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The Player's Handbook clearly states a creature can't run through difficult terrain.

However, the level 6 scout class feature flawless stride says that "a scout can move through any sort of terrain that slows movement (such as undergrowth, rubble, and similar terrain) at her normal speed and without taking damage or suffering any other impairment" (Complete Adventurer 13)

  • The text says normal speed so it may mean that the scout is only allowed to move through the difficult terrain at his base land speed, as opposed to the 4 or 5 times his speed that running allows.
  • However, the text may also be understood as allowing the scout to move through the terrain without a penalty on movement.
  • The PH says that "it is impossible to run or charge through any square that would hamper your movement." However the extraordinary ability flawless stride says that you do not suffer any impairment (or hampering) from difficult terrain.

The way I see it (or the way I would like it to be) is that a scout can run through difficult terrain, but still can't run through darkness or any other square that hampers movement that isn't difficult terrain. Is there a different way to read this?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour! Thank you for a great first question. Enjoy your stay and have fun. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 6 '17 at 13:08
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“Being unable to run” is definitely “some other impairment” and flawless stride thus ignores it. So a scout is never prevented from running (or otherwise moving exactly how she would like to and otherwise could) by the features of a square. Darkness isn’t a feature of the square, and yes the scout still needs line-of-sight, but “terrain” offers no impediment. (More on that “terrain” in a bit.)

This is a basic function of the rules, which are known as “exception-based.” There are general rules for things (no running through difficult terrain), and then classes, items, feats, spells, and so on grant “exceptions,” which are basically little, specific forms of sanctioned “cheating,” breaking the general rules (in this case, the scout’s ability to move unhindered through terrain, which allows her to break the rule about not running through difficult terrain among other things).

That said, there are still some sticking points worth describing.

First, what is “normal speed”? Generally speaking, the rules refer to “how things would otherwise be if the exception we’re talking about wasn’t in play” as “normal.” This is really awkward and occasionally confusing, for example with polymorphing where one’s “normal” form is the form you had prior to casting the polymorph effect—not necessarily some “base” or “natural” form. But nonetheless, the rules are pretty consistent about this definition, and it certainly makes the most sense here. Clearly, the flawless stride ability should not be preventing the scout from benefiting from some movement speed bonus and locking her to some “normal speed.”

Secondly, what actually is “terrain”? The DMG describes a number of environmental features as “terrain” and it is conceivable that the flawless stride refers to only these things (the parenthetical examples in flawless stride, certainly, are all these sorts of terrain). However, personally I would certainly also include any sort of “difficult terrain” as a type of terrain that flawless stride allows you to ignore, even if not part of any of the DMG’s “terrains.”

Actually, myself, I would allow the scout to ignore any amount of undergrowth, brambles, sticky goo, and so on, as long as it wasn’t magical. And that can even include spell effects! Spellcasters are awfully fond of their instantaneous creation spells that operate just fine in an antimagic field since those effects are “not magic,” so I would certainly be inclined to force them to put their money where their mouth is and consistently have it be non-magical—including allowing a scout to ignore it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Given that terrain is a used-in-the-game term (starting on DMG 97) and that the class feature flawless stride uses examples from different kinds of terrain, are you certain it's not more specific than this answer may lead readers to believe? Or do you want to stand by this answer and rather my own should address the possibility that the special ability flawless stride is more specific? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 6 '17 at 13:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan What is the nature of the specificity you have in mind? What sorts of things would you think are excluded that I’m including? \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 6 '17 at 13:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ The DMG specifies terrain features (like undergrowth on 87 and light and dense rubble on 91) that, to me, makes it sound like the scout only avoids hampered movement from specifically named terrain features rather than "sticky goo and so on." I assume a lot of DMs ignore those terrain features or make up what terrain features do on the spot, but I use them, and I would only allow the scout to move through, for instance, magically created difficult terrain if it emulated one of those terrain features. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 6 '17 at 13:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I can see it; wouldn’t rule that way myself (at least for a scout) but I believe in answers being complete and accurate. I’ll add something when I get a chance—but don’t let that stop you from adding your own if you like. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 6 '17 at 13:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Ah, nope, that’s just what I get for not double-checking the book. Will fix. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 6 '17 at 16:09
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I've always read normal speed in the description of the scout's extraordinary ability flawless stride as meaning the scout's current speed—that is the scout's speed not reduced by the terrain features—not as, for example, the scout's base speed from the scout's race absent class features and magic. (This is something to work out with the DM, though, as the game makes speed a difficult concept and normal speed even moreso! Also, this player would look askance at a DM who ruled my scout no longer benefited from an ongoing effect like expeditious retreat or longstrider specifically because my scout possessed the extraordinary ability flawless stride and happened to prance into some dense rubble!)

With that in mind, this DM would rule that when the extraordinary ability flawless stride says a "scout can move through any sort of terrain that slows movement… at her normal speed" (Complete Adventurer 13), that move includes running, and that normal speed is the scout's speed right now.

However, this DM doesn't view the special ability flawless stride as a panacea for all kinds of difficult terrain. The term terrain in this context—considering the parenthetical examples—seems to be used specifically to indicate the environment in which encounters occur. The Dungeon Master's Guide has some terrains (e.g. forest (87-8), marsh (88-9), hills (89)) and other books like Stormwrack add more terrains. These terrains have terrain features that can hamper a creature's movement—for example, this particular patch of forest terrain may have light or heavy undergrowth, that particular section of marsh may have shallow bogs, and those hills may have steep slopes.

It's through squares containing these terrain features that a scout that possesses the extraordinary ability flawless stride can move normally. Other forms of unlisted difficult terrain hamper the scout normally. This DM would likely have no problem extending the mandate of the special ability flawless stride to original or new terrain features found in a published or homemade adventure, but unique or magical difficult terrain (like that created by the special ability bulwark of defense of the knight (Player's Handbook II 28)) will continue to hamper the scout normally despite the scout possessing the special ability flawless stride.

(If this is the sole reason for taking scout to level 6, consider instead—if the wearer doesn't mind being tracked—the feet slot magic item vanguard treads (Magic Item Compendium 145) (3,100 gp; 2 lbs.) that have much the same effect and more.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I am surprised at your exclusion of the knight’s bulwark of defense, and other features and effects that explicitly create “difficult terrain,” by name. I think you have a point about ground-based hazards not explicitly described as terrain, like grease, but bulwark of defense is. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 6 '17 at 14:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan It's a byproduct of the game's limited imagination and lack of a thesaurus: difficult terrain and terrain are two different things, much like damage and ability damage and cover and total cover are different things. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 6 '17 at 14:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, well. I don’t find the argumentation convincing, at any rate. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 6 '17 at 14:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Fortunately, unconvincing needn't mean not useful. (From a fluff perspective, I think flawless stride is supposed to represent the scout's intimate familiarity with land-based hazards—being able to stride flawless through a bog because the dude knows bogs—so it would, in my opinion, not apply to something like a knight whirling a spiked chain!) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 6 '17 at 14:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would also exclude "bulwark of defense" because it says that every square the knight threatens must be treated "as difficult terrain", which does not mean that it actually is difficult terrain. Also it does not make sense from an RP-perspective; the knight does not magically alter the terrain to become more difficult. \$\endgroup\$ – TheQ Jun 6 '17 at 14:31

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