Many times, what you see is what you get. Being able to see the enemy and to control what the enemy sees can mean the success or failure of a battle.
Previously, we looked at how player characters can enhance their movement and positioning. Last time, we discussed some of the ways to hinder your foes' movement and mobility. Now, we'll talk about how you can take control of visibility on the battlefield.
Not Being Seen
First we'll look at the power to dictate what your enemy can see.
Invisibility Spells (Player's Handbook, page 245): The simplest and easiest-to-understand way to control your foe's perceptions is the invisibility spell (or greater invisibility or mass invisibility). This enables your PC to move with relative impunity around her opponents, provided she can move quietly. She gains significant bonuses in combat. While invisible, she is considered to have total concealment, which gives most opponents a 50% miss chance and makes them unable to make attacks of opportunity against her. If she chooses to attack, she gains a +2 bonus on both melee and ranged attacks and can use sneak attack (rogue) or sudden strike (ninja) abilities with her first attack. For most versions of the spell (all but greater invisibility), attacking ends the spell.
Tip:An invisible cleric can cast all manner of helping spells such as cure spells, bull's strength, shield of faith, or bless while invisible. He can also cast summon monster spells, which provide additional offensive power. This is a great tactic for a group that doesn't need the cleric's combat prowess or turning ability.
An invisible arcane caster can cast nonoffensive spells. It can provide a good interlude in which to cast shield and mage armor or give an ally a buff spell. For the invisible mage, summon monster spells provide the main offensive power. Few groups can afford to have an arcane spellcaster invisible for long, though.
In general, the two types of characters that best benefit from greater invisibility are the rogue and the major arcane spellcaster. The sneak attacking rogue or the sudden striking ninja gets her bonus dice on attacks against opponents that can't perceive her. She can make a full attack, getting the bonus dice each time, since she'll remain invisible. (Normally, she gets the bonus only on the first attack.) The low Armor Class sorcerer or wizard can cast all manner of offensive spells, move, and remain relatively safe while unseen.
Vision-Blocking Spells: Spells like the 1st-level Air, cleric, druid, sorcerer/wizard, or Waterobscuring mist (Player's Handbook, page 258) and the 2nd-level druid, sorcerer/wizard, or Water fog cloud (Player's Handbook, page 232) provide almost all adventuring parties with the ability to control visibility on the battlefield. These low-level spells can be incredibly useful.
A creature 5 feet away has concealment (attacks have a 20% miss chance). Creatures father away have total concealment (50% miss chance, and the attacker cannot use sight to locate the target).
This means that if your PC is being peppered with magic missile spells, arrows, or disintegrate rays, she can set up a shroud of concealment preventing enemy spellcasters from targeting her. Of course, it does work both ways, so she'll be wise to use these spells to create an interlude of a couple of rounds to prepare to face the enemy. While in the clouds, she is still vulnerable to area spells such as fireball, so carefully consider her enemy's known resources before deciding on this option.
Wall Spells (Player's Handbook, page 298-300): Good old walls. There's nothing else quite as reliable as setting up a battlefield blocker such as a wall.
Smokesticks Alchemical Item (Player's Handbook, page 128): These alchemical items cost 20 gp and weight 1/2 pound. The smoke from it works like fog cloud. The duration isn't specified in the item's description. A good rule of thumb for DMs is to have it last until the end of the encounter (unless environmental effects are in place, such as a breeze that might dissipate it after several rounds or a gust of wind spell that clears it in a single round).
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.
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.