Few characters in a fight stand around motionless. Combat is a dynamic enterprise full of feints, charges and spectacular retreats. There are some characters who want to be in the thick of things, and other characters who will take every step to avoid the thick of things. Those fragile wizards can dish it out, but they can’t take it.
Roleplaying games are games of the imagination. They are not board games. The hybrid game does not use a battlegrid, or require miniatures for play. Movement is not a precise science. Ranges are determined by the GM on a case by case basis, often with the consent and approval of the players. The most important consideration is a character’s relative position to his allies and enemies, not the de facto position that a grid would reveal.
Anything that possesses the capacity for ambulation is given a Speed score. This means Speed not only applies to characters and monsters, but also to mounts, and vehicles such as ships, wagons and magically-powered trams. Speed scores are the same for every member of the same race, although they can be modified by your selection of feats and talents. Unless otherwise noted, the Speed on your character sheet is your Land Speed. It is the rate at which you can move along the ground.
Your speed represents the number of feet you can Walk along the ground as part of one move action. If you have a Speed of 30, you can walk 30 feet as a move action. You still have your standard action with which to perform anything more exciting.
You may convert your standard action to a second Move action, and use that second Move action to Walk as well. So in a course of a round you could have two move actions and use them both to walk. A character with a Speed of 30 could therefore walk up to 60 feet in a round if they did nothing else. A character who uses both his actions to walk in a combat round is said to Hustle. Hustling becomes more important for overland movement rates (see below).
If you need to get somewhere more quickly you can Run instead of walk. When you run you can move twice your Speed as one Move action. So the character with a Speed of 30 could run 60 feet as one move action. If that character converted her standard action into a move action, she could run up to 120 feet in one round.
While you can cover more distance while running, you are less aware of your surroundings and let your guard down against your enemies. There’s more on running in the Actions in Combat section (q.v.). Certain feats help you overcome this disadvantage.
Of course, many characters don’t walk along the ground. You may swim, climb, jump, fly or even burrow. Details of these movement modes are found in Special Movement below.
Tactical Movement is the term used to explain your character’s movement during combat. Outside combat, it usually isn’t necessary to take your character’s Speed into account. Whether it takes you five rounds or ten rounds to walk to the shops and buy a pint of milk is irrelevent. Inside combat, the distance your character can move in relation to the world around him is very important.
Just as combat itself is rather abstract in HD&D, so too is movement. With nothing as prosaic as battle grid to fall back upon, players and GMs need to adequately juggle the position of all the characters in their mind at once. Sometimes this is simple, sometimes it is more complex. The following guidelines help to visualise combat.
The GM Paints the Picture: It is the job of the GM to adequately describe the scene before the players. He needs to make sure that all of the players are aware of exactly where they are and what they are doing when combat begins. If a verbal picture isn’t enough, then a visual aid may be required.
The GM Draws the Picture: A piece of paper or a white board is sometimes required to sketch out the scene at the beginning of combat. It is helpful for the player’s to know where they are all standing in relation to one another, how far away the bad guys are, and if there are any interesting features of the area that might play a role in the combat. A GM might have thought he decribed the scene adequately only to have a player request a sketch. This is fine. Everyone needs to know what is going on. Confusion leads to a lack of interest in the proceedings. That isn’t fun, and can be fatal.
Once the sketch is drawn, the GM may choose to update it from round to round as the party moves about. This is sometimes useful for large, dynamic combats where there is a lot of movement. However, it is often misguided to lavish a great deal of attention on this. Once players know where they started, it’s usually easy enough to extrapolate where they are now and what they are currently doing.
The fluidity of tactical movement in HD&D is based on the players understanding their relative positions to everyone else. They don’t need to know exactly where they are, they just need to know how far they are away from their companions, their enemies and other features of the battlefield.
