants your stuff or eaten by some sort of forgotten construct like an astral dreadnought. Let’s assume that this doesn’t happen: how are you going to get home? First of all, a random person dropped into the astral plane doesn’t necessarily know about color pools, let alone what color connects to what plane. So assume they find a color pool; they may well end up in Fernia or Risia as opposed to home. Let’s assume they find a pool to Eberron; it’s just as likely to drop them in Xen’drik, the Frostfell, or Argonnessen as it is to bring them back to the Five Nations.

      So while WE know that the bag of holding accident drops people in the astral plane, and while PLAYER CHARACTERS may survive that experience, the practical experience for a typical person is that people who get sucked into a bag of holding disappear and are never seen again. Even if artificers know it drops them in the astral plane, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s typically a death sentence. There could be a legend of someone getting sucked into a bag and being found decades later in Sarlona. The player characters could cause a sensation when they get sucked into a bag and manage to return… or they could be hired by a Cannith artificer conducting such astral experiments. But the key point is that a normal person who gets dropped into the astral plane will likely never be seen again.

      Oh, one more point on this, though: “Its unreliable as it dumps you to a random location on the astral plane so you can’t keep going to the same spot.” I DEFINITELY assume this is the case. I suggested that a DM MIGHT decide that there’s a “constellation of Cannith bags” but even that is something I’d spread out over a wide area, just as the stars in our constellations aren’t actually close together. There might be a REGION of subspace tied to Cannith bags, but it’s not like the person creating the bag has any control over it; they’re just punching a hole in space and don’t know where it’s going. Certainly, this principle could be central to a future breakthrough involving the creation of astral gates. But I still think that’s a long ways off, and at the moment what people know is that bag of holding explosions are DANGEROUS.

  18. We know the Aerenal magebred the Sea Elves to help maintain and dwell in the Thunder Sea, so magebreeding a new subrace for living somewhere else is totally something they can and will do.

    So: could this be a possible origin for the Astral Elves from the new UA? Magebred to harness or safely exist in the Astral Sea? Or perhaps they were made within this new reality Aerenal is manifesting.

    • So: could this be a possible origin for the Astral Elves from the new UA? Magebred to harness or safely exist in the Astral Sea? Or perhaps they were made within this new reality Aerenal is manifesting.

      It’s definitely possible. I think the main question I’d have is how effectively the astral elves actually represent a species magebred to survive in the astral plane. Aquatic elves have a swim speed and can breathe under water. Astral elves… can pick up weapon or tool proficiencies after a rest and are hard to kill. Those seem like GENERALLY useful traits as opposed to specifically ASTRAL survival traits. I might be more inclined to use Astral Elves as a form of Tairnadal. Trance Proficiencies seems very much in line with drawing on the memories of ancestors, and Radiant Soul could be played as an ancestral spirit saying Get back on your feet, child!

  19. I new there was a 13th moon to go with the plane, but was there a 13 month before it was destroyed? On Earth, a 100-year old person has lived for about 36,525 days. On Eberron, would they only live for 33,600 days, or would they have lived for the same amount of days, which would come to 108.7 years on the planet? There’s been some controversy over the varying sizes of Khorvaire and thus Eberron itself, so would their days even be equivalent to 24 hours as we know them? There are many other questions that could lead from those, but I know, you weren’t trying to write hard sci-fi. At least the inhabitants of Eberron have a better argument for having been intelligently designed, since they at least have a conveniently consistent calendar.

    • I new there was a 13th moon to go with the plane, but was there a 13 month before it was destroyed?
      Crya disappeared forty thousand years ago, long before any known human civilization existed. As the standard YK calendar was developed by humans, it only ever used twelve months. To the other questions, as you say, we weren’t trying to write hard sci-fi. It’s certainly true that as the calendar of Eberron is shorter than ours, that someone who’s a hundred years old has lived less time than someone who lives a hundred years on our world. And canonically we have not adjusted the lifespans of any of the creatures of Eberron, so BY CANON, the people of Eberron don’t live as long as people of other worlds. You can certainly adjust this in your campaign by shifting lifespans or lengths of days. But as you say, we weren’t trying to write hard science fiction; given that, my answer is to follow the simpler path and just say “Huh, they don’t live as long.”

      Now, this surely could lead to a discussion of the Qabalrin Wheel, which dates back from that time and does use 13 months. The one thing I’ll say there is that we’ve called out that the YK calendar uses the moons because moons enter an ascendant phase during their month, thus raising the question of how the Qabalrin Wheel accounts for this. In my opinion, when Crya existed, it was part of this cycle and the full lunar ascendancy cycle took thirteen months. When it vanished, the gap closed to account for the void. So in short, the Qabalrin Wheel may once have been tied to the lunar ascendancy cycles, but now it definitely does not, because it’s been running off-kilter for 40,000 years.

      But the short form is that calendars are like the Common Tongue; not necessarily realistic but a matter of convenience. The YK calendar is the “Common Calendar” and what we use to measure everything else. If an elf “lives up to 750 years”, unless it’s specifically called out, that’s a 750 years under the YK calendar, even though that is indeed less time than 750 years under the Julian calendar or the Qabalrin Wheel. So yes, by canon, people in Eberron live shorter lives!

      • Thank you, and please pardon the typo of missing the K in KNEW.

        I don’t think I’ve ever heard of the Qabalrin Wheel before, but then, that’s probably true of a lot of things that came after the initial 3.5 CS. For a long time I didn’t have a gaming group and couldn’t afford new books in the 4e era. After 2008, vision issues meant I couldn’t read in print form for very long. Audiobook versions of the game materials aren’t likely, and huge amounts of catch-up lore is probably beyond the scope of the podcast. Is there a good wiki?

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