D&D 5E Can you cast an Area Damage Spell if you are under the "Hopelessness" Symbol?

Cruentus

Adventurer
My question mostly lies at the intersection of these two things. What about a situation where you're dropping wall of fire in order to prevent people from following you? You don't want to target any of them--you WANT them to stay AWAY from the fire, because that lets you get away.

Does "target" care about the psychology of the caster? It seems to me that "drop something to cover my butt so I can turn tail and run" is a perfectly reasonable thing to do when you feel "hopeless," yet it also seems like the natural-language meaning of the description of that effect is that you can't really cast damaging spells or SoD/SoS spells, regardless of how they do their damage or cause someone to die/suck.
In this case, if you cast Wall of Fire to block a corridor, and set it up such that it does no damage to the enemy (or anyone) when it goes up, I'd allow it, and I think falls outside the "target" restriction. If the enemy then walks into it on their turn, or whatever, that doesn't matter. When the spell went up, no one was "targeted or harmed". I think your description of casting to assist in running away likely matches up with RAI. It at least feels right to me.

Natural language can work just fine if folks don't try to poke holes in it, interpret it to their advantage, or seek loopholes (you know, all the things that can go into playing any game - I just happen to be not great at that skill set). If you're playing DnD in a "non-competitive" (and I hate to use that phrase, as its all supposed to be cooperative) manner, then natural language works great. In my experience, when my players demand the combat be drawn up, squares start to be counted, and every position of every spell and character starts to matter, then we've crossed the rubicon into miniature wargame, and then the precise language starts to matter...
 

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Stalker0

Legend
The thing is, this isn't natural language. "During that time, it can't attack or target any creature with harmful abilities, spells, or other magical effects?" That sounds like something out of a legal document. When I see that kind of precise, exhaustive phrasing, I assume it's written that way so that you can parse it out and get an exact, black-and-white answer to any question about how it works. If you can't, it isn't "natural language"--it's just a badly written rule.
The issue isn't that phrase, that phrase is clear. The problem is the notion of targets.

If you read the combat section, the term "targets" is only used in reference to when a spell is cast. The targeting section for area effect notes that you target a "point in space". And if we consult the meteor swarm spell, the section that says "target" clearly defines points in space, not creatures. So if we are going on legal definition based on the phrase above, the meaning is "clear", that I can use meteor swarm, because I am not targeting any "creature", again....I target a point in space.

Where the murkiness comes in is this notion of "spell targets". The spell fireball (the most iconic of area damage damage) spells notes the concept that the fireball IS targetting creatures. We also have some passages from the DMG that once again note how many targets the area spell itself can have.

So we have seen the word target being used in subtlety two different ways.... I can target the spell itself, but then the spell can have targets. So going back to hopelessness, it does refer to the caster being unable to target. Ok....so does that also include the spell targeting a creature? Is the idea of a person targeting a spell, and a spell targeting someone....actually two different things, or is it just the same thing but poorly worded and defined?


That is where all the murkiness comes in. Its been an interesting discussion because it just showcases how people are different. This has never come up in my games before, to me the wording was "obviously" clear about targets because of the targeting section... yet the second others brought up their own interpretation, I can see why they would think so. It should be noted that however you decide to interpret hopelessness in your game, you should apply the same ruling to the charmed condition, which uses very similar language.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
This isn't M:tG.

Better to take things in plain language and not as rules jargon unless a keyword has been specifically identified (eg. Advantage)
 


Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I would rule, in keeping with the citations others have already given in the thread, that you can't cast a harmful spell in a manner that would include any creatures (at least that you're aware of) in the area of effect.

I agree with Cruentus that Wall of Fire would be allowable to try to block enemies from approaching you, but you wouldn't be allowed to place it such that any creatures were in the damaging heat zone or the wall itself.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
I agree with Cruentus that Wall of Fire would be allowable to try to block enemies from approaching you, but you wouldn't be allowed to place it such that any creatures were in the damaging heat zone or the wall itself.
I agree, though I wouldn't be super strict about it if there was no easy way to avoid a creature being "accidently" targeted (in a scenario where the space is crowded). I think a "hopeless" character might throw a wall across a room, say, to split it up, but it would get weird if they were forced to twist the wall back-and-forth to avoid getting anyone in it. That seems too much effort for a feeling of hopelessness. It would just have to not "feel" like they were intentionally targeting anyone.

But that's just very specific corner-case ruling, for the sake of the game's story.
 

Stalker0

Legend
I mean if your going the route that you can't use fireball to hit people with hopelessness, I think you have to take it all the way. If you believe the RAI is "your so hopeless that you just don't don't think those spells would do any good"....than to me wall of fire is no different. Why bother....it will never get anyone....no one will fall for it, its hopeless. etc etc

I don't think you can have the cake and eat it too. If your saying fireball is not allowed because its against the spirit of the symbol, than I think all harmful spells would be disallowed period. Though frankly, at that point I don't know why any spellcasting would be allowed.

