I have been making a new wizard lately and I have been trying to have many ways of avoiding statuses/effects that easily disable/endanger a caster.

As many of you know, one of these is Grapple, and many people in forums have been suggesting the use of Heart of Water spell.

This spell lasts 1h/level and if discharged as a swift action, you get Freedom of Movement for one round/level. This seems problematic to me. Swift actions can only be activated in your turn so chances are you will already be grappled by then.
Assuming you do discharge the spell though, doesn't that mean you need to spend a standard action to escape the grab and then move away? This sounds a bit of a wasted round.

Am I missing something as to why this spell is recommended so much for this scenario or it just a sub-par counter that simply doesn't involve the cost of a magic item?

Clarification: I am wondering, provided my interpretation of its usage is correct, if there are many better choices for abstract grappling threats in overall or this is pretty much the as-good-as-it-gets solution (all other bonuses taken into account, spell or not).
For instance, HoW is pretty limited/risky if you don't know someone is going to grapple you in the next round (which sounds almost impossible).

  • \$\begingroup\$ "Sub-par" is only meaningful as a description of the spell's usefulness in relation to other options. What other options are you comparing it to? \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Oct 26, 2013 at 14:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BESW Third Eye Freedom from Magic Item Compendium for instance. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eldebryn
    Oct 26, 2013 at 14:35
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ And what's your criteria for usefulness? Is price no object? Is slotted vs slotless an issue? There are dozens of considerations that make a choice better for one individual than for another, and since we don't know your criteria or the criteria of the people who have recommended this to you, it's hard to say much that'll be helpful. Can you edit the question with more details about your circumstance and goals? \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Oct 26, 2013 at 15:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BESW I really have no specific criteria or scenarios in mind. I am just looking for an overall good way of dealing with grappling threats and in spite of various recommendations HoW seems quite lacking for this due to the action cost in an average situation. I will try to clarify that in the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eldebryn
    Oct 26, 2013 at 16:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd suggest talking to your GM about allowing you to discharge that spell during a grapple. The idea of discharging a spell like that didn't exist when the PHB was published, and there's already a "Activate a Magic Item" grapple option, which seems very much in the same spirit. \$\endgroup\$
    – DuckTapeAl
    Jan 5, 2014 at 19:11

4 Answers 4


I'm pretty sure what you want is to avoid the grapple in the first place. That's really hard because, for the most part, it's just a melee touch attack to start. So unless you're immune to being touched (possible but difficult) if you're immune to grapples before you know someone's going to grapple you, you're going to end up immune to attacks in general.

Assuming you don't want to play that game (the one, wherein, y'know, you're invulnerable to the mundane), escaping from a grapple is fairly easy, and, while harder, not getting grappled if you know it's coming is better. Here are ways of doing both. Omitted are sources providing effects under specific circumstances (e.g. in webs, underwater). The spells freedom of movement and heart of water included for completeness.



  • The 3rd-level runescarred berserker (Una 31-2) (minimum caster level 5) spell freedom of movement [abjur] (PH 233) for 10 min./level grants 1 creature the ability “to move an attack normally… even under the influence of… paralysis, solid fog, slow, and web,” to automatically succeed on grapple checks to resist grapple attempts and on grapple checks and Escape Artist skill checks made to escape a grapple or pin, and to move and attack normally underwater.
  • The 3rd-level Sor/Wiz spell heart of water [trans] (CM 107) for 1 hour/level grants the caster a +5 enhancement bonus to Escape Artist skill checks, the ability to breathe water, and a swim speed equal to the caster’s land speed; as a swift action that otherwise ends the spell the caster gains the benefits the spell freedom of movement [abjur] (PH 233) for 1 round/level.

Other Sources by Level
Many, many spells grant bonuses to grapple checks. If a creature can get a grapple check bonus high enough to just win the opposed check, he can end the grapple. I've not listed those spells. Many spells also grant a bonus to Escape Artist skill checks. I've not listed those either. I find the 2nd-level Sor/Wiz spell unfettered grasp [ench] (RDr 118) too situational to include.

