Line of Sight and Ethereal Plane
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  1. #1
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    Line of Sight and Ethereal Plane

    Does becoming ethereal negate line of sight?

    Here's the exact example:

    A creature (specifically a lich hound from Tome of Beasts) causes enemies around it to be frightened. The frightened condition remains while the creature is within line of sight. But the creature becomes ethereal. Does the frightened condition then go away for its enemies?

    It's already determined that closing your eyes, or turning around, or even darkness does not negate line of sight. But would the creature becoming ethereal? I also read somewhere that causing fear is more about the creature looking at YOU and not you looking at the creature.

    Here's the line of sight rule in the DMG: To precisely determine whether there is line of sight between two spaces, pick a corner of one space and trace an imaginary line from that corner to any part of another space. If at least one such line doesn't pass through or touch an object or effect that blocks vision such as a stone wall, a thick curtain, or a dense cloud of fog-then there is line of sight.

    My thinking is that while the enemy can't see the ethereal creature, there is nothing blocking line of sight as defined in the game. So the frightened condition remains.

    What say you?
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    You say darkness doesn’t negate line of sight, but the definition you posted from the dmg says it does since it creates a heavily obscured area which blocks vision entirely. Likewise, I’d say etherealness is an effect that blocks vision because you can’t see something that’s ethereal.

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    So, would you say that by closing your eyes, you would negate the frightened condition?

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    No, because your eyelids aren’t external to your space.
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    Quote Originally Posted by beaumontsebos View Post
    So, would you say that by closing your eyes, you would negate the frightened condition?
    It doesn't negate frightened, it just removes one of the penalties. You have disadvantage on attacks and skill checks as long as you can see the source of your fear. So, if you close your eyes, you won't suffer that penalty. But now you're getting disadvantage on attacks and granting advantage to your enemies, because you're blind. And if you open your eyes, the original penalty comes right back.

    You do get to remove the disadvantage on skill checks, though. I guess that's something. In general, however, this does not seem like an improvement.

    As far as the OP's question, I would say that you retain line of sight if you have a way to see ethereal creatures. If you don't, the penalties go away while it's ethereal.
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    Hiya!

    Quote Originally Posted by beaumontsebos View Post
    Does becoming ethereal negate line of sight?

    What say you?
    I say..."What kind of 'fear' do you want/use in your game?". There are three types of fear in my book:

    1. "TV Show Fear" - This is fear that is more "startling" or "briefly terrifying". After the initial BOO!, the characters quickly accept it as an obstacle and will 'happily' fight it toe-to-toe. All manner of reasoning can be used for this. Heroics, desperation, "it's just not that scary after the first couple seconds", etc.

    2. "Scooby-Doo Fear" - This is fear of the unknown coupled with "startling". It lasts longer and is more pronounced up until the point when the characters realize what they are actually 'fighting'. At that point, they don't fear it as an 'unknown' thing..."Oh, it's not a phantom clown...it's old man Withers from the abandoned amusement park!".

    3. "Cthulhu Fear" - This is the fear of the unknown coupled with a stark realization that what the character is facing is not meant to be known and is not likely to ever be known. There is no point of reference for the character to "rationalize" fighting it ("oh, it's a ghost...we need iron weapons...get 'em!" /// "oh, NOW we see...it was old man Withers with lights, fog and wires...that explains everything").

    IMHO, I use 2 with occasions of 3, depending on the adventure, PC's, campaign and game system. As we are talking about 5e here, I'll go with that; which pretty much puts it to #2. Using this gauge, I'd put turning Ethereal as "blocks LOS". I would say that because turning Ethereal is a "known" thing, and if/when a PC sees this...frightened or not...they have more info about what they are fighting. And as everyone knows, the more you know about something, the less frightening it becomes. It's not so much "RAW" so much as it is "RAI" when looked at through the lens of D&D - "Monsters? Ghosts? Demons? Yeah...been there, done that. What's next?". The psychology of D&D PC's (and NPC's) isn't...hmmm... lets just say it isn't "realistic". If a real person was put in situations where they are a second away from being killed in a slow and horrible way...and then it happens...multiple times...but 'magic' brings them back from death (or even the brink of it...) adventurers would be seriously MESSED UP (re: "Thanks man! Last I remember was being enveloped completely by the ooze, unable to breath, being crushed, trying desperately to hold the breath that I had, and feeling my skin start to dissolve away while I was unable to move. Thanks for the Healing Word, cleric!").

    So...yeah. I think 5e is Scooby-Doo fear. A bit more scary than TV fear, but definitely not Cthulhu level fear. Ergo..."Ethereal = loss of LOS", so to say. Is it RAW? Probably not. But then again, the Rules of the Game are not meant, expected or even desirable of being followed to the letter in every situation. Use them as a guideline for running a game you want to run. For me, 5e "fear and psychology" is on the Scooby-Doo level.

    ^_^

    Paul L. Ming
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    Quote Originally Posted by beaumontsebos View Post
    So, would you say that by closing your eyes, you would negate the frightened condition?
    In general, it doesn't negate frightened, it just removes one of the penalties. You have disadvantage on attacks and skill checks as long as you can see the source of your fear. So, if you close your eyes, you won't suffer that penalty. But now you're getting disadvantage on attacks and granting advantage to your enemies, because you're blind. And if you open your eyes, the original penalty comes right back.

    You do get to remove the disadvantage on skill checks, though. I guess that's something. In general, however, this does not seem like an improvement.

    As far as the creature in the OP... I would be inclined to house-rule that one a little bit, because obviously you shouldn't be able to end the effect by blinking. Maybe check at the start of your turn whether you can see the creature. (So you can shut your eyes at the end of one turn, keep them closed, and you'll end the effect at the start of your next turn--at the cost of having been blind for a round). If the monster becomes ethereal and you can't see ethereal stuff, though, I'd say that would end it.

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    @Dausuul makes a good point that countering one bullet of the frightened condition doesn’t negate the entire condition. A frightened creature still couldn’t willingly move toward an ethereal lich-hound. But I disagree that the first bullet could be countered by closing one’s eyes. The DMG clearly states that line of sight exists between the frightened creature’s space and the lich-hound’s space as long as an imaginary line can be drawn from a corner of the frightened creature’s space to any part of the lich-hound’s space without encountering an effect or object that blocks vision. If the lich-hound’s space is on the Ethereal Plane, then the line does touch an effect that blocks vision, unless the frightened creature has some means of seeing into it. But if the lich-hound is not ethereal and is otherwise visible, then closing one’s eyes would have no effect on the imaginary line.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hriston View Post
    @Dausuul makes a good point that countering one bullet of the frightened condition doesn’t negate the entire condition. A frightened creature still couldn’t willingly move toward an ethereal lich-hound. But I disagree that the first bullet could be countered by closing one’s eyes. The DMG clearly states that line of sight exists between the frightened creature’s space and the lich-hound’s space as long as an imaginary line can be drawn from a corner of the frightened creature’s space to any part of the lich-hound’s space without encountering an effect or object that blocks vision. If the lich-hound’s space is on the Ethereal Plane, then the line does touch an effect that blocks vision, unless the frightened creature has some means of seeing into it. But if the lich-hound is not ethereal and is otherwise visible, then closing one’s eyes would have no effect on the imaginary line.
    And how does that work if you aren't using a grid?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ovinomancer View Post
    And how does that work if you aren't using a grid?
    You don’t have to draw an actual line on an actual grid. It’s an imaginary line, so you can imagine it in TotM just as well as if you’re playing on a grid. Sorry for the confusion.

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