The PC knows what his Speed is. He knows how much distance he can cover with a Move action. He can decide whether he wants to walk, hustle or run. He may have special feats or talents that increase his speed, or allow him to Move in a manner that is usually contrary to the rules – such as being able to move, take a standard action, and then move some more.
The only other thing a player needs to know is a specific distance that he can work from. For example, if the GM declares that the foe is 100 feet away, then immediately the player knows whether he can hit the target with a ranged weapon or spell, how long it will take to close on a target to engage in mêlée combat, and so on and so forth.
Even with something as seemingly fiddly was the Withdraw (q.v.) action, all you need to know is that spending a move action to Withdraw lets a character retreat from combat safely. There’s really not much more to it than that.
If a PC is being chased by an enemy, then you only have to compare their relative Speed scores to know whether or not the enemy has a chance of catching up. If characters have the same speed, then call for opposed Athletics checks to determine success. Longer chases, where stamina rather than speed is the most important factor, don’t tend to take place in combat. They’re covered in Overland Movement below.
Often in combat a player is not quite aware of his character’s relative position. Combat may have moved on while the player blinked. The GM must therefore be prepared to answer questions such as: “Can I get to that enemy this round?” or “How far away is the tower from where I am now?” or “Can I get over to my ally and give him a healing potion before he dies?”. And he must be prepared to answer these questions off the cuff.
How is a GM to do this? Without a merticulously scaled map to hand he his no demonstrable guide. Answer: he just makes it up. The GM has a picture of the combat in his mind. He understands the players’ relative positions better than they do, and he can extrapolate the answer to almost any question. Importantly, the GM also has a responsibility to create a dramatic and memorable combat. If a player’s action is dramatically appropriate, and taking that action is not completely beyond the bounds of possibility, then he should be encouraged to allow it. As long as he is being consistant, and as long as he is being fair to all players, then the flow of the game is more important than the minutiae of where everyone is standing.
For example, suppose the players are fighting a terrible battle against a dark archdruid in northerly Kerikal. Suppose that druid has caused a large chunk of the ground to rise up as a floating island, and he is making his escape. Raza wants to know if he can run to the island, jump, and catch hold of it before it gets too high.
Now the GM could spend time working out where Raza is standing in relation to the island. He could say that at a flat our sprint Raza could cover 200 feet in the course of one round. He could spend time working all that out, or he could just say: “Make your jump check.”
The GM knows that the monk is fast, and covering a lot of distance quickly is his ‘thing’. So he lets him cover than much distance. Does he let Ravenna do it as well? No. The sorcerer isn’t as fast as the monk, and she knows it. Does such a ruling destabilise the game? No. Is anyone annoyed that Raza was able to do this? No. Did it keep the game flowing at a crucial narrative point? Yes.
The GM has the responsibility of knowing when to use the rules, and when to bend the game in a spirit of the rules. Tactical Movement is an area where the GM’s creativity and natural sense of fair play are crucial. But he isn’t acting alone. GMs shouldn’t be afraid to listen to what players say during the game. It’s fairer to rule by consensus, if that consensus can be reach quickly.
Outside combat the movement rules works slightly differently, although how far your character can move is still based on your Speed score. While characters can Walk or Run to their hearts content in the space of a few combat rounds, when it comes to moving about in the real world they are somewhat more limited. You cannot run indefinitely, after all.
Overland Movement diviides a character’s speed into three categories: a Walk (equal to his Speed in feet), a Hustle (equal to twice his Speed in feet) and a Run (equal to four times his Speed in feet). In the space of one round, a character with a Speed of 30 could walk 30 feet, hustle 60 feet or Run 120 feet. So far, this is exactly the same as movement in combat.
Encumbered characters, or characters wearing certain types of armour, may have their Speed score reduced. If this is the case, then apply these rules normallly, just use the new lower Speed score as the starting point.
