log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 5E Combat & Etherealness

Looking for some thoughts or more RAW on how combat between material and border ethereal opponents might take place. The only thing I can find (DMG) is that "certain effects and magical force" can harm opponents on the border ethereal.

So, given an enemy NPC on the border ethereal (say something similar to a ghost) choses to attack the party. if the NPC stays in the border ethereal, how can the party harm it? Magic Missiles seems right there, whatever magical force damage is there? But how else? Magic weapons? Silver? Other spells? Which ones?

Now, assume the NPC can shift out, attack physically, shift back; then the party could ready attacks. Any special rules or considerations for this? (resistance, saves, check to time it well enough?)
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Most effects that shift a creature to the ethereal plane state that the creature can’t affect or be affected by anything on the material plane. I think an effect would need to specify that it could affect target’s on the ethereal plane from the material plane (or vise versa) to get around this restriction.
 



So, given an enemy NPC on the border ethereal (say something similar to a ghost) choses to attack the party.
Pretty sure that in order for either to physically attack one another they have to both be on the same plane. IIRC creatures on the border ethereal can see into the prime material and creatures on the prime material can see creatures in the border ethereal, some attacks such as a ghosts aging effect may penetrate the prime material from the border ethereal. Its been a really long time since I've thought about it and things may have changed in 5E, but think Im close.
 


As a DM in this situation I would rule that as an ethereal creature a ghost even manifested on the material plane is still incorporeal so youd actually need sight to see it. Now if the ghost had other forms of manifesting besides visual, say a sound, smell, gust of wind or change in temperature then sure a creature with blindsight could detect it. But a creature with blindsight would be immune to a ghosts horrifying visage.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
On a related note, does blindsight let you see ethereal creatures?
I think that would depend on how the blindsight is defined/explained. Something like sonar? You're probably not detecting the ghost. Some sort of mystical ability that allows you to sense disturbances in reality caused by life and unlife alike? Sure.
 

Looking for some thoughts or more RAW on how combat between material and border ethereal opponents might take place. The only thing I can find (DMG) is that "certain effects and magical force" can harm opponents on the border ethereal.

The Border Ethereal is still the Ethereal plane; it's just close to the Plane you're viewing (in this case the Material), allowing you to vaguely perceive into that plane.

For something to perceive or effect you, the spell, effect, creature or ability has to expressly be able to cross into the Ethereal plane to affect you on the border ethereal.

For example the spell Etherealness expressly shunts you to the border ethereal:

You step into the border regions of the Ethereal Plane, in the area where it overlaps with your current plane. You remain in the Border Ethereal for the Duration or until you use your action to dismiss the spell. During this time, you can move in any direction. If you move up or down, every foot of Movement costs an extra foot. You can see and hear the plane you originated from, but everything there looks gray, and you can't see anything more than 60 feet away.

While on the Ethereal Plane, you can only affect and be affected by other creatures on that plane. Creatures that aren't on the Ethereal Plane can't perceive you and can't interact with you, unless a Special ability or magic has given them the ability to do so.


Also, no general rule allows force damage to penetrate the Ethereal plane:

Sage advice confirms this.

Force damage simply affects 'ethereal' type (read: incorporeal) creatures better than most other damage types. Things like Banshees and Ghosts and so forth are resistant or immune to most forms of damage, other than Force and a few others.

Truesight (and the True seeing spell) lets you see into the Ethereal plane. Forcecage, Leomunds Tiny Hut and Wall of Force both extend into the Ethereal plane just fine as well (so a Wizard with True Sight active or a spellcasting creature with Truesight could entrap a creature on the Border ethereal watching him with one of those spells).

Mordenkainens Magnificent Mansion, Demiplane and Rope Trick protect you from being perceived by creatures on the Border Ethereal seeing as you're no longer on the Material plane when you enter the Mansion, Demiplane or extradimensional hole at the top of the rope respectively.

