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By Skip Williams
The D&D game is many things to many people, but on the whole it's an exercise in the imagination. No matter how many pictures or props we use in our games, we still must "see" the game world through our minds' eyes. Sometimes, that proves very difficult indeed. Invisibility is a concept most of us think we understand, but questions about handling unseen creatures always seem to crop up when such creatures enter play (and those questions seem to generate more trouble than the creatures themselves).
Dealing with ethereal, gaseous, or incorporeal things often proves even tougher than dealing with invisibility. How do you wrap your mind around something that you couldn't hold in your hand even if you had it right there with you?
This article examines all four of these curious states of being.
Here are a few key terms used both in the rules and in this article when discussing the unseen and the real, but largely untouchable.
Adjacent: Two things are adjacent in the D&D game when the squares they occupy share a common side or corner. Because of the way the D&D game counts distances on the grid, two adjacent things are at least 5 feet apart.
Corporeal: Anything that has a physical body or presence. A creature is corporeal if it does not have the incorporeal subtype.
Ethereal: Present on the Ethereal Plane (see page 151 in the Dungeon Master's Guide). Creatures on the Ethereal Plane can see into the Material Plane. Divination spells, such as see invisibility, allow a user on the Material Plane to see into the Ethereal. Things of the Material Plane can have some interactions with things on the Ethereal, but because the Material Plane and the Ethereal Plane are two different places, those interactions are severely limited.
Force: A magical descriptor (see Rules of the Game: Reading Spell Descriptions). Force effects that deal damage can harm incorporeal creatures without the usual miss chance. Force spells cast on the Material Plane can be aimed at, and harm, creatures on the Ethereal Plane. Force barriers block incorporeal and ethereal creatures.
Gaseous: A creature or object whose entire mass is a cloud of gas. When something is gaseous, it's still corporeal, but it can avoid or ignore many physical barriers or hazards.
Incorporeal: A creature subtype. Incorporeal creatures exist without physical bodies and they generally ignore physical barriers and physical dangers. The rules sometimes use the terms ethereal and incorporeal interchangeably, but they are not equivalent (see Part Three and Part Four).
Manifestation: A special quality that allows a ghost (an ethereal creature) to partially enter the Material Plane and function there as an incorporeal creature does.
Miss Chance: A chance, always expressed as a percentage, that an attacker that makes a successful attack roll against a foe misses anyway. Miss chances usually arise because the defender is concealed in some fashion and the attacker does not know exactly where the defender is. A corporeal attacker wielding a magic weapon or spell has a miss chance when attacking an incorporeal foe because whether the magic can do any harm to the incorporeal foe is strictly a matter of chance. (Nonmagical attacks and weaponry cannot harm incorporeal creatures at all.)
Pinpoint: Not a defined game term. When this article speaks of pinpointing an unseen creature, it means determining where on the battlefield that creature is located; most of the time, that's also what the rules mean when they speak of pinpointing a creature. Even after pinpointing a creature, you'll still have a miss chance when you attack it if you can't actually see it (or perceive it through some other means that's at least as acute as vision).
Invisibility is unlike the other three states of being we'll discuss because you really are there (and wholly so) when you don't seem to be. The basics of invisibility include the following:
Nonvisual senses still work with regard to invisible things -- they can be felt, heard, and smelled. Special senses such as blindsight, blindsense, and tremorsense also work with regard to invisible things.
Certain spells and magical effects, such as see invisibility and true seeing, allow their users to see invisible things.
Although the rules don't specifically say so, assume that a creature using a magical invisibility effect is invisible to others but not to itself. This helps avoid arguments about exactly what an invisible creature can do without a penalty. Even if you assume an invisible creature can see itself, it still does not cast a shadow or a reflection (or at least not one most people could notice; see Part Two).
If you put down or drop something, that thing becomes visible if it normally is visible.
If you pick up something visible, that thing stays visible unless you stick it into your clothing. That said, you can reasonably assume that a visible thing becomes invisible if an invisible creature imbibes it.
The rules are unclear about exactly what happens to other creatures that you might hold or carry when you become invisible. In general, you should treat each creature as a separate individual when you consider how any spell or magical effect works. The invisibility and greater invisibility spells affect one creature only, as does a ring of invisibility (which works just like the spell). It's reasonable to make an exception for creatures you carry tucked into your clothing (or that you pick up and tuck into your clothing), and that can include a familiar, cohort, or animal companion if the creature is small enough to fit into your clothing. Of course, if a familiar, cohort, or animal companion has the share spells ability and you (the master) cast an invisibility spell on yourself, you can share that spell with the creature.
If you assume an invisible creature can see itself, it also can see any equipment that it carries (unless that equipment is invisible by some means other than merely being in the invisible creature's possession).
If you pick up a light source while invisible, both the object and the light it sheds remain visible until you tuck it into your clothing, just as any other object does.
The rules don't explain what happens when you carry a concealed light source when you become invisible. They also don't say what happens if you're invisible and you tuck a light source into your clothing. If you follow the rules to the letter, the concealed light source just keeps right on shining. In that case, it's best to dump any continual flame effects you might have tucked away in your gear so that their light won't give you away while you're invisible.
On the other hand, it's perfectly reasonable to assume that anything that doesn't shed light when you conceal it on your person while visible also doesn't shed light when you conceal it on your person while invisible. So, for example, if you carry a coin with a continual flame spell on it in a belt pouch, where it doesn't shed light, it won't start shedding light when you become invisible. If you later pull it out of the pouch, but hold onto it, the coin stays invisible, but it sheds visible light. Later, you can douse the light by putting the coin back into the pouch.
Foes that can see invisible things, such as creatures using the see invisibility or true seeing spell, remain susceptible to your gaze attacks while you're invisible.
In Part Two, we'll consider the ins and outs of invisibility in combat.
The section on invisibility in Chapter 8 of the Dungeon Master's Guide contains a great deal of information about invisibility's ramifications in combat. Take a look at the highlights.
