Ethereal Plane


The ‘Inner Sea’ of the planes, the eternal fogs of the Ethereal Plane wash over all the Inner Planes. It is the echo of the Material Plane, a realm of memory and ghosts. Items and actions on the Material Plane create ripples in this fog and draw the attention of wraiths and worse from within the mists.

Ethereal Plane Traits

  • No Gravity: Individuals on a plane with this trait merely float in space.
  • Sparse Life: Life is widespread, but sparse. Plant life exists in scrublands and small copses and vast herds of animals are unknown.
  • Static Weather: Weather does not change here. While there might still be clouds, storms, winds and other such phenomena, they are as unmoving as mountains and rivers. Meteorology becomes geography.
  • Minor necrotic bias: Undead are common.

Getting there… and Back

The Ethereal Plane is coexistent with most of the Inner Planes, so simple spells like door or plane shift can reach it. There are also several spells such as ethereal jaunt that allow quick access to the plane. Natural portals to the Ethereal Plane are few, although minglings sometimes occur in graveyards and haunted places.

Survival on the Ethereal Plane

The atmosphere of the Ethereal Plane is clammy and chill but perfectly breathable and food carried onto the plane remains edible. The ectoplasm of the plane is potable and contains enough moisture to be consumed like water, while ectoplasmic food, though bland, is comprised of enough basic nutrients to subsist on. A mortal character cast away in this ghost world can survive, but will soon become a starved and maddened wretch. Navigation through the Border Ethereal is simple – a character can see the features and landmarks of the adjacent plane and use these as navigation points. Ethereal characters can fly at half normal speed with perfect manoeuvrability and walk through most obstacles, so travel here is relatively simple. Navigating the Deep Ethereal is much more difficult and requires the use of magic or Wisdom (Survival) checks (DC 11) to maintain travel in a particular direction.

Features & Properties

The dominant feature of the Ethereal Plane is fog. Rolling banks of grey mist extend for infinity though the Ethereal Plane is divided into regions, the Border Ethereal and the Deep Ethereal. A Border Ethereal is the layer of the plane immediately adjacent to, and coexistent with, the Material Plane or one of the Elemental Planes. If a character travels far enough in the Border Ethereal, he will eventually reach the towering wall of dark cloud that marks the edge of the Deep Ethereal. While the various Border Ethereal Planes reflect the planes to which they are adjacent, the Deep Ethereal is its own entity and has no features save the cloudbanks and a few cenotaphs (see below).


The ever-present fog is made up of a substance called ectoplasm. It feels like cold, slightly viscous fog. When compressed, ectoplasm becomes a clammy grey slime. It can be strained in this form to a liquid that resembles exceedingly watery oatmeal. Ectoplasmic fog can be moulded into a particular shape (using standard Artisan’s tools checks), which it will retain for some time (1d4 weeks) before drifting apart. A ghost could build a house of fog, although the walls would only be slightly thicker and more solid than the surrounding mists. The ghost could pass through the wall, leaving a rippling tear in the shaped ectoplasm that would slowly heal itself. Pushing through such an obstacle requires a Strength check (DC 7), a character may add his Wisdom or Charisma bonus (whichever is higher) to his roll – failure means that the character loses five feet of movement, but can try to move through the obstacle again if he has movement left. Ectoplasmic fog dampens sound (disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks) and blocks vision (granting half cover to all those more than 30 feet away from an observer, three-quarters cover to all those within 120 feet and total cover beyond 120 feet).

