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Conquering Difficult Terrain 5E [Strategies To Win Battles]

Difficult Terrain 5E
  Written By: Ashish Arya
Updated On: 12/18/2023
Est. Reading: 7 minutes

Navigating through the world of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), seasoned gamers and rookies alike will undoubtedly encounter ‘difficult terrain 5E’.

It’s a crucial part of this incredibly immersive role-playing game that requires a steady hand and strategic thinking to leverage. However, as with anything in D&D, it can be as daunting as it is fascinating if you aren’t fully equipped with how it works.

For those who immerse themselves in these magical realms, difficult terrain can stir up some epic moments in your gameplay, elevating the entire experience.

Rest assured, understanding difficult terrain isn’t about memorizing lengthy manuals word for word. In reality, it’s about getting a handle on what it means for your character’s journey and its substantial impact on gameplay operations.

What is Difficult Terrain in D&D 5E?

In the imaginative universe of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition (D&D 5E), difficult terrain represents parts of the landscape that are particularly challenging to navigate.

What is Difficult Terrain in D&D 5E

Think of places like the thick underbrush of dense forests, where protruding roots and low-hanging branches hinder each step.

Picture yourself negotiating a path through deep swamps with squelchy ground that seems to discourage any progress actively.

Envisage is trying to make headway in rubble-filled ruins littered with broken bricks and debris without tripping or turning an ankle.

Imagine ascending steep, precarious mountains where one false step could lead to an unwelcome tumble down a rocky outcrop or navigating treacherous terrain like the slick, icy surface of a winter’s day.

Difficult terrain is essentially anywhere in the game world where normal movement becomes hazardous due to environmental factors or magical effects.

Brave adventurers take note difficult terrain intricately affects your navigation and movement speed, adding an additional layer of strategy and complexity to your immersive gameplay experience.

How Does Difficult Terrain Work In 5E?

Navigating through the elaborate world of D&D, you would be regularly encountering what the game refers to as ‘Difficult Terrain.’ Understanding how difficult terrain works is key to planning your strategy in-game.

How Does Difficult Terrain Work In 5E

It’s about comprehending the effect on your character’s journey and appreciating its significant impact on the dynamics of gameplay.

Moving in Difficult Terrain

In D&D 5E, difficult terrain often represents areas that are challenging to negotiate and navigate due to climatic, geographical, or magical factors.

These would typically comprise rugged mountains, dense forests, or swampy marshes that prove arduous to move through. Under such conditions, the costs of each foot moved double.

This implies that when you’re stomping across a mire of mud or shuffling across a rocky landscape, it’ll eat up twice your usual movement allowance.

If you were planning on walking ten feet into a thicket, it’d effectively cut short your movement for that round by twenty feet instead.

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Combat Movement Example

Let’s bring this concept into play with an example: consider your character, who is known for their agility on flat ground with a regular speed of 30 feet.

When they get into combat within difficult terrain – say they’re fighting a gnarled tree ent in a dense forest – their usual speed of 30 ft is realistically only 15 ft due to the energy consumption navigating the terrain would demand.


Now, it’s essential not to confuse this as halving your movement speed. What’s actually happening in difficult terrain is that each foot traversed costs more than usual, which depletes your available movement faster.

Actions or bonus actions related to moving (like Dash) depend specifically upon the remaining movement for that round.

Actions like Standing Up Aren’t Doubled

Here’s an interesting tidbit: one might assume anything related to moving would be affected by difficult terrain, but that’s not always the case.

Actions such as standing up from a prone position remain unaffected by difficult terrain. So, you’re still able to get back on your feet with less effort despite the rocky or muddy ground beneath you.

Overland Travel

You might be wondering how this translates to a larger scale “overland movement,” say involving miles instead of feet or yards. Don’t fret! The same rules apply; the 2:1 ratio remains consistent across all scales.

Distances are often rounded off to the nearest half-mile for simplification purposes.

Halve Distance for Difficult Terrain Journeys

Continuing on overland travel, for your long journeys spanning across miles of difficult terrain, halve your party’s travel in miles per day to compensate for the exhausting trek.

So, if you’re planning on getting through that ten-mile-wide swampy landmass? Block out two days of your travel plans instead of just banking on one!

Track Miles in Different Conditions

Now, keeping track of each mile can be daunting, especially when different parts of your journey could consist of multiple patches varying from easily navigable paths to taxing stretches mired with difficult terrain.

That’s where visualizing movement in terms of hours traveled instead of adhering to specific distances can help simplify things significantly.

This way, it becomes easier to modify plans according to shifting circumstances and captivating detours that this absorbing world compels adventurers into.

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Navigating the Pace of Travel

Taking a journey not only advances your character’s narrative but also sets the pace for your D&D game. Pace is essentially the speed at which your character can travel, from a full sprint to a casual stroll.

Navigating the Pace of Travel

Travel pace in D&D is measured by feet per minute, miles per hour, and miles per day. Trust me, it’s crucial to understand how your travel pace interacts with the difficult terrain rules if you want to plan a strategic approach or plot an efficient route through the wilderness.

  • Fast Pace: 400 feet per minute, 4 miles per hour, 30 miles per day
  • Normal Pace: 300 feet per minute, 3 miles per hour, 24 miles per day
  • Slow Pace: 200 feet per minute, 2 miles per hour, 18 miles per day)

What Spells Create Difficult Terrain?

The world of D&D 5E offers an impressive array of spells that can create challenging landscapes to navigate, transforming even the most mundane environment into a tactical obstacle.

