DMG page 48 Border Ethereal: Normally, creatures in the Border Ethereal can't attack creatures on the overlapped plane, and vice versa. A traveler on the Ethereal Plane is invisible and utterly silent to someone on the overlapped plane, and solid objects on the overlapped plane don't hamper the movement of a creature in the Border Ethereal The exceptions are certain magical effects (including anything made of magical force) and living beings."

If living beings are an explicit exception to the normal rules for etherealness, and can interact normally with ethereal creatures, then does that mean that living beings (but not constructs or undead beings) can grapple ethereal creatures, or can attack ethereal creatures with unarmed strikes? Could they in fact make any weapon attack?

Or alternatively is this passage only in respect to "hampering movement"?

  • \$\begingroup\$ By ethereal creatures do you mean creatures that are incorporeal, who are in the Ethereal plane? or just anyone who happens to be in the Ethereal plane? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 3:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Anyone in the ethereal plane. \$\endgroup\$
    – Strill
    Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 4:04

1 Answer 1


I think it's indeed only in respect to hampering movement: "certain magical effects (including anything made of magical force) and living beings hamper the movement of a creature in the Border Ethereal".

I'd interpret this as follows:

  • Forcecage and the like are impassable.
  • An ethereal creature abides by (only) the following parts of the "Moving Around Other Creatures" rule on page 191 of the Player's Handbook:

Whether a creature is a friend or an enemy, you can't willingly end your move in its space.

lf you leave a hostile creature's reach during your move, you provoke an opportunity attack [...]

I wouldn't consider a material creature's space difficult terrain for an ethereal creature to pass through. Ethereal and material creatures still can't touch, grapple, or physically attack one another except via force effects, so those opportunity attacks are going to be hard to exploit.

I suspect the RAI is solely to keep ethereal creatures playable on a grid. It'd be a real headache if they were constantly overlapping other creatures' squares, even if it's what ethereality logically enables.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ there are some ethereal creatures (see Ghost, for instance) whose Incorporeal Movement trait specifically does make corporeal creatures' spaces difficult motion. Your approach may be easier to manage, but it's not the RAW the OP requested \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 12:41
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 Incorporeal Movement seems to be a feature that applies when a Ghost (or Spectre, or Wraith) is not actually ethereal. The Ghost is actually the only one of the three that additionally has an Etherealness ability. I might replace all my usage of "corporeal" with "material" to keep these two concepts separate. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sebkha
    Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 14:20

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .