What Spells Or Effects Can ‘Iron Heart Surge’ Eliminate?

By Ken Wai Lau

Iron Heart Surge is a maneuver from the brilliant Tome of Battle supplement which allows your character to shake off one single debilitating spell currently affecting him. Upon initiating the maneuver, he also gains a small bonus to his attack until the end of his next turn. When I first read the description of this maneuver, I thought the idea of being able to break the chains of magic just by sheer willpower alone was awesome. I could do things like wade into an anti-magic field and shatter it, so I don’t have to suffer the inconvenience of being handicapped by the lack of beneficial magic. But upon careful inspection, I may have been somewhat liberal in my interpretation of the maneuver. What makes me say this? Well, consider this sentence from the maneuver description:

When you use this maneuver, select one spell, effect, or other condition currently affecting you and with a duration of 1 or more rounds.

Every spell description has a duration which is often measured in rounds, minutes, hours and even days. This is how a spell is typically presented in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5:

Cause Fear

Necromancy [Fear, Mind-Affecting] Level: Brd 1, Clr 1, Death 1, Sor/Wiz 1 Components: V, S Casting Time: 1 standard action Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels) Target: One living creature with 5 or fewer HD Duration: 1d4 rounds or 1 round; see text Saving Throw: Will partial Spell Resistance: Yes The affected creature becomes frightened. If the subject succeeds on a Will save, it is shaken for 1 round. Creatures with 6 or more Hit Dice are immune to this effect. Cause fear counters and dispels remove fear

The variable I highlighted in the spell description above is the spell’s duration. Bearing that in mind, notice that the maneuver description says ‘…with a duration of 1 or more rounds‘. Not ‘1 or more minutes‘ or ‘1 or more hours‘, but ‘1 or more rounds‘. This means the maneuver will cancel the above spell because the duration of the spell is measured in rounds. If it read ‘1d4 minutes or 1 minute‘, the maneuver would be useless against this spell. If this was not the case, then you could include spells such as Blindness/Deafness which are permanent, but can be interpreted to mean ‘one or more rounds’ (which is technically true). With this in mind, I have compiled a list of spells that I feel are subject to the effects of Iron Heart Surge. If you think I’ve missed anything out, give me a shout and I’ll update the list.

Acid Arrow Blasphemy (weakened only) Cause Fear (shakened only) Chaos Hammer (excluding damage) Command (Drop and Fall commands only) Command, Greater (Drop and Fall Commands only) Confusion (only during rounds where you can act normally) Dictum (deafened and slowed only) Eyebite (sickened only) Fear (shakened only) Glitterdust (self only) Holy Smite (excluding damage) Holy Word (deafened and blinded only) Lullaby Power Word Blind (if duration is 1d4+1 rounds) Prayer (penalties, self only) Scare (shakened only) Scintillating Pattern (confused only, only during rounds where you can act normally) Shout (excluding damage) Greater Shout (excluding damage) Slow Song of Discord Touch of Fatigue Unholy Blight (excluding damage) Word of Chaos (deafened only)

I have only listed spells from the core rulebooks, so there may be additional spells from other D&D 3.5 supplements that qualify. The rule of thumb is that if the duration of the spell (effect) is one or more rounds, it can be eliminated by Iron Heart Surge. Hopefully, this clears things up for anyone who is confused about this maneuver. There are also area spells with a duration of one or more rounds – such as Black Tentacles – which I have not included in the above list. This might be more of a house-rule, but it is advisable to disallow the elimination of continuous area effects using this maneuver. At best, he could use the maneuver to escape the effects of the spell for one round, so he can move away from the area of effect. But he cannot end the spell completely and other creatures currently affected by the spell will remain so. Click here to read my Tome of Battle review.

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  1. Stubbs April 7, 2014 5:19 pm  Reply

    Well, that sucks. I’ve played a campaign as a warblade and used iron heart surge to do exactly that: end antimagic field, web spells and fear effects. So does this mean I’m playing it wrong? Damn.

    • Ken Wai Lau April 8, 2014 12:42 pm  Reply

      Well, I’m sure you’re not alone. I thought there was a lot you could get away with too. Many people say the description of the maneuver is poorly worded, hence all the ridiculous things that Iron Heart Surge is seemingly capable of. It’s only when I took the time to really read and digest the wording that I’ve been able to come to this conclusion.

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