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D&D 5E Combat & Etherealness

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;
No, you're parsing the text wrong:
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.

If I parsed the text the way you are parsing the texts (read those two bolded lines in isolation), then two exceptions can 'attack' things in the Ethereal plane:

1) Magical force effects, and
2) Living beings (non undead or constructs)

In other words, your parsing leads to a situation where one doesn't even need a magical force effect to attack someone in the Ethereal plane, if one is a 'living being'. Harry the living human Monk can punch an Ethereal creature in the face from the Material plane for example, if I used your parsing of that text.

The exceptions in the text above, refer to living creatures and magical force effects blocking movement on the Border ethereal (the exceptions in the first line of the second paragraph refer to the second part of the first paragraph only) as reflected elsewhere in the wall of force, forcecage and similar spells.

The exceptions (in the first sentence of the second paragraph re living creatures and magical force effects) do not apply to the first sentence of the first paragraph, which prohibits attacks being made from the material to the ethereal (full stop).
 

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The BE is still the Ethereal.

You're still in the Ethereal, just near where it borders a coterminous plane (usually the MP).
So in your previous post you said...
The exceptions in the text above, refer to living creatures and magical force effects blocking movement on the Border ethereal (the second part of the first paragraph) as spelled in out in the wall of force, forcecage and similar spells.
Basically this says a living creature can enter the ethereal and cast a force spell which will hinder an ethereal creature and an ethereal creature cannot pass through a living creature thats on the ethereal?
 

So in your previous post you said...

Basically this says a living creature can enter the ethereal and cast a force spell which will hinder an ethereal creature and an ethereal creature cannot pass through a living creature thats on the ethereal?

There are certain force effects (forcecage, wall of force and tiny hut) that expressly extend into the Ethereal when cast on the PM. The spells provide details.

Presuming I can see into the Ethereal (via True sight or true seeing) I dont even have to be in the Ethereal to target an Ethereal creature with Forcecage. I can do it from the Material plane (see the Forcecage spell for details).

But if I'm on the material plane and I want to hit them with (say) a Magic Missile or and Eldritch Blast (both of which deal force damage) I need to enter the Ethereal plane in order to do it.

Force effects (and living beings) block movement on the Ethereal only.
 

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?
Yes, many force spells also effect the ethereal plane. Because walls of force always (?) have? Because there are practical gaming reasons to having a way to prevent etherealness (which is relatively common) creatures from being able to go everywhere?

Think about it, there has to be a way to prevent spies and enemies from penetrating the most secure fortifications.
 


What does the "and living creatures" refer to?

You cant ethereally travel through living beings (larger that single celled organisms) while on the Ethereal plane. You harmlessly stop when you hit one.

Navigating a Jungle would be a nightmare (and likely impossible). You could always simply fly over it, or (maybe even under it).

Mundane protections from most divinations include lead (blocks most of them). Then simply also encase your lair in thick vines (needs to cover the whole thing) or a thin layer of some kind of Ooze and you're protected from ethereal travel as well.

Hallow also does the trick as a magical protection, as does MK's private sanctum from memory.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
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.
I think a creature needs ethereal sight to see one plane from the other. Some abilities also allow a creature to be seen from the other plane.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
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?
Yes
 

Benjamin Olson

Adventurer
In 5e if a spell effects the ethereal plane from the prime material plane it will explicitly say so, unless it is a spell which can more generally cross planes (ie: Sending).

On a related note, does blindsight let you see ethereal creatures?
No. They are on a different plane of existence. You need truesight to see into it.

Blindsight is generally used to represent that a creatures other senses are able to give them the equivalent of vision without relying on sight up to x distance, and since creatures in the ethereal plane are not heard, smelled, touched, or tasted by creatures in the prime material plane, it wouldn't make sense for blindsight to apply.
 

I think a creature needs ethereal sight to see one plane from the other. Some abilities also allow a creature to be seen from the other plane.
I think you are correct for most if not all creatures that either dont want to or cant manifest from the ethereal plane. I was thinking of ghosts when I wrote that post so I should have mentioned that as they can be seen by non-ethereal creatures.
 