For the puposes of Overland Movement, it is very easy to convert a character’s speed into miles per hour. One round is six seconds, meaning there are ten rounds in a minute and six-hundred rounds in an hour. A character walking 5 feet per round would cover 3000 feet (or 0.57 of a mile) in one hour.
The most common speeds for PCs are found in the following table. In all cases the results have rounded to the nearest half mile per hour just to make the maths easier.
So a character with a Speed of 30 normally walks at about 3½ miles per hour. If they hustle (they start jogging) they can travel at 7 miles per hour, and if they run they can manage about 14 miles per hour. But how long can characters keep walking, running or hustling?
Walk: Characters can walk for eight hours during a day without problem. Such characters may stop occassionally for rest or a meal, but most adventurers should be able to put eight hours of continual travel into a day without too much bother. An average human with a Speed of 30 could therefore travel approximately 28 miles in a day.
A character can walk for more than 8 hours in a day by making a forced march. For each hour of marching beyond 8 hours, an Atheltics check (DC 15, +2 per extra hour) is required. If the check fails, the character takes 1d6 points of subdual damage. A character who takes any subdual damage from a forced march becomes fatigued (q.v.). A character failing two checks, from either forced marching or extreme hustling, becomes exhausted (q.v.). Exhasted characters have their Speed score halved, which may put an abrupt stop to your journey.
Hustle: Characters can hustle for one hour without a problem. That means characters can hustle during combat, or around the home with no real penalty or need for rest. It is only if a character hustles for an extended period of time that the overland rules come into play.
Trying to hustle more than one hour between sleep cycles is extremely tiring. For each additional hour of hustling beyond 1 hour, an Athletics check (DC 20, +2 per extra hour) is required. If the check fails, the character takes 2d6 points of subdual damage, and becomes fatigued (q.v.). A character failing two checks, from either hustling or forced marching, becomes exhausted (q.v.).
Run: The average character can only run for 1-2 minutes without the need to make checks to keep running. Running for shorter durations doesn’t have a profoundly tiring effect on most adventurers, so you can run from point A to point B in combat without much fear of exhausting yourself. A continuous sprint is another matter entirely.
You can run for a number of rounds equal to your Consitution score. One round is six seconds, so a character with a Con of 10 can run for one minute. A character with a Con of 18 can run for 1 minute and 48 seconds. After this time has elapsed you must make an Athletics check to keep running. The DC of this check is 15 + 1 per extra round spent running.
If you fail the check then you stop running and you must rest. While resting you can move no faster than your Speed each round, and you must continue to rest for at least one minute before resuming your run.
A character cannot attempt to cover more ground by entering a cycle of running and walking. If a character tries such a thing, then consider them to be hustling instead.
Other forms of locomotion: Characters might be able to use the special movement forms listed below. In certain circumstances they may be able to hustle or run with these movement modes just as if they were walking on land. Characters who are riding a mount or travelling in a vehicle use their mount or vehicles Speed instead of their own for calculating how far they can travel.
Ambling along the ground is the least interesting way that characters can get about. All characters can jump, swim and climb, but in a fantasy setting there are plenty of PCs who will be able to fly through the air or teleport in random directions. These special forms of movement are covered below.
A key rule to bear in mind when looking at special movement is the difference between your character’s Speed score and a specific speed that relates to one of these uncommon modes of locomotion. Your Speed score measures the number of feet you can walk on the ground as part of one move action. Any one can leap into water and swim half their Speed as a move action, but that doesn’t mean they have a “Swim Speed”. Certain characters will have specific (different) speeds listed for climbing, swimming, burrowing and flying. If you have a listed speed then such movement is part of your natural element.
For example, a watersoul genasi has Speed 30 and Swim Speed 30. This means that she can walk at a speed of 30 on the ground, and she can swim at a speed of 30 in the water. Also because she has a Swim Speed, she can perform tricks while swimming that characters without a Swim speed cannot. She can always Take 10 when making Swim checks.