Dealing With Invisibility in Combat
You can use a Spot or Listen check to locate a creature you cannot see, though doing so is very difficult indeed (see Spotting, Listening, and Pinpointing).
If a spell has a target or targets entry, you must see or touch your target to aim the spell at it. Even if you know where your unseen target is, you still can't aim a targeted spell at it if you don't see or touch it.
Spotting, Listening, and Pinpointing
As noted earlier, you can use a Spot or Listen check to locate something that's invisible.
If you can't discern an invisible thing visually, how on earth do you spot it? Well, the rules aren't clear on that point. However, invisible things often leave visible clues to their presence. Exactly what forms these clues take depend largely on what the invisible thing is and what its surroundings might be like. For example, an invisible creature walking around in a dungeon might leave the occasional footprint or set dust motes swirling in the air. A creature that has been invisible for a long time might even pick up enough dust and debris that it develops a faint outline. Also, some invisibility effects aren't perfect. Perhaps an invisible thing creates the faintest shimmer or distortion in the air, or casts a really feeble shadow. Such phenomena might prove very difficult to detect, but perceptive individuals might see them and recognize them for what they are.
Spot Check DCs
Considerable confusion often arises regarding how difficult a Spot check to notice or locate an invisible thing is; the latter is much harder than most people realize. That's because the basic Spot DCs noted in the Dungeon Master's Guide are for merely noticing that there's something unseen somewhere within 30 feet. The DC for actually pinpointing an invisible thing's location so that you know where to aim an attack is 20 points higher. The table below shows the Spot DCs for various kinds of invisible things. The DC's given here are higher than those shown in the Player's Handbook's glossary (pages 309-310), and they match the numbers given in the Dungeon Master's Guide glossary (page 295).
According to the Spot skill description, it doesn't take an action to make a check to notice or locate an invisible thing when you first have a chance to do so. After that, however, it takes a move action to spot something you failed to see earlier. In this case, however, I recommend that you make spotting an invisible creature a free action each round, at least when there's an active invisible creature (see below) involved.
When a Spot check result is too low to locate an invisible creature, but high enough to notice that it's within 30 feet, the character making the check notices the creature (see below). It's best to make the Spot check secretly so that players cannot be sure if they're actually dealing with invisible foes.
Spot DC to Notice: If the check is successful, you merely know there's something unseen within 30 feet of you. If the invisible thing is more than 30 feet away, you cannot notice it with a Spot check. According to the rules, any time you make a Spot check you take a -1 penalty on the check for every 10 feet of distance between you and what you're spotting.
You must repeat the check each turn to keep track of the unseen thing.
Spot DC to Locate: If the check is successful, you know exactly where the invisible thing is (you have pinpointed its location), including what square or squares on the battlefield it occupies. Apply the penalty for distance to this check (-1 per 10 feet).
You must repeat the check each turn to keep track of the unseen thing. I recommend you make this a free action each round.
Active Creature: For purposes of spotting an invisible creature, it is "active" when it has moved (that is, gone from one place on the battlefield to another) during its last turn.
Living Creature Holding Still: A living creature has Constitution, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. A creature is holding still if it has not moved during its last turn.
Inanimate Object: An object that's sitting by itself. If an object is in motion but staying in place (such as a swinging pendulum or a spinning wheel), use the Spot DC for a living creature holding still. If the object is actually moving across the battlefield (such as an iron ball rolling along or a pendulum swing across two or more squares) use the DC for an active creature.
Unliving Creature Holding Still: An unliving creature has Wisdom and Charisma scores, but no Constitution score. It is holding still when it is not moving, as noted above under Living Creature Holding Still.
Completely Immobile Creature: In this case, complete immobility refers to a creature that is being careful not to move a muscle. It can be a creature that is under paralysis, a hold spell, or some other effect that utterly prevents it from acting, so that it just sits in place like an inanimate object. A sleeping creature might be considered completely immobile if its slumber is deep and untroubled (as it would be if the creature is under a magical sleep effect). A creature sleeping fitfully should be considered holding still.
Invisibility and Hiding
As noted in the description for the Hide skill, you gain a +20 bonus on Hide checks if you're moving and +40 on Hide checks if you're not moving.
To make a Hide check at all, you need some sort of concealment or cover, and that applies even when you're invisible and the creatures trying to spot you can't see invisible things. Invisibility gives you total concealment, but spotting something invisible carries its own Spot DCs and you can't make yourself harder to see without a little extra help from your surroundings.
When making your Hide check, apply all the modifiers that normally apply to the check (such as Armor Check penalties and penalties for your movement). Perceptive readers will note that you're effectively paying a double penalty for moving here because the bonus for being invisible is lower and you take a Hide check penalty for that movement as well. That, however, is the nature of invisibility in the D&D game. Any movement makes you easier to spot while you're invisible, whereas your speed makes it harder for you to hide and the effect gets worse the faster you go.
As noted in the Dungeon Master's Guide, you can use hearing to notice an invisible creature (inanimate objects don't make any noise).
To resolve an attempt to hear an invisible creature, have the listener make a Listen check opposed by the invisible creature's Move Silently check (if the invisible creature has no Move Silently ranks it makes an untrained check).
The table below is a modified version of the one included on page 295 of the Dungeon Master's Guide. It includes Move Silently penalties for creature's movement (taken from the Move Silently skill description), and modifiers for barriers. Other Move Silently modifiers (such as the armor check penalties and modifiers for the surface the invisible creatures moves across) are not included.
According to the Dungeon Master's Guide, a Listen check to notice or locate an invisible creature is a free action each round.
Listen DC to Notice: If the check is successful, you merely know there's something unseen somewhere near you, but you don't know where or what direction.
You must repeat the check each turn to keep track of the invisible creature.
Listen DC to Locate: If the check is successful, you know exactly where the invisible thing is (you have pinpointed its location), including what square or squares on the battlefield it occupies.
You must repeat the check each turn to keep track of the invisible creature.
