Player's Handbook II 116 has the spell legion of sentinels which has an area of 10 foot radius emanation. An excerpt of the spell text says:

A ghostly, incorporeal swordfighter appears in each square covered by this spell’s area [...]

I understand that playing D&D in 3 dimensions might be an exercise in futility, but given that spell areas are 3 dimensional, and the swordfighters are incorporeal, does the spell fill squares that would be in the air as well as those on the ground?

Put a slightly different way, does the spell create only twelve incorporeal swordfighters, or, depending on the location of the origin of the spell, up to thirty-two swordfighters; some on the ground, many in the air?


1 Answer 1


Only twelve fighters appear

The rules describe aeras for spells in squares, not in cubes. They always talk about an area (2 dimensions), not a volume (3 dimensions).

The description of a sphere for example says:

A sphere-shaped spell expands from its point of origin to fill a spherical area.

Technically, it would need to say the spell fills a spherical volume, but since the majority of combat happens on the ground and a two-dimensional battle grid, to speed up and simplify play, the rules assume you only care about two dimensions.

You can see the same attitude in how distances are measured:

When measuring distance, the first diagonal counts as 1 square, the second counts as 2 squares, the third counts as 1, the fourth as 2, and so on.

This does only approximate the actual distances, it is a simplification to speed up play.

But what about fireball?

Now, while they say that, it is common practice to account for the areas of spells like fireball in three dimensions, and also affect creaturs that fly above the ground if they are low enough.

You could argue the same treatment should apply to these illusionary warriors. Especially because these warriors are described as ghostly and incorporeal, and incorporeal creatures such as ghosts often can fly.

A technical argument against this could be that a typical warrior would be larger than 5 feet in height, and since creatures in combat need space and cannot overlap, you at the very least could only create half of the number of warriors ... or you would need to create dwarf-sized warriors.

A gameplay argument against this is that this quickly gets too complicated to support flow during play. You end up bogged down calculating volumes, instead of playing out an exiting battle. (See also this in depth Q&A of how to handle 3D distance in 3.5e, the mere length of which gives you a good idea of what you are getting yourself into.)

All that said, if both you and your DM think it should work, and you should be able to summon a ball full of dwarf-sized spectral swordfighters, go and have fun with it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't buy the 'more than 5 feet' space argument. Medium creatures take 5' space... in combat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chemus
    Mar 12, 2022 at 9:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Chemus, you could also argue that they are incorporeal, so who cares if they overlap? You are right, medium creatures take 5x5 feet floor area. And you can indeed have medium sized creatures that are less than 5 feet tall, such as dwarves. If you want to get into 3D however, it might mean dealing with the fact that some creatures are taller than 5 feet. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 12, 2022 at 16:28
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ RE: "Technically, it would need to say the spell fills a spherical volume…." And, equally technically, it would seem to need to say the spell fills a circular area, right? I mean, the phrase fill a spherical area is—technically—very weird. (That'd be, like, somehow filling the surface area of a sphere, which hurts my brain to such a degree that I can't imagine it's anywhere near the intended reading.) \$\endgroup\$ Mar 13, 2022 at 6:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan, yes, agree. It would have been better to use on of those, and explain the construct being a simplification explicitly. If they had chosen the wording of circular area, we otherwise would be discussing how it then can affect anyone standing on top of that area. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 13, 2022 at 8:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan it’s not weird at all: a volume is what fills a manifold surface (like the surface of a sphere). It’s just like air fills a balloon. \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Mar 18, 2022 at 19:17

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