When you are faced with a steep slope or a wall (as defined in the Climb skill) then you need to make a Climb check to ascend it. You can climb half your Speed in feet as a Move action. If you convert your standard action into a second Move action, you can also use that to climb. Therefore a character with a speed of 30 can climb 15 feet with one Move action, and 30 feet with two. You cannot take the Run action when climbing.
Climbing is part of regular movement. A character with a Speed of 30 who is standing 10 feet away from a tree that he wishes to climb, could walk to the tree and start to climb it as part of the same Move action. It would cost 10 feet of movement to walk the 10 feet to the tree, and 20 feet of movement to climb 10 feet up the tree.
Some creatures such as spiders have a listed Climb Speed instead of climbing at half their normal speed. Characters with a Climb Speed can Take 10 on any climb check, and can take the Run action while climbing. A giant spider with a Climb Speed of 20 could Run 80 feet up a wall in a single round.
A jumping character attempts to propel himself up and over a particular obstacle. There is no such a thing as a Jump Speed: the distance a character can jump is dependent upon their Athletics check result, as defined in the description of that skill.
Jumping still counts as part of your character’s movement. So if a standard human jumps over a 20 ft chasm as part of their move action, they can only move another 10 feet as part of the same move action. This rule is slightly complicated by high level characters, or creatures with exceptional jump scores. Theoretically, it’s possible to a get a jump check result so high that it indicates you jump further than your character’s Speed.
For example, a 30th level character with a Strength of 26 and the Skill Focus (Athletics) feat has an Athletics skill modifier of +29. The character leaps over a stream, makes an Athletics check and rolls a 20. The check result is 49, indicating that the character has jumped 49 feet. The character’s Speed is 30. He moved 10 feet before the jump, and has jumped 49 feet. That means as part of this move action he has covered 59 feet. Right?
There are several ways to deal with this. Firstly, the character may not want to jump that far (the stream is only 20 feet wide!) Don’t penalise a character who gets a high check result. The roll indicates success, as well as distance. The character can land where she likes. However, if the player does want to cover the entire distance, the GM should rule that the Jump was the equivalent of a double-move, or Run attempt. Let them jump the full distance, but rule they grant combat advantage to their enemies until the beginning of their next turn: just as if they had run the same distance.
There will be times when even this solution isn’t enough. Characters might be able to Jump more than twice their Speed in one go. In these rare cases, still count the jump as a double-move. Don’t let the jump eat into the character’s standard action, or last for more than one round.
Flight is not as uncommon as one might think in a game such as HD&D. Plenty of creatures have wings, and spells such as Fly bestow the ability to fly onto player characters. Characters who gain the ability to fly can use their Fly skill to perform a series of complex manoeuvres.
Flying creatures, characters who transform themselves into flying creatures, and those flying my dint of magic spell will have a speed for their flight noted in the relevent statistics and descriptions of their powers. For most of these characters this will also mean that they have a Fly Speed for the duration of their ability to fly.
Characters with a Fly Speed can Take 10 on any Fly check, and can take the Run action while flying. A great wyrm red dragon has a Fly Speed of 200. In the space of one round it could cover up to 800 feet.
All flying characters also have a manouevrability class, incidcating how easy it is for them to change direction or perform insane aerial acrobatics. In HD&D this manoeuvrability class manifests itself as a bonus or a penalty to the Fly check. See the Fly skill for more information.
Anyone can leap into a body of water and start swimming. You can swim up to half your speed in feet as a Move action. If you convert your standard action into a second Move action, you can also use that to swim. Therefore a character with a speed of 30 can swim 15 feet with one Move action, and 30 feet with two. You cannot take the Run action when swimming.
Characters with a Swim Speed take to water like a fish. Indeed in many cases, they might be fish. Such creatures can always Take 10 on their Swim checks, and can take the Run action while swimming. A dire shark has a Swim Speed of 60. It could swim an impressive 240 feet in one round, although it couldn’t keep such a speed up for long.