When a Ghost is on the Material plane, it can be affected normally by creatures on that plane, however it is immune or resistant to most attacks - notably barring Force and Radiant effects. When it uses its etherealness ability to retreat to the Ethereal plane it remains visible in the Material (and can see into the Material) by virtue of that ability, but loses the ability to affect anything or anyone on the Material (no possession, no horrifying visage etc).
 

When the DMG refers to 'force' effects in its description of the Ethereal plane its referring to (most) force barriers. Not the force damage type.

Ghosts cant pass through a wall of force for example and neither can an ethereal Wizard.

But a Wizard with true seeing active, who can thus see into the Border Ethereal cant also target a creature in the Ethereal/ Border ethereal with spells, (even force effects, barring Forcecage) even though he can see the Ethereal creature.

He would need to enter the Ethereal plane, and then its fair game.

Ditto a Solar (who has Truesight and a Perception of +14) on the Material plane. He would notice a 'nearby'** Ethereal creature, but cant affect it with any of his abilities.

Hang on. Solars cant plane shift on their own. How hilarious! I suppose they have Deities doing that for them, but that seems an oversight to me.

** 'Nearby' is a misnomer. The Ethereal creature is actually an infinite distance away, on an entirely different plane of existence.
 

@Flamestrike Thanks for the detailed reply.

Here's where my concern/confusion stems; DMG > Ethereal Plane > Border Ethereal:
Normally, creatures in the Border Ethereal can't attack creatures on the overlapping plane, and vice versa. ... The exceptions are certain magical effects (including anything made of magical force) and living beings.
So despite JC's tweet (which I often believe are in error or incomplete) it would seem to me that if a creature on the Prime Material (PM) plane can see someone on the BE (Border Ethereal), then a magical missile (or other magical forces) can target and damage them. (And vice versa) Now, that last part about a living being makes absolutely no sense to me, so I've ignored that for now.

Now, take the ghost (good example), it specifically states in it's Ethereal trait that
...while it is in the Border Ethereal, and vice versa, yet it can't affect or be affected by anything on the other plane.
Specific overrides general (if I knew what the general rule I quoted above meant!) so atleast for the ghost, magic missiles would not work.

Here's where I'm at;
  • RAW their is some way (not very clear) that creatures on the BE can be attacked (effected) by creatures on the PM.
  • I'm thoroughly confused by RAI.
  • But, I really like the idea that there are special cases where combat can occur between the PM and BE. What might be some good rulings or house rules to manage this?
 

  • RAW their is some way (not very clear) that creatures on the BE can be attacked (effected) by creatures on the PM.
What rule says this, whats quoted below? Is that the actual 5E rule, if so you are right its rather vague? I guess I'd rule any spell with force damage would work.

"Normally, creatures in the Border Ethereal can't attack creatures on the overlapping plane, and vice versa. ... The exceptions are certain magical effects (including anything made of magical force) and living beings."
 

When the DMG refers to 'force' effects in its description of the Ethereal plane its referring to (most) force barriers. Not the force damage type.
How do we know that though? Agreed that all the specific examples (Wall of Force et al) are not combat oriented. But, ... I wish they had made this clearer!
 

So despite JC's tweet (which I often believe are in error or incomplete) it would seem to me that if a creature on the Prime Material (PM) plane can see someone on the BE (Border Ethereal), then a magical missile (or other magical forces) can target and damage them. (And vice versa).
No, they cant target them with any spell or effect unless that spell or effect expressly allows targeting of creatures on other planes of existence (namely the Ethereal plane).

Some force effects do cross over into the Ethereal plane. Wall of Force, Forcecage and Tiny Hut all do.

Magic missile does not cross over, but it is very effective against Incorporeal creatures (all of which generally live on the Ethereal plane) presuming they're on the material plane.

Simply dealing force damage (Eldritch blast, Magic Missile, Mordenkainens Sword, Bigbys hand etc) is not enough. The spell needs to expressly state it crosses over into the Ethereal.

