Ethereal Plane

It is a plane out of phase. It is a place of ghosts and monsters. It is right next to you, and you don’t even see it. The Ethereal Plane is a misty, fog-bound dimension that is coexistent with the Material Plane and often other planes as well. Travelers within the Ethereal Plane describe the plane as a collection of swirling mists and colorful fogs. The Material Plane itself is visible from the Ethereal Plane, but it appears muted and indistinct, its colors blurring into each other and its edges turning fuzzy. Ethereal denizens watch the Material Plane as though viewing it through distorted and frosted glass. While it is possible to see into the Material Plane from the Ethereal Plane, the Ethereal Plane is usually invisible to those on the Material Plane.

Normally, creatures on the Ethereal Plane cannot attack creatures on the Material Plane, and vice versa. A traveler on the Ethereal Plane is invisible, incorporeal, and utterly silent to someone on the Material Plane. This makes the Ethereal Plane very useful for reconnaissance, spying on opponents, and other occasions when it’s handy to move around without being detected. The Ethereal Plane is mostly empty of structures and impediments. However, the plane has its own inhabitants. Some of these are other ethereal travelers, but the ghosts found here pose a particular peril to those who walk the fog.

Ethereal Traits

The Ethereal Plane seems almost a nonplane in that it is tightly wedded to the Material Plane. It can be thought of as a fourth physical dimension or a vibration slightly out of tune with the rest of the universe. It has the following traits:

• No Gravity.
• Normal Time.
• Infinite or Finite Size: The Ethereal Plane’s size depends on which plane it is adjacent to.
• Alterable Morphic: There is little on the plane to alter, however.
• No Elemental or Energy Traits: Even if the coexistent plane has one or more of these traits, the Ethereal Plane does not.
• Mildly Neutral-Aligned.
• Normal Magic: That is, spells function normally on the Ethereal Plane, though they do not cross into the Material Plane. It is possible to use a fireball spell against an enemy on the Ethereal Plane with the caster, but the same fireball wouldn’t affect anyone on the corresponding part of the Material Plane. A bystander on the Material Plane can walk through an ethereal battlefield without feeling more than the hair on the back of his neck standing up. The only exceptions are spells and spell-like abilities that use magical force (noted with the force descriptor such as magic missile or wall of force) and abjurations that affect ethereal beings. Spellcasters on the Material Plane must have some way to detect foes on the Ethereal Plane before targeting them with force-based spells, of course. While it’s possible to hit ethereal enemies with a magic missile spell cast from the Material Plane, the reverse isn’t possible. No magical attacks cross from the Ethereal Plane to the Material Plane, including force attacks.

Ethereal Links

The Ethereal Plane is strongly connected to its coexistent plane. As a traveler moves through the Ethereal Plane, he perceives the Material Plane alongside it every step of the way. Portals from other planes may open onto the Ethereal Plane, rather than the corresponding point on the Material Plane. Such portals appear as curtains of shimming colors (rather than the Astral Plane’s color pools). These portals create conduits through the Astral Plane to reach their destination, just like any other portal, but their entrances are on the Ethereal Plane. Travelers from elsewhere become ethereal once they reach the Ethereal Plane by means of a curtain, and they must pass through another such curtain (or have some other means of manifesting themselves) to reach the Material Plane.

It is possible to plane shift (as the spell) into the Ethereal Plane. In such cases the body becomes ethereal upon reaching the plane. Similarly, travelers who open gates onto the Ethereal Plane and individuals accidentally thrown there become ethereal (as the ethereal jaunt spell) when they arrive. Unless they have the ability to somehow leave the Ethereal Plane, or they find a curtain leading out of the Ethereal Plane, they’re trapped there.

Ethereal Inhabitants

The Ethereal Plane is much more populated than the Astral Plane. It boasts a great variety of natives as well as frequent travelers. Magical beasts such as the ethereal marauder, phase spider, and ethereal filcher use the Ethereal Plane. These are not true outsiders, but rather Material Plane creatures that have adapted to use the Ethereal Plane to hunt prey. Travelers to the Ethereal Plane include outsiders that have access to magic portals or curtains onto the Ethereal Plane. As stated above, moving onto the Ethereal Plane by means of a gate or plane shift spell turns the traveler ethereal. It takes a second spell to return travelers to their plane of origin. One great danger of the Ethereal Plane is ghosts, which often call this plane home. Such creatures have a deep and abiding hatred of the living, and no love for those travelers who impinge upon their realms.

Movement and Combat

One moves through the Ethereal Plane as one would move on the Material Plane. However, due to the misty nature of the protomatter of the plane itself, a traveler can move up and down just as easily as along solid surfaces. However, all movement is at half speed, both for travelers and for creatures native to the Ethereal Plane. There is a definite “down” to the Ethereal Plane that corresponds to the gravity of the coexistent plane it is attached to. However, there is no danger of falling. Because the Ethereal Plane is coexistent with the Material Plane, most travelers walk normally along the ground of the Material Plane. Creatures on the Ethereal Plane can move through solid objects on the Material Plane, but they cannot move through solid objects on the Ethereal Plane.

