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I would like to know if an Echo, created by the Manifest Echo ability of an Echo Knight, can move through the space of another creatures (hostile or not)?

I know characters cannot normally move through an enemy's space, and can move through an ally's space with some movement cost. But based on multiple unofficial tweets by Jeremy Crawford, an Echo itself is not considered a creature, and instead is listed as an "image" and an "object" .

It is also worth noting that and Echo "...occupies its space", per the subclass description, and thus I'm not sure how to rule it.

This question relates directly to, "Can another creature move through the Echo Knight fighter's Manifest Echo's space?"

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Sometimes; it's complicated

The echo's movement in relation to other creatures is governed by a slightly obscure set of rules: The echo is not a creature, but it occupies its space, which is an attribute normally only ascribed to creatures. The rules which govern how space is occupied refer explicitly to creatures and movement, and do not map neatly on to non-creatures with no movement speed.

In this answer, I make three assertions about the echo's movement, each of which is less certain than the one preceding:

  1. The echo cannot move through the space of a hostile creature (unless it's much bigger or smaller than the echo)
  2. The echo can move through the space of a non-hostile creature (or a very big/small hostile creature) without penalty
  3. The echo cannot 'end its move' in another creature's space (an imaginative ruling because the echo does not have a 'move' to end)

I'll try to justify these below, but in so doing I'll be making the best of a bad job: the rules for the echo's movement are poorly written, and require imaginative interpretation. I'll illustrate this by going through some of the factors which complicate the ruling.

Complicating factors

There are several factors which suggest that the echo's movement might not be inhibited by other creatures:

1. The Echo isn't a creature

The basic rules impose the following restrictions on player movement, which are assumed to extend to all creatures, except in the case of exceptions:

You can move through a nonhostile creature’s space. In contrast, you can move through a hostile creature’s space only if the creature is at least two sizes larger or smaller than you. Remember that another creature's space is difficult terrain for you

Since the echo isn't a creature, it's not immediately obvious that these rules have any bearing on it, or for other creatures wishing to move through its space.

2. The Echo doesn't have a movement speed

None of the rules for movement, including the above, can be applied directly to the echo, because the echo does not 'move' in the way that creatures move. It has no speed of any kind, and moves 'up to 30 feet in any direction' when mentally instructed to do so by the Echo Knight. This movement includes upwards movement and is more akin to a caster moving their Mage Hand than to a creature expending their movement to traverse space in a physical way.

3. The echo is an image

Even if the Echo weren't a creature and didn't have a speed, it might still be constrained by the common sense adjudication that corporeal bodies cannot pass through one another freely. The echo, however is:

a magical, translucent, gray image

One might argue that a 'magical image' can pass through pretty much anything. There's not a great deal of clarity here because the echo has an AC and no resistances/immunities. It's an image you can hit with a stick.

But there is one big restriction on the echo's movement

All of the above is overwritten by the ruling that the echo:

... is the same size as you, and it occupies its space.

'Occupy' and 'space' here are not meant in their most general sense, but are mechanical terms usually reserved for creatures. So whilst the echo is not a creature, it inherits the capacity of creatures to occupy space, and the restrictions of space-occupation which come with them. Whilst these rules refer explicitly to creatures being unable to occupy one another's space, they are extended to the echo because the echo is a space-occupier even though it's not a creature. This is a difficult edge case brought about by poorly written rules.

What does this mean in practise?

Implications of this constraint

The echo cannot move through the space of a hostile creature (unless it's much bigger or smaller)

Creatures, which occupy space,

can move through a Hostile creature’s space only if the creature is at least two sizes larger or smaller than [they are]

Since the echo occupies space, it follows that this restriction is applied to the echo's movement

The echo can move through a non-hostile creature's space (or the space of a much bigger or smaller hostile creature)

This is where it starts to get a little messy. The rules for players state that

another creature’s space is Difficult Terrain for you

Difficult terrain means double movement cost. The echo does not have a speed and does not use speed to move, so 'difficult terrain' is meaningless. Because:

  • Space-occupiers can enter the space of another creature
  • The echo is has no speed and is thus unaffected by difficult terrain

The echo simply moves through the spaces of passable creatures without penalty

The echo cannot end its movement in another creature's space

This is where it really starts to break down. The echo does not expend movement, and so cannot 'end its movement' anywhere. I would argue here for what I think is the most intuitive ruling: The Echo Knight cannot stop moving their echo in the space of another creature, and is only permitted to move the echo through another creature's space.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If the Echo is ethereal, how can it "occupies its space"? \$\endgroup\$
    – Imaginary
    Apr 14, 2021 at 15:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is worth mentioning that the echo can only be manifested in "an unoccupied space" and that "it occupies its space". You should probably address how these do or do not affect what you've written \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14, 2021 at 15:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ah I missed that - looks like an important ingredient for this adjudcation \$\endgroup\$
    – Lovell
    Apr 14, 2021 at 15:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've literally changed my mind and edited my 'yes' answer to a 'no'. That way I can get upvotes from everyone! \$\endgroup\$
    – Lovell
    Apr 14, 2021 at 15:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would recommend removing "ethereal" completely, as that general has a mechanical meaning in D&D regarding the ethereal plane. It also isn't totally "incorporeal" because it has AC and HP. It'd be a big improvement if you can address those issues as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Apr 15, 2021 at 11:40
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It is unclear, so the table needs to decide

Unfortunately, this mechanic of the Echo Knight is incredibly unclear as to how to adjudicate these things for moving it. I have reviewed other potential similar mechanic like spiritual weapon or telekinesis, but none of those have the same properties of the Echo Knight.