Reflections of the Material Plane

A character can see into the Material Plane from any point on the Border Ethereal. This is something like peering through a cracked and dirty pane of glass. From some angles, the material world can be seen clearly; from others, it is distorted and warped out of all proportion; from yet others, it appears monochromatic and wreathed in mist. This close relationship between the Material and Ethereal Planes causes other phenomena. Tenebrous wisps of ectoplasm catch on the tiny impressions in the Ethereal Plane caused by physical objects passing through it. If a wall is built in the Material Plane, it can be seen through the rolling ethereal fog. Wait long enough though and these mists will form into an ethereal duplicate of the wall. This wall is only slightly more solid than any other piece of ectoplasm, but it can be seen without having to peer into the Material Plane. Over time, the ethereal landscape forms into a ghostly reflection of the real world. If the real-world object were to be destroyed or moved (say, if the wall were demolished), then the ethereal duplicate would slowly dissolve back into freefloating mist. This process takes some time, so it is possible to glimpse what the landscape used to look like by examining the local Ethereal Plane. The time taken for an ethereal duplicate to form depends on the nature of the object. For example, a character comes across the ruin of a castle and wishes to learn who once dwelled there. The castle was destroyed six months ago, but stood for sixty years prior to its destruction. The ethereal duplicates of the wooden outbuildings have long since faded, but the stone structure of the castle itself will endure for five years before dissolving. The character might find duplicate suits of armour or other metal fittings, but only if their real-world counterparts had been in the same place for at least twelve years. While exploring, the character finds an ancient shield on the wall, bearing the crest of the castle’s owner. The real-world version of this shield may have long since been shattered, but its ethereal duplicate still exists for a time. Like items shaped of ectoplasm, ethereal duplicates have a little solidity. Pushing through them requires a Strength check at a DC equal to the AC of the real-world item; a character may add his Wisdom or Charisma bonus (whichever is higher) to this roll. Dissolving ethereal duplicates are even less resilient – reduce the DC by 1d10 points. Failing the Strength check means that the character loses five feet of movement, but can try to move through the obstacle again if he has movement left. A character can pick up the ethereal duplicate of a sword and wield it against a ghost, but the duplicate will dissolve in 1d10 hours. The ethereal duplicates of magical items usually have no special properties – reduce the bonus of the item by three, or the caster level by twelve, so a sword +5 would create an ethereal duplicate sword +2, while a wand of fireballs with a caster level of seven would create an entirely non-magical duplicate. Only permanent items create ethereal duplicates, and remember a moving item does not create an ethereal duplicate at all. That sword +5 would have to be left on a shelf for a month to produce an ethereal duplicate, and the duplicate would only exist for a few days before dissolving if the sword was moved. Violent weather or major discharges of energy on the Material Plane can also cause the local ethereal duplicates to dissolve. Roll percentile dice; if the result is lower than the damage inflicted by an energy attack, the ethereal duplicates within a radius equal to the damage x 5 dissolve within 1d10 rounds. Ethereal duplicates only exist on the Ethereal Plane. Any attempt to remove them from their home plane causes them to instantly dissolve.

Ethereal Duplicates

Material Time to Form Time to Dissolve
Living creatures Never
Most plants One year One day
Trees and bushes One year Two weeks
Fabrics, most common items Six months Two weeks
Gold, silver, gems One month One month
Iron and steel One month Two weeks per year of existence
Wooden buildings Six months One month
Stone buildings Three months One month per year of existence
Lead Instantaneous One year per year of existence
Other substances 22 – (object AC) (Object AC – 10) in months

Permanent Barriers

Force effects such as a wall of force extend into the Ethereal Plane, as do effects that block planar travel such as forbiddance. To an ethereal creature, such areas appear to be filled with an impenetrable blackness. Mixing blood into mortar or covering a building in ivy causes its ethereal duplicate to form much more quickly and strongly, halving the time needed to form a duplicate and increasing the Strength DC to push through the duplicate by +10. For example, a wall covered in ivy would require a Strength check (DC 20) to move through, even ethereally. This can slow or even block weaker ghosts from passing through its wall.

Ghosts, Small and Large

The Ethereal Plane is the home of ghosts, wraiths and other spectral entities. They float amid the mists, hungrily eyeing the warm energy of those who still live. The Ethereal Plane is also the home of the Discarded. These are the equivalent of an ethereal duplicate created by a living being. The discarded appear only after a violent death, throwing off the shell of the dying body and forming a new shape from ectoplasm. The discarded have no intelligence or real will of their own; they merely repeat certain actions again and again. They exist only on the Ethereal Plane and cannot manifest, although they can move onto the Material Plane if the two planes mingle. The speak with dead spell works by draining the discarded back into its former body. The spell conjures a Small ghost if the dead person died naturally, so casting speak with dead can lead to a rash of hauntings. While the discarded are not especially powerful, they can be dangerous in large numbers to ethereal travellers.

