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Inspired by this question.

I'm not sure that I understand how the Astral Projection spell works. The description states the following:

You and up to eight willing creatures within range project your astral bodies into the Astral Plane (the spell fails and the casting is wasted if you are already on that plane). The material body you leave behind is unconscious and in a state of suspended animation; it doesn’t need food or air and doesn’t age.

Your astral body resembles your mortal form in almost every way, replicating your game statistics and possessions. The principal difference is the addition of a silvery cord that extends from between your shoulder blades and trails behind you, fading to invisibility after 1 foot. This cord is your tether to your material body. As long as the tether remains intact, you can find your way home. If the cord is cut—something that can happen only when an effect specifically states that it does—your soul and body are separated, killing you instantly.

Your astral form can freely travel through the Astral Plane and can pass through portals there leading to any other plane. If you enter a new plane or return to the plane you were on when casting this spell, your body and possessions are transported along the silver cord, allowing you to re-enter your body as you enter the new plane. Your astral form is a separate incarnation. Any damage or other effects that apply to it have no effect on your physical body, nor do they persist when you return to it.

The spell ends for you and your companions when you use your action to dismiss it. When the spell ends, the affected creature returns to its physical body, and it awakens. The spell might also end early for you or one of your companions. A successful dispel magic spell used against an astral or physical body ends the spell for that creature. If a creature’s original body or its astral form drops to 0 hit points, the spell ends for that creature. If the spell ends and the silver cord is intact, the cord pulls the creature’s astral form back to its body, ending its state of suspended animation.

If you are returned to your body prematurely, your companions remain in their astral forms and must find their own way back to their bodies, usually by dropping to 0 hit points.

My specific point of confusion, I think, centers around the difference between the terms 'astral form', 'original body', and 'physical body'. Their intent is not clear to me as the spell is written.

My interpretation of the spell is that it permits you to travel the astral plane to locate other planes of existence in an astral form, which essentially your soul and mind. You leave behind your physical body with a silver cord tethering it to your astral form.

If you drop to 0 hit points during astral travel, you are safe because your astral form can follow the silver cord to rejoin with your physical body and thus not suffer significant consequences from failed exploration. Upon finding a portal to another plane, you can enter it and your physical body is pulled along the silver cord to rejoin with your astral form (i.e. mind) and thereby allowing you to explore that plane.

Is this combined form your physical body, astral form, or something else?

Is this interpretation correct? Other answers suggest that you can travel to other planes in a manner similar to summoned creatures and thus avoid some of the dangers of death by virtue of having an automatic retreat to your physical body, however, this doesn't make sense if your physical body is pulled along the cord to rejoin with your astral form. The spell states that the cord is between your physical body and astral form, I would think that once your body was pulled along the cord, the cord would effectively not exist.

I think my interpretation may not be as generous as others especially given that this is a 9th level spell, but I had based it upon the notion that the Astral Plane was a different and more unusual plane than others, which required special consideration to navigate in a 'safe' manner.

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The material body you leave behind is unconscious ...

The material body is left behind and unconscious.

Your astral body ... [has] a silvery cord ... to your material body.

The astral body is tethered to the material body and is on the Astral plane.

If you enter a new plane ..., your body and possessions are transported along the silver cord, allowing you to re-enter your body as you enter the new plane.

"[E]nter[ing] a new plane" has to be done by the astral body since its the only one capable of movement/actions. It follows that the body being transported must be the materiel body soince if it was the astral body you would be back where you started and would not have "enter[ed] the new plane.]

However, ...

The DMG (p. 47) inconsistantly says this about Astral Projection:

Since the Outer Planes are as much spiritual states of being as they are physical places, this allows a character to manifest in an Outer Plane as if he or she had physically traveled there, but as in a dream. A character's death-either in the Astral Plane or on the destination plane-causes no actual harm. Only the severing of a character's silver cord while on the Astral Plane (or the death of his or her helpless physical body on the Material Plane) can result in the character's true death. Thus, high-level characters sometimes travel to the Outer Planes by way of astral projection rather than eek out a portal or use a more direct spell.

Which is not supported by the text of the spell itself.

So ...

Like all rules inconsistencies: ask your DM.

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    \$\begingroup\$ How do you jibe this answer with the DMG's take on the spell- "A character's death-- either in the Astral Plane or on the destination plane -- causes no actual harm"? (Emphasis mine) \$\endgroup\$ – TheVagrantDog Oct 9 at 0:01

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