Thanks all. I've got a good sense of it now. Going to have to figure out how to enhance the encounter (finale of Sleeping Dragon's Wake) in a way different than I was thinking. But that's ok :)
 

Thanks all. I've got a good sense of it now. Going to have to figure out how to enhance the encounter (finale of Sleeping Dragon's Wake) in a way different than I was thinking. But that's ok :)
I bought and read these years ago and they were great. Ravenloft: Van Richten’s Monster Hunter’s Compendium's. They re-imagined some classic creatures from D&D, lycanthropes, ghosts, mummys, liches and vampires. The main take away I remember from the books was that everyone of these creatures just by nature of their creation are unique, with no two having the exact same powers. They may be similar but the means to their destruction is tied to the reason, the how and why they were created in the first place. If you're looking at a creating a campaign/adventure ending encounter checking those books out might help. And within reason, I would toss the rules out the window and create a truly unique and epic end boss. After reading them if I had an idea in mind I ran with it regardless if it contradicted printed rules. I just made sure it was fair and winnable for the PCs as long as they prepared properly.
 

The main take away I remember from the books was that everyone of these creatures just by nature of their creation are unique, with no two having the exact same powers. They may be similar but the means to their destruction is tied to the reason, the how and why they were created in the first place. If you're looking at a creating a campaign/adventure ending encounter checking those books out might help. And within reason, I would toss the rules out the window and create a truly unique and epic end boss. After reading them if I had an idea in mind I ran with it regardless if it contradicted printed rules. I just made sure it was fair and winnable for the PCs as long as they prepared properly.
Appreciate it :)

To give everyone the full details of what I'm doing and perhaps it will spawn it's own valuable discussions;
At the end of Sleeping Dragon's Wake (part of Beyond Icespire adventures) there is a scene
were the ghost of Ebondeath (a legendary black dragon on the verge of becoming a dracolich) posses the body of the ancient green dragon Gnawbones to later continue being a key adversary (and gaining in power).

Conceptually it's great. How its written is lame. The party returns from a quest for Gnawbones and while talking to her Ebondeath shows up, possesses Gnawbones and flies away. No player agency, nothing they can do to impact what happens. Then later they hunt down Ebondeath and kill the body, then they hunt him down and kill his spirit (not much more than the stats of a ghost!).

What I'm planning;
When Ebondeath (ED) shows up to possess Gnawbones (GB), BD will be able to use her legendary resistances to keep ED to possess her for at least 3 turns. During those turns, I want the party to be able to intervene and/or have the chance to effect the outcome. (Hence the discussions about attacking ethereal creatures). The party has magic items and lots of magic missiles, so incorporeal really won't add much hinderance to them attacking EB if he is not ethereal. Advice on designing this encounter would be welcome.

If the party 'wins' it will be to drive EB off before he takes control of GB. If driven off, he will probably possess one of the less powerful black dragons from the Mere of Deadmen (that is detailed in previous lore, not current adventures). This impacts the party when they fight the Battle of Leilon, do they have to defeat an ancient green dragon version of EB, or an adult black dragon.

Later, During Divine Contention and after the battle of Leilon, the party hunts down ED to kill him for good. Again, good concepts, lousy execution as ED is about a CR 7 ghost and is supposed to be fought solo as the BBEG versus a party of level ~11. Here I plan to introduce something like a lich's phylactery. And, inspired by Harry Potter, perhaps ED actually has multiple phylacteries (hence while he's been around for sooo long).
Again, ethereal and incorporeal will need to factored into this.
 

Appreciate it :)

To give everyone the full details of what I'm doing and perhaps it will spawn it's own valuable discussions;
At the end of Sleeping Dragon's Wake (part of Beyond Icespire adventures) there is a scene
were the ghost of Ebondeath (a legendary black dragon on the verge of becoming a dracolich) posses the body of the ancient green dragon Gnawbones to later continue being a key adversary (and gaining in power).

