Dungeons & Dragons’ Astral Plane & Material Plane Differences

D&D characters can enter many planes of existence, like the Astral Plane, but most are very different from the Material Plane they call home.

The Material Plane is the primary location for most Dungeons & Dragons adventures. Also known as the Prime Material Plane, it is the space in which tangible realms exist, time flows at a predictable pace, and creatures age and die. However, there are other planes of existence that can be traveled to in the D&D universe, and many are drastically different from what can be expected in the Material Plane.

There are three main categories of planes in D&D: Transitive Planes, Outer Planes, and Inner Planes. The Transitive Planes encompass both the Ethereal and Astral Planes. The Outer and Inner Planes are less tangible and are built around concepts like the primary elements, energy types, states of matter, and materials like smoke or ooze.

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The Astral Plane is a barren space filled with few recognizable objects. Unlike the Material Plane, which contains realms of geographical landscapes, kingdoms, and thriving cultures, the Astral Plane is primarily empty. Characters cannot physically enter D&D’s Astral Plane, instead projecting their consciousness out of their bodies with spells like blink or astral projection. What objects do exist there can be interacted with but are lacking in form. There is no also gravity in the Astral Plane, so those who enter it float, rather than walking on surfaces.

D&D Characters Can’t Age In The Astral Plane

Dungeons & Dragons Bigby Hand Spell

Time passes differently in the Astral Plane. While characters can grow, age, and change in the Prime Material Plane, the effects of time are almost non-existent in the Astral Plane. A Dungeons & Dragons character can accidentally spend thousands of years in the Astral Plane but feel as if only days have passed. Creatures in the Astral plane don’t grow hungry or tired, further obscuring the physical symptoms of time passage. Because of this, it can be easy for a character to become lost there, returning to a Material Plane completely different from the one they left.

Traveling the planes can be an exciting, high-stakes way to explore the Dungeons & Dragons universe, but the Astral Plane can be a complicated one to visit. Players who want to make the journey there may need to discuss it with their Dungeon Master first, as doing so unexpectedly has the potential to completely derail a campaign. An alternate way to use Astral Plane travel in a campaign is to include it in a character’s backstory. Perhaps this character was once trapped in the plane for hundreds of years, not realizing the amount of time they were absent.

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