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In my last session, I pit my party against a demilich. The demilich has a movement speed like so: “Speed 0 ft., fly 30 ft. (hover)”

During this combat, the party's druid summoned pixies and used one of them to cast Entangle on it. Entangle reads like this:

Grasping weeds and vines sprout from the ground in a 20-foot square starting from a point within range. For the duration, these plants turn the ground in the area into difficult terrain.

A creature in the area when you cast the spell must succeed on a Strength saving throw or be restrained by the entangling plants until the spell ends. A creature restrained by the plants can use its action to make a Strength check against your spell save DC. On a success, it frees itself.

When the spell ends, the conjured plants wilt away.

Can a hovering creature actually be affected by Entangle?

I personally wasn't sold on the idea that a flying/hovering creature could be effected by Entangle's restraining effects. It seems to me that if the plants were capable of growing enough to reach a flying/hovering creature, there wouldn't be much chance to succeed the STR saving throw, as the plants could easily be above the creature's head on all sides.

I let my player have his moment as it didn't much effect many of the demilich's abilities, but I was curious if anyone had some info on this.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Are you aware of what the "hover" trait/property listed by flying speeds does? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 13 at 22:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, where/how high was the creature in question hovering when the spell was cast? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 13 at 22:39
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RAW is unclear, but likely not

Neither square or hover are clearly defined terms but from their context we can draw decent conclusions.

A hovering creature is still flying and would not be within the 2-D area of effect for entangle.

Entangle's Area of Effect

The area of effect for entangle is a 20-foot square. Square is not one of the shapes listed in the PHB section on areas of effect (PHB, p. 204). The DMG only mentions it as "Cube or Square" when determining the number of creatures within an area for gridless play (DMG, p. 249). Additionally, both the PHB and the DMG are fairly light on 3-dimensional rules like height for things other than cubes, spheres and cylinders.

In contrast the spell web has an area of effect of a 20-foot cube when anchored. Without anchors its area is describe as:

Webs layered over a flat surface have a depth of 5 feet.

We don't have a rule for how high the area of effect for entangle reaches, and therefore how high the demilich would need to be to avoid it.

In my interpretation, square is a 2-dimensional version of cube, therefore it has no height and a creature must be on the ground in the area to be effected. Therefore unless the demilich is touching the ground (which it doesn't need to) it should not be affected.

Hover ability

From the Flying Movement section under Movement and Position (PHB, p. 191) we have the meaning of "hover" (emphasis mine):

If a flying creature is knocked prone, has its speed reduced to 0, or is otherwise deprived of the ability to move, the creature falls, unless it has the ability to hover [...]

The demilich's hover ability prevents it from falling when knocked prone, but otherwise has no effect on area of effect for spells like entangle. It does mean that the demilich can choose to be at any height without fear of touching the ground; however, other than that, it obeys the regular rules for flight.

To clear up confusion, hover is a more powerful version of flight, not less. Would you rule that a creature flying 5ft above the ground is effected by entangle? I would rule that it is not. So a hovering creature would not be effected either.

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    \$\begingroup\$ For further support, the spell also says that only the ground in the area becomes difficult terrain, so it's probably reasonable to say that the restraining effect has the same limitation. Also, you can contrast with the Web spell, which does specify the depth to which it covers the ground when un-anchored. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan Thompson May 14 at 5:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanThompson Thanks for the web example. I think the difficult terrain is a separate effect of the spell so probably doesn't provide great support for this ruling. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin May 14 at 5:21
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It depends on the height of the hover but most likely not more than 10 feet. The spell entangle is obviously intended for mostly just ground and ground-adjacent creatures.

The effect of the spell is "Grasping weeds and vines sprout from the ground"; therefore, the spell should be able to affect vertically however high up the grasping weeds and vines can reach and reasonably restrain. Just because a creature is hovering 1 inch off the ground or a person is sitting on a floating disk or something else doesn't mean it should be immune to entangle.

With how the spell is worded, I believe you can reasonably state the same foliage with the same reach sprouts, but the specific interpretation is left up the the players and DM. Contrast this with the 3.5 wording of the spell:

Grasses, weeds, bushes, and even trees wrap, twist, and entwine about creatures in the area or those that enter the area, holding them fast and causing them to become entangled.

Which leads to situations where the specific ranged and usability could depend on the foliage of the area (as with my old DM), which drove a druid in my party to carry sod around with them as a bonus material component.

As for the concern about the Str check, the growth is only upon first casting of the spell and not impassably thick; after that, they are just plants in an unruly thicket wrapped around all the victims. Instead of it being a cage/canopy of vines, it's more like getting caught in bush with a vine or three twined lying on you.

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