Which leaves us with a giant shrug as to what to do. In these cases, it comes down to the player talking to the DM about what they feel is fair, reasonable, and fun. There is no 'wrong' answer here, but you should think about the potential consequences for each decision.

Looking at how this might affect gameplay of movement, positioning, and battlefield control, it's important to think about the edge cases - but you're not going to cover them all. And that's okay! When they come up, discuss together and be reasonable. If the DM provides an unhappy result, table the argument until after the game and discuss why you didn't like it and what you think a good compromise could be.

Prepare in advance

Given the lack of clarity about this subclass in general, if a player is considering choosing it then they should discuss these issues with the DM prior to playing. Making sure everyone understands the gray areas, what ambiguities need to be agreed on, and that judgments may come up that require an immediate ruling will go a long way to to mitigating any unhappiness and setting the expectation that this subclass is a little loosey goosey.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ A fun aspect of images is that they are a mental state perception, but they perceive "you," a creature. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Apr 15, 2021 at 12:48
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The creature whose space it moves through chooses

Most of the arguments that the echo cannot move through a creatures space rely on the wording " occupies space" which does not in my opinion have any rules attached to it which are relevant. The only other place where anything like it is used is with illusory dragon but that states "occupies space as if it were a creature" which in my opinion is the wording they should have used if they meant for it to block a space like a creature.

People are correctly pointing out that it appears that they intended for it to act as a creature because they went to the effort of saying "it occupies space" and saying it occupies space as anything other than a creature is meaningless because there are no rules for objects occupying a space. Objects in a space at most act as terrain like a rock on the path and don't block movement like a creature does unless the object leaves no gap big enough. However I think there are rules which apply to both objects and creatures moving through spaces.

The wording for moving through a creatures space in the basic rules is:

You can move through a nonhostile creature’s space. In contrast, you can move through a hostile creature’s space only if the creature is at least two sizes larger or smaller than you. Remember that another creature’s space is difficult terrain for you. Whether a creature is a friend or an enemy, you can’t willingly end your move in its space. If you leave a hostile creature’s reach during your move, you provoke an opportunity attack, as explained later in the chapter.

It doesn't specify if "you" is a creature or object and so in my opinion that means it applies to both. Meaning that if a creature wishes to block anything moving through it's square it can choose to regardless of if that thing is a creature or object to do so. For example, a ghost cannot drag a medium statue through a creatures space even though the ghost can move through the creatures space and the statue is not a creature. Similarly it means that the echo which as an object is like a statue cannot move though a creatures space if that creature is hostile. To be able to do that it would need a feature like the ghost saying it can move through things.

In summary the echo as written is like a chair. It sits in the middle of a 5ft square and creatures can easily move around it because it doesn't move unless commanded but if it tries to move through a 5ft square with a creature, that creature can if it wants easily move to be in its way. If they intended it to act as a creature then they should have said so but if they do intend it that way then it is still blocked by another creature being in a square but can also block creatures trying to move through it's square.

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The echo does not follow the movement rules

This is the rule you are thinking of:

You can move through a nonhostile creature's space. In contrast, you can move through a hostile creature's space only if the creature is at least two sizes larger or smaller than you. Remember that another creature's space is difficult terrain for you.

However, the movement rules are for characters and monsters using their speed to move. That's the scope of those rules, they don't apply to objects or images that don't have speed and are being magically moved.

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Additional clarity to enhance the accepted answer

The accepted answer here says:

  1. The echo is an image Even if the Echo weren't a creature and didn't have a speed, it might still be constrained by the common sense adjudication that corporeal bodies cannot pass through one another freely. The echo, however is:

a magical, translucent, gray image

One might argue that a 'magical image' can pass through pretty much anything. There's not a great deal of clarity here because the echo has an AC and no resistances/immunities. It's an image you can hit with a stick.

What is an image?

There is more clarity about a magical image than you might think at first. The PHB mentions the word 'image' 47 times. 42/47 times, it is an illusion. 3 of the other 5 times it is a representation of a deity like an icon, and 2 times it is a mental visualization. None of those apply here. EVERY other time it is an illusion.

In most cases, the word 'manifest' is just something formed by magic, with varying degrees of substance.

A bit of weak precedent for 'real' illusions

Illusion spells w/ some substance: Phantasmal Force is an illusion that is real to the victim only, and can harm them with psychic damage. Phantom Steed is a quasi-real creature with a stat block. This spell uses the word 'manifest'.

Apparently, there are still differing levels of 'real' that an illusion can be. That appeared a lot more in 3.5e.

So this echo may occupy space, but it does so only as an illusion that can magically manifest a few hostile actions from the Echo Knight, not as a stat blocked creature with moves, actions, and reactions, but better than an Unseen Servant.

This illusory object is a lot like a certain conjured force object

An Unseen Servant (Level 1 Conjuration) is another object described as an invisible, shapeless, mindless force. Again, you command it with your mind, and it can 'interact with an object', but it has no creature stat block or actions.

Its motion is described very similarly to the Manifest Echo:

you can mentally command the X to move up to Y feet

Moving the Unseen Servant is as a bonus action by the caster, and the mental command of the Manifest Echo has no action required. However, there is a clarifying sentence at the end of Unseen Servant that says,

If you command the servant to perform a task that would move it more than 60 feet away from you, the spell ends.

This says the mental command is what moves the Unseen Servant, not its own move. Just like with the Echo Knight, there are no real mentions of it possessing any actions, only an AC, 2 hp, a strength of 2, and the ability to 'Use an Object'.

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