Tactics and Tips05/23/2005

Manipulating the Battlefield (Part Four)

Finding your enemy on the battlefield can sometimes be hard since some may choose to be invisible or concealed, but in most cases, knowing where each specific foe stands can aid in your tactical decisions -- and not knowing can often lead to erroneous assumptions and failure. Using plans that include preventing your forces from being seen can provide you with some advantages, but your foes can use those same tactics against you.

Last time, we looked at how not to be seen. Now, we'll talk about ways to thwart those tactics. Take control of visibility on the battlefield.


There are numerous ways to enhances one's senses on the battlefield.

Blind-Fight Feat (Player's Handbook, page 89): If you regularly fight invisible creatures or have to deal with darkness and concealment, the Blind-Fight feat is a good investment, especially for a character class such as fighter, who gets lots of bonus feats. It enables you to reroll your miss chance; you'll be hitting your concealed foe much more often. You retain your Dexterity bonus against unseen attackers, impeding their ability to sneak attack you. The final benefit is retaining your full movement abilities (not reduced to three-quarters for poor visibility). This feat can be very useful in settings where your foes are taking advantage of the options of controlling visibility on the battlefield.

See Invisibility Spell (Player's Handbook, page 275): The see invisibilityspell affects only the caster, which limits its utility, but as long as the bard, sorcerer, or wizard (bard 3, sorcerer/wizard 2) who cast the spell can communicate with her party members, they can at least peg the location of the invisible creature(s). The caster can target the creature without a miss chance.

Glitterdust Spell (Player's Handbook, page 236): If the arcane caster (bard 2, sorcerer/wizard 2) knows the location of the invisible creature, a glitterdust spell might blind it and always visibly outlines it in golden particles for the duration of the spell. The limited area (10-foot radius spread) means it's apt to make only one or two creatures visible unless they're in a very dense formation.

Invisibility Purge Spell (Player's Handbook, page 245): A useful 3rd-level cleric spell, invisibility purge affects a large area (a radius of 5 feet per caster level). It negates all forms of invisibility, making it a great way to foil all manner of tricks ranging from the classic invisibility spell to the ninja's ghost step ability. Of course, the invisible rogue in your party is likewise exposed, so this spell may require some advanced discussion if someone in your party relies on invisibility regularly.

True Seeing Spell (Player's Handbook, page 296):True seeing (a cleric 5, druid 7, Knowledge 5, sorcerer/wizard 6 spell) possesses an extraordinary effect against invisibility and more. It lets the target (creature touched) see everything as it is, penetrating invisibility, illusion, magical darkness, and just about every magical means of impeding visibility. The costly material component (ointment worth 250 gp) means that most characters will save this spell for important conflicts.

Gust of Wind Spell (Player's Handbook, page 238): Most spellcasters find gust of wind (druid 2, sorcerer/wizard 2) of dubious worth. However, if your enemy is using a number of the tactics of controlling visibility we previously discussed, such as obscuring mist spells, it's the perfect foil. The fixed duration and range makes this a good spell to have on a scroll. Many parties might choose this 150-gp investment for those specific situations.

Scent (Monster Manual, page 314): Many animal companions and some familiars have the scent special quality. This can give warning of approaching invisible creatures or help find a hidden creature. Even once pinpointed, however, the foe is likely to still be unseen (for instance, if it is invisible). This ability is a nice help, but an ineffective substitute for most of the other options listed here.

Listening (Player's Handbook, page 78): Sometimes, you might be caught without many other options. Choosing to make a Listen check is generally an inefficient means of locating foes you can't otherwise see. Of course, your odds improve dramatically if the invisible or obscured creature is wearing heavy armor. The fighter in full-plate is an easy target to find. The rogue endeavoring to move quietly isn't. As a move action, you can make a Listen check to narrow down the location of an unseen opponent.

Summoned Monsters (Player's Handbook, page 285-289): If you can't do it yourself, bring in someone who can. Many of the creatures on the summon lists have excellent means of detecting foes. The xorn, for instance (minor xorn from summon nature's ally IV), has tremorsense out to a range of 60 feet. It can detect all nonflying, nonswimming foes within range.

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.

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