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

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.

A 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."
That seems to lead down a completely different rabbit hole: by this standard, nothing in 5e is "natural language." That is, this seems to be saying that, for something to be natural language, it can't make even an appearance of being exhaustive or precise. The vast majority of 5e's rules do try for at least precision, and usually exhaustiveness. E.g. I was looking over the Scribes Wizard's Manifest Mind. It's absolutely not "natural language," given the extensive and highly-specific list of conditions for when the Manifest Mind ceases manifesting.

If this is what "natural language" was supposed to be, then it would seem 5e rather seriously failed to produce much, if any, such language, and would (by this logic) mostly just have poorly-written rules.

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...
I'm not sure I understand how you can have a D&D game that is completely non-competitive when you have DM-run opponents facing off against player-run characters with the actual possibility of death, dismemberment, or loss that cannot be restored. That, necessarily, invites competition-type behavior, because the players are clearly given an incentive to perform the best they can, for their own sake and for their teammates'.

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.
Mostly quoting this so it's mentioned, as my real response comes to a later post.

Well, that's why we have DMs who are human, not computer programs or flowcharts.
Sure. But when the language itself is unclear, it creates a significant burden on the group in general and the DM in particular. Players will naturally be inclined to feel cheated if a plain reading of the text (which is what I feel I've been doing) indicates they can do a thing, and the DM vetoes it, or in some other way "adjudicates" (really, rewrites) the rules to mean something wholly different from what the actual text says. Games have rules, in part, so that people can make informed decisions. Having a rules framework that poorly communicates to the players makes it difficult or even impossible to make informed decisions. It is certainly unfair (and IMO unrealistic) to expect DMs to meticulously articulate what every possible rule is supposed to say, meaning you are eventually guaranteed to run into a situation where the player is forced to deal with something where the rules (appear to) say one thing and the DM (explicitly) says something else, and suddenly a good plan goes up in smoke. That sucks. That is a clearly undesirable state of affairs--to have such a state of affairs be a nigh-unavoidable consequences of how the rules are written is not good.

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. ;)
This would seem to contradict what you said above: the spell has affected those people, so they are targets. That is, your exact words were, "If a creature is affected by a spell, it is a target of the spell." For a wall of fire to do damage to a creature, it must affect that creature. Therefore, the wall of fire can only do anything if it targets a creature--which means your statement cashes out as saying you can't use wall of fire, because it's a spell that targets creatures.

Your logic here, however, is that the targeting only matters (in effect) "at the moment of casting," not at any point thereafter. But that becomes complicated by things like delayed blast fireball. That spell could just as easily be used on a location with no creatures in it, and then the caster could run past that location, "allowing" their concentration to break once their opponents have followed them. Heck, they could even just hold the fireball for its full minute concentration and then lose concentration naturally, whether or not they know there are opponents inside.

I'm not citing this because I would do such a thing, just to be clear. I, personally, do think that that would be exploitative and would probably disallow it. My concern is simply that with the huge variety of spells out there, your logic in this post could potentially be turned toward other ends, and with the way people seem to love ultra-deadly games, there's a strong incentive for players to think in terms of the greatest advantage they can acquire.

(Incidentally, notice how this sort of crap is only required for spells? Yet another power reserved only for the magical: the ability to push, sometimes very hard, against the rules because you have all sorts of weird fiddly unique superpowers that can dodge and weave around the game's rules. When was the last time a bog-standard Fighter could do something like that?)
 

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DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
Your logic here, however, is that the targeting only matters (in effect) "at the moment of casting," not at any point thereafter. But that becomes complicated by things like delayed blast fireball. That spell could just as easily be used on a location with no creatures in it, and then the caster could run past that location, "allowing" their concentration to break once their opponents have followed them. Heck, they could even just hold the fireball for its full minute concentration and then lose concentration naturally, whether or not they know there are opponents inside.
Yes, at the moment casting was the intent.

However, this is a good point, so perhaps in the case of wall of fire (also concentration), if a creature tried to cross it and thus became a target, your concentration would fail because you realize it is hopeless and the creature is not harmed?

For the DBF, while concentrating you could not ignite it if creatures moved into the area maybe? In fact, if creatures moved into the area you might want to keep concentrating to prevent them from become targets?

Honestly, for the symbol spell, wording it you can not cast spells that cause damage would have been much simpler IMO.
 

Quartz

Hero
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?

I might allow this if you were at ground zero AND the spell stood a good chance of killing you. "It's hopeless; I might as well go out in a blaze of glory." The PC automatically forgoes / fails any save.

If such a spell were cast so as to try and get around the rules, I'd say something along the lines of, "Your hopelessness causes you to target the spell at yourself and to fail the save.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I'd like to think that the designers intentionally kept loopholes in spells like this so that the DM could rule one way or another on abuses- some might like the fantasy of being able to wriggle out of effects that coerce characters and NPC's into losing control of their actions, like finding a sly "out" in a pesky geas.

And for those that don't, it's an easy ruling to say "haha, no".

The other possibility is that they felt closing the loopholes completely would take too much book space and what's the point of that when DM's can remedy the situation for them if they so choose. I really hope that's not the case, because it strikes me as being lazy.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
I'd like to think that the designers intentionally kept loopholes in spells like this so that the DM could rule one way or another on abuses- some might like the fantasy of being able to wriggle out of effects that coerce characters and NPC's into losing control of their actions, like finding a sly "out" in a pesky geas.

And for those that don't, it's an easy ruling to say "haha, no".

The other possibility is that they felt closing the loopholes completely would take too much book space and what's the point of that when DM's can remedy the situation for them if they so choose. I really hope that's not the case, because it strikes me as being lazy.

I think the latter is true with the added rationale that trying to remove loopholes is a fool's errand.

Even if they devote paragraphs to it people will find ways to exploit it. So best to not try and try to just get across the intent of the rule.
 

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