Are there rules concerning the interaction between a creature and elevated obstacles?


Say, you have the following.

  • Tall Goliath (7'8")
  • Short Gnome (3'4")
  • Short Kenku (5'0")
  • Short Human (5'6")

Let's say they're walking side-by-side toward a Blade Barrier. However, instead of being anchored down, this wall is elevated one square off the ground.

  • Which, if any, of these characters would be required to duck in order to avoid taking damage from the wall?
  • Which, if any, of these characters would take combat penalties for having to stay crouched?
  • \$\begingroup\$ You need to note game based sizes of the 4 or "Medium, Small, Medium? Medium" As that is what the mechanics care about, if anything. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 20, 2010 at 5:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ There is no concept of "crouched" in D&D4, perhaps you'd like to rephrase that to squeezed? I can't think of anything else that would fit (excepting a house rule of course) \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat Ludwig
    Oct 20, 2010 at 5:59

3 Answers 3


By rule, all small and medium creatures occupy the same 5x5x5 block an take no penalties as long as they have that amount of clearance.

The relevant rules are on pg199 of the Rules Compendium.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Page 199 specifies the creatures' sizes, and page 200 elaborates on three-dimensional space. Thanks for the reference, Pat! Come to think of it, I've got a trailer question related to this one that'll probably be another easy answer for you. Coming soon. \$\endgroup\$
    – Iszi
    Oct 21, 2010 at 13:10

I'm going to give an answer that is undoubtedly not going to be popular but...

I think the rule of "common sense and GM interpretation" applies here. If the game rules, as Brian points out, do not simulate that level of detail, it's time for the GM to use common sense and setting inner consistency to make a ruling.


The fundamental trick is that 4e is 2 dimensional. All of its wording uses the term "squares" rather than cubes. While there are concessions to the z-axis, it is not considered an inherent aspect of the game when dealing with, for example, character height.

As squeezing notes:

Smaller Space: A Large, Huge, or Gargantuan creature reduces its space by 1. For example, a Large creature that squeezes has a space of 1 (1 square) instead of 2 (4 squares). A Huge creature’s space changes from 3 (9 squares) to 2 (4 squares). When a Medium or smaller creature squeezes, the DM decides how narrow a space the creature can occupy. If an effect prevents a creature from leaving a square in order to squeeze, the creature cannot squeeze.

Looking at this, the "correct" answer to your question is: mu (unask the question) due to the game system not simulating that level of detail.

Functionally speaking, when the GM is designing areas, it is fair to say that small creatures don't have to squeeze, medium creatures do, and large creatures find it inaccessible. But there is seldom more granularity than creature size. Even in squeezing, there is a discussion of squares rather than cubes.

Thus, stating that a blade barrier is one square above the ground causes the system to stutter slightly as most walls have their area specified with z-axis height as a footnote. Assuming that it is the case however, it is the GM's decision to allow medium creatures to squeeze, small creatures to squeeze, or some combination of the above, reflecting the "difficulty" of squeezing under the blade barrier.


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