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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?
 

Hriston

Explorer
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.
 

Dausuul

Legend
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.
 

pming

Explorer
Hiya!

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
 

Dausuul

Legend
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.
 

Hriston

Explorer
[MENTION=58197]Dausuul[/MENTION] 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.
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
[MENTION=58197]Dausuul[/MENTION] 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?
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
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.
My character doesn't have a space, much less a corner of that space, though. And, wouldn't closing your eyes be an effect that prevents sight?
 

Hriston

Explorer
My character doesn't have a space, much less a corner of that space, though.
Playing on a grid is a variant. That a creature controls a square space in combat corresponding to its size category is part of the default game, meant to be played TotM. You might play differently, but I don’t have to explain how things work in your games.

And, wouldn't closing your eyes be an effect that prevents sight?
“Line of sight” is a game-term that describes the relationship that exists between two spaces when an imaginary line going from a corner of one space to any part of the other space doesn’t pass through or touch an object or effect that blocks vision. It isn’t that having your eyes closed doesn’t prevent you from being able to see. It’s that the line doesn’t pass through or touch you closing your eyes.
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
Playing on a grid is a variant. That a creature controls a square space in combat corresponding to its size category is part of the default game, meant to be played TotM. You might play differently, but I don’t have to explain how things work in your games.
No, you don't, but some rules references to back up wveryone having a square space as default would be nice because I'm calling nope on that.

“Line of sight” is a game-term that describes the relationship that exists between two spaces when an imaginary line going from a corner of one space to any part of the other space doesn’t pass through or touch an object or effect that blocks vision. It isn’t that having your eyes closed doesn’t prevent you from being able to see. It’s that the line doesn’t pass through or touch you closing your eyes.
5e doesn't go in much for "game terms" instead preferring natural language. If your explanation requires assigning game terms to avoid natural reading, you're probably going too far in your reading. Further, you're importing from varient rules back into the core game (playing on a grid), which you shouldn't do, either.

Happily, in this case, closing your eyes has exactly the same effect (worse even) than the one frightened bullet point. Unhappily, this means you're arguing for a game term that has zero impact to the case or really to the game at large.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
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?
Normally ethereal creatures are invisible. This would break line of sight.

I'm assuming the ToB authors meant the hound to "manifest", which makes it visible on the Material Plane, which in turn means there's no problem with the ability.
 
Thanks all for the replies.

During the game I called that being ethereal does break line of sight, and upon your replies and further consideration, I'm sticking with that ruling.

Thanks again.
 
Simple answer is 'Can't see it = no line of sight.'

Some effects end when the target can no longer see the source they specify this; Often fear effects. Others persist for a particular length of time i.e. until the end of the targets next turn. The particular effect describes what it does and the frightened condition is in the DMG. Generally, Frightened = run away or cower on your turn.
 
Simple answer is 'Can't see it = no line of sight.'

Some effects end when the target can no longer see the source they specify this; Often fear effects. Others persist for a particular length of time i.e. until the end of the targets next turn. The particular effect describes what it does and the frightened condition is in the DMG. Generally, Frightened = run away or cower on your turn.
Ahhhhh... this is interesting. I went back and looked at the actual description of the Lich Hound's attack.

It states: Creatures that hear the howl of a lich hound within 100 feet must succeed on a DC 14 Wisdom saving throw or become frightened for 5 rounds.

The frightened condition states: A frightened creature has disadvantage on Ability Checks and Attack rolls while the source of its fear is within line of sight. The creature can’t willingly move closer to the source of its fear.

So, in this specific case, whether they could see it or not, they would still be frightened for five rounds. However, when it is ethereal (and therefore not within line of sight), they would not suffer the penalties of the frightened condition. Once it pops back from ethereal, they will again suffer the penalties if it is within the 5 rounds. I would also assume that they could move closer to the Lich Hound when it is ethereal, as they would have no idea where it is.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Guys. The solution is to recognize a gaffe in this particular state block and to not draw any general conclusions.

