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I encountered a situation where I was Frightened of a large creature. By the words of the Frightened condition:

The creature can’t willingly move closer to the source of its fear.

Could you use the Misty Step spell (or some other means of teleportation) to get closer, since the rules only specifically mention moving closer?

The closest thing I could find was this question about Booming Blade, which seems to suggest that this should be allowed.

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Yes, technically.

By RAW, teleportation does not count as movement.

What counts as movement is implied in the Basic Rules in the section on Adventuring: Movement. Though not necessarily an exclusive enumeration of all possible forms of movement, this section details the following as forms of movement: walking, climbing, jumping, swimming, crawling, and marching. None of these fits the description of instantaneously appearing at another location, so by implication teleportation doesn't count as a form of movement.

In addition, no teleportation spell or feature mentions using one's speed or being limited by one's speed, whereas the Combat: Movement and Position rules explain that movement on your turn involves moving a distance up to your speed by walking, jumping, climbing, or swimming, deducting the distances cumulatively from your speed. Teleportation doesn't fit this description either.

Although there's no rule that explicitly states "teleportation isn't movement," the passages above make it clear that the RAW doesn't include teleportation as a kind of movement.

But it's almost certainly not intended.

By RAI, the point of the frightened condition is clear: if you're frightened, you're too afraid to willingly approach, close the distance with, or otherwise cause yourself to become closer to the source of your fear. The rules are written in simple language ("move closer to"), not technically less ambiguous but unnatural language ("cause yourself via your speed, teleportation, or any other means to become closer to"). That sort of language wouldn't aid comprehension. The rules are supposed to be read at face value, not as a legal document.

So it's pedantic to suggest that teleportation doesn't count, despite the RAW, and a DM could reasonably forbid getting closer to a source of fear via teleportation. I rule in this fashion at my table because the frightened creature in the narrative isn't the rules lawyer at the table; the player might be calm and collected enough to be picky, but the creature just wants to get away.

In the interests of a smooth and non-antagonistic experience at the table, it's probably best if everyone is on the same page with the DM before attempting anything clever. If you're the player, you'd probably better ask how the DM would rule before expecting that teleportation would work.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Apr 1 at 20:46
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If you are subject to being Frightened then you should be role playing being frightened, not trying to rules-lawyer an argument that teleportation is not specifically listed in the PHB section on movement. Frightened does not place a physical restriction on movement that can be circumvented through magical means. It creates an abject and irrational fear, a phobia, that makes you absolutely, completely and in all other ways unwilling to get closer. Period.

If that thing you are afraid of was not a large creature, but was instead a swirling vortex that is going to suck your character inside, chop you into little pieces, then throw the still living bits into the burning pit of Hell, would teleporting closer be any less scary than walking closer? Because that is how your character perceives the thing that it is making them Frightened. If another player or creature tries to drag you closer to the subject of your fear then you should be resisting them more fiercely than a feral cat being dragged towards bathwater. If you are in a raft drifting on a river and the current is carrying you towards the subject of your fear then you should either be trying to row against the current or jumping off the raft to swim for the opposite shore. Even if you are wearing armor and don't know how to swim. You are not thinking sanely, you are only thinking about staying away from that thing.