By implementing these spells correctly, you can turn the battlefield into a test of survival. Here are some notable entries, expanding from Level 1 spells right up to Level 9 (with the level in brackets).

  • Mold Earth (Cantrip)
  • Earth Tremor (1st)
  • Entangle (1st)
  • Grease (1st)
  • Spike Growth (2nd)
  • Warding Wind (2nd)
  • Web (2nd)
  • Erupting Earth (3rd)
  • Sleet Storm (3rd)
  • Wall of Water (3rd)
  • (Evard’s) Black Tentacles (4th)
  • Ice Storm (4th)
  • Storm Sphere (4th)
  • Arcane (Bigby’s) Hand (5th)
  • Insect Plague (5th)
  • Maelstrom (5th)
  • Blade Barrier (6th)
  • Bones of the Earth (6th)
  • Investiture of Ice (6th)
  • Mirage Arcane (7th)
  • Earthquake (8th)
  • Storm of Vengeance (9th)

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How can you Use Difficult Terrain for your purpose?

Difficult terrain plays a significant role in the strategic dynamics of battle, both in fantasy settings like Dungeons & Dragons and in real-world historical conflicts.

How can you Use Difficult Terrain for your purpose

It refers to any environment that hampers movement, whether it’s dense forests, steep mountains, or marshy lands. Smart use of difficult terrain can be a game-changer in combat, offering numerous tactical advantages.

Its impact is felt in various scenarios, from small skirmishes to large-scale wars, making understanding and utilizing it an essential skill for commanders and adventurers alike.

  • Use Difficult Terrain in Combat Strategically: Utilize the challenging aspects of the terrain to slow down enemy forces, making them easier targets or delaying their progress.
  • Slows Enemy Movement, Potential Damage Increase: Hindered movement often leads to increased vulnerability, giving your forces an opportunity to inflict more damage.
  • Control the Enemy’s Approach in Defense: Direct the flow of battle by forcing enemies to take specific, less advantageous routes.
  • Important in Larger-Scale Conflicts: Difficult terrain can have a major impact on the outcome of extensive battles, affecting the movement of large groups and equipment.
  • Historical Battles Affected by Terrain: Many real-life battles have been influenced heavily by the terrain, offering lessons in its strategic use.
  • Mobility Advantage Can Exploit Difficult Terrain: Forces adept at navigating such terrain can use it to their advantage, outmaneuvering less agile opponents.
  • Creating Obstacles Can Buy Time for Preparation: Using the terrain to create barriers or obstacles can provide crucial time for fortifying positions or preparing strategies.

How can you Avoid Difficult Terrain in 5E?

In the realm of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition (5e), difficult terrain presents a unique challenge, potentially hindering the movement of characters and affecting the outcome of their adventures.

Players have various tools and abilities at their disposal to navigate or even bypass such terrain.

From magical spells to clever use of equipment, there are several ways to mitigate the impact of challenging environments, ensuring that adventurers can proceed on their quests without being significantly impeded by the landscape.

  • Avoid Difficult Terrain by Going Around: Opt for alternate routes when possible to bypass challenging areas.
  • Use Freedom of Movement (4th Level) Spell: This spell negates the effects of difficult terrain on movement.
  • Expeditious Retreat (1st Level) for Bonus Dash Action: Gain additional movement to move through or out of difficult areas quickly.
  • Spells: Jump (1st Level), Levitate (2nd Level), Fly (3rd Level): Use these spells to overcome terrain by moving through the air.
  • Flying Mount, Broom of Flying, Magic Carpet: Utilize flying methods to hover over and avoid ground-based difficult terrain.
  • Teleportation Spells like Misty Step: Instantaneously move to a different location, bypassing the terrain entirely.
  • Cantrips: Mold Earth, Shape Water for Terrain Manipulation: Alter the terrain itself to make it more navigable or to create paths.

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FAQs About Difficult Terrain 5E

What is ‘Difficult Terrain’ in D&D 5E?

Difficult Terrain in D&D 5E refers to a type of terrain that hampers mobility. This includes environments like dense forests, steep mountains, or icy grounds, which take extra effort and time to navigate through.

How does difficult terrain influence the pace of travel?

Navigating through difficult terrain essentially reduces your pace to half because it costs twice as much movement. So, a regular 30-foot movement can be reduced to just 15 feet when crossing difficult terrains.

Can spells create Difficult Terrain in the game?

Yes, a good number of spells can create difficult terrain in D&D 5E. Examples are ‘Entangle,’ ‘Grease,’ ‘Web,’ ‘Sleet Storm’, and many more. These spells significantly change the landscape and obstruct movement.

How can I use Difficult Terrain to my advantage in the game?

You can leverage Difficult Terrain strategically during combat situations to control enemy approaches or slow their movement down; it might even present opportunities for increased damage. Think of it as creating obstacles that buy you critical time for preparation.

Are there ways to avoid the effects of Difficult Terrain in D&D 5E?

Indeed, there are! Spells such as Freedom of Movement, Expeditious Retreat, or even Fly can help you navigate difficult terrains better without slowing down your pace considerably. You could also consider using magic items like Broom of Flying or Magic Carpet.


  • Ashish Arya

    I'm a tech enthusiast and lifelong gamer, hailing from the beautiful city of Chandigarh. My passions range from immersing myself in worlds like GTA V, COD, SIMS, Roblox and Minecraft to exploring the latest innovations in laptops and technology. Armed with a Bachelors Degree in Computer Application, I love sharing my insights through writing and engaging with fellow enthusiasts. Join me on my journey through the ever-evolving realms of gaming and tech!