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The Battle Master's Pushing Attack can push the target up to 15 ft away from the user if the target fails their save. Ordinarily, this would mean the target is driven back 15 feet away on the ground, as with the Shove attack.

However, I was thinking of a scenario that involved two characters falling: one Battle Master and his target.

If the BM strikes his target, hits, and uses Pushing Attack, he would reasonably be able to drive the target 15 ft in any direction, because there's no floor that anchors our mind to a horizontal surface, unlike the regular "shove" attack. In fact, pushing someone directly perpendicular to the floor in this situation is much harder than pushing someone sideways but with some up/down elevation.

Taken to the extreme, in this case, the BM could even shove the target upwards. If they hadn't fallen more than 15 ft yet, the target could "return to safety" by being thrown back up to the platform they fell from. Pushed downwards and the target would now be falling faster than the BM.

Now, keep that falling scenario in mind as we translate the same mechanics to the BM and his target on the ground. Going back to the question: would Pushing Attack allow the BM to push someone 15ft in the air?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe I just shouldn't be allowed around polite company, but is there another way to abbreviate Battle Master that isn't 'BM'? I can't read the post without giggling. \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Jan 7 '19 at 14:13
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The actual maneuver indicates:

Pushing Attack. When you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can expend one superiority die to attempt to drive the target back. You add the superiority die to the attack’s damage roll, and if the target is Large or smaller, it must make a Strength saving throw. On a failed save, you push the target up to 15 feet away from you.

The maneuver specifies that it is resisted by a Strength Saving throw, which would indicate that some strength resistance is involved. This would not be the case if there was nothing to supply leverage for pushing. Based on these, I would say no, the maneuver is not intended to include the scenario you present.

Also, the maneuver specifies a weapon attack, but the scenario posited is a "shove" which is not the same thing. I think it strains credulity to imagine a scenario wherein a weapon blow can "push someone to safety". I could see it perhaps as a gravity assist, making the defender hit the ground first, but I can't see what mechanical difference this would make. Falling damage is falling damage. The fact that someone moved you fifteen feet closer to the ground doesn't change the damage you make when you hit.

Finally, it defies common sense, in that pushing something horizontally is demonstrably easier than pushing something up against the force of gravity.

Note: I'm staying away from the real world physics of the maneuver, since they really don't have much place in D&D.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Back" implies not where the target is facing. "Away" means not closer to you. "Up" isn't ruled out by either of those words. I think the biggest thing to keep in mind is that the BM will be injuring his target, which isn't good if he's trying to save his target from falling damage, which seems to be one of the scenarios proposed. The target is unlikely to be better off than they would from the 20 feet worth of falling damage. \$\endgroup\$ – Theo Brinkman May 31 '16 at 16:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ That interpretation of "back" would preclude pushing someone from any direction other than the one they are facing. A person can be pushed from the back or the side. I believe "back" in this instance refers to "farther back" i.e. a synonym for "away". A case could be made for this to include "up", but it's still an iffy call. And the Strength Save still indicates some degree of resistance to being pushed based on physical force, which would require being able to get leverage or traction. But thanks for reminding me that it does require a "weapon attack". I have modified my answer accordingy. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis May 31 '16 at 17:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ The point I was making is that neither of those descriptors imply 'not up'. \$\endgroup\$ – Theo Brinkman May 31 '16 at 19:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair enough. I can't disagree on a purely grammatical reading. I have removed that sentence. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis May 31 '16 at 19:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ All of the semantics aside.. Both in real world physics and RAW you can't get an attack in on someone before they've fallen more than 15 feet anyway. People fall pretty fast. \$\endgroup\$ – JackChance Jan 21 '19 at 7:25

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