What penalties to movement apply to the following scenario containing multiple hazards?

Alvy is a Ponykind Unicorn (from the Ponyfinder campaign setting) - she is a medium-sized quadruped with a movement speed of 50 (35 in armor). She is on the first floor of a house; on the floor above her, a battle is taking place that her allies are already engaged in. On her initiative, she wants to navigate several terrain obstacles in order to get into the fight.

First, she must run up a set of stairs which are half of a square (2.5 feet) wide. Halfway up the stairs, they become concealed in an area of magical darkness. At the top of the darkened staircase, the hallway takes a 180-degree turn, going back the other way in the other half of the same squares (still 2.5 feet wide, still concealed in darkness). Somewhere down the hallway, outside the darkness and first door on the left, the battle can be found.

enter image description here

There are multiple potential obstacles that might impede Alvy based on the rules:

  • The stairs might be considered Difficult Terrain
  • The stairs are half-sized, which may require squeezing
  • The darkness may make movement difficult
  • The sudden change of direction in the hallway while moving through darkness might cause her to bump into walls (V is not familiar with the building layout)
  • The hallway may also require squeezing

How would these issues effect Alvy? Which of these problems stack which each other to create a more complex problem, and which do not? If Alvy possessed some special ability that allowed her to ignore Difficult Terrain, which of these hazards may it or may it not negate.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Mad paint skills. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 12:20

2 Answers 2


There are three conditions hampering you here:

  • Difficult terrain, which costs double the movement rate to enter a square;
  • Poor visibility, which also doubles the movement cost to enter each square, and since those stack, each square will require quadruple the movement rate.
  • Squeezing, as your character is larger than the area she is trying to walk into, and as such will also double the movement rate to enter a square;

Hampered Movement: Difficult terrain, obstacles, and poor visibility can hamper movement (see Table: Hampered Movement for details). When movement is hampered, each square moved into usually counts as two squares, effectively reducing the distance that a character can cover in a move.

All three conditions stack:

If more than one hampering condition applies, multiply all additional costs that apply. This is a specific exception to the normal rule for doubling.

The core rulebook (p.194, 6th printing) explains what this means with an example:

If movement cost is doubled twice, then each square counts as 4 squares (or as 6 squares if moving diagonally). If movement cost is 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.

Which means that to enter a square of difficult terrain costs 10 ft, while to enter a square that you have poor visibility costs another 10 ft, and to squeeze into an area you don't normally fit will cost another 20 ft. This means that each 5 ft square that you want to walk that has three different conditions will cost you 40 ft of movement (or eight times the normal).

Considering your images and that your current position is square #0:

  • The first 2 squares would cost you 20 ft of movement each. (40 ft total);
  • While squares #3 and #4 will cost you 40 ft of movement. (120 ft total);
  • The top of the stairs (#5) is merely under darkness, and that will cost you 10 ft of movement. (130 ft total);
  • The final hallway has poor visibility and you will have to squeeze, so squares #6-8 will cost you 20 ft of movement each. (190 ft total);
  • And finally, that last square (#9) will cost you 10 ft of movement as you still have to squeeze yourself. (200 ft total)

visual reference

After all that, your movement is back to normal.

If you have 50 ft of movement, this means that you can move up to 100 ft per round (double move) and end your movement at square #3 a the end of the first turn, then move the rest of the way through this adverse environment, stopping right at square #7 (squeezing and in darkness). On the third turn you should be able to enter the room, after squeezing past squares #8 and #9.

It's much worse if she is armored (35 ft movement), meaning that she only has 70 ft of movement per round. She will end the first turn in square #2, as she does not have enough to enter the third (requires 80 ft movement). She will end her second and third turns on squares #3 and #4, respectively, for the same reason. She will end her fourth turn on square #8, and on the fifth turn you are able to walk into the room.

If she has any ability to ignore Difficult Terrain, that means that the squares that have stairs would cost only 10 ft of movement instead of 20 ft, or 20 ft in darkness. As such, she will end her first turn on square #5, then end her second turn on square #9, and finally, she can spend a single move action to walk into the room.

