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The spell etherealness allows you (the caster) to travel to the Ethereal Plane for the duration of the spell (8 hours). It has a range of Self, so you cannot target someone else if cast at its base level (7th level).

However, if you upcast it with an 8th level spell slot, it says (PHB, p. 238):

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 8th level or higher, you can target up to three willing creatures (including you) for each slot level above 7th. The creatures must be within 10 feet of you when you cast the spell.

Where it says "including you", does this mean that:

  1. you can only target two other creatures, because one of these three creatures must be you, or
  2. you can target three other creatures, but you're going with them (i.e. you can't just dump these three creatures on the Ethereal Plane whilst you remain on the plane you were all on moment ago)?

Since I'm a cleric in a party of 4, I want to know if I can bring the entire party (me plus my 3 allies) into the Ethereal Plane or whether one of my allies has to be left behind...

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    \$\begingroup\$ For the standard 4-person party, this is a very annoyingly designed upcast. I'd much prefer it be 2 or 4 people at 8th level than 3 - being the 1 person left behind sucks. \$\endgroup\$ – Vigil Sep 22 at 17:15
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Etherealness cast at 8th level can target three creatures.

The use of parentheses in English is to add information in the middle of a sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence or its grammatical structure. Acording to this article:

Round brackets (also called parentheses, especially in American English) are mainly used to separate off information that isn’t essential to the meaning of the rest of the sentence. If you removed the bracketed material the sentence would still make perfectly good sense.

Thus, our spell description means the same thing without the parenthetical “including you”:

When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 8th level or higher, you can target up to three willing creatures for each slot level above 7th.

So at eighth level, etherealness may target three creatures. So why the parenthetical “including you”? It is just a reminder that the spell still has a range of self, so you are naturally going to be one of the three targeted creatures.

If an 8th level etherealness was intended to target Self + 3 creatures, the spell text would mirror similar target scaling effects, such as charm person which reads:

When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, you can target one additional creature for each slot level above 1st. The creatures must be within 30 feet of each other when you target them.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It may be interesting to put more emphasis on the word additional, which is usually found when adding more targets. I don't remember seeing another spell which like Etherealness has an uneven progression (+2 persons then +3 persons), so if such other spell could be found it would also be a nice addition (!) to the answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. Jun 14 at 16:09

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