This is a follow up to my question about whether items are carried with you into the Ethereal Plane while under the effects of the Etherealness spell

Basically, my player wants to use his bonus action to cast Etherealness using the Horizon Walker Ranger's Ethereal step ability, stick his daggers into an enemy's brains, then end Etherealness to stick the daggers in the monster's brains. He cites the part of the spell:

When the spell ends, you immediately return to the plane you originated from in the spot you currently occupy. If you occupy the same spot as a solid object or creature when this happens, you are immediately shunted to the nearest unoccupied space that you can occupy and take force damage equal to twice the number of feet you are moved.

(Emphasis theirs)

They cite that it says specifically that you are the one forced out of their space, not any items that you dropped. However, it would seem to me that by the same argument only you would re-enter the material plane, not any dropped items.

So the question is, do dropped items in the ethereal plane phase back in when the spell ends, and if they do, do they also get forced out of any items that they are in?

Now, This Question does seem to provide an answer to the first part by saying that the items would warp back, but it doesn't say what happens to them once there, leaving the second part quite ambiguous still. So the question then remains, would the objects still be forced out of the enemy?

  • \$\begingroup\$ The second part still remains unanswered in this case. I can edit the first part out, but I kind of feel that in this case it goes hand-in-hand with the second \$\endgroup\$
    – Smart_TJ
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 2:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is your player also arguing that they should be shunted out of their armor and clothing and everything they're carrying if something occupies their space? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 3:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, the previous question I had asked simply for the purpose of knowing if they could even have the knifes on them while ethereal. If their possessions didn't travel with them, then that would end the question right there \$\endgroup\$
    – Smart_TJ
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 3:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ I mean, when they return from the ethereal plane, if their space was blocked, they would be shunted away, but all their clothing, armor, and belongings would stay, according to their logic. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 3:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, because their clothes and armor are still on their person and would move with them, whereas the daggers were not and would therefore remain \$\endgroup\$
    – Smart_TJ
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 3:24

2 Answers 2


My reading: The daggers either get shunted or remain in the ethereal plane

Imagine the player ends their ethereal jaunt inside a solid object and gets shunted out of it. Would their clothing and belongings get left behind, causing them to return naked and unarmed, with all their stuff stuck inside a rock? I very much doubt that's the intent of the spell. Instead, their clothing and belongings should probably get shunted along with them, and that includes the daggers that they're holding. If you accept this, then the daggers must also get shunted out of any creature's space along with the character and the rest of their belongings. Alternatively, if they character lets go of the daggers and argues that they no longer count as "on their person", then the daggers would be left behind in the ethereal plane when the character returns.

In short, either the daggers are carried with you, in which case they are shunted along with you, or else they are not carried along with you, in which case they are, well, not carried with you as you return to the material plane. You can't have it both ways. Any other interpretation means that teleportation and planar travel could easily separate you from all your clothing and gear, permanently, and enemies with the ability to teleport could instantly kill the player characters. You and your players probably don't want to live in a world that works like this. (In this way, my ruling is similar to the reason that fireball doesn't burn away all your clothes: because it's not fun to play in a world that works like that.)

Most teleportation & plane shifting spells are under-specified in this regard

Consider the "standard" spells for teleportation and planar travel, the aptly-named teleport and plane shift. Each one only specifies what happens to an affected creature, not what they're wearing or carrying. The same is true for many other similar spells, like teleportation circle, astral projection, misty step, far step, arcane gate, scatter, steel wind strike, word of recall, and of course, etherealness. In contrast, the only spells I can find that explicitly spell out what you can carry with you when teleporting are dimension door and thunder step.

The clear precedent seems to be that telefragging is forbidden

While the above mentioned spells don't spell out what happens to your gear when teleporting, there is one thing they are consistent on: only an unoccupied space is a valid destination for a teleport/plane shift. To me, this sets a pretty clear precedent that "telefragging" is not an intended mechanic in 5e. So unless you have a specific reason to go against it, I would recommend you stick with that precedent when making rulings. And speaking of rulings...

That's why there's a DM

So, the spells don't specify what happens to the stuff you're carrying when you teleport. Is this a problem? Did the designers forget? No. The rules aren't intended to exhaustively cover every situation. The introduction to the DMG says so explicitly (emphasis added):

The rules don’t account for every possible situation that might arise during a typical D&D session. For example, a player might want his or her character to hurl a brazier full of hot coals into a monster’s face. How you determine the outcome of this action is up to you. [...]

Sometimes mediating the rules means setting limits. If a player tells you, “I want to run up and attack the orc,” but the character doesn’t have enough movement to reach the orc, you say, “It’s too far away to move up and still attack. What would you like to do instead?” The player takes the information and comes up with a different plan.

Ultimately, it's up to you to make a ruling about whether you want to allow this in your game. You could accept your player's logic, or you could decide that you agree with my logic above, or you could decide something else entirely. As long as it makes sense for your world and doesn't unbalance the game, you should be fine.


Your player is wrong

  1. When the spell ends, as you note, only you return to the material plane. While this includes your worn and carried gear (at least, that phrase is consistently clearly intended to), it does not include random other objects that happened to be subjected to the initial shift.
  2. Furthermore, even if 'you' did include your dropped daggers, it would then be part of the same 'you' that is shunted out of occupied spaces and dealt damage
  3. Yet further, even if the daggers did materialize in someone's brain, that wouldn't necessarily deal any damage to them or otherwise inconvenience them in any way. In order for that to happen, the GM must decide that, despite the rules not indicating any damage for such a situation, damage or death nevertheless should occur. And they would have to decide that while not deciding that the attempt fails at some other point or is resolved in some other way. For example, they would have to not call for attack rolls with the daggers like the rules suggest should probably be used here.
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I think that point 3 is underappreciated. We can imagine that, were this maneuver performed in real life, the target would have some pretty severe problems. But in D&D, an action like "materialize a dagger in the skull" is totally undefined and so expecting a hyper-technical reading of the rules to support some specific outcome is a difficult position to take. It's like a called shot-- D&D just doesn't represent that situation, and so (RAW) it's not a thing you can do in the game. \$\endgroup\$
    – Upper_Case
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 17:12
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Upper_Case - Not necessarily. While not common, there are numerous examples of people having various sharp objects shoved into their cranium without doing much damage at all. Everything from nails (nail gun accidents) to bullets. \$\endgroup\$
    – JohnP
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 17:40
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @JohnP That's true, though a sudden insertion might be different from materializing in the same place as existing matter. But I would think that just makes the plan assembled by the player in the OP even less reasonable. Even if it's not well defined in the real-world case, it's even less so in the game. \$\endgroup\$
    – Upper_Case
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 17:43

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