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After going through the Great Wheel Cosmology and going through the various wikia articles on the subject, I feel it's unclear which planes border the Astral one in D&D 5e.

I've found plenty of evidence that the Ethereal Plane and the Astral plane do not border each other at all. I also understand that the outer planes border the Astral.

However, what about:

  • The prime Material Plane (also, is the Prime Material Plane exactly the same as the Material Plane?)
  • The material echo planes (the Shadowfell and the Feywild)
  • The Elemental Chaos

I can't seem to find explicit evidence about whether all of these planes border the Astral or only some of them. If there's no precedent in 5e, I'd be open to hearing how it was in prior editions, as a frame of reference for setting personal precedent.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Good to know Aqua, and welcome to the stack! This is a great question that I will be following. When you have a moment, take the short tour, and if you want a more in depth look at how things work here, check out the plethora of articles at the help center. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 18, 2021 at 22:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ What do you mean by "border"? Do you mean you can travel from one to another or something else? \$\endgroup\$
    – illustro
    Oct 18, 2021 at 23:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ My understanding is that you can only planar travel to planes that border your own plane of existence. In the Great Wheel Cosmology, some planes are adjacent to each other, and can be traveled between as a result. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 19, 2021 at 4:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AquaDragon: It's not generally that clear; Plane Shift can take you anywhere (no matter how many planes are in between) after all. Nothing in 5E is very clear about whether adjacency is a thing that matters for anything but the rare exceptions (like being able to physically travel between Inner Planes, walk from Border to Deep Ethereal, etc.). About the only restriction I can find is that the Border Ethereal is purely on the Material and Inner Planes (plus material echoes), so spells that access it don't work from the Astral or Outer Planes. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 19, 2021 at 14:18

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The default 5E cosmology is unclear on some of the connections. I'll give the best answers I can give here on how the Astral borders other planes in the default cosmology:

The prime Material Plane (also, is the Prime Material Plane exactly the same as the Material Plane?)

The Prime Material Plane is how older editions of D&D referred to what 5E calls just the Material Plane. 5E doesn't explicitly describe direct connections from the Material to the Astral (though it does indicate color pools can form from the Astral to the Material), and it lacks a border region the way the Ethereal does. The Astral is described as the realm of thought and dream, so presumably it's metaphysically "close" to the Prime Material, but it's not clearly "bordering" (overlapping) it the way the Ethereal is. Oddly, color pools can form in 5E from the Astral to the Ethereal (but not Inner Planes), indicating a level of connection that didn't exist in older editions' cosmologies.

The material echo planes (the Shadowfell and the Feywild)

Every reference to the echo planes I've been able to find considers them equally connected, or disconnected, from other planes as the Material. Since the Astral is accessible from the Material plane, it's presumably equally accessible from the Shadowfell and Feywild, and "borders" them (or not) equally.

The Elemental Chaos

The Astral naturally connects to many planes via color pools, and said pools can never lead to the Inner Planes, so on the most basic level, no, the Astral doesn't "border" the Elemental Chaos (or any Inner Plane) the way it "borders" the Material Plane; if you want to go from the Astral to the Inner Planes, you need a spell to skip intermediate planes, natural color pool connections don't form.

Aside from that, it's ugly. 5E doesn't describe how the Inner Planes (which the Elemental Chaos is part of) and the Outer Planes (which are connected to each other and the Material Plane by the Astral) connect, if they do at all. In 2E, where Planescape nailed things down in great detail, the planes were rather like a stack, with the Outer Planes on top, the Astral between them and the Prime Material, the Ethereal between the Prime Material and the Inner Planes (rather like the World Axis alternative from the 5E DMG, but without the Elemental Chaos and with the Abyss as the CE Outer Plane). The Astral connected directly only to the Outer Planes and the Prime Material, the Ethereal only to the Prime Material and the Inner Planes (the Ethereal also housed the demiplanes). There was even an explicit idea of planar "distance" that affected how clerical magic functioned when you were more or less distant from your god (and reinforced the whole concept of Outer Planes being on the opposite side of the Prime Material from the Inner Planes).

But in 5E, the details in the text are vague and the illustration of the planar cosmology (PHB page 303) could be interpreted to have the Astral surrounding the Inner Planes, which in turn surround the Material plane. It describes no such connections in the text, perhaps indicating the relationship isn't simple enough to be depicted in a drawing. The DMG is the only place they describe the relationship at all, and it's incredibly (probably intentionally) vague:

The Inner Planes form a wheel around the Material Plane, enveloped in the Ethereal Plane. Then the Outer Planes form another wheel around and behind (or above or below) that one, arranged according to alignment, with the Outlands linking them all.

Note the text I emphasized, indicating the wishy-washy positional relationship between Inner and Outer Planes.

This doesn't even mention the Ethereal or Astral. The Astral remains largely associated with the Outer Planes, and the Ethereal with the Inner, but it's essentially DM fiat whether there is any sort of (meta)physical ties from the Elemental Chaos to the Astral.

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    \$\begingroup\$ So referencing A Guide to the Ethereal Plane: there is no known direct way to travel between the Inner and the Outer Planes, or between the Astral and the Ethereal, that did not pass through the Material Plane first. What is an echo plane exactly? We talk about them separately from the Material Plane, leading me to believe that they in fact do not have access to the Astral plane. \$\endgroup\$
    – BirdSpirit
    Oct 19, 2021 at 5:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BirdSpirit: The (material) echo planes are what 5E calls the Feywild and Shadowfell (which didn't exist in 2E; the Demiplane of Shadow was the precursor to the Shadowfell, but the Shadowfell is no longer a demiplane, nor is it in the Ethereal); they're parallel to the Material Plane, and function as echoes of it; they don't describe their behaviors separate from the Material much, but they seem to be almost equal and alongside it, which probably wouldn't change their position, metaphysically speaking. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 19, 2021 at 10:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ And yes, in 2E, the Astral and Ethereal both touched the Prime Material, but not each other (that's how the stack setup worked; Astral touched Outer & Prime Material, Prime Material touched Astral & Ethereal, Ethereal touched Prime Material and Inner). But the 2E planar arrangement differed significantly from 5E's in the parts 5E bothers to nail down, and 5E is far more vague about a lot of stuff. I suspect the 5E designers were trying to avoid litigating whether certain spells work on certain planes; leave it vague enough, and you can astral project or become ethereal from any plane. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 19, 2021 at 10:33

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