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A PC traps an enemy inside a cage-shaped Forcecage:

A prison in the shape of a cage can be up to 20 feet on a side and is made from 1/2-inch diameter bars spaced 1/2 inch apart.

How should ranged and melee attacks against this enemy be adjudicated, given the size of the gaps between the bars? Some considerations:

  • Some kind of cover should surely apply
  • Should all types of weapons be able to attack? e.g. it might be easier to attack with a piercing weapon than a bludgeoning/slashing weapon, or some weapons, like a Maul, might simply be too large to attack through the bars
  • The bars are invisible, so it's hard/impossible to work out where you should be shooting/stabbing (without giving the enemy inside very advance warning you're about to stab through that particular location), although this consideration could be negated if the group had Faerie Fire or similar anti-invisibility measures
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Clearly, any weapon wider than a half-inch in any dimension can't reach through the bars at all. A half-inch is rather tiny; most broadhead arrows and crossbow bolts won't even fit through that. Blowgun needles and spells* are probably the only things you can get through those bars without custom designing weapons meant to fire or reach between such tiny gaps.

*and not even all spells, if they create a projectile of some sort that's more than a half-inch across; that's just approximately one and a quarter centimeters, if that's your preferred unit.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Various looking around on the internet (although nothing solid enough to cite) indicate that most swords are less than a half-inch thick in their thinned dimension. (likewise broadhead arrows). Of course having to stick your sword/arrow through the bars in a particular orientation would make it harder to successfully hit anything. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vigil
    Apr 26, 2019 at 15:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ In their thinnest dimension, sure. But outside of certain rapiers and epees, they're not less than half an inch in both dimensions they'd need to be to stick through a mesh cage. Unless you're saying the bars only run one way, but that gets tricky since it's not a flat plane, but rather a cube. I'll admit I have no proof the bars run both ways, but it makes the most sense to me. Have an OOTS link: vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/oots/images/d/d0/OOTS0627.gif/… \$\endgroup\$ Apr 28, 2019 at 8:39
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You can shoot arrows and bolts through the cage against half or three-quarter cover

Ranged Weapons

Projectiles that are very narrow, like blogun needles should of work. Sling bullets would be too wide. You should be able to shoot into the cage with arrows and crossbow bolts:

Medieval arrowheads range in width from 1 - 2.5 cm (about 0.4 to 1 inch). In particular, armor piercing arrows used in combat tend to have narrow heads, of about 0.4 inch at their widest point. The game does not model the mechanics finely enough to disambiguate between flight arrows and armor-piercing arrows, but given that the player characters typically engage more in combat against armored enemies than in hunting where wider-headed hunting arrows would be preferrable, the PCs likely buy arrows that would fit through the forcecage's spaces.

The situation for crossbow bolts appears similar,with armor piercing ones having widths of less than half an inch, so they likewise should be possible to shoot into the cage.

Spells. You also should be able to shoot in with spells like fire bolt, ray of frost or eldritch blast, which do not define a width of their projectiles (and in the case of fire or frost also might be flexible in shape), but of course, this may be up to the discretion of the DM.

Cover

The bars of forcecage are as wide as the spaces in between, so they cover half of the caged creatures body if there are no crossbars, or three quarters if there are crossbars spaced the same distance. The spell unfortunately does not state how the bars are arranged, so it is up to the DM to decide how much cover they afford. Without crossbars, or wider spaced crossbars, half cover:

A target has half cover if an obstacle blocks at least half of its body.

With even spaced crossbars, three quarters cover:

A target has three-quarters cover if about three-quarters of it is covered by an obstacle.

Melee weapons

Only weapons less than half an inch wide will be able to attack targets in the cage. Even a narrow piercing weapon like a rapier would not fit in any orientation, as the blade of a medieval rapier such as used in the game would be wider than half an inch, and the same goes for the stiletto knife (which also may be too short to reach the target). That means melee weapons will not work normally.

In case there are no narrow crossbars, and for bladed weapons, you could stab with the blade aligned so it slides between with the narrow side, but that very likely should create adverse conditions, as you cannot use your normal movement pattern, so I'd assume this happens with Disadvantage.

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The description of Forcecage and the English definition of cage don’t explicitly mention crossbars. So it would depend on how the DM interprets a cage. The space between the bars could be 1/2” by 1/2” meaning anything wider than about 45/64” or just under 18mm on the hypotenuse would not fit. Or the space between the bars could be 1/2” by 20 feet without crossbars, meaning most swords with the exception the Great Sword would fit. Even without crossbars the attack would have to be made through invisible bars making it extremely difficult.

As far as how attacks are handled, could depend on the weapon used. A Human with a Rapier may not have an issue stabbing through, while the Elf’s Short Sword might be bouncing off. You could impose Half/Three-Quarters/Total Cover depending on weapon used.

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