Combat: Movement, Position and Distance

Few characters in a fight are likely to stand still for long. Enemies appear and charge the party. The heroes reply, advancing to take on new foes after they down their first opponents. Wizards remain outside the fight, looking for the best place to use their magic. Rogues quietly skirt the fracas seeking a straggler or an unwary opponent to strike with a sneak attack. Finally, if the fight is lost, most characters find it to their advantage to remove themselves from the vicinity. Movement is just as important as attack skill and armor in gaining the upper hand on the battlefield.

Dungeon & Dragons miniatures are on the 30mm scale - a miniature figure of a six-foot-tall human is approximately 30mm tall. A square on the battle grid is 1 inch across, representing a 5-by-5-foot area.

Tactical Movement

Where you can move, how long it takes you to get there, and whether you're vulnerable to attacks of opportunity while you're moving are key questions in combat.

How Far Can Your Character Move?

Your speed is determined by your race and your armor (see Tactical Speed). Your speed while unarmored is your base speed.

Encumbrance: A character encumbered by carrying a large amount of gear, treasure, or fallen comrades may move slower than normal (see Carrying Capacity).

Hampered Movement: Difficult terrain, obstacles, or poor visibility can hamper movement (see Terrain and Obstacles, and Hampered Movement).

Movement in Combat: Generally, you can move your speed in a round and still do something, such as swing an axe or cast a spell. If you spend the entire round running, you can move quadruple your speed. If you do something that requires a full round, such as attacking more than once, you can only take a 5-foot step.

Bonuses to Speed: A barbarian has a +10 foot bonus to his speed (unless he's wearing heavy armor). Experienced monks also have higher speed (unless they're wearing armor of any sort). In addition, many spells and magic items can affect a character's speed. Always apply any modifiers to a character's speed before adjusting the character's speed based on armor or encumbrance and remember that multiple bonuses of the same type to character's speed (such as enhancement bonuses) don't stack.

Tactical Speed
RaceNo Armor or Light ArmorMedium or Heavy Armor
Human, elf, half-elf half-orc30 ft.20 ft.
Dwarf, halfling, gnome20 ft.15 ft.

Tactical Aerial Movement

The elf barbarian mounted on the giant eagle swoops over the group of mind flayers, launching arrows from his bow. One of the mind flayers wears winged boots and takes to the air to better confront the elf. Once movement becomes three-dimensional and involves turning in midair and maintaining a minimum velocity to stay aloft, it gets more complicated.

Most flying creatures have to slow down at least a little to make a turn, and many are limited to fairly wide turns and must maintain a minimum forward speed. Each flying creature has a maneuverability, as shown on Maneuverability Table.

Minimum Forward Speed: If a flying creature fails to maintain its minimum forward speed, it must land at the end of its movement. If it is too high above the ground to land, it falls straight down, descending 150 feet in the first round of falling. If this distance brings it to the ground, it takes falling damage. If the fall doesn't bring the creature to the ground, it must spend its next turn recovering from the stall. It must succeed on a DC 20 Reflex save to recover. Otherwise it falls another 300 feet. If it hits the ground, it takes falling damage. Otherwise, it has another chance to recover on its next turn.

Hover: The ability to stay in one place while airborne.

Move Backward: The ability to move backward without turning around.

Reverse: A creature with good maneuverability uses up 5 feet of its speed to start flying backward.

Turn: How much the creature can turn after covering the stated distance.

Turn in Place: A creature with good or average maneuverability can use some of its speed to turn in place.

Maximum Turn: How much the creature can turn in any one space.

Up Angle: The angle at which the creature can climb.

Up Speed: How fast the creature can climb.

Down Angle: The angle at which the creature can descend.

Down Speed: A flying creature can fly down at twice its normal flying speed.

Between Down and Up: An average, poor, or clumsy flier must fly level for a minimum distance after descending and before climbing. Any flier can begin descending after a climb without an intervening distance of level flight.

 Maneuverability and Example Creature
Minimum forward speedNoneNoneHalfHalfHalf
Move backwardYesYesNoNoNo
ReverseFree-5 ft.NoNoNo
TurnAny90°/5 ft.45°/5 ft.45°/5 ft.45°/10 ft.
Turn in placeAny+90/-5 ft.+45/-5 ft.NoNo
Maximum turnAnyAny90°45°45°
Up angleAnyAny60°45°45°
Up speedFullHalfHalfHalfHalf
Down angleAnyAnyAny45°45°
Down speedDoubleDoubleDoubleDoubleDouble
Between down and up005 ft.10 ft.20 ft.

Measuring Distance

Diagonals: When measuring distance, the first diagonal counts as a square, the second counts as 2 squares, the third counts the fourth as 2, and so on. (If it helps, you can think of a diagonal as a distance of 1.5 squares.)

You can't move diagonally past a corner (even by taking a 5-foot step). You can move diagonally past a creature, even an opponent. can also move diagonally past other impassable obstacles, as pits.

Closest Creature: When it's important to determine the closest square or creature to a location, if two squares or creatures are equally close, randomly determine which one counts as closest by rolling a die.

