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The spell Leomund's Secret Chest allows you to hide a chest full of goodies on the Ethereal Plane. According to the spell, the caster may use an action to return the chest to the Prime Material:

While the chest remains on the Ethereal Plane, you can use an action and touch the replica to recall the chest. It appears in an unoccupied space on the ground within 5 feet of you.

So, it is unclear whether anyone else may retrieve the loot chest, say after killing the caster. According to the spell:

If the spell ends and the larger chest is on the Ethereal Plane, it is irretrievably lost.

Does the death of the caster cause the spell to end? If not, is the loot chest essentially lost?

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The death of the caster does not cause the spell to end. To start with, the spell is instantaneous. You cast it, a chest is hidden, and the spell is done. However, the spell lists all the ways it which its effect can end:

After 60 days, there is a cumulative 5 percent chance per day that the spell’s effect ends. This effect ends if you cast this spell again, if the smaller replica chest is destroyed, or if you choose to end the spell as an action.

So the caster dying will not end the effect of the spell. However, only the caster can use the replica to recall the chest from the Ethereal Plane. The spell (like most spells) consistently uses "you" to refer to the person who cast it. In fact, the entire chapter on spellcasting uses "you" to refer to the caster.

That being the case, while the effect of the spell does not end with the caster's death, the larger chest is, for all intents and purposes, lost forever as soon as the caster dies. There might be one way around this, though. The chest is only "irretrievably lost" once the effect of the spell ends. Until that point, it is hidden on the Ethereal Plane. While the nature of that hiding is unspecified, it certainly seems possible that you could travel to the Ethereal Plane and look for the chest there.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Historical note: In earlier editions, it was explicitly stated that you could potentially mount an expedition to find a lost Leomund's Secret Chest. On the other hand, earlier editions also suggested that creatures of the Ethereal plane could rifle through your chest if it wasn't locked, so, y'know, be careful taking stuff from earlier editions. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe May 23 '17 at 4:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sounds like a plot hook: "Find the hand of a dead wizard, so that he can 'touch' the replica chest" \$\endgroup\$ – TheSexyMenhir May 23 '17 at 7:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TheSexyMenhir phrased that way, it sounds more like the summary of the world's worst fantasy erotica. Edit - and I'd expect nothing less of a user called The Sexy Menhir \$\endgroup\$ – Matt Thrower May 23 '17 at 8:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Return the owner from the dead and convince them to return the chest or just put their body touching the replica chest and then perform a seance, with an appropriate spell, and convince them to recall the chest while they are beyond the grave (if your GM would allow it for plot-expediency/thinking-outside-the-box). \$\endgroup\$ – MT0 May 23 '17 at 9:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ And probably worth noting that "cumulative chance" is a sort of weird phrasing used in D&D to mean "5% the first day, 10% the second, 15% the third...". \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm May 23 '17 at 13:38

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