Feel free to rule all force spells do just that (cross over) but that's not the actual rule.
 

What rule says this, whats quoted below? Is that the actual 5E rule, if so you are right its rather vague? I guess I'd rule any spell with force damage would work.

"Normally, creatures in the Border Ethereal can't attack creatures on the overlapping plane, and vice versa. ... The exceptions are certain magical effects (including anything made of magical force) and living beings."
The actual rule is the one you quoted below. And it implies that there are ways to attack ethereal targets, but it doesn't say so. And all the spell examples that effect the BE are all wall/movement/visibility and not attack/damage examples.
 

What rule says this, whats quoted below? Is that the actual 5E rule, if so you are right its rather vague? I guess I'd rule any spell with force damage would work.

"Normally, creatures in the Border Ethereal can't attack creatures on the overlapping plane, and vice versa. ... The exceptions are certain magical effects (including anything made of magical force) and living beings."

Isnt the actual quote this:

A traveler on the Ethereal Plane is invisible and utterly silent to someone on the overlapped plane, and solid objects on the overlapped plane don't hamper the movement of a creature in the Border Ethereal. The exceptions are certain magical effects (including anything made of magical force) and living beings.

That just says you cant cross force barriers (wall of force and force cage and Tiny hut) or living beings or objects made of force.

It doesn't say 'force damage from the Material plane, affects you in the Ethereal plane'.
 

No, they cant target them with any spell or effect unless that spell or effect expressly allows targeting of creatures on other planes of existence (namely the Ethereal plane).
I don't think it's right to make that ... assumption? Normally, we use the general rules to decide a rule, and then specific rules override general when their is a conflict.

The rule from the DMG I stated above says that certain magical force effects can effect BE. But, to me, the problem is it doesn't say which magical effects. Are we to assume only those magical effects that specifically state they can, can? So in other words, what I quoted really isn't a general rule, but rather a statement indicating their are specific rules elsewhere?

That's starting to make sense, but still not happy with it.
 

Isnt the actual quote this:

A traveler on the Ethereal Plane is invisible and utterly silent to someone on the overlapped plane, and solid objects on the overlapped plane don't hamper the movement of a creature in the Border Ethereal. The exceptions are certain magical effects (including anything made of magical force) and living beings.

That just says you cant cross force barriers (wall of force and force cage and Tiny hut) or living beings or objects made of force.

It doesn't say 'force damage from the Material plane, affects you in the Ethereal plane'.
So if a ghost is travelling in the border ethereal and comes into contact with a wall of force on that was cast on the PM the wall of force prevents the ghost from passing through it even though its on the ethereal plane? This doesnt make much sense. Why would a force spell be able to penetrate into the ethereal from the prime, because Mike Mearls and Jeremy Crawford just decided so?
 

Isnt the actual quote this:

A traveler on the Ethereal Plane is invisible and utterly silent to someone on the overlapped plane, and solid objects on the overlapped plane don't hamper the movement of a creature in the Border Ethereal. The exceptions are certain magical effects (including anything made of magical force) and living beings.

That just says you cant cross force barriers (wall of force and force cage and Tiny hut) or living beings or objects made of force.

It doesn't say 'force damage from the Material plane, affects you in the Ethereal plane'.
No, not in my copy of the DMG, which is from FG, and therefore is supposed to be updated will all erratta.

Here's the full quote;
Normally, creatures in the Border Ethereal can't attack creatures on the overlapping plane, and vice versa. A traveler on the Ethereal Plane is invisible and utterly silent to someone on the overlapping plane, and solid objects on the overlapping plane don't hamper the movement of a creature in the Border Ethereal.

The exceptions are certain magical effects (including anything made of magical force) and living beings This makes the Ethereal Plane ideal for reconnaissance, spying on opponents, and moving around without being detected. The Ethereal Plane also disobeys the laws of gravity; a creature there can move up and down as easily as walking.
 


Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top