Tactics and Tips04/04/2005

Manipulating the Battlefield (Part One)

Location, location, location. In a D&D game, battlefield tactics can mean life or death to a character. Here are some ways to take control of the encounter area. These are things that you and your allies can do to direct the fighting area.


There are several ways to direct opponents' movement. These are actions you and your allies can take that work defensively against foes.

Party Members: Where you and your allies stand provides the most dynamic, easily controlled aspect of a battlefield. Position yourselves to provide cover for those that need it. Set yourselves up to maximize attacks of opportunity (read more on this in an upcoming article by Steven Schubert in this column).

Quaal's Feather Token (Tree): A bit expensive at 400 gp, a quaal's feather token (tree) creates an oak tree that completely fills a 5-foot square. If you need to block a doorway or create cover from land-bound or air-bourn foes, this quick simple magic item is something anyone can use.

Spell and Psionic Manipulations

Magic and psionics provides many versatile options in game play. Take a look at a few ways you can better control a battlefield with spells and psionic powers. These focus on the movement and position of you and your fellow party members.

Benign Transposition (Miniatures Handbook, page 34): This 1st-level sorcerer/wizard spell enables two willing creatures within range to swap places. It's a fine way to get a heavily armored cleric, fighter, or paladin up into combat more quickly. Perhaps the more mobile ranger has used the feat Spring Attack to maneuver up to a foe and made an attack. Swapping his place with that of your paladin enables her to be right up with the enemy despite her slower movement.

Consider these options when using this spell: Get a slow-moving character up to the fight faster, set up a charge, avoid attacks of opportunity, and remove an ally from danger.

Dimension Door (Player's Handbook, page 221): Dimension door is a 4th-level bard or sorcerer/wizard spell that may provide you with the best option for those times when you need to hop around a battlefield with few restrictions. It's also useful for fleeing an encounter.

Dimension Swap (Expanded Psionics Handbook, page 93): The dimension swap power lets you swap places with an ally.

Fly (Player's Handbook, page 232):Fly is a spell that gives a great tactical advantage by enabling quick 3-dimensional movement.

Levitate (Player's Handbook, page 248): Much more limited than fly, this 2nd-level spell lets one move up and down. It can still be useful for getting out of the reach of enemies or out of the way of allies who want to charge.

Teleport and Greater Teleport (Player's Handbook, page 292-293): While you may find teleport useful as a way to move around in combat, the lower-level dimension door is usually more cost effective. When things go wrong, though, these spells provide an excellent exit strategy. Make sure that your party works out appropriate protocols for retreat and regrouping. Can the spellcaster take all of the party members? If not, who gets left behind? Where will you meet up?

Movement Enhancing Spells and Psionic Powers

These spells provide increases to speed that count as enhancement bonuses, so they don't stack, but each is quite useful on its own.

Burst (Expanded Psionics Handbook, page 81):Burst is a quick way to increase the manifester's land speed by 10 feet for 1 round.

Expeditious Retreat (Player's Handbook, page 228):Expeditious retreat is a spell that increases the caster's land speed by 30 feet.

Haste (Player's Handbook, page 239): The haste spell increases the targets' speed by up to 30 feet. You'll find that it's a great way to make a whole party more maneuverable.

Longstrider (Player's Handbook, page 249):Longstrider is a long-lasting (1 hour/level) way to increase the caster's land speed by 10 feet.


The discipline powers of the nomad (psychoportation) generally provide the best battlefield movements among psionic powers. Many of them mimic the spells listed above. See the Expanded Psionics Handbook for more information about nomads and psionic powers.

Game Resources: To use the material in this article to its fullest, check out the following resources: Dungeon Master's Guide, Monster Manual, Player's Handbook, Expanded Psionics Handbook, Miniatures Handbook.

About the Author

Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel works full-time as a game designer for Wizards of the Coast. Recent and upcoming books include d20 Past, Races of Eberron, and Planar Handbook. She simultaneously leads the lives of an avid gamer, Ph.D. student, trio of birds of prey, and a hedonistic cat.

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