You cannot, however, move diagonally from #10 directly into the room (CRB, p. 193), because the wall counts as a corner:

You can’t move diagonally past a corner (even by taking a 5-foot step).

  • \$\begingroup\$ "But since you are medium(long), that means your body is still halfway through the stairs" - Could you explain this a bit more? I was under the impression that this would not be the case, since the top of the stairs is large enough to fit the entire character. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 13:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Could Alvy hop up over the railing in square 6 to avoid completely square 5? Or would that hop up just end up costing 40 ft. of movement, too? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 14:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras I may be confused about the difference. I was under the impression that (tall) and (long) were the only two options - thus a wolf would be (long) as well. Nevertheless, both she and the wolf occupy only 1 square, as far as I understand. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 14:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ If she makes a DC 40 check (she has +8 due to 50 ft speed) she could skip #4, #5 and #6 and land straight into #7, by moving 30 ft (10 from the jump, plus 20 to enter that square). \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 14:10
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras My apologies, I must have been thinking of older 3.x stuff. I've removed references to the long type, and you should probably do the same. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 14:13

I shall happily explain this problem to the best of my ability, but be warned that it will be verbose and take several stages. If you don't want to read the whole thing, just skip to the TL,DR at the end.

Though some links in the page currently go nowhere at the moment, The following page that this link is connected to dictates that each of the conditions double into each other as they appear specifically under the Hampered Movement table and the combat section immediately afterwards.

Purely by the numbers, if the stairs were considered difficult terrain along with the inherent cramped passage, it would cost Alvy 20ft (4 spaces) to move 5ft (1 Space). As soon as the stairs move into the shadows, this multiplies into 40ft (8 spaces) for the same cost, though since this would exceed Vs' current movement, this would be a full round action. Number-wise, the bend doesn't count, but once Alvy is out of the shadow and stairs, the penalty would be 10ft for every 5ft.

However, the GM should also consider the body type of Alvy as well as the context of each obstacle. While a small area and difficult terrain each count as obstacles, putting them together might actually be no more difficult. Considering the Stairway is ascending rather than descending, the tooth-like construction would be negligible to Alvy who would be propped between the 2 walls and wouldn't need to struggle as hard reaching a surface to find proper footing. In the same vein, it would be a nightmare to return down the stairs since Alvy would need to shimmy down to each step on top of through the stairway, a situation that could logically negate an effect that ignored difficult terrain, unless it involved intangibility. Another way ascending this passage would give the maximum x4 penalty would be if the stairs were covered in something slick, or if there was loose sand instead of stairs. The biggest problem yet would be the 180 degree bend at the landing; while a bipedal creature physically could turn on a dime, a quadrupedal creature needs a minimum turning radius in order to move. As a real life example, if a dog were to move behind a couch in the corner of a room, it would move backward rather than try and force the turn at the corner. With this in mind, if the landing was any smaller than shown in the pictures Alvy would not be able to ascend further than the landing.


Number-wise, Alvy would be taking a 4 space penalty at the beginning, an 8 space penalty at the shadows, an ultimately negligible 16 space penalty at the bend(directional squeezing) and a 2 space penalty in the upstairs hallway.

Logic-wise, Alvy would take a 2 space penalty at the beginning, a 4 space penalty at the shadows, the landing would almost be impassible due to bodytype, the upstairs hall would be the same 2 space penalty, and descending the stairs after the combat would be double the costs to ascend

In the end, just remember to double the movement penalty for each obstacle unless the context for the obstacle would make them negligible or impassible

  • \$\begingroup\$ Very good answer. I think I may have misused the word landing, however - the bend comes at the top of the stairs, not in the middle of them. This portion is also a full 5-foot square, so I think there are no impassibility issues. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 23:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have now included a picture, in case that helps anything. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 23:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ sorry, thought that the landing was considerably smaller than that \$\endgroup\$
    – Areadbhair
    Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 1:06
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ No problem, it's my fault. Just edit your answer accordingly. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 1:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not to be too picky, but regarding the editing, I think the sections about the top of the stairs should be removed entirely now that it's a 5-foot-square? It no longer involves squeezing, shouldn't have x16 movement penalty, is no longer relevant to body type, and is probably not actually called a landing. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 12:01

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