Wall of Stone....it won't help, they will just figure out a way around it...its hopeless.

Bless....why bother, even with my power you won't be able to stop them....its hopeless.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I mean if your going the route that you can't use fireball to hit people with hopelessness, I think you have to take it all the way. If you believe the RAI is "your so hopeless that you just don't don't think those spells would do any good"....than to me wall of fire is no different. Why bother....it will never get anyone....no one will fall for it, its hopeless. etc etc
This line of reasoning seems dubious. If that were true, as you say, Symbol would be worded that you can't cast any spells at all. Which it isn't.

The wording of fireball makes clear that casting a harmful area spell so as to intentionally include a creature in the effect is functionally targeting them.
 
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Stalker0

Legend
This line of reasoning seems dubious. If that were true, as you say, Symbol would be worded that you can't cast any spells at all. Which it isn't.
correct, but I take that to me I can hit someone with a fireball. because otherwise, why not just say "you can't cast harmful spells"
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
correct, but I take that to me I can hit someone with a fireball. because otherwise, why not just say "you can't cast harmful spells"
There are spells which can cause harm if enemies are in the area but have other effects, are there not?

Presumably the designers wanted to allow those, as long as they weren't being used offensively.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
I don't think you can have the cake and eat it too.

I don't agree. Context is extremely important. Casting Fireball because it "technically doesn't target anyone" sounds like someone trying to game the system. Casting Wall of Fire, OtOH, might seem like someone trying to game the system, depending on if they're trying to maximize how many enemies they "accidently" get with it, or it might be playing along with the spirit of the hopeless sigil, if they say, "It's hopeless, we're all gonna die if we don't retreat. I'll throw a wall across the room, and let's get out of here."

I don't think you have to get carried away with it either way.
 

This just came up in the Vecna fight, so I'm curious on people's thoughts.

Here is the spell text for the portion of the symbol spell.

Hopelessness: Each target must make a Charisma saving throw. On a failed save, the target is overwhelmed with despair for 1 minute. During this time, it can't Attack or target any creature with harmful Abilities, Spells, or other magical Effects.


So its clear as a bell that I couldn't cast like a dominate person or something. But can I still use an area damage spell like a fireball?
fireball doesn't target a creature... I would allow it but extra boocoo pts if they aimed teh fireball to hit themselves too since they are in hopelessness
 

natural language version would say something like, "It can't try to harm other creatures." Simple, succinct, and makes it clear that the DM is going to have to rule on exactly what constitutes "trying to harm."
yeah something like that or "under this effect you cant take actions against others"
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
I think a very easy way to rule this is: if a creature is affected by a spell, it is a target of the spell.

That is the natural language use JC was talking about IMO.

Now, some spells require you to choose the target(s). Others are AoE and the area dictates which creatures become targets. "Targeting" a creature is not a term in 5E, it is just the natural language use of a creature that is chosen or in the region affect by a spell.

For hopelessness you cannot do harmful spells that result in creatures becoming targets. Now, you can do spells that target a creature that when that spell, in and of itself, is not harmful. Consider faerie fire for instance. It doesn't harm any creature affected by it, even though it makes those who fail their save easier to hit.

For myself, concerning wall of fire, if the spell landed on any space occupied by a creature, that creature becomes a target of the spell's damage and under hopelessness you could NOT put the wall there. Now, nothing would prevent you from putting up the wall, otherwise, if all the spaces you choose were unoccupied.

That's my take on it all.
 

Here is the spell text for the portion of the symbol spell.

Hopelessness: Each target must make a Charisma saving throw. On a failed save, the target is overwhelmed with despair for 1 minute. During this time, it can't Attack or target any creature with harmful Abilities, Spells, or other magical Effects.

So its clear as a bell that I couldn't cast like a dominate person or something. But can I still use an area damage spell like a fireball?
For me, I would say no since they are making an aggressive action against others. Since the target is in despair, I could buy them casting a fireball at their feet wholly indifferent to who might be in range of the blast.
 



cbwjm

Legend
My question mostly lies at the intersection of these two things. What about a situation where you're dropping wall of fire in order to prevent people from following you? You don't want to target any of them--you WANT them to stay AWAY from the fire, because that lets you get away.
And since that would hinder the enemy, I'd say that no, you can't cast it due to the hopelessness spell effect.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
My question mostly lies at the intersection of these two things. What about a situation where you're dropping wall of fire in order to prevent people from following you? You don't want to target any of them--you WANT them to stay AWAY from the fire, because that lets you get away.
As long as the spaces where the wall is placed doesn't hit any space occupied by a creature, you aren't targeting anything, so have at it! :)

After the spell is cast, if the creature choose to target itself by entering the wall, that is on them. ;)
 


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