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Is climbing treated the same as movement in a combat round? Will my Magic Missile still work, with all the monsters up a tree?

It's a scenario about being attacked in a dense forest, by monsters called Boggarts who fight my wizard character. They've lost a couple of rounds, and now they’ve decided they should try and evade the wizard (me) by climbing a tree.

Boggarts are about the size of a 10-year-old according to Wikipedia, and are mischievous and evil, in turn. I don't think they'd be easily missed even halfway up a Sycamore tree.

horrible yellow eyed Boggart

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    \$\begingroup\$ Which system is it? And which edition? You mention Magic Missile so I’m guessing either D&D or Pathfinder? Magic Missile has been present in every edition of D&D but it has changed, e.g. the range has varied a lot across the editions, that will potentially affect the answer. Also why would you think Magic Missile won’t work with an enemy up a tree? \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Jul 20, 2022 at 17:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hello Anna. Thanks for taking the time, and it could go out of sight if it raced up a tree. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 20, 2022 at 18:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Michael We prefer to avoid answers in comments, see here for details: Should users refrain from answers (or partial answers) in comments? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 20, 2022 at 20:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov since I was only addressing one part of a multi-part question it didn't feel appropriate to leave a proper answer.... \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael
    Jul 20, 2022 at 20:46

2 Answers 2

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Climbing costs two feet of movement for each foot travelled.

The rules for climbing state:

Each foot of movement costs 1 extra foot (2 extra feet in difficult terrain) when you’re climbing, swimming, or crawling. You ignore this extra cost if you have a climbing speed and use it to climb, or a swimming speed and use it to swim.

So yes, the boggarts probably could climb up a tree with little issue, up to 15 feet if they have a speed of 30 feet.

Magic missile hits automatically if you can see the target.

Magic missile states:

Each dart hits a creature of your choice that you can see within range.

No attack rolls are necessary, you just hit, as long as you can see the target.

The DM determines what level of cover a target has.

It is likely that a target up a tree may have some degree of cover, due to branches or foliage blocking your view. The rules for cover state:

Walls, trees, creatures, and other obstacles can provide cover during combat, making a target more difficult to harm. A target can benefit from cover only when an attack or other effect originates on the opposite side of the cover.

There are three degrees of cover. If a target is behind multiple sources of cover, only the most protective degree of cover applies; the degrees aren't added together.

The degrees of cover are half, three-quarters, and full. A creature with half or three-quarters cover can still be seen, so neither of these would block magic missile. However, if the DM rules that the creatures had total cover, then you would not be able to hit them with magic missile:

A target with total cover can't be targeted directly by an attack or a spell, although some spells can reach such a target by including it in an area of effect. A target has total cover if it is completely concealed by an obstacle.

So depending how the DM rules on the level of cover provided by the trees, the boggarts may or may not be able to avoid your magic missile by climbing a tree.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Generally cover is having a hard thing (like a tree trunk) between you and your enemy. Foliage and other vision-blocking falls under obscured, which still blocks a lot of spells because you often can't target what you can't see, but doesn't actually break the line of effect for spells that just blast the entire area. For an enemy up a tree, I'd be inclined to call it heavily obscured if the leaves are thick enough, but only half cover. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 20, 2022 at 21:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ The Boggarts could hide if they have any amount of cover. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Jul 21, 2022 at 3:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sure they can. But it's still not cover, which is what Thomas was discussing. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 21, 2022 at 22:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM I think I’m missing something here. Why could the Boggarts “hide if they have any amount of cover”? Is this a feature of Boggarts? I’ve tried to look them up, but had no luck. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 28, 2022 at 17:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Gandalfmeansme it’s a feature of hiding \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Jul 28, 2022 at 20:35
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In DND 5e, the fact that the target is up a tree will not by itself defeat Magic Missile as long as the target is otherwise in range. In fact magic in general and magic missile in particular is quite good for dealing with flying opponents, though you may need to pay attention to range.

Note that I said by itself. Magic Missile, at least in the 5e version, specifically states that it hits a target "that you can see". If the foliage is sufficiently thick that you cannot see the target then you cannot cast Magic Missile or any other spell that requires you to be able to see the target.

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