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If a creature succeeds in its saving throw to avoid being restrained by Maximilian’s Earthen Grasp, can it use its movement to move through it (or jump over it, or squeeze through it)?

The description of the spell says that it is medium, but I don't know if the RAI of this is to specify that it has a 'reach' of 8 squares around it (versus 12 squares if it was a large hand), or to specify that it should be treated as a hostile creature (can't move through it)

I think for it's not likely that a level 2 spell blocks movement (compared to level 5 Wall of Force, for example)

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I would rule that the hand's space is difficult terrain

The relevant part of the spell text for Maximilian’s Earthen Grasp says:

You choose a 5-foot-square unoccupied space on the ground that you can see within range. A Medium hand made from compacted soil rises there and reaches for one creature you can see within 5 feet of it.

(The rest of the spell text just deals with what the hand can do, not what space it occupies, so it is not relevant here.)

The spell doesn't explicitly say whether or to what degree the hand impedes creatures attempting to move through its space, so we have to make a ruling based on just this text. As it is, we know that the hand is made from compacted soil and is medium-sized. If we forget about the fact that it is animated for a moment, I would say a 5-foot-tall stationary sculpture of a hand made from compacted soil would be enough of an impediment to turn that space into difficult terrain. Animating that hand isn't going to make it any easier to get past, so I would likewise rule that the hand's space is difficult terrain. The extra movement spent moving through its space represents the creature needing to clamber up over it or squeeze around the side in order to get past it (similar to the rules for squeezing).

More generally, my answer is that the DM should make a ruling based on the physical description of the hand provided in the spell. I've made a case for difficult terrain as an appropriate ruling, but you might rule otherwise.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It could be a reasonable ruling, but it depends on how this spell is interpreted: this magic hand could be completely motionless until the caster commands to do something, or if it is holding a creature it does not pose any serious difficulties in moving through its space. Moreover, Medium size creature are 4 to 8 feet tall, nowhere it is written that it is a 5-feet tall hand. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Aug 12, 2021 at 20:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Eddymage My point is that even if it's completely motionless, it's still enough of an obstacle to qualify as difficult terrain. And yes, the hand is not necessarily 5 feet tall. I just gave that as an average for "medium size". \$\endgroup\$ Aug 13, 2021 at 2:09
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You can pass through the space occupied by the hand.

The spell's description does not classify the hand as a creature (such as the Animate Objects spell does, for example), hence the following rules about Moving Around Other Creatures (emphasis mine) should not be applied:

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.

By description, the hand affects the 8 squares around it (emphasis mine):

You choose a 5-foot-square unoccupied space on the ground that you can see within range. A Medium hand made from compacted soil rises there and reaches for one creature you can see within 5 feet of it.

This gives you the reach of the hand for the initial cast of the spell and for subsequent attempts to catch an enemy. The Medium size tells us that the reach of the hand includes the 8 neighbors around the square in which the hand takes place.

Note that passing close to the hand (i.e. inside its reach of 5 feet) does not provoke an opportunity attack, since the hand is not a creature nor does the description allow for opportunity attacks. Catching another creature costs an action from the caster of the spell:

As an action, you can cause the hand to reach for a different creature or to move to a different unoccupied space within range. The hand releases a restrained target if you do either.

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Yes, a creature can move through the space

The hand is definitely not a creature

Spells that summon or create creatures consistently say that they summon or create creatures, and define the AC and hp of the creatures that appear - for examples see (find familiar (conjuration), phantom steed (illusion), animate dead (necromancy), and animate objects (transmutation). Maximillian's Earthen Grasp does neither of these things for the hand that it produces, so we can be confident that the hand is not a creature.

Moving through the Hand's square

A size Medium object in a 5' square might reasonably be considered to restrict movement as difficult terrain. However, I don't think the Hand is an object1 and while a DM could certainly treat the square as difficult terrain, I would not be inclined to do so on the principle of 'spells do (only) what they say they do'. Spells like Mold Earth say that they can cause difficult terrain, spells like entangle, web, spike growth, black tentacles, etc. say that they do cause difficult terrain. Ascribing that ability to a spell that does not specifically call for it is for me an unwarranted expansion of its power.

If the hand is neither a creature, nor an object, nor difficult terrain, then there is nothing that would restrict a creature from moving through its space.

So what's the deal with it being size Medium?

