"So - why do they call it the silver void? Must mean there's nothin' there? Right?"
- Some clueless sod
Most berks think the Astral Plane's an empty place, serving as nothing but a cosmic highway connecting all the other places in the multiverse. Canny planewalkers know differently, though. Here are just a few of the "Secrets" of the Silver Void that this book explains:
- It is the backdrop of the multiverse, where phenomena such as space and time are so vastly different form " normal" that only a true blood knows his way around.
- When he's on the Astral Plane, a basher moves, fights, and acts solely with his mind.
- It is the closest thing the multiverse has to a " plane of magic," where sorcery and spells are not only more powerful, but are palpable, tangible objects.
- The primary inhabitants are the infamous githyanki, an ancient race of wizards and warriors who know the dark of many secrets forbidden to others.
- The Astral Plane is literally the dead-book of the gods.
Now, that's not nothin', is it, berk?
Monte Cook's Guide to the Astral Plane (1996) is that very rare rules supplement that is a joy to read due to entertaining text; attractive to look at thanks to good graphic design, and well organized, it is so full of plot hooks and game ideas that you could practically run an entire Astral campaign from this 96-page book alone. It takes a feature of D&D that has been around since the early days and spins it out into a legitimately fun source of adventure. Whether you run a Planescape game or not, regardless of the rules system and edition you use, this is a worthwhile book to buy if your heroes ever venture into the Astral.
Huh. Re-reading that last paragraph, I think I might like this one a little bit. It's justified, though: the rules fatigue you get from reading some game books never happens with this supplement, mostly because it's so darn entertaining to read. Snarky quotes from Planeswalkers pepper the book, occasionally with responses from the people they're speaking to. The result breaks up the pacing just enough to catch the eye and underscore important points in the text.
Berk Berk Berk Berk Berk. Berk Berk? Berk! The one caution for non-Planescape fans is that this book, like almost all Planescape products, uses a moderate amount of cant (or "planar slang") throughout. It's kept to a reasonable level, far less intrusive than a few Planescape products that have laid it on a little too thick even in non-first-person rules discussions, but the slang may seem affected and intrusive to people not familiar with the custom.
That said, try saying "berk" about twenty times quickly. It's sort of fun. Berk.
Organization. The book starts off by discussing the nature of the Astral Plane, Astral movement, Astral combat, Astral magic, and proficiencies. Some interesting concepts are explored here, including the nature of combat in a plane where physical strength has no meaning. Magical addiction, Astral ships, the nature (or lack of) extradimensional spaces, spell keys to make magic spells function correctly, and the like are all explained.
Following that are chapters on "conduits" - the whirling connections that criss-cross the endless starry field of the Astral - and Color Pools, portals into other worlds. These are both used to travel around the Astral, and knowing how to use them becomes key to not getting yourself into more trouble than you can handle. From there the book discusses dead gods, the forgotten and rotting husks of slain deities that dot the Astral Plane. Hey, if a god dies, the corpse has to go somewhere. Making these into explorable adventure locations was an act of genius by someone on the Planescape team. Each dead god is a uniquely themed, unpredictably exciting site where deific memories may be the best treasure you can find.
Githyanki, the Lich-Queen, and You. Major chapters cover the githyanki and other Astral denizens. Githyanki have been a fan favorite ever since they graced the cover of the original 1e Fiend Folio; the militaristic race and their evil, undying Lich-Queen have featured in scores of adventures. Secrets of the race are revealed here, including their different organizations and societal structures, their cities, and their fortresses. Githyanki plans and tactics are discussed, and rules are even supplied for making them player characters - good luck trying to not get devoured by the Lich-Queen after 11th level, though.
Other Astral monsters get their own chapter. Brain collectors, devas, and the ever-famous (thanks to its appearance on the cover of the 1st edition AD&D Manual of the Planes) Astral dreadnought join a handful of other monsters that swim the Astral for prey. There aren't many standouts here - Astral streakers are handy messenger birds, but not particularly useful foes -- but there's good variety for rounding out the already established planar monsters.
Locations in Nowhere. The book finishes up with a series of nine Astral encounters, mapped locations that provide spectacular play. An unimaginably large floating cloud of undead skeletons, the headquarters of a faction who wish to kill the gods themselves, a living sea of intelligent water, a warehouse and prison for the detritus of the multiverse... these, and more, provide locations for adventuring.
To sum up, this book is one of the winners in the Planescape line. Fun to read and useful for a planar campaign, it turns a boring transitional plane into a place of mystery and adventure.
About the Creators. A core Planescape author, award-winning author Monte Cook started working as a freelancer for TSR in 1992 and left Wizards of the Coast in 2001 to start Malhavoc Press. His 2012 Kickstarter for the post-apocalyptic science fction roleplaying game Numenera raised over $500,000. We like to think of him lounging in his secret lair and gaming with solid gold dice, but the truth is that he remains one of the most creative and hard-working authors in the industry.
About the Product Historian
History and commentary of this product was written by Kevin Kulp, game designer and admin of the independent D&D fansite ENWorld. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.