Don’t confuse a Swim Speed with the ability to breathe underwater. While creatures with a Swim Speed are often native water-breathers or amphibious creatures, simply having a Swim Speed doesn’t mean you can breath underwater. For example, the Swim spell lets you swim like a fish, but not breathe like one.
Burrowing is the act of digging through the ground to get from one place to another. Burrowing allows you to move underneath obstacles that would otherwise fry, drown or stab you. It is also Bugs Bunny’s favoured mode of locomotion – but remember never to turn left at Albuquerque.
If you don’t have a Burrow Speed then you cannot burrow. Characters who have a Burrow Speed are able to enter the ground and move a number of feet equal to their Burrow Speed as a single move action. If you convert your standard action into a second Move action, you can also use that to burrow. Therefore a character with a Burrow Speed of 20 can burrow 20 feet with one Move action, or 40 feet with two. Burrowing characters cannot use the Run action to increase their speed.
Burrowing characters are usually able to tunnel through any substance except solid rock and substances tougher than solid rock. As a rule, burrowers cannot tunnel through anything that has an Item AC of 8 or higher. Tunnelling through brickwork or a dry stone wall is perfectly possible as the obstruction is not one solid mass.
Most burrowing creatures do not leave behind tunnels that other creatures can use. This is because either the material they tunnel through fills in behind them, or because they do not actually dislocate any material while burrowing.
There are exceptions to both these rules, with some burrowing creatures being able to carve their way through solid stone as if it were butter, and others leaving vast cavernous tunnels in their wake. Refer to the descriptions of these creatures for more specific information.
Burrowing and tunnelling creatures are almost as much of a headache for a GM as teleporters. Sometimes they are even more problematic as burrowing is a mundane rather than magical ability, and few NPCs will see the need to counter against burrowing PCs. However, here are two things to bear in mind:
Burrowers can be heard: A burrowing character cannot be seen, but he can be heard. If you burrowing PC is trying to surprise a foe by erupting from underneath him, then the PC should make a Stealth check against the target’s Passive Perception score. Remember the Stealth check takes a -5 penalty if you are moving at faster than half your Burrow Speed.
Burrowers cannot see: Unless the burrower has some kind of tremorsense ability, then they cannot tell where they are going, or where their enemies are while tunnelling. They may have to frequently break the surface to regain their bearings. Characters tunnelling under the ground for an extended period of time must make an intuit direction check (a Survival check with a DC of 25) to stay on the right track. The same check might be required if the character is trying to locate a very specific target while being unable to see or hear them.
Teleportaton is the ability to disappear in one location, and instantaneously reappear in another without crossing the intervening space. Such a tremendous feat is made possible only by the application of powerful magical or supernatural forces. A character steps sideways into the Astral Plane for less than an instant, and uses that plane as a conduit to reach their destination.
Traditionally teleportation has been the purview of very powerful characters and, for the most part, it remains that way in HD&D. Teleportation over long distances requires intense training and magical aptitude. Even the most proficient casters often rely on existing teleportation portals, while others use their magic to join an existing portal network. Only the supremely potent can translocate vast distances under their own power, and only a handful of them could attempt to find their way to somewhere they had never visited before.
The spells Linked Portal (5th), Planar Portal (7th) and True Portal (9th) allow this potent use of Teleportation magic. All require special components, and all take several minutes to cast – placing them beyond the scope of a combat measured in rounds. However there is another, lesser, form of teleportation magic that does not have such grand ambitions. This form of magic is available to much lower level characters, and while it cannot be used to traverse great distances, it has its own special utility for characters.
Swordmages, wizards and warlocks are the classes that commonly make use of these spells. Unless the text of the power states differently all spells, talents and feats with the Teleportation descriptor use these two rules:
Line of Sight: You must have line of sight to you destination in order to teleport to it. Basically this means you have to be able to see where you are teleporting to. You can’t teleport to the other side of a closed door even if you know what is on the other side. This also means that you can’t teleport if you’re blinded or if it’s too dark to see. You can’t teleport to a destination that has Total Concealment (q.v.).
