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.
The Ethereal plane seems almost a non-plane 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 rune 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. 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.
Links to Other Planes
- 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.
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.
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.