Ever get frustrated by low movement speeds and the inconvenient way enemies and allies tend to rearrange themselves into inconvenient positions before you have a chance to line up your combo?
Scatter is a 6th-level Conjuration spell that teleports creatures of your choice to new locations also of your choice. It’s the ultimate relocation spell, at least within 120 feet.
You get to decide where enemies are and where allies should be with only a few restrictions. Scatter gives you a lot of freedom in deciding how to arrange the combat field or any field for that matter. This spell is a lot of fun to use, so let’s get started so you can find out how you can swap places with anyone, even a king on his throne.
Before we talk about how to use Scatter, its tactics and strategies, and the gray areas in the rules, we have to look at the basic spell description and, of course, the stats.
- Casting Time: 1 action
- Range: 30 feet/120 feet
- Duration: Instantaneous
- School: Conjuration
- Class: Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard
- Level: 6th Level
- Save: Wisdom
- Components: V
The spell sends vibrations through the air around up to five creatures you can see within range (30 feet). You can teleport each creature to an empty space on the ground or floor within 120 feet of you. Unwilling creatures make a Wisdom saving throw to resist, but you can definitely just allow yourself to be moved.
Scatter is a fairly straightforward spell, but there are a few peculiarities that need clarity. As always, final rulings are dependent on your DM, but here are some good ways to look at this spell’s rules.
First, let’s correct an easy mistake to make. The spell says, “you teleport each affected target to an unoccupied space.” Some players might be tempted to understand this as all the creatures being teleported to the same spot, but that isn’t true.
Creatures almost universally can’t occupy the same space as other creatures, with perhaps the exception of riding them. Even if the spell could be read that way, it shouldn’t be as both the intention of the spell and the rules of 5e indicate that squishing a bunch of creatures together in the same 5-foot square isn’t an acceptable use of the spell.
The Ground & Floor
The second issue is a little more critical and a little less clear. What exactly counts as the ground or the floor? If you use this spell in a moving train, can you only teleport players onto the ground outside?
Personally, I would interpret this clause as referring to any kind of area that isn’t moving relative to a local frame of reference.
While the intention of the spell appears to be to prevent players from using Scatter to toss people into the air or teleport them into the ground, the wording of the spell says nothing about the effects of gravity. That means that, in the complete void of space, this spell still wouldn’t work.
On the other hand, floating rocks, moving trains, treehouses, the decks of ships, and even unstable ground are all candidates for unoccupied spaces (provided they’re big enough). As long as some frame of reference can place the platform as still, I’d count it.
Whether or not liquid counts is a lot more up to personal interpretation. Personally, I think right on top of, for example, water or quicksand counts, but that’s just me.
I’d even allow swapping between frames of reference. That means teleporting creatures from the moving train onto the ground beside it, though that raises other issues.
Frames of Reference
How to deal with relative speeds when swapping between frames of reference?
Here, I recommend following the rules as intended, which are clear that the spell shouldn’t be able to cause direct damage. In the above train example, we can just ignore the relative velocities of teleported creatures.
Incidentally, this would make this spell extremely convenient for immediately canceling any inconvenient velocity, which could make the spell more powerful than you want. Still, players might complain if you try to have it both ways as the inconsistency will stick out.
I recommend the spell either preserves velocity in all cases or in all cases matches it to the frame of reference for the ground to which you teleport creatures.
Within 120 feet
Lastly, players might argue that you can teleport creatures greater distances if you can see a space within 120 feet of you, regardless of the actual distance. This might be done with a scrying spell of some kind, but the rules don’t support that. Within sight for spells also means a direct line of effect to the space.
A more complicated issue might be caused by portals, such as from the spell Arcane Gate. This is more complex since while some creatures will be too big to fit through a portal, it still represents a straight line of effect to unoccupied space outside of the spell’s reach.
The answer to this partly depends on how you consider teleportation to work (something you might not want to actually try and figure out), but personally, I think the use of portals is a legitimate way to extend the range. It would work for Fireball, after all.
A final note about range: a stupendously large creature, like a blue whale, might be longer than 120 feet. There are two reasonable options here, and you can go with either.
A square that the creature occupies has to be within 120 feet of you, or a square in roughly the center of the creature has to be within 120 feet of you. Since the spell doesn’t limit the maximum size of the creature you can teleport, you shouldn’t force that limitation on players (though of course, there might not be a big enough space to move the creature).
Strategies and Tactics
Scatter is a pretty open-ended spell. At its core, it just moves around creatures, either allies or enemies. This can provide several different advantages, and it won’t be possible to consider every possible use case.
To use Scatter successfully you need to pay attention to two things: the environment and everyone’s position. Well, maybe three things: Environment, everyone’s position, and everyone’s potential position.
Paying attention to the environment will let you spot opportunities for Scatter’s effectiveness: unstable ground, areas that an ally could cast Spike Growth on, and chokepoints or other features that can give your team an edge.
Paying attention to everyone’s position will let you know where everyone ought to be. Moving melee characters into a unified front, putting ranged allies in favorable positions away from melee, and moving squishy enemies like spellcasters right in front of your barbarian are all excellent, if not flashy, uses of Scatter.
Finally, as an advanced technique, you might want to consider the relative movement abilities and ranges of your enemies and allies. Putting a wizard more than 60 feet away neutralizes the ability to use Counterspell the next round. Placing a melee character exactly triple their movement away from the party is close enough to make many enemies hesitant about using limited-use teleports, but it also forces the melee character to waste a full turn unable to do damage.
Using Scatter to neutralize abilities and waste actions by simply forcing players away can seriously tip a fight in your favor.
These are the general ways to take advantage of Scatter’s… scattering, but there’s one specific use of Scatter that I love.
If you happen to be fighting an enemy or enemies that have just made it through an environmental hazard to get to you (like the hazards created by Grease or Spike Growth), it is both effective and extremely funny to simply teleport them all back to the other side of the area.
Common Questions About Scatter
We’ve covered rules and tactics galore, but before we go, there are still a few common questions about this spell that don’t fit anywhere else.
Is Scatter Good?
As a 6th-level spell, Scatter is fairly powerful, and it’s a spell with a small but noticeable amount of open-endedness. That makes the spell pretty useful no matter what, but frankly, Scatter is a little underpowered for a 6th-level spell. I’d say it’s decent, but you might often find yourself using a different spell.
Who Can Use Scatter?
This is a Warlock, Wizard, and Sorcerer spell only. However, you may be able to access it as other classes through features like the Bard’s Magical Secrets ability, so it’s not totally exclusive.
How Can You Defend Against Scatter?
Some obvious answers to this include Counterspell and teleports to directly counter the effects of Scatter. However, for those of us without access to magic, to directly counter the spell it may be worth spending an entire action to remove. Positioning, especially for melee characters, is critical to correct if at all possible.
When Is Casting Scatter a Bad Idea?
In most cases, Scatter is a positional spell, which means there may be times casting it actually puts you in a worse position. Consider holding off on drastic positioning changes like from Scatter when there may be hidden escape routes in the area or the potential for additional enemies or ambushers to arrive from an unexpected direction, flanking you. You never know what your DM has planned, so look out for where enemies might be, and pay attention to the environment!