Conceptually it's great. How its written is lame. The party returns from a quest for Gnawbones and while talking to her Ebondeath shows up, possesses Gnawbones and flies away. No player agency, nothing they can do to impact what happens. Then later they hunt down Ebondeath and kill the body, then they hunt him down and kill his spirit (not much more than the stats of a ghost!).

What I'm planning;
When Ebondeath (ED) shows up to possess Gnawbones (GB), BD will be able to use her legendary resistances to keep ED to possess her for at least 3 turns. During those turns, I want the party to be able to intervene and/or have the chance to effect the outcome. (Hence the discussions about attacking ethereal creatures). The party has magic items and lots of magic missiles, so incorporeal really won't add much hinderance to them attacking EB if he is not ethereal. Advice on designing this encounter would be welcome.

If the party 'wins' it will be to drive EB off before he takes control of GB. If driven off, he will probably possess one of the less powerful black dragons from the Mere of Deadmen (that is detailed in previous lore, not current adventures). This impacts the party when they fight the Battle of Leilon, do they have to defeat an ancient green dragon version of EB, or an adult black dragon.

Later, During Divine Contention and after the battle of Leilon, the party hunts down ED to kill him for good. Again, good concepts, lousy execution as ED is about a CR 7 ghost and is supposed to be fought solo as the BBEG versus a party of level ~11. Here I plan to introduce something like a lich's phylactery. And, inspired by Harry Potter, perhaps ED actually has multiple phylacteries (hence while he's been around for sooo long).
Again, ethereal and incorporeal will need to factored into this.
Without having given it a whole lot of thought 2 things came to mind. 1) If the battle takes place in Gnawbones lair Id provide some clue to an item in her hoard that can ultimately help destroy Ebondeath. 2) I might have Ebondeths phylactery on the Ethereal plane.

EDIT: Just read the dracholichs spirit and phylactery have to be on the same plane so that might not work.

What are the age categories for the two dragons? That in and of itself can have great effect on the outcome? I recognize both names just dont remember anything about them or where I read about them.
 
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What are the age categories for the two dragons? That in and of itself can have great effect on the outcome? I recognize both names just dont remember anything about them or where I read about them.
Both go back a long ways lore wise (2E?).

Given how lose 5E is with lore, Gnawbones is listed as Ancient. Ebondeath isn't listed, except with the specs of a enhanced ghost of CR 7. But lore wise he is ancient as well.
 


Quickleaf

Legend
Many way you can skin that cat. When I ran Tomb of Annihilation, the PCs traded certain items to one of the night hags that allowed her to craft an Ether Staff with 7 charges, which the hag could use to attack across the boundary between the Border Ethereal and the Material Planes. It was pretty frustrating for the players, but thankfully was limited use, and they thought to cast see invisibility and were able to negotiate with the hag.

You could make it a situation where the monster needs to physically manifest to do something in the physical world, and there's the opportunity for the PCs to lure or trick it out of the Border Ethereal. So it's a roleplaying challenge.

Maybe this monster attacks through reflective surfaces, and can (while itself on the Border Ethereal) only attack creatures on the Material Plane if the creature is within 5 feet of a reflective surface.

Or you could have a narrative in which quicksilver/mercury poured over a blade allows it to damage creatures on the Border Ethereal for a minute, but of course you have to find a way to see them on your own.
 

J-H

Adventurer
So if I houserule that Prismatic Spray/Wall shifts creatures to the Ethereal Plane instead of "random plane of X", it still removes them from play until they can find a way to get back - but someone in the party with the ability to see them could still sign and coordinate a place to go or plan.
 

So if I houserule that Prismatic Spray/Wall shifts creatures to the Ethereal Plane instead of "random plane of X", it still removes them from play until they can find a way to get back - but someone in the party with the ability to see them could still sign and coordinate a place to go or plan.
Personally as its random, I'd rule as a DM that even if its decided that the player is going to the ethereal I think Id give a slight 1-2 percent chance that the player shifts to a location in the vicinity of the party so they could see them on the border ethereal rather than some other completely other random location on the ethereal plane. But that's just me, otherwise it seems just a very minor inconvenience easily overcome.
 

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