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Good day to you, fellow gamers.

Some backstory:

While preparing for a published adventure, I have found that one of the enemies that the PCs will have to encounter have a free ability (as an action of course) to enter Ethereal plane and come back. My PCs are somewhere between 7 - 9 level, and, by design of the adventure, they will have both a time limit on this scene AND the need to destroy enemy in question. By the look of his stats, his best tactic is to jump into Etherealness and wait out for time to pass. The PCs will have to find some way to get him out from\see him on the Ethereal plane in order to succeed in their quest.

As far as my experience of rules go, here is what I know:

  • Robe of the eyes, which allows the user to see creatures on the Ethereal plane within 120 feet
  • See Invisibility, 2-d level divination, which allows to see into the Ethereal plane

Both of the ways might be unavailable to party during the scene, in which case the loss is guaranteed. I hope to find other ways the creature can be found or forced out of the Ethereal plane.

My party most likely will consist of following race\class combo:

  • Dragonborn\Barbarian(Frenzy)
  • Halfling\Rogue(assasin)-Monk
  • Wood elf\Ranger(Hunter)-Rogue
  • Half-Elf\Rogue(Trickster)
  • Human\Fighter(BM)-Warlock
  • Dwarf\Cleric(Life)

So, basically, the question is this:

What ways, in terms of magic items, abilities, magic, etc, are available for players to interact with Ethereal plane on their level?

P.S. For reasons I can't discuss I have no option to insert MucGuffins for players to succeed, except for information about that enemy and his abilities. So I would appreciate answers regarding to actual rules.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Which published adventure? I ask because there might be another way around the problem. \$\endgroup\$ – DuckTapeAl Oct 12 '15 at 11:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DuckTapeAl, unfortunately I`m in no right to disclose its contents. :( \$\endgroup\$ – DM Nailz Oct 12 '15 at 11:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ While you won't release the adventure name for some reason, could you at least disclose the creature name? Most creatures that phase between planes need to use an action to do so. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Oct 13 '15 at 3:15
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This sounds like a problem with the adventure.

A bit of a frame challenge here, but I feel like this is more a problem with the adventure than the party. 5e doesn't have enough material that you can assume that every party can solve every problem (like you could in 3.5), and assuming that a 9th level party can affect the ethereal plane isn't a reasonable assumption in a normal 5e game.

The problem is that seeing into the Ethereal and affecting the Ethereal are very different things. 5e doesn't even have the old standby of force effects working against Ethereal targets like 3.5 did. It's going to be pretty difficult for a 9th level party to be able to do anything meaningful to an Ethereal target.

Given the restriction of not being able to add Ethereal-affecting items to the existing adventure, here's what I would suggest:

Give the enemy a reason to attack the players.

As you note, the tactically correct option would be to go Ethereal and wait out the party, which would make the party lose no matter what. A way to sidestep this issue is to give the enemy a reason to attack the party despite the fact that it could safely wait out the combat. Is the enemy non-intelligent, like an animal? Does the enemy have a vendetta against the party, and wants to kill them beyond reason? Does the enemy have a goal that involves the death of the party? Is the enemy just dumb, and doesn't think of using his abilities to their greatest effect?

If the enemy has a reason to come out of the Ethereal to attack the players, and uses their Etherealness to improve their combat ability rather than avoid the combat entirely, you're going to end up with a fight that's likely to be more fun.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It's also possible that the enemy might need to leave the ethereal to grab a bite to eat, but there's no guarantee he'll do that where the party can see him. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Oct 13 '15 at 1:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Gave my some ideas that will work and fit perfectly in the adventure background. Thank you! \$\endgroup\$ – DM Nailz Oct 13 '15 at 9:54
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Blink, Ring of Spell Storing with See Invisibility/Blink in it.

Both Sorcerer's and Wizards have Blink available as a 3rd level spell. If they haven't selected Blink as a spell, add a scroll or spellbook with Blink in it so the Wizard can study it.

By the looks of your party though, there isn't anybody who is going to be able to use that.

So I recommend that you add a Ring of Spell Storing with Blink already stored in the ring (part of the description of that item allows for this). Based on your group makeup, this seems like a viable option. I don't know what adventure you are doing, but you could put the ring on the body of an adventurer who had come seeking this individual. The adventurer was then killed before he could utilize it, so lucky for the party they now have a method of dealing with this individual. Any magic that has Force as it's damage type can affect the Ethereal Plane as well (example: Magic Missile).

Source for magical force affecting ethereal plane located on DMG pg.48, under Border Ethereal. Specific text quoted in context, emphasis mine:

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 (inlcuding anything made of magical force) and living beings.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ -1: The querent said that they can't add items to the adventure. Also, Magic Missile doesn't affect the Ethereal like it did in 3.5. All of the Force spells that affect the Ethereal plane specifically say so in their spell descriptions, and Magic Missile does not. It's a reasonable house rule, to be sure, but it's not RAW. \$\endgroup\$ – DuckTapeAl Oct 13 '15 at 15:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Considering he asked, and I quote: "What ways, in terms of magic items," it seems that he most definitely asked specifically about magical items, as well as other methods. Pg. 48 of DMG highlights the Ethereal plane as well as the portion under the border ethereal, and makes specific mention that anything using magical force affects the ethereal plane specifically. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Oct 13 '15 at 23:04

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