Moving at Half Speed: Use this modifier if the invisible creature is moving at all and if the distance it moved during any single action during its last turn was equal to or less than half its current speed. If surface conditions limit its movement, use this modifier only if the creature moves no more than half the distance in speed that the conditions allow. For example, if the creature has a speed of 40, it's moving half speed if it moves 20 feet or less during any single action. If the creature is moving over terrain that hampers its movement, however, it can move only 20 feet with a single action and is considered moving at half speed only if it moves 10 feet or less during one of those actions.
Moving at Full Speed: Use this modifier if the invisible creature moves at more than half speed, as defined above.
Behind a Door: Use this modifier for any fairly thin barrier that's no thicker or stronger than an iron door.
Behind a Stone Wall: Use this modifier for barriers thicker or stronger than an iron door.
Other Ways to Deal With Invisible Foes
You don't have to rely on Spot or Listen checks, or on magic, to locate and attack an invisible foe. Here are some other options.
Probing an Area: You can grope or probe about to find an invisible creature as a standard action. To do so, pick two 5-foot squares that are both adjacent to each other and within your melee reach; if you have a natural reach of more than 5 feet, or a reach weapon, you can probe squares that aren't adjacent to you.
If the squares you probe contain anything you can't see, you make a melee touch attack (or attacks if there is more than one thing you can't see). There is a 50% miss chance on the touch attack. If an attack succeeds, you deal no damage but you have successfully pinpointed the invisible thing's current location. (If the invisible thing moves, you don't know where it is anymore.)
Because you have to use a standard action to probe for unseen things, you usually can't do anything about unseen foes you locate (unless they're foolish enough to stay put until your next turn), but you can use a free action to relay the foe's location to your allies. One effective tactic for a group is to have one member probe while everyone else readies actions to attack whatever you find. They can also simply delay until the probing character finds something. See page 160 in the Player's Handbook for information on readying and delaying.
Attacked by an Unseen Foe: If a foe you cannot see hits you with a melee attack and is adjacent to you at the time, you know the foe's location. For this reason, smart foes move right after they attack; even a foe that has made a full attack can move after attacking by taking 5-foot step (provided it has not already moved during its turn).
When an unseen foe hits you with a melee attack from more than 5 feet away, you know the general direction from which the attack came and that the attack came from more than 5 feet away, but you do not know the attacker's location.
Looking For Tracks: Unseen creatures leave tracks, and you can track them using the normal tracking rules. Footprints in sand, mud, or other soft surfaces can give clues to an invisible creature's location.
If the tracks are very clear and the surface that carries them is fairly smooth and unsullied by debris or other tracks, you can locate a creature you cannot see by looking at its visible tracks; tracks aren't visible, however, unless you can see the surface that holds them. For example, it's no good looking for an unseen creature's tracks if the battle is taking place during a blizzard and you're not entirely sure where the ground ends and sky begins. If the battle is taking place in a bright morning when the whole battlefield is covered in fresh snow, however, an unseen creature's tracks probably will betray its location, at least during the first few rounds of a fight (before all the snow becomes thoroughly trampled).
Surfaces or conditions that don't leave clear tracks still might give you a bonus (the DM can decide how big) in Spot checks to notice or locate unseen creatures. You might get a Spot bonus in areas covered with tall grass, undergrowth, dust, or running water (assuming the unseen creature is wading and not submerged; see next section).
Underwater: An invisible thing underwater displaces water, and that creates a visible space that reveals the invisible thing's location. The DM might apply this effect under other circumstances as well, such as areas of heavy smoke, areas draped with lots of dangling things (such as vines, cloth, skeins of rope), heavy precipitation, or the like.
Marking an Invisible Creature: Since a visible object stays visible when an invisible creature picks it up (at least until the invisible creature tucks the object into its clothing), you may make an invisible thing visible (or at least reveal its location) by dousing it with something visible. My own favorite device for doing this is a bag packed with about a pound of flour. You could just as easily use ink or paint.
Toss the bag of flour just like a splash weapon. A direct hit leaves an invisible creature smeared with flour, which reveals the creature's location. An invisible creature caught in the flour's splash effect can attempt a Reflex save (DC 20) to avoid getting covered with flour. A creature can shed its outer clothing (at least a full-round action) and be rid of the flour. Otherwise, it must bathe or wait for the flour to wear off on its own (which takes an hour or two in dry conditions).
Special Qualities and Feats Against Unseen Foes
Creatures with the scent ability can sniff out unseen creatures, as noted in the scent description in the Monster Manual glossary. The blindsense ability reveals unseen things' locations only. Tremorsense reveals unseen creatures' locations, provided that they are in contact with the ground.
The blindsight ability effectively negates invisibility. (The user can deal with unseen things just as though they were visible.)
Anyone with the Blind-Fight feat has an improved chance to hit an invisible creature. Roll the miss chance twice, and the attacker misses only if both rolls indicate a miss. (Alternatively, make one 25% miss chance roll rather than two 50% miss chance rolls.)
Incorporeality is, in many ways, the exact opposite of invisibility. You usually can see the creature just fine, but the creature has no physical substance. If you attack it, or try to touch it, nothing seems to be there.
The Basics of Incorporeality
An incorporeal creature has the incorporeal subtype, which is described in detail in the Monster Manual glossary (and updated in the Monster Manual III glossary). As with many things in the D&D game, incorporeality is actually pretty straightforward. Figuring out how incorporeal things interact with the rest of the game world gets difficult, though. Take a look at this quick summary of what the Monster Manual has to say about incorporeal creatures.
Because it lacks a physical body, it has no Strength score. Theoretically, an incorporeal creature may have a Constitution score, but such a creature would be strange indeed. In any case, incorporeal creatures don't need to eat, drink, or breathe. In fact, they cannot do these things because they have no Strength scores and they can't affect physical objects (or even air).