You do not need line of effect in order to teleport. So you could teleport through a glass window, even though the glass would stop the line of effect of most other spells and abilities.
Instantaneous Travel: You disappear in one location and reappear in another. You are not incommoded for travelling the intervening distance. That means you can break away from mêlée combat without triggering an opportunity attack (even if your foe has Combat Superiority). You can also teleport out of a grapple without having to make a successful grapple check. A teleport power that didn’t have somatic, material or verbal components could be used to teleport even if immobilised, held or tied up. Although you’d arrive at your destination in a similar state of distress.
There is no such thing as a Teleportation Speed. Characters with the ability to teleport usually access it as a Recharge power, or as a power that only triggers in very specific conditions. While teleportation is not a mode of travel that can be relied upon in all circumstances, it is nonetheles a potent addition to the traveller’s arsenal. With sufficient time and resources, high level characters never need to hop on a wagon train again.
Terrain is not just there to hide behind and build castles on; it can also adversely affect the distance a character can move. After all, it’s more difficult to slog through thick mud or deep snow, than it is to stroll down a tightly cobbled and well-maintained road.
When moving overland, the progress your character can make in a day is dependent upon the terrain she is traversing. Only if your character is walking down a flat highway can she travel the maximum distance listed in the Overland Movement section above. If the road is badly maintained, or nonexistant, then travel will slow considerably. Refer to the following table:
For the purposes of these rules, a Road is a well maintained stretch of highway. If you can drive a wagon down it, then it’s a road. A Trail might be obvious to follow, and well worn through continual use, but it is not being deliberately maintained by anyone. Trails may be narrow, uneven and impossible to traverse quickly. Trackless areas of land have absolutely no existing navigable route through them. This isn’t such a problem on plains, where the land is flat in all directions, but if you’re trying to move through a dense tropical jungle, then it’s another matter entirely.
Simply apply the multiplier from the table above to the number of miles your character (or your party) can travel in an hour or a day. For example, a human with a Speed of 30 can normally cover 28 miles in a day. If he’s following a trail through a thick swamp, then he can actually only cover 21 miles. A little creative maths may be required if the party are crossing different types of terrain over the course of several days, but the mechanics of this should be obvious.
While it’s certainly worth spending the time to calculate how long it takes the characters to traverse the campaign world, it’s misguided to get too bogged down with the minutiae of terrain when adjudicating Tactical Movement in combat. Rather than worry about the type of terrain, the party are traversing, GMs and players only need to consider the effect of hampering terrain in the broadest terms. Generally, this can be boiled down to one simple rule:
The character moves at half Speed
Nothing more complicated is required. If the character is standing waste deep in water or scrambling over unstable scree the distance a character can travel is halved. More often than not, rules for hindering terrain only come up when players specifically ask the question: “How long will it take me to get to Point A?”
If the entire combat encounter is taking place in hindering terrain (a battle in deep snow, or a flooding cellar) then the GM should make this abundantly clear at the start of combat. Any reduction in mobility changes the face of combat, and the PCs should be aware of the deliterious effects this will have on them.
For example, a character who is standing in Hindering Terrain cannot take the Withdraw action to safely move away from combat, because he simply cannot move back far enough as a single move action.
Poor Visibility: If a character cannot see very well – either because it is dark, foggy, or because the character has been blinded – then it is advisable that they move at half speed. Poor visibility is not a true hindering terrain, but a character may be advised to treat it like hindering terrain to stop any unfortunate accidents. A character trying to move faster than half speed through an area of Total Concealment must make a DC 10 Acrobatics check or fall prone.
It’s the big one! Grapple! Charge! Bull Rush! Swallow! Pin! It’s Actions in Combat.