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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 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\$ – Medix2 Apr 14 at 15:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ah I missed that - looks like an important ingredient for this adjudcation \$\endgroup\$ – Lovell Apr 14 at 15:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Imaginary it simply does because the rules say so. But that doesn't seem to be important for the ruling. The "ethereal object" claim is kind of strong, but you can replace it with "a magical, translucent, gray image." \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Apr 14 at 15:44
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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 at 15:58
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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 at 12:48

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