Most incorporeal creatures cannot benefit from magical effects that require physical contact or manipulation of objects. They cannot benefit from bull's strength spells (they have no Strength scores to enhance), potions or oils (they cannot drink potions or apply oils), wear rings, don armor (except for ghost touch armor), or wield weapons (except for ghost touch weapons) or any other magic items that have to be worn or held to be used (which is most of them).
Some items, such as ghost touch weaponry, work for incorporeal creatures. In such cases, an item that an incorporeal creature carries or hold also is incorporeal until the incorporeal creature, drops it, throws it, or puts it down (but see the section on ghost touch weapons).
Incorporeal creatures are weightless. They cannot fall or take falling damage. The rules say incorporeal creatures cannot trigger traps that are activated by weight (such as covered pits). Though the rules don't say so specifically, an incorporeal creature won't trigger any trap that has a purely mechanical trigger.
Incorporeal creatures move by flying, and they have perfect maneuverability.
Because it has no body, an incorporeal creature also has no scent and doesn't create any tremors in the ground or any currents in the air. Special qualities such as tremorsense, blindsense, and blindsight usually don't allow their users to discern incorporeal creatures.
See Incorporeal Creatures in Combat for a more detailed discussion of what works against them and what does not.
Incorporeal creatures can, and often do, use solid objects or even corporeal creatures as cover in combat; see Incorporeal Creatures in Combat for details.
In any case, incorporeal creatures ignore most things that hamper movement.
Incorporeal Creatures in Combat
Handling a combat with a creature that is present on the battlefield but has no body isn't always easy, but it can be done.
Incorporeal Creatures Attacking
Most incorporeal creatures can deliver a physical attack by striking at other creatures. Although this attack is called an incorporeal touch attack, it more closely resembles a slam attack. It's called an incorporeal touch attack because it ignores armor, natural armor, and shield bonuses, just as a touch attack does. Unlike a touch attack, however, force effects block an incorporeal touch attack. Deflection bonuses work against incorporeal touch attacks (just as they work against true touch attacks). In most cases, you can resolve the attack using the defender's touch Armor Class -- just be sure to include any force effects the defender is using, such as a mage armor spell (or a magic item that duplicates that spell's effects, such as bracers of armor) or a shield spell. Ghost touch armor also proves effective against an incorporeal touch attack.
Because an incorporeal creature has no Strength score, it uses its Dexterity modifier for melee attacks.
Because an incorporeal creature cannot exert any Strength and its body (such as it is) passes through material objects, an incorporeal creature cannot use bull rush, disarm, grapple, overrun, sunder, or trip attacks against corporeal creatures or objects. Some of these attack forms are possible against other incorporeal creatures (see Incorporeal Against Incorporeal in Part Four).
If an incorporeal creature can cast spells or use other kinds of magic, its spells and magical effects work equally well on both corporeal and incorporeal recipients (no miss chance), except that an incorporeal creature cannot touch a corporeal creature and cannot use spells or other effects with a touch range. Nevertheless, some incorporeal creatures have special attacks that can be delivered through its incorporeal touch attack, such as a spectre's energy drain attack.
Ghost Touch Weaponry
An incorporeal creature can pick up and wield a ghost touch weapon even though the creature lacks a Strength score. When the creature makes an attack, it uses its Dexterity modifier to modify the attack roll (even for a melee attack) and no Strength modifier applies to the damage roll. (Because the incorporeal attacker does not have a Strength score, its Strength modifier is +0.)
According to the Dungeon Master's Guide, a ghost touch weapon functions as either a corporeal or incorporeal object, whichever is better for the wielder at the time. This is convenient for an incorporeal creature that wants to carry a ghost touch weapon through a wall. What this means when an incorporeal wielder uses a ghost touch weapon to attack a corporeal foe is not quite clear, though. Presumably, an incorporeal wielder can choose which way the weapon acts at the time of the attack; this does not require an action on the wielder's part, and the wielder can make the choice even when it is not the wielder's turn. (For example, when the wielder uses the ghost touch weapon for an attack of opportunity.)
When an incorporeal attacker wields a ghost touch weapon as a corporeal weapon, the attack is resolved against the defender's normal Armor Class. An incorporeal attacker wielding a ghost touch weapon in this manner can use the weapon to make a disarm or sunder attack. If the weapon can be used for a trip attack (see the weapon's description in Chapter 7 of the Player's Handbook), an incorporeal attacker can make a trip attack with it.
When an incorporeal attacker wields a ghost touch weapon as an incorporeal weapon, the attack is resolved as an incorporeal touch attack. If the attack hits, the weapon deals the normal damage for a weapon of its kind, plus any bonus damage from its enhancement bonus, but no Strength modifier applies. If an incorporeal creature fires ghost touch ammunition or throws a ghost touch weapon, the projectile or weapon becomes corporeal the moment it leaves the incorporeal creature's possession, though it retains the ghost touch property.
The foregoing suggests that a corporeal attacker could choose to wield a ghost touch weapon as either a corporeal or an incorporeal weapon as well, but I don't recommend that you do so. The ghost touch property isn't priced to reflect such a potent ability. If you don't like the disparity in abilities between corporeal and incorporeal wielders, I recommend that you always have attackers use ghost touch weaponry as a corporeal attack (except that the weapon still ignores incorporeal miss chances).
Some strange things can happen when corporeal creatures attack incorporeal creatures. When incorporeal creatures make full use of their incorporeality, even stranger things can happen.
Attacking Incorporeal Creatures
As noted in Part Three, a corporeal creature has a 50% chance to fail when it attacks an incorporeal creature, and it must use a magic weapon or some kind of magical attack to have any chance to harm the incorporeal creature at all. The failure chance arises from an incorporeal creature's intangible nature -- there's simply no telling if the attack will prove effective. The failure chance applies even to attacks that normally require no attack roll, such as spells and supernatural abilities. For example, a lightning bolt or a dragon's fiery breath both have a 50% chance to fail when aimed at incorporeal creatures. If an attack affects an area that contains multiple incorporeal creatures or otherwise affects multiple incorporeal creatures, check the failure chance separately for each creature. One attack may fail against some incorporeal creatures and succeed against others.
