If we accept that there is no way to escape a Forcecage spell by physical/nonmagical means, even when the "cage" form with gaps between the bars is used, as many people have argued, including here: -

Is escaping from a cage-shaped Forcecage really as ridiculously easy as it seems?

... then I'm left wondering: why describe the cage in that way at all? Would it not be simpler to have either one "solid" form, or two "solid" forms with different sizes?

Is this because prior versions of the spell were described that way? Or is this a RAI oversight in the rest of the description?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Gah! I've since thought of several reasons that don't hinge on either of my final questions...! I'll wait and see what other people have to say. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 20 at 1:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you looking for designer explanation, or for mechanical differences between forms? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented May 20 at 9:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot possibly both? I think I might have worded it a bit strangely. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 20 at 18:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ The answer to "why does Forcecage have two forms" is obvious — because the rules say so. What was the designers' reasoning — only the designers know. Maybe it's better to reprhase the question, like "what will change if I change the Forcecage spell description this way". \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented May 21 at 9:30

2 Answers 2


This has historic reasons, originally the cube only worked on yourself

The forcecage spell made its debut in the original Unearthed Arcana for first edition D&D. In its historic incarnation, the default mode of the spell was to create a cage made of force, with bars (UA, p. 61):

This powerful spell enables the caster to bring into being a cube of force, but it is unlike the magic item of that name in one important respect: The forcecage does not have solid walls of force; it has alternating bands of force with 1/2’ gaps between. Thus, it is truly a cage rather than an enclosed space with solid walls.

However, as stated in the spell description above, there also was a cube of force magic item in the game (DMG 1e, p. 142), and that item created a smaller cube with walls of solid force. The spell originally had an option to prepare it instead to mimic the form of that magic item:

By means of special preparation at the time of memorization, a forcecage spell can be altered to a forcecube spell. Forcecube has one eighth the area of effect (a cube 1 “ on a side), and the dweomer then resembles the magic of a cube of force in all respects [emphasis added]

The cube of force however only worked around your own person, as a protective device (DMG 1e, p. 142):

Cube of Force: A device of but about the size of a large die - perhaps 3/4 of an inch across- the cube of force enables its possessor to put up a wall of force 1" per side around his or her person [emphasis added]

So, in the original form of the spell, the larger cage version could be cast offensively around any target, but allowed the target to use breath weapons and ranged attacks through the cage, or escape if it could fit through or overcame it with magic resistance. In contrast, the smaller cube version, worked like the cube of force in all respects, so it would only form around the caster to protect them, but was safe against such attacks. However, to know this, you had to take a look at how cube of force worked.

This dual mode has been retained throughout editions but the difference in targeting and function was lost along the way with the two different spell names. I think this is not surprising, as this difference in intended use is not obvious by reading the spell text, and thus easily overlooked.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That's a pretty great answer, and has the kind of context I was looking for. I'll sit on it for a little bit and see if anyone else has anything to say, just in case. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 21 at 22:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Isn't a 1" cube a tad bit small for most characters? Did the caster shrink to fit the cube or were wizards much smaller back then? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 22 at 9:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JoakimM.H. In 1e, distances were measured using tabletop battle inches. 1“ = 10 feet (in combat indoors or for spell areas; outside 10 yards, not used for spell areas) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 22 at 10:24

Preventing/Allowing non-physical attacks through both ways

Most common reason is to restrain a spellcaster and prevent spellcasting; or providing the captor to inflict non-physical damage to the captive through the openings.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The question isn’t “what could the two forms be used for”, it’s “why was it given two forms.” Do you have anything to support the idea that exactly this is why the game’s designers gave it two forms? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 20 at 10:48

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