Hi. Could anyone clarify for me what happens to the cleric's body with this spell? As written in the description in the PHB, it almost sounds like once the cleric had successfully navigated the astral plane to am outer plane, a copy of the cleric, John Carter style, is created on the new plane. Am I reading this wrong? Also, are any hitchhikers in the same boat, physically speaking, as the cleric? And lastly, since it states that travel in the outer planes is subject to the cleric's conceptualization, does this mean some knowledge of the planes must be required to get to a certain plane? I would think the plane of the cleric's deities or deity would be excepted from that. Any answers or thoughts? Thanks!
The cleric's physical body remains on the Prime Material Plane. The physical and astral bodies are attached with a silver chord. If the chord is broken (not easy to do), the cleric will die. IIRC, the cleric will also die if his physical body is destroyed.
The cleric may take up to 5 companions with him, but only special items can be transported with them. Most of their normal equipment stays in the Prime plane.
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I am confused because the description refers to a "second body" and a "new body" being formed on the outer plane while the first body on the Prime Material Plane awakens from suspended animation.
It also states that a second body cannot be formed on the P.M. plane if the spell is used to astrally travel, inferring that outside the P.M. plane a second body, or copy, CAN be formed and is existing simultaneously with the origial form that is back on the P.M. plane and the spell is clear that this second form is not astral.
As I read it, once the astral plane is navigated safely and the astral form of the cleric incarnates on a new plane, there are two of him or her! Would certainly be interesting!
But if I'm reading it wrong, the phrasing is not the clearest.
Right. The cleric's real body is in a trance, and projects an "astral body". This part is actually straight out of theosophy and other old mystical/occult traditions, which got borrowed by fiction and comic books (Doctor Strange, in particular,) which then made its way into D&D beginning with Greyhawk.
By the time of AD&D, there was an expanded cosmology of "planes" and the question becomes: what happens if a cleric or M-U travels in astral form to another plane? Does the astral body remain invisible and insubstantial? AD&D adds the concept of forming a second body on another plane. So, the caster has two bodies: the real one, which is still in a trance, and a second one, which you could think of as a solidified version of the astral body. The two are still connected by a silver cord, and if the cord is broken or the caster's real body is moved far from its starting position, bad things can happen. What, exactly, depends on which source material you are using: Greyhawk has the caster's soul exiled to Hell for either case, the PHB has the caster die if the silver cord is cut (but no longer mentions moving the body,) and the Manual of the Planes turns this into complete, permanent death after 1d10 turns, but also explicitly states that moving the caster's real body has no effect.
I'm guessing what you are finding confusing is this quote from the PHB: "When a second body is formed on a different plane, the silvery cord remains invisibly attached to the new body, and the cord simply returns to the latter where it rests on the Prime Material Plane, reviving it from its state of suspended animation." This seems to be a mistake, since it implies that the caster can walk around and take action in two different locations at the same time. The Manual of the Planes implies the opposite: as long as the "astral component" is not present in the original body, it remains in suspended animation.
Manual of the Planes also states that the second Outer Planes body is made of material taken from the plane in question and can be very different from the caster's normal form, for example emerging from a pool of magma with a magma-body.