Tactics and Tips04/18/2005

Manipulating the Battlefield (Part Two)

Last time, we looked at how player characters can enhance their movement and positioning. Now, we discuss some of the ways to hinder your foes' movement and mobility.


You have several options that can help you direct an opponent's movement. You and your allies can use these actions offensively against foes.

Caltrops (Player's Handbook, page 126): Caltrops are easily acquired, fairly cheap at 1 gp per bag, and not that cumbersome for most characters since they weigh only 2 pounds. If you have time to gather them up again after a fight, they might even be reusable. Scattering a bag of caltrops is a standard action that does not provoke an attack of opportunity. You might need to take them out so that you can use them, though. This is a move action that does provoke attacks of opportunity (see page 143 in the Player's Handbook).

The caltrops might halve a foe's movement or perhaps simply cause an opponent to avoid a specific square. The latter tactic works better with reasonably intelligent foes who recognize the impediment and might choose to avoid it. Both lend you a bit more control over movement on the field.

Tanglefoot Bag (Player's Handbook, page 128): A tanglefoot bag provides a good way to hinder a Large or smaller opponent's movement, spellcasting, or even ability to fly. This alchemical item is a must-have for parties that want more battle grid control. It costs a mere 50 gp and weighs 4 pounds, which makes it an excellent investment.

Spell Manipulations

Magic provides the most versatile options. Here are a few of the many ways to better control a battlefield with spells. These focus on the movement and position of your foes.

Baleful Transposition (Miniatures Handbook, page 34): You swap places with another creature. This 2nd-level sorcerer/wizard spell is best used against opponents since benign transposition is lower level and useful for allies. One use is to be in the midst of your allies and swap places with a foe on the edge of the opposing force. Surrounded, the opponent will not likely survive long.

Banishment (Player's Handbook, page 203): See dismissal, below.

Bigby's Spells(Player's Handbook, page 203-204): This series of sorcerer/wizard spells often gets overlooked. All of the Bigby spells create a hand made of force that can interpose itself between you and one opponent. The hand provides cover against the designated foe and can often slow it if it seeks to approach you.

Blade Barrier (Player's Handbook, page 205):Blade barrier is a very useful, damaging wall-like spell. See the discussion of wall spells, below.

Dimensional Anchor (Player's Handbook, page 221): If you know you're going to face a foe that uses dimension door, teleport, and similar movement magics, this is a great spell to restrict the creature's movement options. This tactic is great against large categories of creatures such as demons and devils. Of course, you should be certain that you've got the ability to deal with the creature if you force it to stay.

Dismissal (Player's Handbook, page 222): If you just want to get rid of a pesky extraplanar creature, dismissal and the more powerful banishment might remove that foe from the battle.

Evard's Black Tentacles (Player's Handbook, page 228): This spell is a great way to make a section of the battlegrid inhospitable.

Slow (Player's Handbook, page 280):Slow is a nice, straightforward, 3rd-level bard or sorcerer/wizard spell that reduces the target's actions and movement. Slow is a classic way to hamper a foe's options.

Summon Creature Spells (Player's Handbook, page 285-289; various books): Allies brought into the battle through spells such as summon monster or summon nature's ally are more than just additional combatants. The placement of these creatures can set up flanks and other tactical advantages. They can also be summoned in positions that provide cover for you and your allies or that prevent opponents from charging.

Undeniable Gravity (Miniatures Handbook, page 40): This 2nd-level bard or sorcerer/wizard spell grounds a flying creature. Most opponents with a fly speed have abilities and tactics that heavily rely on their being airborne.

Wall Spells (Player's Handbook, page 298-300; various books): Wall spells are available for most spellcasting classes at a wide variety of levels. They provide temporary or permanent barriers. Whether they're virtually impenetrable like wall of force or able to be broken through like a wall of ice, they are versatile defensive tools. You can use them to protect your party, and separate yourselves from enemies to give yourselves a respite for healing and preparation. You can place a wall in such a way that it splits the enemy force, enabling you to divide and conquer. Walls are incredibly useful and powerful tactical tools.

Web (Player's Handbook, page 301): Web is a fantastic spell that can immobilize or impede your opponents.

Psionic Manipulations

The discipline powers of the nomad (psychoportation) generally provide the best battlefield movements among psionic powers. Many of them mimic the spells listed above. Metacreativity powers include powers such as energy wall that fulfills the role of the wall spells described above.

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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