The failure chance doesn't apply to nondamaging effects, such as halt undead spells. A nondamaging effect that creates some kind of physical restraint, such as a web or entangle spell, isn't effective against an incorporeal creature. (Force barriers, such as wall of force, still work, though.) Spells or effects that require corporeal targets or subjects, such as implosion, also don't work against incorporeal creatures.
Normally, miss chances do not stack (a blur spell's 20% miss chance doesn't stack with the 50% miss chance for being completely unseen, for example). In this case, however, you could combine the incorporeal miss chance with a miss chance for attacking a concealed target because one involves uncertainty about exactly where the target is and the other involves an immaterial target that might not be vulnerable to the attack at all. To stack the miss chances, check the miss chance for concealment first, then check the incorporeal miss chance; if the attacker fails either miss chance, the attack misses (to save time, you might want to check the highest miss chance first, or just roll both of them at the same time).
As noted in Part Three, some attacks ignore the incorporeal miss chance. The list includes the following:
Force: Anything with the force descriptor has no miss chance against incorporeal subjects. This includes attacks (such as magic missile) and force barriers (such as wall of force).
Positive Energy: Unfortunately, the game has no positive energy descriptor, so you have to study a spell or effect's description to find out if it involves positive energy. The cleric's ability to turn undead creatures is a positive energy effect. The various cure spells also involve positive energy; however, to deliver a cure spell you must touch a creature and your touch is not a positive energy effect. If you're corporeal, your touch attack has a 50% miss chance and if you fail that chance, your touch attack misses and you don't deliver the spell (but you're still holding the charge as noted on page 176 of the Player's Handbook). If you pass the miss chance, you make a melee touch attack against the incorporeal creature and, if you hit, you deliver the spell. The rules don't say so, but you use the same procedure for any other touch range spell. If your touch attack avoids the miss chance, a successful hit delivers the spell to an incorporeal recipient, even if the spell is not a positive energy effect.
Mass versions of cure spells, such as mass cure light wounds, that deliver positive energy over a distance, don't have a miss chance against incorporeal creatures.
Negative Energy: The notes for positive energy apply equally to negative energy.
Ghost Touch Weapons: Weapons with the ghost touch property ignore the incorporeal miss chance.
Incorporeal Attackers: Any attack or effect that an incorporeal creature launches ignores the incorporeal miss chance.
You can splash an incorporeal undead creature with holy water to damage it, but the attack has a 50% miss chance. The Player's Handbook says you must be adjacent to an incorporeal creature to use holy water against it. There's no reason, however, why you couldn't use the rules for splash weapons. Just aim the holy water at a grid intersection near the creature as noted on page 158 of the Player's Handbook. This trick works only if the incorporeal creature is adjacent to the grid intersection you choose and if it is not getting total cover from a corporeal creature or object (see Combat Tactics for Incorporeal Creatures).
An incorporeal creature's lack of a physical body makes certain special attacks moot. For example, a corporeal creature can't bull rush or overrun an incorporeal creature (but it could try to move into its space; see Using Creatures as Cover). A corporeal creature also cannot trip an incorporeal creature.
Armor Classes for Incorporeal Creatures
An incorporeal creature has a base Armor Class of 10, just as any other creature does. The creature's size and Dexterity score also affects an incorporeal creature's Armor Class in the usual way. An incorporeal creature also has a deflection bonus to Armor Class, which is equal to its Charisma modifier, but is always at least +1. This represents the effect that the incorporeal creature's real but nonphysical presence has on the battlefield.
Ghost Touch Armor
Ghost touch armor provides a corporeal creature with its full armor bonus (armor bonus from the armor's kind plus the armor's enhancement bonus) against incorporeal touch attacks (but not regular touch attacks). For example, a dwarf wearing +2 ghost touch half-plate gains the +2 enhancement bonus from the armor and the +7 armor bonus from the half-plate against a spectre's incorporeal touch attack.
When an incorporeal creature wears ghost touch armor, things are little different. Only the armor's enhancement bonus applies to the creature's Armor Class; the basic armor bonus from the armor does not apply. For example, a spectre wearing +2 ghost touch half-plate gains only the +2 enhancement bonus from the armor and does not benefit from the armor +7 armor bonus. The +2 enhancement bonus from the ghost touch armor is an armor bonus. It applies against incorporeal touch attacks, but not against other kinds of touch attacks (such as rays or touch-range spells).
An incorporeal creature wearing ghost touch armor remains incorporeal and the normal miss chance applies to most attacks made against it. An attack with a ghost touch weapon must contend with the ghost touch armor's enhancement bonus, but not with the base armor, as noted above.
An incorporeal creature wearing ghost touch armor isn't actually carrying the armor around -- it just floats along with the creature. The armor is effectively weightless when an incorporeal creature wears it. The armor does not encumber the incorporeal creature, and the armor's Dexterity cap does not apply. The spectre wearing +2 ghost touch half-plate from our previous example has an Armor Class of 17 (+3 Dex, +2 deflection, +2 armor).
If you're uncomfortable with the foregoing text and you would like the ghost touch armor to work pretty much the same way no matter who wears it, you need to figure out how a creature with no physical body and no Strength score wears armor and you also need to figure out its encumbrance. A fairly easy way to handle this is to use the incorporeal creature's Charisma score as its Strength score for purposes of determining the creature's load. The rules say that a creature cannot fly when carrying more than a light load, but you may want to waive that rule for incorporeal creatures (which often have only a flying speed). You also may want to give an incorporeal wearer the full benefit of the base armor's armor bonus and apply the appropriate speed reductions and Dexterity cap for the base armor.
No matter what rules you use for an incorporeal wearer, an incorporeal creature wearing ghost touch armor retains its ability to pass though solid objects and all the special defenses that go along with being incorporeal.
Combat Tactics for Incorporeal Creatures
Even a dull-witted incorporeal creature should know enough to use these combat tricks when fighting corporeal creatures. The notes in this section were drawn in part from the upcoming Libris Mortis tome from Wizards of the Coast.