This is a bit perplexing. Looking through the PHB, all of the uses of a size category are for objects and creatures, not spells (spell effects have their dimensions delimited). It is not clear why the spell specifies that the hand is Size Medium. Although the OP and Eddymage suggest this is to determine the reach of the hand, that size category is completely unnecessary (or redundant), since the spell specifies that it may attack anyone "within 5 feet of it". While it is possible that the category is there because the intent of the spell is that it is an object1, I find it more likely that the size listing is an artifact of incomplete editing, and that it was introduced to an earlier draft of the spell that was intended to be an object, or was intended to grapple rather than restrain, but was later not removed as the spell evolved. In either of these cases (object or grappler) the size category would have mattered, but it currently does not.

1The hand is probably not an object
Unfortunately, spells that create objects are not so consistently formatted. Some spells that make objects tell us that the things they make are objects, and assign those objects an AC and hp; for example, Arcane Hand (evocation). Some spells that create objects tell us that they create objects, but don't define the AC and hp of those objects; for example Creation (illusion) and Fabricate (transmutation). And some spells that probably make objects neither tell us that what they make are objects, nor assign them AC and hp. For example, the food created by Create Food and Water is probably a set of objects, but the spell does not specifically say so.

Thus, the hand certainly could be an object - the spell tells us its size (Medium) and composition (compacted soil), so we know enough to assign it an AC and hp if we wish to treat it as an object.

However, I don't think it is, for multiple reasons. First, under 'spells do (only) what they say they do', the spell description explains how to escape it - a Strength check. No mention is made of being able to escape it by doing damage, unlike Arcane Hand for example. Second, the definition of an object is "a discrete, inanimate item", and the hand is certainly not inanimate (of course, neither is an Arcane Hand, but at least there the description states both that it is animate and is an object, so specific over general). Third, it is a transmutation spell. The transmutation school "modif[ies] energy and matter", but does not create it out of nothing, unlike conjuration, illusion, or evocation. When transmutation spells result in creatures (like animate objects) or objects (like fabricate), they make it clear that they are not creating these things but rather transforming them from other things already on hand. In the case of Maximillian's Earthen Grasp, the spell specifies both that the hand must begin on the ground and that it is composed of compacted soil. I think the spell can thus be best thought of as an animating force which is collecting the soil from the ground, compacting it (and transforming it when necessary, for example if the ground is stone), and arranging the soil as a mobile hand. The hand might be struck and disrupted, but then the force of the spell would instantly reform it from the material dispersed (and it is thus not 'discrete', either, another part of the definition of an object). This perspective is also born out by the way it moves - it must form in an unoccupied square, must move to an unoccupied square, but nothing restricts it from moving through occupied squares, although it can't do so and still hold on to a creature it is grasping. I imagine this as it moving more as a loose pile of earth that can flow around creatures and obstructions, but collects together and compacts itself in order to grasp a creature. When a creature moves through a space containing the hand, I imagine the hand would either be simply avoided or at worst, one could kick through the loose pile of soil and have it reform behind.

This is interpretive, of course, and if a DM wishes to rule that the hand is an object, that does not contradict RAW. But I believe the preponderance of textural evidence in the spell description suggests that it is not.

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Rules as written the hand is a creature under your control that has size Medium and therefore occupies and controls a 5 ft square. RAW, you cannot go through a hostile creature's space unless it is two size categories smaller or larger than you (so if you're Huge or Gargantuan on the upper side or Tiny on the other you can move through the space), and even then the creature's space is difficult terrain. Exceptions apply to e.g. Halflings with Halfling Nimbleness.

I think this situation would be no different than if a necromancer has a summoned skeleton that blocks a 5ft square.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you support the claim that the hand is a creature? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 12, 2021 at 7:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ AFAIK there is no RAW definition of the term "creature". But, usually everything that's animate and at least CR0 (or comparable) and not an object is counted as a creature. See rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/47254/… IMO the hand is "living" (as in, it acts on will - the players will) and not just a statue of a hand. Sure, it's not as easy to define as a summoned wolf (which definitely is a creature), but it's more of a creature than an object. \$\endgroup\$
    – John Doe
    Aug 12, 2021 at 7:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JohnW. When a spells creates a creature or an object, it explicitly says so. Take a look at the Bigby's hand: The hand is an object that has AC 20 and hit points equal to your hit point maximum \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Aug 12, 2021 at 8:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Eddymage Maximilian's Earthen Grasp has no such wording, so it might be up to the DM if the hand is an object or a creature. Bigby's hand might be a precedent though. \$\endgroup\$
    – John Doe
    Aug 12, 2021 at 8:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JohnW. There is also Animate Objects: Each target animates and becomes a creature under your control until the spell ends or until reduced to 0 hit points. Hence, it seems that MEG does not create a creature nor an object, otherwise it would have stated so. Anyway, a DM has always the final word. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Aug 12, 2021 at 8:31

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