  • The 2nd-level Sor/Wiz spell mountain stance [trans] (SpC 144-5) for 1 min./level grants 1 creature the ability as a free action to gain a bonus equal to the caster's level versus "attempts to grapple, lift, push, bull rush, overrun, throw, trip, or otherwise force the subject to move." Notable for the duration, lack of a caster level cap, untyped bonus, and versatility.
  • The 3rd-level Sor/Wiz spell hesitate [ench] (PH2 114) as an immediate action for 1 round/level on 1 creature's failed Willpower saving throw the creature takes only 1 move action; the creature makes another saving throw each turn to end the effect. Notable for the casting time.
  • The 3rd-level Sor/Wiz spell permeable form [trans] (LoM 129) as an immediate action for 1 round grants the caster the benefits of the incorporeal subtype (MM 310-1).
  • The 8th-level Sor/Wiz spell ghostform [trans] (SpC 103) for 1 round/level grants the caster the benefits of the incorporeal subtype (MM 310-1).

Magic Items


  • The face slot item third eye freedom (MIC 141) (2,400 gp; 0 lbs.) as an immediate action 1/day grants for 1 round an effect like the spell freedom of movement [abjur] (PH 233).
  • The shoulders slot item shadow cloak (DrU 101) (5,500 gp; 1 lb.) as an immediate action 3/day grants the wearer the ability to teleport up to 10 ft.

Other Sources by Price

  • The armor and shield augment crystal crystal of glancing blows (least) (MIC 25) (500 gp; 0 lbs.) grants a +5 competence bonus to opposed grapple checks when the wearer's the defender and a grapple's initiated.
  • The slotless item panic button (escaping) (CS 115) (750 gp; 0 lbs.) as a swift action once only grants an effect like the spell dimension door [conj] (PH 221) with a 30 ft. range that "affects whatever creature is in the square it lands in," never accounting for creatures sharing squares like during a grapple. Item goes unmentioned in errata. Check with the DM.
  • The feet slot item anklet of translocation (MIC 71) (1,400 gp; 0 lbs.) as a swift action 2/day grants the wearer the ability to teleport up to 10 ft.
  • The belt slot item silkslick belt (MIC 136) (2,000 gp; 0 lbs.) grants the wearer the ability to take a move action to make an Escape Artist skill check to free himself from a grapple or pin, and as a swift action 1/day it grants the wearer a +10 competence bonus to 1 Escape Artist skill check made before the wearer's next turn ends.
  • The torso slot item vestment of ebonsilk (MIC 147) (5,000 gp; 1 lb.) grants an ongoing effect like the spell freedom of movement [abjur] (PH 233) to characters meeting specific requirements. Controversy: You can "establish the proper divine connection" by making 2-3 Use Magic Device skill checks. First, if needed, emulate an alignment (PH 85), picking CE, NE, or CN (DC 30); second, emulate the class feature (PH 86) Deity, Domains, and Domain Spells (PH 32) to pick Lolth as a deity like a 1st-level cleric (DC 21); third, emulate the class feature Spells (PH 32) to gain the spellcasting of a 13th-level cleric who has an open 7th-level spell slot (DC 33) that's sacrified to activate the relic power. Check with the DM; objections to part or all of this chain of events are common as the Use Magic Device skill is an interpretive nightmare.
  • The torso slot item vest of free movement (MIC 198) (12,000 gp; 0 lbs.) as a swift action 3/day grants for 3 rounds an effect like the spell freedom of movement [abjur] (PH 233).
  • The hands slot item scholar shadow hands (ToB 150) (15,000 gp; 0 lbs.) can grant a HD 18 creature the 5th-level Shadow Hand maneuver shadow stride [special] (ToB 80).
  • The ring slot item ring of freedom of movement (DMG 231, 232) (40,000 gp; 0 lbs.) grants an ongoing effect like the spell freedom of movement [abjur] (PH 233).
  • The armor special ability freedom (MIC 11) (+5 bonus) grants an ongoing effect like the spell freedom of movement [abjur] (PH 233).


There's only 1 feat you should barely consider if this is happening all the time, and that's the feat Close-quarters Fighting (CW 97). It's one feat, you'll meet the requirements, and if you've a spiked gauntlet (so you're threatening an area) you can make an attack of opportunity versus a creature that tries a grapple even if it has the special ability improved grab or the feat Improved Grapple (PH 95-6). Hitting it either stops the grapple cold or give you a bonus. You won't hit. You're a wizard. But 5% remains 5% and + something remains better than + nothing. Don't do this, though.

Your cohort, homunculus, intelligent animated dead, planar bound minion, or whatever, however, should take the feat Dutiful Guardian (DrU 50). Then you can rescue him (or not) while he's grappled instead.