Staying Mobile: Thanks to their flying speeds and ability to pass through (or at least enter) corporeal objects or creatures, incorporeal creatures enjoy unmatched mobility no matter what conditions prevail on a battlefield. In fact, the more cramped or choked with obstacles a battle proves, the greater an incorporeal creature's advantage in mobility over a corporeal foe. An incorporeal creature should move around frequently. When it does so, it should take the shortest available route between two points, which might take it through solid objects. Even when an incorporeal creature cannot move straight through an object because the object is thicker than the creature's face, it usually can cut corners by entering the object briefly.
Using Objects as Cover: An incorporeal creature's ability to pass through (or at least enter) corporeal objects or creatures can prove most exasperating to corporeal foes. In general, an incorporeal creature can claim cover whenever it enters an object that's the same size category that it is or one size category larger. If the incorporeal creature enters an object at least two size categories larger than itself, it has total cover. If, however, the incorporeal creature makes a melee attack outside the larger object's space, it only has cover unless it can retreat back into the object after the attack. For example, if an incorporeal creatures makes a melee attack, then uses a 5-foot step to enter an object at least two sizes bigger than it is, the incorporeal creature has total cover. If the incorporeal creature instead leaves or reaches out of the same object and then attacks, it cannot take a 5-foot step and gains only cover from the object. In either case, the incorporeal creature only has cover while it makes the melee attack.
Using Creatures as Cover: An incorporeal creature can move through corporeal creatures as well as objects. Likewise, a corporeal can move through an incorporeal creature.
When trying to move through a creature, you provoke an attack of opportunity from that creature when you enter its space. To actually enter the other creature's body, you must make a successful touch attack (or incorporeal touch attack) against the other creature. This represents the difficulties involved in actually slipping into the other creature's body. If the attack fails, you must go back to the last space you left. Attempting to move into the other creature's space counts against your movement for the turn, but going back a space does not.
A creature threatens its own space, so you provoke an attack of opportunity when leaving its space.
An incorporeal creature inside a corporeal creature gains cover as noted above. When an incorporeal creature uses a corporeal creature for cover, that cover lasts only so long as the two creatures share the same space. If either the incorporeal creature or the corporeal creature moves away from the shared space, there's no more cover.
When an incorporeal creature is the same size or one size larger than a corporeal creature whose space it shares, the corporeal creature gains concealment. If the incorporeal creature is two or more sizes larger, the corporeal creature has total concealment. However, if the corporeal creature reaches outside the incorporeal creature's space to make a melee attack, it has only concealment unless it can retreat back into the incorporeal creature's space afterward as noted above.
You normally could enter the other creature's space due to a difference in size (see page 149 in the Player's Handbook); no touch attack is required. No touch attack is required to simply move through an ally's space or a helpless creature's space. If you don't make the touch attack and succeed, however, you don't get concealment or cover from the other creature.
Force Effects: A force effect that completely surrounds the user's body, such as the mage armor spell or bracers of armor, prevents an incorporeal creature from occupying the user's space and vice versa, though two creatures' relative sizes might still allow them to share the same space, as noted above.
Incorporeal Combat Miscellany
Remember that incorporeal creatures cannot see through solid objects. When an incorporeal creature claims total cover from an object (or creature), it cannot see anything and is effectively blinded.
An incorporeal creature can make a Listen check to locate corporeal creatures it cannot see (see Part Two). It gains a +2 bonus on Listen checks when inside a solid object.
If you're playing an incorporeal creature in combat against corporeal foes, make sure you don't act on information that the incorporeal creature doesn't have. It's pretty difficult, for example, for an incorporeal creature hiding inside a wall or floor to emerge in exactly the right spot to attack round after round (unless the corporeal foes are foolish enough to stay in one place, or are compelled to do so). In most cases, the incorporeal creature will make a Listen check and determine a corporeal creature's location. After that, the incorporeal creature will have to emerge at least partly from the object where it is hiding to make an attack.
Incorporeal Against Incorporeal
Incorporeal creatures can interact physically with each other -- at least as much as that is possible for creatures that lack physical bodies. They can attack each other without an incorporeal miss chance and they can attempt certain special attacks against each other, as noted here.
Grappling: You can resolve grapple attempts using the rules on pages 155-157 of the Player's Handbook, except that an incorporeal creature uses its Charisma modifier instead of its Strength modifier when it makes a grapple check. Remember that grappling combat begins with an initial grab attempt, not a grapple check. When one incorporeal creature tries to grab another, it makes a melee touch attack and uses its Dexterity modifier for the attack.
Overrun: When one incorporeal creature tries to overrun another, use the attacker's Charisma modifier for the opposed check. The defender can use its Charisma modifier or its Dexterity modifier. Incorporeal creatures can't fall, so it's best to assume that they can't be knocked prone if they fail an opposed check. Instead, just assume that the loser is moved 5 feet in a direction of the winner's choosing; this doesn't count as part of the loser's movement. If a barrier that is impassable to an incorporeal creature prevents movement in the direction the winner chose, it must choose a different direction.
Trip: Although one incorporeal creature can grab another, you can't make an incorporeal creature fall down, even if you're incorporeal yourself.
As noted back in Part One, any creature becomes ethereal when it is on the Ethereal Plane. Chapter 5 in the Dungeon Master's Guide includes a detailed a description of the Ethereal Plane; however most difficulties in play arise when creatures on the Material Plane (where most D&D adventures take place) try to interact with creatures on the Ethereal Plane.
Etherealness Basics and Misconceptions
The fundamental thing to remember about etherealness is that an ethereal creature or object is not present on the Material Plane. The Ethereal and the Material Plane are coexistent (see page 150 in the Dungeon Master's Guide), which makes interactions between creatures on the two planes fairly common.