Unlike the Astral Plane, the Ethereal Plane offers no quick way to move great distances. A traveler normally moves physically between the Material Plane and the Ethereal Plane, unlike travelers to the Astral Plane, who sometimes project a duplicate form. The most common way to reach the Ethereal Plane is with spells such as ethereal jaunt or magic items such as armor with the etherealness special ability. There is no inherent danger when moving from the Material Plane to the mostly empty Ethereal Plane. Even if there is an ethereal object in the way, the traveler is painlessly shunted to the nearest open space in the Ethereal Plane. Moving back to the Material Plane poses a risk if a solid object or creature is present. Travelers who overlap with a Material Plane object or creature are shunted to the nearest open space, taking 1d6 points of damage per 5 feet so moved.

Ethereal Combat

Combat on the Ethereal Plane is unaffected by the nature of the plane, with the exception that attacks may be made from any direction.The limited vision on the Ethereal Plane also affects combat; it’s difficult to spot opponents at long range. Furthermore, a group that is separated may have difficulty pulling itself back together as members are drawn off into smaller combats. Natives of the Ethereal Plane might try to lure adventurers away from each other, then ambush them individually.

Features of the Ethereal Plane

There is no direct danger to general survival on the Ethereal Plane. The Ethereal Plane has a normal atmosphere, and inhabitants breathe normally. Inhaled poisons and spells such as cloudkill work on the Ethereal Plane. However, there is no food or water other than what travelers bring with them. Someone trapped on the Ethereal Plane without a way out risks eventual starvation or dehydration. Unlike most planes, the Ethereal Plane allows vision across the planar border to the plane it’s coexistent with: the Material Plane. No matter where you are on the Ethereal Plane, you can see the corresponding part of the Material Plane. Vision is limited, however, to 60 feet both on the Ethereal Plane and onto the Material Plane. Furthermore, the Material Plane appears as if wrapped in fog, so ethereal observers can’t discern precise details such as normal writing. It’s easy to discern faces and landmarks, however. Seeing and hearing is otherwise normal, so gaze attacks and sonic attacks and abilities launched from the Material Plane affect ethereal creatures. The reverse isn’t true. An ethereal traveler is normally invisible and inaudible to an individual on the Material Plane. Spells and abilities such as see invisible reveal an ethereal object or creature.

Creatures on the Ethereal Plane cannot talk to those on the Material Plane, even if they want to be heard. Ethereal listeners only hear Material Plane sounds that originate up to 60 feet away, but their hearing is otherwise unaffected. Touch, smell, and taste do not reach between the planes. The Ethereal Plane emits its own diffuse light, so ethereal observers do not need torches to see onto the Material Plane, even if it’s pitch-black. Light sources do not expand the 60-foot vision limit on the Ethereal Plane, nor do alternate methods of sight such as darkvision. Blindsight used on the Material Plane does not reveal Ethereal Plane creatures, but a creature with blindsight on the Ethereal Plane can detect other ethereal creatures at its normal range. To viewers on the Ethereal Plane, objects on the Material Plane are foggy, indistinct, and almost translucent. Such objects block line of sight and provide concealment, but not cover. An ethereal observer can’t see through a wall on the Material Plane unless he pokes his head through it first. An ethereal character whose eyes are totally within a Material Plane object cannot see.

Ethereal Solids

In general, movement on the Ethereal Plane is unrestrained. Travelers can journey to the center of the earth or high into the sky (though slowly and limited by available food and water). There are, however, permanent objects on the Ethereal Plane that can block movement for ethereal creatures. Ethereal solids are hard to the touch and feel real, even if they have no apparent reality on the coexistent Material Plane. Often these ethereal solids are the result of activities in the coexistent Material Plane. There are several types of ethereal solid.

Force

Force effects extend onto the Ethereal Plane and affect the creatures therein. A wall of force, for example, prevents an ethereal creature from passing through it. In general, an ethereal traveler sees what a Material Plane native would see. Depending on the spell, this might be nothing at all.

Ethereal Objects

These objects have been constructed on the Material Plane, then shunted (usually magically) to the Ethereal Plane. A chest of valuables can be sent onto the Ethereal Plane with a vanish spell, for example, or a creature might have been turned to ethereal stone by a medusa’s gaze. Larger objects exist on the Ethereal Plane, too. For example, a wizard might seek privacy from extraplanar interlopers in her personal library. She turns a 20-footby-20-foot slab of stone ethereal, then builds her Material Plane library on the spot coexistent with the slab. Or, through a deity’s favor, a powerful baron moves an entire mountain onto the Ethereal Plane and builds his keep where the mountain used to be.

Ethereal intruders encounter a stone block in the first case and a mountain in the second—both impassable objects for would-be spies. An ethereal object, if forced to manifest on the Material Plane, cannot reappear where it had vanished from if another object occupies that space; if so, it is displaced to the nearest area that can hold it. In the second example above, the mountain does not reappear in the space the keep occupies. As long as the keep is taller than it is wide, the mountain is shunted to the side if forced to appear on the Material Plane. But if the shortest direction for the mountain to reappear is straight up, then the baron has a new problem.

