One of my players used the legendary pocket sand, grabbing some debris out of his knapsack and throwing it into the eyes of a couple enemies blocking his escape. His intent was to run past them while they are "temporarily blinded/disabled/whatever". I told him that, seeing as how the session was about to end anyways, I'd look it up and resolve it during the next game session. I haven't been able to find anything covering pocket sand in the rule books.

My question(in D&D 3.5e): What checks would be required, and if they succeed, just what effect would pocket sand have on the opponents of my clever PC?


5 Answers 5


There's not a standard way of doing this in 3.5e, but in Pathfinder there's a 3.5e compatible combat maneuver called Dirty Trick that covers this use case. It does generate an AoO however, if you don't have the Improved feat (like everything else clever you'd ever want to do in 3.5e/Pathfinder, sigh).

  • \$\begingroup\$ This works excellently - glad that Pathfinder came to the rescue again. Now I know what to use next time the Daemon decides to kneecap an orc. \$\endgroup\$
    – JessLovely
    Aug 10, 2016 at 20:13

Ability Checks and DM Judgment

Ability Checks

Sometimes, a character tries to do something to which no specific skill really applies. In these cases, you make an ability check. An ability check is a roll of 1d20 plus the appropriate ability modifier. Essentially, you are making an untrained skill check."

Dazzle them with your awesome sand

For a mechanical type answer, roll an ability check to see how effective the PC was in using the sand/dirt/whatever to blind or distract the opponents. You can include "crit success" or "crit failure" to see how well (or how badly) it went. I'd recommend using Dexterity as a base, but you could based on the situation choose a different ability. Roll 1d20, add whatever Dexterity bonus, and see if the ability check succeeds. I'd go with Average or Tough for a DC.

On success? Apply the Dazzled condition to the opponents. (Thanks to @SPavel for that suggestion).

Alternatively, you could roll a Dodge or another Ability check that you think fits for his opponents -- did they avoid getting sand in their eyes? If they fail, your PC succeeds, and they are Dazzled (or the PC maybe gets a turn to move away and begin the escape). If they succeed, oops, he needs to think fast!

DM Judgment

You don't need to roll the dice if you don't want to, even in 3.5e. Rule 0 allows you a bit of flex here. If you like the way it was set up, adding a +2 circumstance bonus is in the book, but you may want to award a higher one. Does it fit the situation?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ If you give 1d4 free turns just for chucking sand, every PC is going to carry around barrels of it. Dazzled is more appropriate, IMO - it's a result that's proportional to the cost and difficulty of the act. \$\endgroup\$
    – SPavel
    Aug 10, 2016 at 20:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm sort of contending with the same problem as the DM who let his players make Molotovs - It's likely to be incredibly effective (but it is in real life, too - and yet barely anyone actually has pocket sand). While this would be okay in one of our lighter homebrew settings (I actually gave them molotov ingredients hoping they'd think of it - they did), this is meant to be more heavy roleplaying, so I try to avoid Rule 0 here. Though, ultimately, the question boils down to "what adverse affect does the opponent get, not can my PC be Edgy McEdgerson. \$\endgroup\$
    – JessLovely
    Aug 10, 2016 at 20:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SPavel Agreed, I added Dazzled and lost the 1d4. Good call. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 10, 2016 at 20:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Still, it's a quality answer of the type that makes me revere you and SevenSidedDie. Kind of upsetting that someone went and downvoted you for seemingly no good reason. \$\endgroup\$
    – JessLovely
    Aug 10, 2016 at 20:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Papayaman1000 Not worried. It was too long, and Spavel's suggestion was a better idea than the one I had. I got rid of some of the stuff at the end after your comment on "effects on opponents" and added that to your question. All good? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 10, 2016 at 20:21

The "right" way to avoid attacks of opportunity as you run away is either to (1) use the Tumble skill, assuming you have at least one rank in it, or (2) take the Total Defense action, which increases your AC by +4 (or +6 if you have ranks in Tumble).