It needs the following phrasing of its Etherealness ability:


Etherealness: The ghost enters the Ethereal Plane from The Material Plane, or vice versa. It is visible on The Material Planewhile it is in the Border Ethereal, and vice versa, yet it can't affect or be affected by anything on the other plane.


Not coincidentally this is copied from an official MM stat block where you have an ethereal creature with fear abilities (the Ghost to be exact).

Note the last sentence. The lesson here is any monster needs a way to retain visibility if it want to get the full use out of any ability dependant on line of sight.
 

Hriston

Explorer
No, you don't, but some rules references to back up wveryone having a square space as default would be nice because I'm calling nope on that.
Under the heading “Creature Size”, under the heading “Movement and Positioning”, in the chapter titled “Combat”:
Each creature takes up a different amount of space. The Size Categories table shows how much space a creature of a particular size controls in combat.​
The table then gives square dimensions for each space. For example, for Medium creatures it gives a 5 by 5 foot space.

Also, directly below that, under “Space”:
A creature’s space is the area in feet that it effectively controls in combat...​

None of this is part of the “Playing on a Grid” variant, which is in its own sidebar and mostly has to do with scale, movement, and range.

5e doesn't go in much for "game terms" instead preferring natural language. If your explanation requires assigning game terms to avoid natural reading, you're probably going too far in your reading.
There is plenty of terminology in the books. Try reading them instead of pretending you’re some kind of spokesman for 5e. We’ve all heard the pre-release advertising.

Further, you're importing from varient rules back into the core game (playing on a grid), which you shouldn't do, either.
No, I’m not. (See above.)

Happily, in this case, closing your eyes has exactly the same effect (worse even) than the one frightened bullet point. Unhappily, this means you're arguing for a game term that has zero impact to the case or really to the game at large.
Closing your eyes (or turning your back) does not negate line of sight, so the only impact that would have is to add any extra effects that would result in. Personally, I would be disinclined to impose the blinded condition just because someone closed their eyes for a moment. I don’t use facing either.
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
Under the heading “Creature Size”, under the heading “Movement and Positioning”, in the chapter titled “Combat”:
Each creature takes up a different amount of space. The Size Categories table shows how much space a creature of a particular size controls in combat.​
The table then gives square dimensions for each space. For example, for Medium creatures it gives a 5 by 5 foot space.

Also, directly below that, under “Space”:
A creature’s space is the area in feet that it effectively controls in combat...​

None of this is part of the “Playing on a Grid” variant, which is in its own sidebar and mostly has to do with scale, movement, and range.



There is plenty of terminology in the books. Try reading them instead of pretending you’re some kind of spokesman for 5e. We’ve all heard the pre-release advertising.



No, I’m not. (See above.)



Closing your eyes (or turning your back) does not negate line of sight, so the only impact that would have is to add any extra effects that would result in. Personally, I would be disinclined to impose the blinded condition just because someone closed their eyes for a moment. I don’t use facing either.
Right, so where is the corner of my space when I'm not on a grid? Yes, sizes list spaces in square areas, but the rule you're citing for determining line of sight is only valid for miniature use -- it's an optional rule. Absent that, there's no rule for using spaces to determine line of sight and the default is then the natural language -- line of sight means you have an unobstructed view of the end-point. At which point, closing your eyes obstructs your view. Further, even though grid rules have an additional rule, that rule doesn't trump the existing rules, meaning it doesn't supercede other, existing methods of determining line of sight. Instead, that adds a method for grid use to the existing methods. There's no place where it says 'You have a line of sight regardless of any other factors so long as the rules in the Using Miniatures optional rules are met.' That's a ridiculous argument, on multiple levels.

The basic point here is that if I cannot see something due to an obstruction, I do not have a line of sight. Eyelids are an obstruction.

The second basic point here is that this ruling doesn't negatively impact anything -- it's not a dodge, it's not better to do this, it is, in fact, worse than the existing rules in every case. Being blind is worse than the bullet point of frightened that relies on line of sight. So, not only am I pointing to where your argument fails to convince on RAW grounds, it's also pointless for gameplay -- the "cure" here is worse than the "disease."
 

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