The Ethereal plane is a plane of swirling proto-matter coexisting alongside Prime Material plane, touching the Prime at all points- The Ethereal is the cosmic “glue” that binds together the Prime Material and inner planes. It also contains the stuff that new demi-planes are made of. it is a roiling, chaotic plane filled with swirling fogs and shadowy shapes in various degrees of solidity. Travelers and the few natives that exist in this plane appear semisolid as well, and nonliving objects can pass through each other easily.
The first-time visitor deep within the plane may find himself completely surrounded by colorful mists, or in areas that resemble small towns on misty, fog-bound evenings. There is gravity in the sense of an up and a down direction, but the ethereal visitor can move in all directions freely. Visitors and other objects are supported by the ethereal medium, so that unsupported objects do not fall in Ethereal plane, despite the existence of a down direction. The traveler in the Ethereal consists of the same base material, and therefore has the same density, as his surroundings. A traveler can move forward, backward, up, or down by parting the vaporous medium at will.
The Ethereal is unique among the planes in that a visitor can exist simultaneously in both the Ethereal and another plane, in a region of the Ethereal plane known as the Border Ethereal. The Border Ethereal is explained below and is considered part of the Ethereal plane (the “edge” of the infinite plane}. The non-Border parts of the Ethereal are referred to as the Deep Ethereal.
The Ethereal can be thought of as a great ocean. so that a traveler can wade along the beach (in the Border Ethereal), alongside familiar lands, or journey across the Ethereal ocean (the Deep Ethereal) into new lands. All discussion in this section applies to individuals anywhere in the Ethereal plane, unless otherwise noted as being solely for the Border or Deep Ethereal. The Ethereal plane is used as a means of travel from the Prime to the inner planes, which include the elemental, para-elemental, and quasi-elemental planes, as well as the Positive and Negative Material planes. The Ethereal also provides access to the demi-planes.
Reaching the Ethereal Plane
The Ethereal plane (and the realms beyond it) can be most easily reached via magical items, such as oil or etherealness or armor of etherealness. These and similar magical items place the user and those items he carries into the Border Ethereal, that place where the Prime and Ethereal meet. There are are no specific spells designed to put the traveler into the Ethereal plane, though several spells serve the function.
The Border Ethereal
The Ethereal plane is accessible at every point of the Prime Material plane it touches. so there are no free-standing ducts, gates, or portals. Rather, the entire Prime is bordered by the Ethereal; those who walk along this border can interact with creatures on the Prime plane.
To use the analogy of the Ethereal as an ocean, a person in the Border Ethereal is standing in the surf of that ocean where it meets the shore. He can see what is happening on the shore, and he can move along the shore, but he is still in the water. Thus a traveler standing in the Border Ethereal can see into the Prime plane, but he ls still an ethereal being.
Travelers in the Border Ethereal can move through the plane they are bordering without problem. moving vertically or horizontally at will without need for support. They travel at the speed they would move on that plane given their usual movement abilities.
The traveler in the Border Ethereal can move through solid matter in the plans he borders without ill effects in most cases. Stone can be breached without creating an opening, and the ethereal traveler can pass through a wall of fire or volcano unscathed, provided it is on the other plane. Damage that extends into the Ethereal plane does affect the ethereal traveler.
A traveler in the Border Ethereal sometimes may be forced to regain his physical form inside an existing object. (This usually occurs because the spell or potion has expired or a dispel magic has been cast upon the traveler.) Liquids, gases, and flames part to allow the traveler entrance, but solid objects resist such intrusions. A traveler reappearing inside a solid object save results in the physical destruction of the traveler, or plunges the traveler into the Deep Ethereal, unconscious.
While the traveler in the Border Ethereal faces a number of problems in this region of the plane, he is free of the greatest danger of the Ethereal: the ether cyclone.
The traveler may choose to leave the border region of the Ethereal plane tor the depths of the plane itself. This may be desirable to escape pursuit or a powerful foe. or to reach the inner planes and demi-planes. A traveler can only reach the plane that he is now bordering. A traveler desiring to venture deeper into the Ethereal merely wills it so. An individual who witnesses this process sees the traveler stepping back into a roiling mist, which then closes in on itself. The traveler is now in the Deep Ethereal, facing a curtain of vaporous color.
Into the Ethereal Plane – Curtains
Unless bodily flung into the depths of the Ethereal plane (by a vanish spell or trying to enter a plane inside solid matter), a traveler begins his sojourn in the Ethereal at a curtain of vaporous color. These curtains are the boundaries between the Deep Ethereal and the Border Ethereal. To continue the ocean analogy, the curtains are shoals and reels out in the ocean that warn of landfall ahead. As long as the traveler remains on the Ethereal side of the curtain, he cannot be harmed by any forces in the Prime or inner planes. Upon stepping through the curtain, the traveler is in the Border Ethereal.
The curtains of vaporous color appear as huge hanging sheets that are continuously agitated by the forces between the planes. Lights and pixie fire dance across their surfaces. The traveler can enter a curtain by willing so and can leave it behind by a similar act of will. The color of the curtain indicates the plane the curtain conceals:
Prime Material – Turquoise (bright bluish green)
Air Elemental – Blue
Earth Elemental – Brown
Fire Elemental – Red
Water Elemental – Green
Smoke Para-Elemental – Pearl (off-white shot with grey)
Ice Para-Elemental – Aquamarine (dark blue-green)
Ooze Para-Elemental – Chocolate
Magma Para-Elemental – Maroon
Lightning Quasi-Elemental – Violet
Steam Quasi-Elemental – Ivory (dirty white)
Radiance Quasi-Elemental – Shifting Rainbow Pattern
Mineral Quasi-Elemental – Milky Pink
Vacuum Quasi-Elemental – Ebony (deep blackish brown)
Salt Quasi-Elemental – Tan
Ash Quasi-Elemental – Dark Grey
Dust Quasi-Elemental – Dun (brownish grey)
Positive Material – Pure White
Negative Material – Pure Black
Demi-Planes – Metallic Shades
Survival in the Ethereal Plane
In the Ethereal plane, physical objects are converted into their Ethereal equivalents – metal to ethereal metal, flash to ethereal flesh, stone to ethereal stone, etc. A living body can then breathe the ethereal air in a normal fashion. Since ethereality permeates the entire plane and all substances within. a character cannot be smothered by ethereal stone, nor drown in an ethereal lake. The ethereal body can still be affected by gas attacks, such as stinking cloud and cloudkill, that are cast in the Ethereal plane.