I believe that NautArch's answer to What is "closer" for the purposes of the frightened condition? could also be copy/pasted as an answer to this question and be equally valid as it is there.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I simplified the question for the sake of generality, but the actual scenario and how it played out was more complicated than that. My rogue has a homebrew dagger that when thrown in an attack, he can spend a reaction to teleport to it, which can circumstantially grant sneak attack. My character was still frightened, and immediately following I had him use all his remaining movement to run as far away as possible, but it did bring up the question between my DM and I. So this was less about rules lawyering or bypassing the frightened state, and more about how to best resolve the concept. \$\endgroup\$ – Mwr247 Apr 1 at 1:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ How is this more complicated? Whether they are using an item or a spell to perform the teleport, it would still be placing them close to the creature and there is no way that they would be willing to go there. He would throw the dagger and then go back for it after the Frightened state was expired or the creature was no longer there. And if he did get teleported there he would be too scared to sneak attack or do anything else except to run away from the creature. \$\endgroup\$ – krb Apr 1 at 1:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Because it's one thing to RAI out "you can't consciously decide to teleport closer" as with Misty Step, but perhaps different to say "you cant make an attack that teleports you closer as a side effect" such as with this. Maybe it should be the same, but it's still a more unique situation, as would something like "could I use Thorn Whip to pull it closer?". I understand your point about emphasizing RP which is good, but the way you phrase it comes across as restrictive to RP, because it condemns rule lawyering while also defining an absolute rule itself. \$\endgroup\$ – Mwr247 Apr 1 at 4:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Does the dagger automatically teleport you or do you choose whether or not to spend a reaction on a teleport? If you have the choice of spending a reaction to teleport then being Frightened would prevent you from choosing to teleport to a location close to the creature. Whether the action is a side effect of some other action or not makes no difference in this. At the any point that you are able to make a choice, being frightened is going to prevent you from choosing any option that moves you closer. \$\endgroup\$ – krb Apr 1 at 5:07
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It's certainly a violation of the spirit of the rule but I would not categorically prohibit it. Rather, I would look at the threat the creature poses. You're frightened of a creature without ranged attacks and which is confined to the ground--I would permit teleporting to an inaccessible platform even if that was closer to the creature--but only so long as there wasn't a point of equivalent safety that was also farther away.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I was about to remark on that. you can teleport to a location that is technically closer but where the creature can't reach you, but i would first check the level of fright before trying this as it requires pinpoint precision which is impossible when you are in a potential ptsd situation \$\endgroup\$ – Mickey Perlstein Apr 1 at 12:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MickeyPerlstein I don't see it requiring any special level of precision, you always specify your exact arrival point. The best way to get away from a creature is to go where it can't follow, teleportation seems like a very good way to do that. \$\endgroup\$ – Loren Pechtel Apr 1 at 18:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ imagine yourself on the Kilimanjaro mountain, about 450m above the floor when suddenly you see a mountain lion with 5 heads in front of you. behind it is a chest with a golden sheath. the one you were looking for. in order to get it you need to teleoprt yourself just behind it. around it are leaves.. if you teleport to too loudly or step on the dead leaves it will notice you. in this situation, do you not check your fright level and compound it on how well the spell works? - thats my point. you dont have to accept it. i believe emotions and fear play a huge role in decision and abilities. \$\endgroup\$ – Mickey Perlstein Apr 28 at 12:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MickeyPerlstein That's an example of teleporting into a position of higher danger, something that you certainly wouldn't do if Frightened. Instead, consider three hours ago--I was at the base of a waterfall. Put the same lion there. The trail had patches of slush and snow that had to be traversed carefully, running would have been extremely dangerous. What's the best escape? Teleport to the top of the falls. It doesn't matter if it's closer to the lion or not, it's much safer. \$\endgroup\$ – Loren Pechtel Apr 28 at 21:03
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No, teleporting to the target means you are now closer than you were

"Moving" closer means being physically closer

I think you may be reading more into this than necessary, but the language of can't move closer is really as simple as can not get physically closer. If at any point in the target's turn they try to be physically closer to the source of their fear, they can not continue and must choose a new path.

As soon as your actions put you in a position that is closer than where you were when first affected, you must not choose to be closer.

Scary monsters!

Remember, you are frightened! You do not want to get anywhere physically closer to your fear. It's all about proximity, that's all your thinking about. It's not about time to travel to get to them, it's about being close to them. And that's exactly where you don't want to be. You are not thinking logically, you are reacting irrationally to your fear.

Fear is a funny thing

The role-playing goal here is to play scared. If you've got an idea that plays that, and aren't trying to get close enough for a spell or attack, then by all means describe it to the DM. Rule of Cool is cool.

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No. They can not teleport closer to them.

Under Movement and Position in the PHB, it states the following:

Your movement can include jumping.....

emphasis mine

It makes no suggestion that this covers all forms of movement, nor could it. According to this "teleport is not movement" interpretation, swinging on a vine, driving a wagon, falling, riding in an out of control mine cart, or allowing a buddy to push you would not be movement. I think we can agree that each example I used, E pur si muove.

Just because it is not listed under examples of movement does not mean it is not movement.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "I think we can agree that each example I used, E pur si muove." - We can not. At least in the context of the frightened condition, being shoved, falling, and remaining in an out-of-control mine cart are not "willingly" moving. While I might agree that they shouldn't be able to (willingly) teleport closer to the source of their fear, I don't agree that that is what the rules state, and definitely don't agree with the logic you use to arrive at that conclusion. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 1 at 21:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ If a player voluntarily jumped into a wagon heading to a source of fear, then claimed that movement was involuntary, I think most people would call BS. So to for anyone voluntarily staying in a vehicle moving towards a fear source, or directing their mount to go their and claiming "I'm not moving". \$\endgroup\$ – JWT May 18 at 14:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's absolutely a reasonable house-rule, but I don't think it's supported by RAW. I'd love to see some more solid evidence that shows otherwise. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 18 at 18:29

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