Finally, if you're level 18 you can just take the feat Martial Study (ToB 30-1) and take the 5th-level Shadow Hand maneuver shadow stride [special] (ToB 80). Further, it has definite advantages as an extraordinary (rather than spell-like or supernatural) teleport ability. You can take the feat Martial Study at level 6 instead if an extraordinary teleport as a standard action is sufficient by picking the 2nd-level Shadow Hand maneuver shadow jaunt [special] (ToB 79)

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a great, comprehensive answer, but I'd point out that re: the last paragraph there may be a problem: a martial adept maneuver like Shadow Stride/Jaunt/Blink may or may not be initiatable while in a grapple; I think the language in Tome of Battle p. 39 is just ambiguous enough to allow either interpretation as to whether movement is necessary for these maneuvers (I tend to agree with Hey I Can Chan that it would be, but its not completely clear). \$\endgroup\$
    – Epiphanis
    Jan 5, 2014 at 4:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Anklet of Translocation is my personal favorite. It doesn't prevent the grapple in the first place, but it's an instant 'get-out-of-grapple-free card' twice per day. My longest running wizard had several different similar items because of how useful it is to get out of a sticky situation fast. \$\endgroup\$
    – DuckTapeAl
    Jan 5, 2014 at 19:07

Freedom of Movement says this:

The subject automatically succeeds on any grapple check made to resist a grapple attempt, as well as on grapple checks or Escape Artist checks made to escape a grapple or a pin.

So, no problem. If it's up you auto-succeed on a check to avoid being grappled, and you auto-succeed on the grapple check needed to escape a grapple.

Discharging Heart of Water is a Swift action, which is this (Emphasis Mine):

A swift action consumes a very small amount of time, but represents a larger expenditure of effort and energy than a free action. You can perform one swift action per turn without affecting your ability to perform other actions. In that regard, a swift action is like a free action. However, you can perform only a single swift action per turn, regardless of what other actions you take. You can take a swift action any time you would normally be allowed to take a free action.

You're allowed to take free actions on your turn, including while grappled. That means you can take a swift action while grappled. So if you're grappled, you do this:

  1. Discharge Heart of Water (Swift action)
  2. Attempt to Escape Grapple (Standard action, auto success due to Freedom of Movement)

So yes, you lose a turn but you're not grappled. If you think something is going to grapple you, then you discharge it at the start of combat before they attempt the grapple, and you can't be grappled at all.

It's not a perfect defense, as you noted. But at the same time the four heart spells give you critical hit immunity, and each one gives you another effect. Heart of Water gives you an escape artist bonus, a swim speed, and breathe water on top of the ability to get freedom of movement. Given just how much it's doing for you (along with Heart of Earth/Air/Fire), it's definitely worth casting.

  • \$\begingroup\$ While you can take swift actions in a grapple, you can only take them from the list of maneuvers available in-grapple, unless there is a specific overriding statement to the contrary in the action's description. \$\endgroup\$
    – Epiphanis
    Jan 5, 2014 at 3:01

When you start a fight with someone that you suspect might grapple you, you pop the effect with a defensive action. Yes it costs you a turn up front, but for the next few rounds, you are untouchable by an opponent that would attempt to grapple you. Additionally, looking up the spell itself, you don't have to use the swift action. The spell grants a +5 to Escape Artist, which can be used in a grapple if you are only trying to get away and not trying to control said grappling incursion. Plus, even if you use your standard action to get out (assuming they got the drop on you), you still have your move action to put some distance between you and them.


You are correct; the swift action to discharge Heart of Water cannot normally done while in a grapple, because its not on the list of in-grapple maneuvers. If a wizard is caught flat-footed and a grapple is successfully initiated before he can act, the Freedom of Movement won't be available until after he's escaped (he still gets the existing benefits of the spell, including the bonus to Escape Artist).

The obvious thing to do is to discharge it when you make a judgment call that you are in danger of being grappled.

Note that you can activate magic items while in a grapple, so a short-range teleport, freedom of movement, or ethereal device can still be activated... Unless you are also pinned.

You are probably never going to be 100% grapple proof. Even rings of freedom of movement and the third eye freedom device can be sundered or temporarily dispelled. The most nearly foolproof method of avoiding grapple is probably the Travel Domain granted power.

  • \$\begingroup\$ If only the travel Domain power worked as well as it should: "you can act normally regardless of magical effects that impede movement as if you were affected by the spell freedom of movement" (PH 188). Curse that word magical! [Shakes fist.] \$\endgroup\$ Jan 5, 2014 at 4:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, that was pointed out to me before and I forgot it, which is embarrassing because I'm a huge proponent of grappling as an anti-caster tactic. So, no fist-shaking from me. \$\endgroup\$
    – Epiphanis
    Jan 5, 2014 at 4:27

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