With respect to creatures and objects on the Material Plane, an ethereal creature has many of the properties of invisibility and incorporeality. In fact, the rules often speak of ethereal creatures as invisible and incorporeal. Unfortunately, an ethereal creature is not really invisible (just unseen) and it is not incorporeal at all (though it can do many of the same things that an incorporeal creature can do). This last point is worth repeating: The rules tend to use the terms etherealness and incorporeality interchangeably because it is convenient to do so, but the two are not equivalent. Here's a summary of the abilities and properties an ethereal creature has with respect to objects and creatures on the Material Plane:
Because an ethereal creature or object is not actually present on the Material Plane, a creature on the Material Plane cannot make a Spot or Listen check to notice or locate it (because there's nothing at hand to see or hear). Likewise, nonvisual senses such as blindsense, blindsight, scent, and tremorsense can't discern or locate ethereal things.
Unlike an incorporeal creature, an ethereal creature doesn't have to stay adjacent to the object's exterior when it enters the object, so it can pass through an object of any thickness. An ethereal creature cannot see through opaque objects on the Material Plane; when within a material object, an ethereal creature cannot see anything on the Material Plane, though it usually can see other ethereal things.
An ethereal creature can hear sounds from the Material Plane. Unlike an incorporeal creature, it does not get a Listen bonus when it is inside a solid object.
Force effects extend into the Ethereal Plane, so a force barrier, such as a wall of force, blocks an ethereal creature.
The Ethereal Plane has no gravity. A creature on the Ethereal can move in any direction using its fastest speed rating. Hazards and obstacles on the Material Plane don't interfere with an ethereal creature's movement or damage the ethereal creature (but see Combat with Ethereal creatures).
It goes without saying, but ghost touch weapons an ethereal creature wields don't affect targets on the Material Plane. Spells and other magical effects that an ethereal creature uses don't have any affects on the Material Plane, and neither do extraordinary abilities.
Combat With Ethereal Creatures
Although ethereal creatures can't do anything to affect creatures on the Material Plane, the opposite isn't true. Any magical effect with the force descriptor extends to the Ethereal when it is created on the Material Plane (the opposite is not true). A caster can target a spell such as magic missile, for example, at an ethereal creature.
Because ethereal creatures can see into the Material Plane, gaze attacks used on the Material Plane also affect ethereal creatures. The rules don't mention it, but you reasonably can assume that a creature looking into the Ethereal Plane with a divination spell (such as true seeing or see invisibility) would be susceptible to a gaze attack from an ethereal creature.
Two ethereal creatures can fight and affect each other in the same way that two creatures on the Material Plane can, except that combat on the Ethereal Plane takes place in three dimensions.
Thanks to its manifestation power, ghosts get most peoples' votes for the most troublesome denizens of the Ethereal Plane. The most important thing to remember about a ghost is that it is ethereal, not incorporeal, until it uses its manifestation power to move onto the Material Plane. Once a ghost does so, it becomes an incorporeal creature on the Material Plane, though it also remains on the Ethereal Plane as well. Although the ghost template lists the ghost as an incorporeal creature, it is not incorporeal until it manifests and even then it is only incorporeal with respect to the things on the Material Plane. To anyone or anything on the Ethereal, even a manifested ghost is corporeal.
As a supernatural ability, manifestation requires a standard action to use. Once manifested, a ghost also can use a standard action to fully return to the Ethereal Plane.
With respect to the Material Plane, a manifested ghost functions just like an incorporeal creature as described in Parts Three and Four, except for two things: A manifested ghost can move through a creature or object of any size (thanks to its etherealness). A manifested ghost that has a magic weapon with it on the Ethereal Plane can use the weapon to strike creatures. A manifested ghost using a magic weapon that is not a ghost touchweapon is making an incorporeal touch attack. The ghost's Strength modifier doesn't apply to the attack roll (even for a melee attack) or to the damage roll. The ghost's Dexterity modifier applies to the attack roll. The attack ignores armor (except ghost touch armor). The attack has a 50% miss chance.
Ghosts and Ghost Touch Items
A manifested ghost using ghost touch equipment can do so either as a corporeal or an incorporeal user, depending on exactly where the ghost touch equipment is. If a manifested ghost finds a ghost touch weapon or ghost touch armor just lying on the Material Plane, it can handle and use that ghost touch equipment in exactly the same way that an incorporeal creature can. If a ghost on the Ethereal Plane has ghost touch equipment with it on that plane, however, then it uses ghost touch weaponry as a corporeal creature on the Material Plane does when attacking a foe on the Material Plane. (That is, the ghost has no miss chance, it makes a regular attack that must deal with the target's armor, and the ghost's Strength score applies to the attack and damage rolls.)
Against most attacks, ghost touch armor worn on the Ethereal Plane protects a manifested ghost the same way it protects an incorporeal creature. The ghost retains its incorporeal miss chance and gains only the armor's enhancement bonus to its Armor Class.
Against a ghost touch weapon wielded on the Material Plane, a manifested ghost still uses its manifested Armor Class, though there is no incorporeal miss chance. (The manifested ghost's equipment remains insubstantial against foes on the Material Plane.) If a manifested ghost wears ghost touch armor, the full value of that armor applies against a ghost touch weapon, and the ghost still gets its deflection bonus for being incorporeal. If the same attacker moved to the Ethereal Plane, the ghost would lose its deflection bonus to Armor Class.
The manifestation power can prove troublesome in a few circumstances. Take a look at some suggestions on how to deal with the worst cases.
Manifesting Inside Objects or Creatures: An ethereal ghost can move to an object's or creature's location on the Material Plane and then manifest so that it appears inside the creature or object. Treat this just like any other attempt to move through a creature or object, except, as noted earlier, the ghost doesn't have to stay adjacent to the creature's or object's exterior.
Malevolence: If the ghost has the malevolence power, there is no attack of opportunity when it enters a subject's space, and no touch attack is required if the subject has a deflection bonus to Armor Class. If the subject makes a successful saving throw against the malevolence attack, however, the ghost cannot enter the subject's space and must go back to whatever space it left to use the malevolence power. The attempt to enter the subject's space counts against the ghost's movement for the turn, but going back does not.