If you house-rule that throwing sand at someone as you run away grants a greater benefit than these other approaches, throwing sand at people will become a key part of your game.

I think two good options are: (1) tell your player to take the total defense action instead, granting +4 to AC, or (2) rule that the sand-throwing trick gives the opponents a -4 to hit on the attacks of opportunity they make against that character (mathematically equivalent to the above, but more thematic).

If you wanted, you could grant an additional +2 bonus as a circumstance bonus for having actually grabbed a handful of sand earlier.

Unfortunately none of these approaches is a good way to actually flee from combat: both of them will decrease the character's movement speed, so that the opponents can double-move (or charge-attack) in pursuit. From a strictly mechanical perspective, fleeing from combat is really hard!

The broader problem you have here is that your character is trying to run away from the combat so as not to get killed, and you're trying to find an excuse to let that succeed. I think a good approach would be a role-playing one. Player characters aside, most people are not vicious enough to run down and murder a fleeing opponent. Do these NPCs really want to kill this character? Would they be happy having driven him off, jeering at him as he retreats?

Maybe one of them sees he's panicking and offers a deal: "drop yer belt pouch and we'll let ye run away!". Maybe they want his weapon instead.

Maybe the character can make an ad-hoc Diplomacy check to convince the opponents to let him flee. (Letting him roll dice for this is risky, because if he fails the roll, you're committing to having the opponents kill him.)

Good luck with it.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ We're dealing with some very hungry enemies here - they're not likely to allow escape if possible. My player's exact battle plan was "Use the legendary power known as... POCKET SAND! I then shove between the two Ravenous Drow and sprint away as fast as my legs will carry me!" Though he does notably have a very quick escape from them - he's hiding in an area where my sort-of-but-not-really-exactly-like-the-standard-D&D-definition-of-drow wouldn't be able to fit, and, if they're all that hindered, there's no way they could grab him, failing a check against the maneuver. Not much rolepaying. \$\endgroup\$
    – JessLovely
    Aug 10, 2016 at 20:26
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ He should have thrown trail rations at them, then. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Aug 10, 2016 at 20:28
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The party would much more reliably kill him if he got rid of their already-thinning food source :P \$\endgroup\$
    – JessLovely
    Aug 10, 2016 at 20:30

Some things the game doesn't simulate very well…

A Handful for an Eye isn't a trope the game handles well. Even Pathfinder's combat maneuver dirty trick by default only works occasionally in melee against one foe and provokes attacks of opportunity (not at a distance versus two foes), and on its turn that one foe can take a move action to end the blindness.

In Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 there are, of course, feats that enable mundane creatures do this—the tactical feat Blinding Strike (Dragon #345 90-1) or the feat Eye Rake (Dragon #304 84), for example—and equipment that enables anyone to do this—Ursuma pepper powder is my favorite, for example, but blinding sand ammunition for the exotic weapon sandpipe (Secrets of Sarlona 136, 137) (50 gp; 0.5 lbs.) can be used without a sandpipe against an adjacent creature, and there's the hideously unbalanced eggshell grenade (dust) (Oriental Adventures 78) (10 gp; 0 lbs.) which will get you kicked in the shins—, but a straight-up method of even momentary blindness isn't an everyday, mundane, I-know-what-should-try! combat option in D&D 3.5.

…But things can be reskinned

Any creature can make a Bluff check to create a diversion to hide:

You can use the Bluff skill to help you hide. A successful Bluff check [opposed by creatures' Sense Motive skill checks] gives you the momentary diversion you need to attempt a Hide check while people are aware of you. This usage does not provoke an attack of opportunity.… A Bluff check made to… create a diversion to hide is a standard action. (PH 68)

Then, if successful, if the PC can reach a hiding spot, the PC can then make a Hide skill check that suffers a −10 penalty that's opposed by the onlookers' Spot skill checks. If the PC's Hide skill check then succeeds against all potential viewers (in this case, two), he's Batmanned out of there. (More about how to use the Bluff and Hide skill this way is covered by this question.)

