Within the Ethereal Plane, demiplane islands and creatures both odd and dangerous float in an endless field of possibility. Canny folks know that the Ethereal also leads the way to the Inner Planes, infinite arenas of elemental fury. See, it's more than just a backdrop to other adventures - the plane itself offers wonder and opportunity for those with courage enough to explore its limitless expanse.
This guide includes the following information:
- Ethereal environments and conditions - including methods of getting there in the first place
- How the alien medium of the Waveless Sea affects combat and magic
- New spells, magical items, and proficiencies dealing specifically with the Ethereal Plane
- The chant on demiplanes - islands in the Deep Ethereal that obey no rules but their own - including information on old and new demiplanes, plus DM guidelines for creating these unique "pocket dimensions"
- A complete listing of the creatures of the Ethereal, including several new monsters and an Ethereal Encounter Table
- Two new Ethereal-based player character races: nathri and renegade nethlings
I'm not crazy about the front cover.
There, I've now said the only negative thing I can come up with for Bruce Cordell's A Guide to the Ethereal Plane (1998), one of the later Planescape books and a fine reference to the vast, misty sea of possibility that is the Ethereal.
The Ethereal has always gotten slightly short shrift in adventures, usually used briefly and only as a medium for transportation; all the fun stuff seems to happen in the Astral, such as githyanki, dead gods, and the pathways to the outer planes. This book does a fine job of changing that perspective. Quite cleverly, Cordell focuses primarily on demiplanes, alternate realities, and specific locations in the Ether. This allows him free rein to create unique and spectacular locations for adventure without having to concentrate on what might make an endless plane into a hotbed of excitement.
The portion of the book not focused on adventuring locations covers planar geography; unusual features of the Ethereal, such as Ether Cyclones and Walls of Color; Ethereal magic; and Ethereal inhabitants. As is standard for Planescape, in-character quotes from random adventurers and NPCs pepper the book to provide additional context. The result is a fun, comprehensive supplement that gives a thorough grounding in the Ethereal and still leaves the reader wanting more.
Overall? A Guide to the Ethereal Plane translates beautifully between editions and remains a fun, comprehensive guide to a non-traditional adventuring environment. Highly recommended.
And now, having re-read it, I'm off to go hack together an Ethereal adventure for our D&D Next playtest PCs.
A Grounding in the Basics. Although A Guide to the Ethereal Plane is a Planescape book, it's not intrinsically tied to the cosmology as many other Planescape products are. Of course the book explains how the Ethereal Plane fits into that scheme, but it's much more about the practicalities of Ethereal gaming: Ethereal senses, combat, and the differences between the border and deep Ethereal are all explained in a method that allows for easy insertion of plot hooks. Ethereal combat, for instance, is explained with examples of 3D combat that starts a DM thinking about new and entertaining ways to ambush the PCs.
Demiplanes, Dreams, and You. When you're sailing a misty and unsubstantial sea, islands of color and matter tend to catch your eye. These demiplanes, small ethereal pockets of unique existence, are the best adventuring locations in the plane. Fourteen of these are presented in the book, along with methods for randomly determining more.
Details are provided for the Black Abyss (a spiraling black hole of entropy and decay), The Boundless (a heavenly refuge that consumes its visitors), Ravenloft, the demiplane of Electromagnetism (about as exciting as you might expect), the demiplane of Imprisonment (a place of great interest if you happen to be Lovecraft fan), the demiplane of Moil (Orcus's sleeping city), the demiplane of Nightmares, the much beloved demiplane of Shadow, the demiplane that Lives (a continent-sized sentient living land that treasures knowledge), the demiplane of Time, the Mazes (an endless trap used by the ruler of Sigil), the Semblance (a wizards' refuge), Wormscape (a solid, three-dimensional mass of writhing worms), and more. The landscape of Dreams is also described, with rules for adventuring inside of dreams. Known divine residences are listed, as are a few structures a traveler may bump into by mistake.
More developed is the chapter with specific encounters, giving detailed encounter locations throughout the plane. Ever wanted to explore the Castle at the Edge of Time, or the web of a massive phase spider lurking in the deep Ethereal? You'll get details of what they're like.
Creatures of the Mist. The monster section is divided between (i) creatures that can see into both the Prime and the Ethereal plane and (ii) creatures that live in the Ethereal (a mixture of brand new and well-known older creatures.) Some old 1st edition AD&D favorites appear here, such as the will, thought eaters (everyone's favorite psionic platypus!), tweens, the shedu, and many more. Your players won't lack for monsters trying to eat them.
About the Creators. ENnie Award-winning designer Bruce R. Cordell has been Wizards' go-to designer for psionics and tentacular monstrosities ever since he authored The Gates of Firestorm Peak (1996) and the "Illithiad" triad of adventures (1998). His most recent novel in the Spinner of Lies series is Sword of the Gods.
About the Product Historian
History and commentary of this product was written by Kevin Kulp, game designer and admin of the independent D&D fansite ENWorld. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.