For years, the rules of Dungeons & Dragons have pleased, inspired, and occasionally even mystified those of us who love this game of fantasy adventure. Since D&D debuted in 1974, its rules have literally filled volumes, and discussions of them have been carried out at conventions, in online forums, in magazines, and around game tables at home. Each new edition has preserved certain rules of its forerunners while introducing new ones—rules that invite testing, questions, and sometimes revision.
This column looks to explore the rules of the current edition. This is the place to come for guidance on understanding a particularly complex part of the game and for explanations of notable changes to the rules. Do you wonder how to solve a particular rules conundrum? You may well find the answer here. Are you curious why a rule has changed the way it has? This column will give you the straight answer.
Each installment of the column will focus on a particular rule or set of rules, which leads us to this installment’s topic: Teleportation.
Teleportation has long been part of the Dungeons & Dragons game. Back in 1st Edition, this instantaneous mode of travel was primarily the domain of magic-users (aka wizards) and monsters such as blink dogs. It was the quickest way to get from point A to point B.
Nowadays, many more adventurers and monsters can make use of this magic. Harnessing the mystical energy of the Feywild, eladrin use their fey step to vanish and instantly reappear elsewhere, for instance; and many avengers, empowered by their gods, pursue their foes by teleporting.
The current rules for teleportation first appeared in the Player’s Handbook (2008). In previous editions, the game had no overarching rules for teleportation. Instead, each teleportation spell or ability defined how its version of teleportation worked. In the current edition, teleportation is part of our general movement rules and is based on several principles, summarized here (with the caveat that teleportation rituals and magic portals to other planes typically ignore some or all of these principles):
A Big Enough Destination Space: When a creature teleports, the destination must be an unoccupied space at least the same size as the creature. Consequently, a creature can’t teleport itself (or someone else) into a space that it would normally have to squeeze into.
See Where You’re Going: The user of a teleportation power must see the destination space. This means a creature has to see where it’s going when it teleports itself, but doesn’t have to see if someone else teleports it.
Because of this restriction, blinding a creature is usually a reliable way to foil its ability to use teleportation magic. However, some characters have abilities that get around this rule. For example, the 10th-level power warlock’s leap in the Player’s Handbook allows a warlock to teleport into an unseen space, such as the other side of a wall or out of a purple worm’s stomach.
No Line of Effect Required: Neither the user of a teleportation power nor the target needs line of effect to the destination space. In other words, a physical barrier can’t stop teleportation as long as the barrier doesn’t also prevent the user of the teleportation power from seeing the destination space. A creature can, therefore, teleport through things like a windowpane or a transparent wall of force.
No Opportunity Attacks Provoked: When a creature teleports, the movement doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks. The creature vanishes so suddenly that there is no time for a foe to strike.
Leave Restraints Behind: A creature can use teleportation to escape from physical restraints, such as manacles, and other immobilizing effects that are located in specific spaces, such as the webs of monstrous spiders or the grasp of a giant. Many characters rely on teleportation to escape grabs that would otherwise be too difficult for them.
In Player’s Handbook 2 and then in Player’s Handbook 3, we included two changes to these rules:
No Opportunity Actions Triggered: As more and more opportunity actions appeared in the game, we decided that teleportation should not only avoid opportunity attacks, but also all opportunity actions. Like opportunity attacks, other opportunity actions represent taking advantage of a situation, exploiting a weakness, causing a distraction, or some other opening. Teleportation is simply too fast to offer such an opportunity, although a particular opportunity action could break this rule by having a trigger based on teleportation.
Teleporting Others into Precarious Situations: The original teleportation rules were silent about whether you could teleport someone up into the air, over a cliff, into a pool of lava, or somewhere else where that creature would fall or instantly take damage (in game terms: a place that is hindering terrain). In Player’s Handbook 3, we indicate that you can indeed teleport others into such precarious situations, but there’s a catch: your victim can make a saving throw. If the saving throw is successful, the teleportation fails. When such a failure occurs, it’s up to the DM to decide what’s happening in the game world. Perhaps the target mustered enough willpower to thwart the magic, or perhaps an environmental phenomenon interfered with it.
However this save is described in your game, the rule means it’s a gamble when you use teleportation offensively. You might devastate your target, or you might have no effect at all. We decided that this combination of flexibility and uncertainty was preferable, in terms of providing fun tactical options, over ruling that teleportation could move targets only to safe locations. Plus, if you can push someone over a cliff with your hands, why not with your teleportation magic?
I’ll close by addressing two questions that come up about teleportation:
If a creature is prone when it teleports, is it still prone when it reaches the destination space? The answer is yes. Teleportation does not set a prone creature upright. The principle behind this rule is that effects are not terminated by teleportation unless those effects are bound to the space that a teleporting creature leaves. This principle is why you can teleport out of restraints to end an immobilizing effect.
When you teleport a target, is the teleportation considered forced movement? The answer is no. The movement might be against the target’s will, but forced movement comes in only three flavors: pulls, pushes, and slides. When the rules refer to forced movement, they do not include teleportation.
You will find these clarifications, and others like them, in the upcoming Rules Compendium. Plus, for an ongoing discussion of teleportation rules, try your hand at Stump the Game Lizards. And as always, send your burning rules questions to: Game Support.