The Deep Ethereal

Finding the edge of the Deep Ethereal requires 1d10 days of travel or the use of a spell like teleport. The Deep Ethereal resembles the borderlands, but instead of randomly rolling mists, the ectoplasmic fog of the Deep Ethereal spins in a vast, eternal cyclone. The Deep Ethereal is mostly a featureless expanse of fog dotted with secret chests and pocket planes tethered to locations on the Material Plane. It is infinite in extent.


Apart from the ghosts that throng the mists the Ethereal Plane is relatively safe for travellers. The major threat is getting lost. A high Survival skill or items like a planar compass, however, prevent this.

Charged Ether (CR3)

Force effects like magic missile extend into the Ethereal Plane. When this force dissipates, when the magic missile detonates or the forcecage collapses, its energy is absorbed by the ectoplasm. Tiny fragments of force-charged ectoplasm float through the mists, slowly gathering together into crackling chains of energy. Charged ether looks like a bank of fog with flashes of lightning constantly erupting in its depths. Ethereal creatures, being made of ectoplasm, can float through charged ether safely without discharging it. However, if a creature from the Material Plane touches the charged ether or comes within 60 feet of it, the ether fires violent bolts of force at the creature. Charged ether deals 2d6 points of damage (Constitution save, DC 11) for half damage. A bank of charged ether has 50 + 5d10 points of force to discharge before it is exhausted. It will discharge at items from the Material Plane as well as creatures, so a character could discharge a patch of charged ether by shooting arrows at it. Ethereal creatures often form charged ether into ethereal mines or other defences against corporeal invaders.

Etheric Influenza

The dank mists and chill, clinging ectoplasm of the Ethereal Plane commonly give rise to illnesses. Etheric influenza is the most common of these, where the lungs become partially filled with the ethereal mists. A character must make a Constitution save (DC 8) after every day in which he spends more than two hours on the Ethereal Plane. Etheric influenza lasts for 6 + 1d6 days, during which the character’s maximum hit points are reduced by 5. The character can also dimly perceive ethereal creatures (Wisdom (Perception) check, DC 17 required). Finally, the character’s skin is noticeably greyer and clammier – a sure sign that he has spent some time in the Ethereal realms.

Coagulation (CR4)

Sometimes, the mists of the Ethereal Plane spontaneously solidify. The onset of a coagulation is heralded by a sound of creaking, as strands of stiffening ectoplasm rub against each other. This creaking lasts for 2d4 rounds before the coagulation begins and the Wisdom (Perception) DC to notice this creaking is equal to the number of rounds x 4. The coagulation solidifies all mist within a radius of 6d6 x 10 feet, beginning at the centre of the affected area and expanding at a rate of 1d8 x 10 feet per round. Any character caught by the expanding edge of the coagulation must make a Dexterity save (DC 12); a character who succeeds is moved to the edge of the coagulation, one who fails is stuck. The coagulation blocks planar travel, so a trapped character cannot plane shift out, or even return to the Material Plane when an ethereal jaunt runs out. The coagulation lasts for seven + 3d10 days before dissolving. Ghosts and ethereal creatures usually just wait for the coagulation to dissolve, but characters who need food and water cannot wait so long. A character can dig through one foot of coagulated ectoplasm in eight hours; it has an AC of 19 and 30 hit points per inch of thickness.

Cenotaphs (CR11)

Ethereal duplicates sometimes drift into the Deep Ethereal. Usually, they dissipate normally, but some endure for centuries. These ghost towns attract the discarded, wraiths and other ethereal creatures, and the memory-absorbing qualities of ectoplasm cause the denizens to copy the actions of the inhabitants of the real counterpart of the town. Travellers encounter copies of long-vanished villages or temples, filled with mindless undead who mimic the appropriate actions of the original. These cenotaphs can be useful shelters for travellers lost in the Deep Ethereal. However, at the heart of every cenotaph is a dread wraith (see Core Rulebook III) who rules the cenotaph, taking on the role of the local authority figure. It can feed on the fragments of memory inherent in the cenotaph, but also uses the cenotaph to lure unwary travellers.


There are few permanent features amid the rolling ectoplasmic mists.