Returning to the Ethereal Plane: Because a manifested ghost can't exert any Strength on the Material Plane, it cannot grab things while manifested and drag them back to the Ethereal. It could, however, seize a ghost touch item and bring that back to the Ethereal Plane (where it could then handle the item normally). It's best to assume that a ghost can't use this trick with a ghost touch item in another creature's possession.
A dimensional anchor spell used against a manifested ghost has little effect because the ghost already is on both the Material Plane and Ethereal Planes. While the spell lasts, however, the manifested ghost cannot exit the Material Plane.
A creature in gaseous form has a physical body of sorts, but that body is mostly immaterial. The game doesn't describe gaseous form in the same detail as incorporeality, but the two prove similar in many ways. Here are the basics of gaseous form:
Gaseous creatures have some mass and physical presence, but they are literally as light as air; as a rule of thumb, you can assume a creature's gaseous form weighs about a tenth as much as it did in solid form. Gaseous creatures have no material armor, and a solid creature that becomes gaseous loses all armor bonuses from armor worn, shields carried, and any natural armor bonuses. Dexterity, deflection bonuses, and armor bonuses from force effects still apply to the gaseous creature's Armor Class.
Gaseous Defenses: A creature in gaseous form has damage reduction 10/magic. This reflects the mutable and elastic nature of the creature's gaseous body.
The rules don't specifically mention it (except in the description for the gaseous form spell), but a gaseous creature isn't subject to critical hits.
A gaseous creature does not need to breathe and it is immune to attacks involving breathing (troglodyte stench, poison gas, and the like).
Spells, spell-like abilities, and supernatural abilities affect gaseous creatures normally.
The rules say that winds or other forms of moving air affect gaseous creatures to the extent that the wind pushes them in the direction the wind is moving. However, even the strongest wind can't disperse or damage a creature in gaseous form. Presumably, this means that any wind effect will move a creature in gaseous form. Assume the creature moves 10 feet for each mile per hour of wind speed; apply this movement at the end of the gaseous creature's turn. This movement doesn't count against the gaseous creature's movement for the turn.
A solid creature can't bull rush or overrun a creature in gaseous form (but it might be able to move into its space, see Abilities). A solid creature cannot trip a creature in gaseous form, and a gaseous creature cannot fall.
Limitations: The rules don't say exactly what a gaseous creature can do, but they're pretty clear about what it cannot do. It cannot manipulate objects or activate items, even those carried along with its gaseous form (see Abilities).
A gaseous creature cannot make any attacks (though a gaseous creature may have some special attack form), or cast spells with verbal, somatic, material, or focus components. If a solid creature has a touch spell ready to use, that spell is discharged harmlessly when the creature assumes gaseous form. A creature in gaseous form cannot speak, enter water, or run. When a creature assumes gaseous form, it loses supernatural abilities -- except for the supernatural ability to assume gaseous form and the ability to return to solid form.
Abilities: So what can a gaseous creature do? It can move by flying. If no flying speed is listed for the creature, assume a flying speed of 10 feet and perfect maneuverability. It cannot pass through solid objects, but it can move through any opening that is not airtight, even a pinhole or crack. The rules don't say how quickly a gaseous creature can cram itself through a restricted area. I recommend that you allow a gaseous creature of any size to move through a space at least 6 inches square without squeezing or losing speed no matter what the creature's size category. Allow the creature to move through a space at least 1 inch square, but less than 6 inches square as hampered movement (double movement cost, see page 163 in the Player's Handbook) and a space less than 1 inch square at a rate of 5 feet per action spent moving. I also recommend that a gaseous creature suffer no penalties for squeezing into a tight space.
A gaseous creature of any size can move through other creatures' spaces just as incorporeal creatures can (see Part Four), though they cannot give or claim cover or concealment by hiding inside a creature or object. A gaseous creature provokes an attack of opportunity from a creature whose space it enters. A creature threatens its own space, so a gaseous creature also provokes an attack of opportunity when leaving that space. Likewise other creatures can enter a gaseous creature's space; most gaseous creatures cannot make any attacks, if so, it cannot make attacks of opportunity, even if another creature enters its space. If a gaseous creature has a deflection bonus to Armor Class, a creature entering its space must make a successful touch attack to enter the space; see Part Four for details.
A gaseous creature has a Strength score, but it has no way to affect solid objects except by moving over them in a puff of air. To simulate that, try this. As a full-round action, a gaseous creature can attempt to create a wind effect in its own space. The wind speed is equal to the gaseous creature's Strength score plus the gaseous creature size modifier for grappling attacks: Colossal +16, Gargantuan +12, Huge +8, Large +4, Medium +0, Small -4, Tiny -8, Diminutive -12, Fine -16. Refer to Table 3-24 in the Dungeon Master's Guide and to the text that accompanies it for wind effects.
A gaseous creature cannot use a wind effect to handle material components for a spell or to complete somatic components for a spell. It can, however, use feats (namely Silent Spell, Still Spell, and Eschew Materials) to cast spells.
When a creature becomes gaseous, everything it was holding or wearing becomes gaseous (and nearly weightless) along with it. The rules are unclear about exactly what happens to other creatures that you might hold or carry when you become gaseous. In general, you should assume that an ability to become gaseous extends only to the user. You can make a reasonable exception for creatures you carry tucked into your clothing (or that you pick up and tuck into your clothing), and that can include a familiar, cohort, or animal companion if the creature is small enough to fit into your clothing. Of course, if a familiar, cohort, or animal companion has the share spells ability and you (the master) cast the gaseous form spell on yourself, you can share that spell with the creature.
Discerning a creature in gaseous form from natural mist requires a DC 15 Spot check; distance between the spotter and the gaseous creature increases the DC as noted in the Spot skill description.
A creature in gaseous form can attempt to hide in an area with mist and smoke, and it gains a +20 Hide bonus when doing so.
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