A Cubist Viewpoint

A medium-sized character takes up one square on the battlefield—but how many cubes does he take up? Is it one cube or two cubes stacked on each other?

Though this question hasn’t come up yet, it occurred to me recently that it probably will—and soon, based on the amount of 3D terrain we use.

Unfortunately, there’s no clear ruling. The Rules Compendium says only this about characters and three dimensions:

Space: A creature’s space is the area, measured in squares, that the creature occupies on the battle grid. This area represents the three-dimensional space that the creature needs to take part in an encounter, allowing it to turn around, attack, fall prone, and so on. Despite the cubic shape of its space, a creature is not actually a cube (unless it’s a gelatinous cube).

The line “Despite the cubic shape of its space, a creature is not actually a cube…” does seem to suggest that a medium-sized character takes up one cube—but it’s not exactly conclusive.

There have, however, been various customer service responses, coupled with a common interpretation of the rules, which implies that a character does, in fact, fill a cube measured in squares with the same size in each dimension. Since this appears to be the consistent assumption throughout all rules discussions I’ve read, it’s a pretty safe bet this will work as a baseline assumption, whether it’s official or not.

So a medium creature fills up a space that is a 1x1x1 cube, a large creature fills up a space that is a 2x2x2 cube, etc. Of course, this begs the question: are areas of effect also cubes, and can they be positioned in three-dimensions as desired? I would say yes.

An obvious usage of this would come into play for a party who’s facing a bunch of large creatures in an area with a fairly high ceiling. A character with an area effect could target bursts and blasts in such a way that they only catch their opponents in them. For example, you could target your area burst one or two cubes above the heads of your allies, clipping an ogre with the power, yet freeing your friends from damage.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, I might as well get this out of the way—a prone creature will take up half his space in height. So a medium-sized creature will fill up a space that is 1x1x0.5 of a cube, a large creature will fill up a space that is 2x2x1 cubes, etc.