I'm a wizard and I like everything to go my way. Recently we ran into a situation on a boat in which we were attacked by a trio of Water Elementals.

I thought this was a fine time to test out the new Bigby's Hand. I put it between myself and a water elemental after it attacked me, using the Interposing effect. The relevant text of the spell is:

The target can’t move through the hand’s space if its Strength score is less than or equal to the hand’s Strength score.

Water Elementals have a strength of 18 while Bigby's Hand has a strength score of 26.

However, my DM argued that since a Water Elemental can flow through spaces an inch wide, it was not restricted by my Hand at all.

Is my DM right? Can a Water Elemental move through Bigby's Interposing Hand?


3 Answers 3


No, a Water Elemental can't move through Bigby's Interposing Hand. The key point that clinches it is in the general description of Bigby's Hand:

The hand doesn't fill its space.

So if getting past the hand were a simple matter of getting through the available space, any creature could get through without a Strength check, not just the Water Elemental. Over half of the text of Bigby's Interposing Hand would then be rendered completely invalid, so no, the Water Elemental can't just squeeze through the gaps.

As for why this makes sense, check out the general Bigby's Hand description again (emphasis mine):

You create a Large hand of shimmering, translucent force in an unoccupied space that you can see within range.

This isn't a solid object that the Water Elemental can just squeeze through.

If your DM still resists, you can also point out that

The hand moves to stay between you and the target[...]

It doesn't just sit there waiting for people to squeeze through/past it, it moves to make sure they don't.


Yes & NO

Yes Bigby's Hand's Interposing Hand would prevent one water elemental from being able to reach you. However the other water elementals would not be prevented.

Bigby's Hand, Interposing Hand reads:

Interposing Hand. The hand interposes itself between you and a creature you choose until you give the hand a different command. The hand moves to stay between you and the target, providing you with half cover against the target. The target can’t move through the hand’s space if its Strength score is less than or equal to the hand’s Strength score. If its Strength score is higher than the hand’s Strength score, the target can move toward you through the hand’s space, but that space is difficult terrain for the target.

(Emphasis mine). The spell is specifically only targeting one creature, not multiple. As such only one of the water elementals would be stopped.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The OP specifically asked about one particular water elemental (even if two more seem to have been present), so that part of your answer is at most tangentially relevant. Also, you provide no support for the part of your answer that addresses the actual question. Maybe this should have been a comment instead? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 3, 2022 at 22:39

It's complicated, but ultimately the DM's call

Fitting in a space

Let's back up and go from general to specific here. In combat, a creature cannot move through a hostile creature's space, unless there is a significant size disparity between the two of them.

Nor can a large creature (like a water elemental) fit through a space that is smaller than five feet across.

However, the water elemental has a feature that is specifically designed to overcome both of these situations:

Water Form. The elemental can enter a hostile creature's space and stop there. It can move through a space as narrow as 1 inch wide without squeezing.

So, RAI, a water elemental is meant to be uninhibited by the physical restraints on movement that most creatures encounter.

Bigby's Interposing Hand

Bigby's Hand is explicitly not a creature, but it is an object. However, it is an object that "does not fill its space" and which explicitly prevents its target creature from moving through its space. RAW, the Hand should prevent the water elemental from moving through its space.

The role of the DM

In this case, the DM is presented with conflicting rules-as-intended. The spell is designed to prevent creatures from moving through its space, period. But the water elemental has a feature that is designed to permit it to avoid effects that restrict movement. Creating a ruling that integrates these two conflicting rules is the job of the DM.

The simplest ruling is that, RAW, the spell applies to all creatures, while the water elemental's ability applies to creatures and spaces but not specifically to spell-objects made of force, so the spell 'wins'.

A more nuanced ruling is that the water elemental's ability cannot be expected to explicitly describe every interaction with all possible edge cases like the spell, and so the DM has to look at how the spell interacts with the world they are describing. Does the spell create a wall of force, completely blocking off the square? Or does it create a giant hand-shaped force, such that the elemental could actually 'slip through its fingers'? The fact that the hand provides only half cover to the caster (and not total cover), and the fact that the hand exerts forces that mimic the movements of the caster's hand, seem reasonable evidence that the force it projects is shaped like a hand, with 'gaps' between the fingers and around the edges. Thus, it is also reasonable for a DM to rule that the elemental could use its Water Form to move past the Hand.

Deciding between these two rulings is explicitly the job of the DM.

The role of the player

As a player, you are well within your rights to say to your DM, 'RAW the spell prevents all creatures from moving through its square, and nothing in the Water Elemental's Water Form feature overcomes that'. If your DM still decides that the water elemental can slip by your Hand, it is also fair for you to say, 'I did not know that you would rule that way when I recently chose the spell; it now appears much less useful than I thought it was, so I would like to have chosen a different spell (and maybe Conjure Elemental instead!).

Do keep in mind that your DM has the ultimate say in how their world works. It is good that you are self-aware enough to recognize that 'you like everything to go your own way'. Try to keep in mind that D&D is a game of cooperative story-telling. The DM, and the other players, may find it a more compelling story to have your wizard be challenged, and sometimes triumph, and sometimes fail or be disappointed, rather than having everything always go your way. If you approach it from this perspective, you might find it to be a more compelling story as well.


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