Moving Trough a Square

Friend: You can move through a square occupied by a friendly character unless you are charging. When you move through a square occupied by a friendly character, that character provide does not you with cover.

Opponent: You can't move through a square occupied by an opponent, unless the opponent is helpless (dead, unconscious, paralyzed, bound, or the like). You can move through a square occupied by a helpless opponent without penalty (The DM may rule that some creatures, such as an enormous dragon, present an obstacle even when helpless. In such cases, each square you move through counts as 2 squares.)

Ending Your Movement: You can't end your movement in the same square as another creature unless it is helpless.

Overrun: During your movement, you can attempt to move through a square occupied by an opponent (see Overrun).

Tumbling: A trained character can attempt to tumble through square occupied by an opponent (see the Tumble skill).

Very Small Creature: A Fine, Diminutive, or Tiny creature can move into or through an occupied square. The creature provokes attacks of opportunity when doing so.

Square Occupied by Creature Three Sizes Larger or Smaller: Any creature can move through a square occupied by a creature three size categories larger than it is. A gnome (Small), for example, can run between the legs of a cloud giant (Huge).

A big creature can move through a square occupied by a creature three size categories smaller than it is. A cloud giant, for example, can step over a gnome.

Designated Exceptions: Some creatures break the above rules. For example, a gelatinous cube fills the squares it occupies to a height of 15 feet. A creature can't move through a square occupied by a cube, even with the Tumble skill or similar special abilities.

Terrain and Obstacles

The rules presented so far in this section assume that you're moving through an area clear of obstacles or difficult terrain. However, in dungeons and wilderness areas, that's often not the case.

Difficult Terrain: Difficult terrain, such as rubble, an uneven cave floor, thick undergrowth, and the like, hamper movement. Each square of difficult terrain counts as 2 squares of movement. (Each diagonal move into a difficult terrain square counts as 3 squares.) You cannot run or charge across difficult terrain.

If you occupy squares with different kinds of terrain, you can move only as fast as the most difficult terrain you occupy will allow. (This is often significant for creatures whose space fills more than one square, such as a giant.)

Flying and incorporeal creatures are not hampered by difficult terrain.

Obstacles: Like difficult terrain, obstacles can hamper movement. if an obstacle hampers movement but doesn't completely block it, such as a low wall or a deadfall of branches, obstructed square or obstacle between squares counts as 2 squares of movement. You must pay this cost to cross the barrier, in addition to the cost to move into the square on the other side. If you don't have sufficient movement to cross the barrier and move into the square on the other side, you can't cross the barrier, Some obstacles may also require a skill check to cross (such as Climb or Jump). On the other hand, some obstacles, such as floor-to-ceiling walls, block movement entirely. A character can't move through a blocking obstacle.

Flying and incorporeal creatures can avoid most obstacles though a floor-to-ceiling wall blocks a flying creature as well as a landbound creature.

Squeezing: In some cases, you may have to squeeze into or through an area that isn't as wide as the space you take up. (This is particularly true for creatures whose space fills more than one square, such as a giant.) You can squeeze through or into a space that is at least half as wide as your normal space. For instance an ogre whose space is 10 feet, or 2 squares, wide) can squeeze through or into a space at least 5 feet (1 square) wide. Each move into or through a narrow space counts as if it were 2 squares, and while squeezed in a narrow space you take a -4 penalty on attack rolls and a -4 penalty to AC.

When a Large creature (which normally takes up to four squares) squeezes into a space that's one square wide, the creature's miniature figure occupies two squares, centered on the line between the two squares. For a bigger creature, center the creature likewise in the area it squeezes into.

A creature can squeeze past an opponent while moving but it can't end its movement in an occupied square.

To squeeze through or into a space less than half your space width, you must use the Escape Artist skill. You can attack while using Escape Artist to squeeze through or into narrow space, you take a -4 penalty to AC, and you lose any Dexterity bonus to AC.

Special Movement Rules

These rules cover special movement situations.

Accidentally Ending Movement in an Illegal Space: Sometimes a character ends its movement while moving through a space where it's not allowed to stop. For example, you might incur an attack of opportunity from a monk while moving through friend's square and become stunned. When that happens, put your miniature in the last legal position you occupied, or the closest legal position, if there's a legal position that's closer.

Double Movement Cost: When your movement is hampered in some way, your movement usually costs double. For example, each square of movement through difficult terrain counts as 2 squares, and each diagonal move through such terrain counts as 3 squares (just as two diagonal moves normally do).

If movement cost is doubled twice, then each square counts as 4 squares (or as 6 squares if moving diagonally). If movement cost us doubled three times, then each square counts as 8 squares (12 if diagonal) and so on. This is an exception to the general rule that two doublings are equivalent to a tripling.

Minimum Movement: Despite penalties to movement, you can take a full-round action to move 5 feet (1 squared in any direction, even diagonally (This rule doesn't allow you to move through impassable terrain or to move when all movement is prohibited, such as while paralyzed.) Such movement provokes attacks of opportunity as normal (despite the distance covered, this move isn't a 5-foot step).