However, this won't actually get the PC past the guards—that's still a Tumble skill check—, but the PC could make the Tumble skill check in conjunction with his movement to get to a hiding place beyond the guards. Note that this DM would rule that simply getting out of the guards' lines of sight is sufficient, a successful Hide check then indicating the guards don't know which way the PC went (assuming there's a choice).

Keep in mind: This is both a difficult and a highly situational tactic. Considering the circumstances you've described, I expect the game expects the PC to fight the darn guards, having made it so hard for the mundane creature to bypass them. And I also suspect that, were this fight against evenly matched foes, the game expects the PC to lose and either be killed or subdued. That's what happens. Employing pocket sand in a simulationist system shouldn't be a go-to option but an act of desperation that—sadly for the PC—probably won't work.

"But I want to take a standard action to blind multiple foes at a distance with sand from my belt pouch!"

That's magic. Cast glitterdust.

One last thing: Consider narrating if it's appropriate

If the PC is level 10 and the guards are level 1 (or similar extreme power discrepancy), there's very little the guards can do to stop the PC anyway. Allowing the PC to bypass such low-level threats automatically without making any rolls is okay. Just let the player describe how his PC bypasses the stooges—either within the realm of action hero possibility or not, depending on the campaign and the DM. There's no reason to detail every combat: while it's possible for the encounter to become a series of PC 1s and guard 20s, that possibility's so remote that trying for it wastes everybody's time.

  • \$\begingroup\$ First of all, naughty, linking to TV Tropes. Second, starting to think I should try to back-transfer 4E's "Sand In The Eyes" rogue attack, as much as I despise 4E. Or, I would, if this post wasn't a week old. \$\endgroup\$
    – JessLovely
    Aug 16, 2016 at 20:50

I would handle it as a ranged touch attack, that if successful, would grant a +4 temporary modifier (or higher, depending on how successful the attack was) to the character's Bluff skill. So they throw the sand, then depending on how cleanly it hits, make a bluff with the applied modifier (if any).

There's no guarantee the sand would even go where he wanted, so the attack is necessary to see if he even hit him in the eyes. Also, the bluff is necessary to see how well the character uses his created opportunity; e.g. how quickly he can time the attack with his escape.

Creating a Diversion to Hide You can use the Bluff skill to help you hide. A successful Bluff check gives you the momentary diversion you need to attempt a Hide check while people are aware of you. This usage does not provoke an attack of opportunity.

To me, this falls exactly in line with what you are describing.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It's appreciated that you so graciously supplied your opinion on the matter, but an answer was chosen nearly a week ago, that supplies official material that almost verbatim mentions the subject of the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – JessLovely
    Aug 16, 2016 at 20:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wrong. It supplies official materials from a different game entirely, and the answer you accepted clearly states "There's not a standard way of doing this in 3.5e". If you don't like someone trying to help, don't post a question. Also, it's not my "opinion"; what your are trying to do is not directly supported in 3.5e, however Bluff IS. "Creating a diversion to Hide" is straight text from the sourcebook, and the sand provides a situational modifier. Check your questions, and the content of the answers before firing off like a snot. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mike Petri
    Aug 19, 2016 at 16:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Pathfinder is built upon systems very similar to that of D&D (especially 3.5e), to the point even some very invested players would consider it as an honorary member of the D&D family. When I say "opinion", well, frankly, especially regarding things not explicitly covered by the system, any solution is ultimately the handiwork and preference of the current DM, and whatever sources they have used to help them make that decision. I don't call it an opinion to belittle the content it supplies, and very much think it to be a valid solution; I just prefer the accepted answer for this circumstance. \$\endgroup\$
    – JessLovely
    Aug 20, 2016 at 17:18

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