The Eye

At the centre of the Deep Ethereal is a huge whirlpool, a shining white portal dozens of miles wide that leads to the Afterworld. It was created to gather up all the errant ghosts that linger on the Ethereal Plane. Four Colossal Psychopomps named Aadon, Barus, Chal and Escah guard the portal from interference and block living creatures from passing through the whirlpool. Of the four guardians, Barus is the most diligent. Aadon and Escah have both tired of their task; Aadon spends decades at a time sleeping, while Escah has long since abandoned his post and now rules a demiplane inhabited by lizardmen. Chal is still dutiful, but her heart is easily swayed by a sufficiently sorrowful or heroic need to access the Afterworld (Diplomacy check, DC 17). The four psychopomps are not the only danger to travellers heading for the Eye. Vast shoals of ethereal marauders surround the eye, feeding on the discarded that are sucked into the whirlpool. There is little sustenance in such things, so a traveller will be attacked by dozens of hungry marauders as he approaches the Eye.

Ghostwatch Tabards

> These magical tabards are woven from shimmering silver-grey thread and are marked with the symbol of the Knights of Ghostwatch, a longsword, its blade pointing skyward, wreathed in tendrils of mist. The tabards allow the wearer to move from the Ethereal to the Material Plane at will, but only if at least four other tabards are making the same journey at the same location and time. The tabards are made in groups of five, and the knights move between the planes as one. Moderate transmutation; CL14th; Create Wondrous Item, ethereal jaunt; Price 10,000 gp.

Warren of the Filchers

The curious entities known as ethereal filchers dwell in a vast warren of ectoplasmic tunnels in the Deep Ethereal, near to the edge of the Material/Ethereal Border. The warren looks like the intestines of some monstrous beast, as it is full of pulsing chambers and spasming orifices. A constant stream of filchers swarm in and out of the warren; entering the warren laden with the spoils of their thievery, they leave empty-handed. The warren is an almost incomprehensible maze, organised according to the most curious of principles. The filchers scurry in and deposit their stolen items in the appropriate chamber, but the criteria they use are unknown. A king’s ransom in gemstones might be placed next to a pile of oars stolen from canoes, while the spellbooks of an archmage might be carefully torn up to make a nest for an abducted mouse. A character exploring the warren of the filchers could find almost any item imaginable, but the search would be both lengthy and frustrating. Over ten thousand filchers occupy the warren at any one time. The innermost chambers of the warren are the realm of the Filchers’ Guild. A particularly enterprising thief once thought to raid the warren; she was captured by the large filchers that patrol the corridors, and had everything she possessed filched from her, including the cubic gate she used to reach the Deep Ethereal. Over the following years, she roamed the warrens, stealing already-stolen food. She learned the primitive language of the filchers, and from her they learned the concept of the Thieves’ Guild. Now, the best and most skilful of the filchers are permitted to join the Filchers’ Guild. As for that thief, it is said she became the first master of the filcher’s guild.


Ghostwatch Keep is a vast, imposing castle that floats in the Border Ethereal. It was constructed from the decaying fragments of ethereal duplicates of destroyed fortresses, so the architecture of Ghostwatch is a strange mix of styles and materials. The castle is the home of an order of penitents – paladins mostly, but they take in adventurers and heroes from all classes and races. A group of clerics on the Material Plane known as the Friars of Mistguard keep the castle from dissolving by means of constant prayer and sacrifice. The friars also produce the ghostwatch tabards worn by all the knights. Currently, Ghostwatch Keep is home to some ninety knights (twenty-five paladins, fifteen clerics, thirteen rangers, twelve fighters, four of each of the other classes), ranging in level between three and twenty. Any good-aligned character engaged in a heroic quest may call upon the Knights of Ghostwatch by means of a sending. Within three days, 6 + 1d6 Knights of Ghostwatch will appear to aid the character. However, once the character’s quest is completed, the character has one month to settle his mortal affairs before he is called to serve Ghostwatch Keep for the rest of his existance. The current Master of the Knights is a 20th level human paladin, Tobias de Triste, a melancholy man who called the knights to aid him in rescuing his lady love from a dragon. He won her freedom, but sacrificed his own to do so.
Angel, Planetar Reskin: Tobias
Tobias has the following changes:
  • Type: Humanoid (human)
  • Size: Medium
  • Hit Points: 184 (16d8 + 112)
  • Speed: 20 ft.
Possessions: Full plate +4, heavy steel shield +3, holy avenger +5, cloak of charisma +4, gloves of dexterity +2, periapt of wisdom +2, ghostwatch tabard, three potions of cure critical wounds. Special Mount: Tobias’s warhorse, Beelanthas, wears horseshoes of etherealness, and is used to ethereal combat.