Dead Magic Areas

A traveler using magic to reach the Ethereal Plane cannot move into an area with the dead magic trait without returning to the Material Plane. On the ethereal landscape, dead magic areas appear as massive black blots.

Curtains

Shimmering curtains connect the Ethereal Plane to various Inner and Outer Planes. Just like portals, ethereal curtains create conduits through the Astral Plane. While they can be detected from the Material Plane (with a true seeing spell, for example), ethereal curtains can be entered only from the Ethereal Plane. Ethereal curtains function like the color pools of the Astral Plane, but they always turn travelers solid when they reach the destination plane (whereas it’s possible to project an astral form through an astral color pool, creating a new body on the other side). Travelers stranded on the Ethereal Plane can use an ethereal curtain to go elsewhere. Ethereal curtains are almost always stationary. They are immune to all but the most violent of ether cyclones (see below).

Well-known ethereal curtains may be guarded, worshiped, or exploited by those with interest in the plane on the other end. Curtains can also lead into demiplanes. While a demiplane usually connects to the Astral Plane, one may have an entrance onto the Ethereal Plane. This is common among demiplanes used as prisons, because even if prisoners escape, they’re still on the Ethereal Plane, where travel is slow, easily spotted, and sometimes blocked by ethereal solids. As with any portal, each ethereal curtain can have its own properties. In general such curtains are one-way portals, although there are exceptions (see the ethereal tapestry magic item below). As with the color pools of the Astral Plane, ethereal curtains have their own colors.

Random Ethereal Curtains

d% Plane Color
01–05 Heroic Domains of Ysgard Purple
06–10 Ever-Changing Chaos of Limbo Swirling black
11–15 Windswept Depths of Pandemonium Crimson
16–20 Infinite Layers of the Abyss Swirling red
21–25 Tarterian Depths of Carceri Gray-green
26–30 Gray Waste of Hades Dark red
31–35 Bleak Eternity of Gehenna Bright red
36–40 Nine Hells of Baator Red and black
41–45 Infernal Battlefield of Acheron Metallic red
46–50 Clockwork Nirvana of Mechanus White
51–55 Peaceable Kingdoms of Arcadia Pale yellow
56–60 Seven Mounting Heavens of Celestia Brilliant yellow
61–65 Twin Paradises of Bytopia Dark yellow
66–70 Blessed Fields of Elysium Dark green
71–75 Wilderness of the Beastlands Emerald green
76–80 Olympian Glades of Arborea Bright blue
81–89 Concordant Domain Brown of the Outlands
90–95 Material Plane Metallic silver
96–97 Astral Plane Swirling gray
98–99 Elemental or Energy Plane Make a second d% roll
01–20 Elemental Plane of Fire Flickering green
21–40 Elemental Plane of Earth Flickering gray
41–60 Elemental Plane of Water Flickering blue
61–80 Elemental Plane of Air Flickering white
81–90 Positive Energy Plane Shining white
91–100 Negative Energy Plane Glossy black
99–100 Demiplane of the DM’s choice Any other color

Ether Cyclones

Akin to the psychic storms of the Astral Plane, ether cyclones are pressure centers of magical force that roil through the Ethereal Plane. They brew up out of nowhere and pose a hazard to ethereal travelers in the area. They are usually as temporary as thunderstorms on the Material Plane, but sometimes a more permanent ether cyclone can develop, lasting for years or even centuries. To those on the Material Plane, the ether cyclone has no effect beyond a shiver down one’s spine or strange behavior from nearby animals. But on the Ethereal Plane, the ether cyclone is an incredibly strong wind. Clothing, hair, and unattended objects are blown about, and eventually a traveler is uprooted and spun through the Ethereal Plane to an unknown fate.

The rising winds of a typical ether cyclone provide 1d10 rounds of warning before the cyclone reaches full strength. An eerie howling increases with each round, and with a brutal suddenness the ether cyclone tears at everything in its path. Travelers can flee the ether cyclone by moving onto the coexistent plane or seeking shelter. Spells with the force descriptor, such as Leomund’s tiny hut, protect the traveler from the effects of an ether cyclone, but weather spells such as control wind and control weather have no effect on an ether cyclone. It’s otherwise impossible to outrun an ether cyclone. One of the greatest dangers of an ether cyclone is how it can scatter a group of adventurers, leaving them unable to find each other—or to find exits from the Ethereal Plane. Undead are unaffected by ether cyclones, including ghosts and such creatures as devourers. Ghosts that aren’t tied to a particular Material Plane location may even ride an ether cyclone, surfing on the ethereal winds. Any creature becoming ethereal (including those who use the blink spell) in an ether cyclone immediately suffers the effects of the cyclone. But creatures about to move to the Ethereal Plane get a feeling that there is something unusual on the other side if a ether cyclone is nearby. They may choose not to enter the Ethereal Plane as a result.

Ethereal Encounters

The Ethereal Plane is a Transitive Plane, a plane of getting from one place to another. Many of the creatures encountered here are en route for one reason or another, though some use the Ethereal Plane as a hiding spot to observe (and plot against) those on the Material Plane.

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