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The spell Leomund's Secret Chest says this:

You hide a chest, and all its contents, on the Ethereal Plane. [...]

Where in the Ethereal Plane does the chest go?

Is it possible for someone to travel through the Ethereal Plane to find a secret chest?
I'm asking about this part as well because depending on where it's hidden, it may be either easier or harder for someone to track down a secret chest.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ As to your second part, can you explain why you think that isn't possible? I think this question is bordering on too broad ... can your refocus it slightly or add a bit more detail in how this seeks to solve a problem? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 30, 2020 at 1:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ And now I want to make chests start appearing in the standard plane from folks in the ethereal plane hiding them lol \$\endgroup\$
    – Keverly
    Commented Sep 30, 2020 at 17:41

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This is a matter of world building, not spell mechanics.

The spell description doesn’t tell us where the chest is, just that it’s on the ethereal plane.

In the event that the precise location of the secret chest becomes relevant, it’s entirely up to the DM to make that decision. This is a good opportunity for a DM to do some interesting world building around the location of the missing chest. Or maybe it just can’t be found. Up to the DM.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The spell does suggest that it's at least in an out-of-the-way part of the Ethereal plane: "If the spell ends and the larger chest is on the Ethereal Plane, it is irretrievably lost.". \$\endgroup\$
    – minnmass
    Commented Mar 18, 2022 at 20:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @minnmass I think the idea there is that the ethereal plane is so big, and you don't know where it actually goes, so the probability of stumbling across your exact chest is catastrophically low. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 18, 2022 at 21:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Right, just saying it probably doesn't pop up in the middle of Ghostwatch or anything. \$\endgroup\$
    – minnmass
    Commented Mar 18, 2022 at 21:42
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Apparently chests can be found

As Thomas Markov points out in their answer to this question, there is at least one published instance of 5e creatures going looking for chests. In Icewind Dale, there is

a coven of hags which "frequently leaves its den to roam the Ethereal Plane in search of treasure chests tucked away using the Leomund’s secret chest spell"

These creatures are Int 16 and Wis 14, so presumably if they are trying to find chests, it is reasonably possible to do so.

It is probably hidden in the Deep Ethereal

As described by the DMG, the Ethereal Plane is "mostly featureless" (p. 43), it "envelopes" the Prime Material in a great wheel (p.44), and is "a misty, fog-bound dimension" where "visibility is limited" (p. 48). An otherwise featureless plane enshrouded in fog and if not actually infinite, at least larger than all prime material planes put together does indeed seem like a pretty good place to hide something. One could wander such a plane for a very long time before randomly encountering a chest hidden there.

The exception, though, is the Border Ethereal, which is much more circumscribed. The Border Ethereal "overlap[s] the Material Plane and the Inner Planes, so that every location on those planes has a corresponding location on the Ethereal Plane" (DMG p.48). To search for a chest hidden on the Border Ethereal, one need only cover all the likely areas overlapping it on the prime. In particular, if sending a chest back to the Ethereal merely meant translating it to the Border Ethereal location corresponding to its last prime location, then any time you knew the last location of a chest, you could go to that location, cast Etherealness, and look for the chest (possibly prefacing your search with a Dispel Magic aimed at ending the 4th level secret chest spell if the ongoing effect of the spell itself helped hide it).

Having the chest exist on the Border Ethereal might also complicate summoning it, since both magical force and living creatures on the prime create impassible barriers in the Border Ethereal. A titular Jonah who last sent his chest to the Border Ethereal while on land, could not call for it once he was inside the whale, for the chest could not travel to him entirely through the Border Ethereal - it would be stopped at the edge of the whale. A particularly dense forest, where any aperture was smaller than the chest, would also block it. Perhaps most telling, a wizard inside a Tiny Hut would not be able to call for their Secret Chest if the chest was on the Border Ethereal. As the developer of both those spells, one would think the esteemed Mage Leomund would have taken this into account, so that he could in fact summon his own chest while in his hut.

Such a summoning would be possible if the chest was instead hidden on the Deep Ethereal, for the dome of the hut does not extend there. The chest, having received its master's call, would travel through the Deep Ethereal (where "distance is meaningless" - DMG p. 49) and then enter the Border Ethereal already inside the hut, circumventing its barrier effect.

Finally, note also happens when the spell ends - the chest is "irretrievably lost" (and not irrevocably lost, completely lost, or permanently lost). In natural English, something that is irretrievably lost might be found, but it can't be retrieved. It appears that it is the spell itself that retrieves the chest from the Deep Ethereal, and once the spell ends, it becomes 'untethered' and lost in the Deep Ethereal. Were a chest to remain on the Border Ethereal when the spell ended, it should be relatively easy to retrieve.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Your argument against the Border Ethereal (as opposed to the Deep) being the hiding place assumes that if it were on the Border it would have to physically travel in the Border to the location, leading to absurd conclusions (one you don't mention is that it's speed in the Border would approach infinity as the distance increases). But even if it's hidden in the Border, why couldn't it just use magic like other conjuration spells (ie misty step, dimension door, teleport) to travel that distance? \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 13:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jack Nothing really tells us how the chest moves, so I was trying to avoid that, although I agree that a chest physically traveling hundreds of miles through the Border Ethereal in fewer than six seconds would be absurd. As for other conjuration magic, my assumption is that the spell effects should be of appropriate level to the spell: misty step and dimension door both have range limitations, and the chest doesn't. But teleport, with no range limitation, is 7th level, and the chest is only 4th. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 20:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jack I think the chest is most similar to teleportation circle (5th), in that the replica is one end of the tether and the real chest is the other, whereas in teleportation circle the permanent sigil is one end of a tunnel and the drawn sigil is another. (The reduced level of the chest represents the reduced volume of things transportable). The chest can go 'back and forth' to the Deep Ethereal but doesn't actually move any distance. However, all of this is my personal views and less substantiated than my answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 20:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think you make a great argument for Deep Ethereal, enough to convince me that that makes more sense than anything else. Probably. Those hags . . . either (1) the lore has cycled through multiple novels, video games, source books for the last 30+ years and not every detail is rectified with every other detail, or (2) those hags are serious nut cases, lol, or (3) both. Trolling the Deep Ethereal for treasure chests . . . there's gotta be a better way to make a living. Maybe there's a Pacific Gyre of irretrievable chests! \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 20:26

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