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D&D 5E Do we have rules clarification on Etherealness in the Outer Planes?


Can a night hag or succubus use Etherealness on the Outer Planes?

I'm sure this question has been asked before, but I haven't seen any official rulings.

1) The reason I ask is that in Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus page 109 in the description for the night hag Red Ruth in the Nine Hells, it says:

If the characters attack or threaten Red Ruth during this negotiation, she simply slips away into the Ethereal Plane and doesn't return until they leave.

This seems to contradict the write-ups for the Etherealness action, which states: "Etherealness. The hag magically enters the Ethereal Plane from the Material Plane, or vice versa. To do so, the hag must have a heartstone in her possession."

2) Moreover, on page 131 it states of erinyes encountered at one point in the Nine Hells:

Deck patrols are bolstered by erinyes using truesight to search for ethereal and invisible enemies, making it unlikely that stowaways will stay hidden for long.

This seems to contradict the default great wheel cosmology of 5e, which describes the Ethereal Plane on page 48: "The Ethereal Plane is a misty, fog-bound dimension. Its "shores," called the Border Ethereal, overlap the Material Plane and the Inner Planes, so that every location on those planes has a corresponding location on the Ethereal Plane."

Any rules clarification on this? Are these bits from Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus a rules oversight? Or are they the rules operating according to the designers' intent?

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I assumed it was offered up on the altar of simplicity. Previous editions had rather complicated rules with planar travel, and likely 5E didn't want to deal with it.


An oversight, probably, but one in keeping with the general trend across editions of filing down the weird rules quirks and gotchas of planar travel.

I'm of two minds about it. I want the planes to be distinctive and to feel different. But I don't think "everything the same except when you happen to cast a spell on this list" is a great way to achieve that feeling.


OK, sounds like there's nothing officially clarifying, so I've tweeted Mr. Crawford and will cross my fingers.


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Dungeon Master of Middle-earth (he/him)
In the absence of a rules clarification, I would relate the Ethereal Plane back to the Theosophical conception of the etheric plane from which it looks like it was pulled and which largely agrees with the D&D conception in this respect, which is that of one or more overlapping subplanes of the physical plane.

So no, I don’t think a creature could become ethereal when not on one of the material or elemental (inner) planes.
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