The Pact of Ghostwatch Keep

If I, the hero, Fear to fail, Knights of Ghostwatch, My call will hail. Warriors bold, From ether stride, To stand and hold, My embattled side. When deed is done, And wars are ended, Ghostwatch’s hand, Once more extended, Collect the toll, We have agreed And take me home, To hail to thee. If a hero fears the failure of his quest, he may call upon the Knights of Ghostwatch. These Knights shall materialise from the Ethereal Plane and fight alongside the character. However, when the character’s dies or his quest is completed, whichever happens first, the Knights return and carry him into the mists of the Ethereal Plane where he spends the rest of his life at Ghostwatch Keep, waiting for the call to arms.


The native creatures of the Ethereal Plane are blink dogs, ethereal creepers, ethereal filchers, ethereal marauders and all manner of ghosts. Save for the warren of the filchers and minor fortifications like Ghostwatch Keep, there are few organisations on the Ethereal Plane, although some travellers have reported encounters with whole civilisations living and dying in the Border Ethereal, walking invisibly and unperceived by creatures passing through the same space on the Material Plane.

The Discarded

This spectral entity seems to be the ghost of a dead man. He appears slightly confused by the gaping wound in his chest. The discarded are thrown-off shells of emotion and memory that were imprinted onto the mists of the Ethereal Plane by a violent death. They look just like they did in life, and remember all they once knew, but the discarded lack the intelligence or will to use their former skills. Most of the discarded repeat their everyday actions endlessly until they decay or are destroyed – a discarded harper plays their harp, a discarded soldier constantly patrols non-existent battlements. The Discarded attack by biting or clawing with their chill, misty hands. They exist only on the Ethereal Plane, so they are only dangerous to other ethereal travellers or during a mingling. Use spectre or ghost stats for a discarded.

Ethereal Creepers

These nightmarish entities are relatives of the assassin vine that have adapted to life on the Ethereal Plane. An ethereal creeper can extrude any portion of itself into the Material Plane as a bonus action. The creeper can only be attacked when it is constricting a character.
Behir Reskin: Ethereal Creeper
An ethereal creeper has the following changes:
  • Type: Plant
  • Senses: blindsight 30 ft.
  • Partial Ethereal Jaunt: As a bonus action, the ethereal creeper can magically shift either its mouth or its tendrils from the Material Plane to the Ethereal Plane, or vice versa. The creeper can use its Bite and Swallow attacks on whatever plane its mouth is on, and its Constrict action on whatever plane its tendrils are on.
  • Ethereal Sight: The ethereal creeper can see 30 feet into the Ethereal Plane when it is on the Material Plane, and vice versa.
  • Ethereal Camouflage: The ethereal has advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks made while ethereal. (Creatures who can’t see ethereal creatures are completely unable to see the ethereal creeper.)

Adventure Seeds

The Ethereal Plane is the first plane many adventurers visit; it is very close to the Material World and minglings are comparatively common.
  • A young child wandered into the mists during a mingling and is now lost on the Ethereal Plane. The characters must track the child before the sun rises, burning off the mists and ending the mingling.
  • The characters are hired to steal the ethereal duplicate of a wizard’s spellbook from a famed library – they have to penetrate the magical defences of the library and get the duplicate of the spellbook back to their employers before it dissolves into ectoplasm.
  • Strange, spectral knights attack a friend or relative of the characters. The friend made the Pact of Ghostwatch, but is now attempting to escape his tour of duty at Ghostwatch Keep.
Section 15: Copyright Notice

Classic Play – The Book of the Planes, copyright 2004 Mongoose Publishing Ltd.

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