Just a quick note: I have had a very busy week with a combination of travel out of town and family in town. So, it has been relatively quiet around here; however, I did want to share a thought that occurred to me after reading James' post on the Astral Plane.
I have long been fascinated by the possibility of planar travel in D&D. The closest I have ever come to it in play, however, was a semi-Monte Haul campaign I played when I was (much) younger. It pitted my paladin against the likes of Githyanki and their ilk. While I did have fun playing in that campaign, I have never bothered to run one similar myself because, like James, I found all the specific fiddly bits surrounding planar travel to be unwieldy and discouraging. This has always been a disappointment because I have always liked the idea (one of the only reasons why I look back on the paladin vs. Githyanki campaign with any fondness at all).
I have therefore been contemplating simple ways to indicate that players are no longer in Kansas anymore. One of the more interesting experiments I ran during my Lost Colonies campaign saw the players in a City of Brass-type setting. In order to clue the players into the fact that this was abnormal, we used a combat system similar to that of Chainmail rather than D&D. In other words, simple (and universal) mechanics can go a long way to achieving the feel of planar travel.
One of the more compelling ideas I had this week (particularly for the Astral plane) was to switch around the affects of characteristic bonuses. Thus, the three physical abilities (Str, Dex and Con) would effectively function as Int, Wis and Cha and vice versa. Thus, that 18 Str fighter with a 3 Int would suddenly be fighting at a -3 rather than a +3. Mechanically, this simply implies that physical tasks in the Astral Plane are rather tasks of the intellect and will and that intellectual matters are more akin to a physical self-awareness.
What other simple mechanical changes could represent other planes?
6 hours ago