D&D 5E Question: Spirit Guardians/Distant Spell metamagic interaction?


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Arial Black

Adventurer
Sword burst's range entry says '5 feet'.

Thunderclap's range entry says 'Self (5-foot radius)'.

Sword burst's description says 'Each creature with range, other than you...' The range is 5 feet.

Thunderclap's description says 'Each creature other than you within 5 feet of you...'

There is absolutely no functional difference between the two spells in who it targets: every creature, except you, who is within 5 feet of you.

This means that the actual difference between the ranges of '5 feet' and 'Self (5-foot radius)' is purely stylistic. They function identically in this regard. Why, conceptually, should Distant Spell work with one but not the other?

Whether you conceptualise them as affecting every other creature within 5 feet of you, or as affecting every other creature in a 5-foot radius AoE, there is no actual difference in which creatures the spells can affect.

Any spell which creates an aura or burst centred on you which affects 'individual creatures within an area with a radius of X', can also be written that it affects 'individual creatures within X range of you'. It is a distinction without a difference.
 

Thunderclap's range entry says 'Self (5-foot radius)'.

Where? It doesn't say that in any of my references.

In Xanthar's Guide Thunderclap reads Range: 5 feet.
On D&D Beyond Thunderclap reads Range/Area: 5 feet.
Why, conceptually, should Distant Spell work with one but not the other?

It doesn't. It works with both.

Any spell which creates an aura or burst centred on you which affects 'individual creatures within an area with a radius of X', can also be written that it affects 'individual creatures within X range of you'. It is a distinction without a difference.


It becomes different when some individual creatures can be excluded.

But the point of irrelevant. There is nothing in the description of Distant Spell to exclude pbaoes. It does it via the spell descriptions differentiating between range (not in brackets) and AoE (in brackets). If it's range is not in brackets it works with Distant Spell. Simple.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
No, the don't. They have a range and an area of affect. It's just that they use the rather odd convention of listing the AoE in brackets after the range, rather than having a separate AoE line. This is more obvious on D&D Beyond, where they add a symbol for the type of AoE to the brackets.

As I mentioned for my personal way I'd run it, I don't think the PHB is consistent in area of effect listings, and I agree with you.

In terms of a RAW reading, PHB as original source trumps a 3rd party change. We know the D&D Beyond changes are not official since it's not reflected in the PHB Errata. So I also stand by that.

But yeah, the D&D Beyond makes more sense and is how I'd run it - just if it disagrees with the PHB, PHB is more definitive for RAW.
 

Arial Black

Adventurer
Arial Black said:
Thunderclap's range entry says 'Self (5-foot radius)'.

Where? It doesn't say that in any of my references.

In Xanthar's Guide Thunderclap reads Range: 5 feet.
On D&D Beyond Thunderclap reads Range/Area: 5 feet.

I have a 5e spell app on my phone; that's what I referenced for the range entry for thunderclap as 'Self (5-foot radius)'. The app says this spell appears in Elemental Evil and Xanathar's Guide to Everything.

Checking my hardbacks:-

Princes of the Apocalypse (I think it and Elemental Evil are two names for the same thing, but I could be wrong. I own PotA but not EE) has the range entry for thunderclap as 'Self (5-foot radius)' on p240.

Xanathar's Guide to Everything has the range as '5 feet' on p168.

It's hardly surprising that the writers use these terms interchangeably, since they both result in exactly the same creatures being affected whichever way they are written!

And now you say D&D Beyond has something else meaning the exact same thing! Further evidence of a distinction without a difference.

You think that 'It becomes different when some individual creatures can be excluded'? Let's see:-

In the PotA version of the spell (Range: Self (5-foot radius)), it says 'Each creature other than you within 5 feet of you...'

In the XGtE version (Range: 5 feet), it says 'Each creature within range, other than you...'

To include a form of words which would allow some individuals to be excluded, spirit guardians (range: Self (15-foot radius)) says 'You call forth spirits to protect you. They flit around you to a distance (a synonym for range, not area of effect!) of 15 feet for the duration...When you cast this spell, you can designate any number of creatures you can see to be unaffected by it. An affected creature....'

So, let's rewrite this, replacing the Range entry from 'Self (15-foot radius)' to 'Range: 15 feet':-

'You call forth spirits to protect you. They flit around you to a distance of 15 feet for the duration...When you cast this spell, you can designate any number of creatures you can see to be unaffected by it. An affected creature....'

There is literally no change needed in the wording of the spell, whichever way the range is expressed. This is because the body of the spell refers to the distance (i.e. 'range') between you and any potentially affected creature. It then goes on to talk about how affected creatures are affected in the area.

Ergo, for spells which have an aura/burst/emanation from the caster which affects individual creatures, 'an affected creature in the area of effect' and 'range from you to the affected creature' are functionally identical. They are two ways of saying the same thing. This is why a spell description can use these interchangeably within the very same spell description, as spirit guardians does. You could literally (I don't use that word casually) change the Range entry from 'Self (15-foot radius)' to 'Range: 15 feet' and absolutely nothing about how the spell works or which creatures would be affected would change in any way!

Therefore the part in brackets after 'Self' IS the range, and makes it eligible to be altered by Distant Spell.

(BTW, I don't know why everything is suddenly in bold. It's not deliberate)
 


I have a 5e spell app on my phone; that's what I referenced for the range entry for thunderclap as 'Self (5-foot radius)'. The app says this spell appears in Elemental Evil and Xanathar's Guide to Everything.

Checking my hardbacks:-

Princes of the Apocalypse (I think it and Elemental Evil are two names for the same thing, but I could be wrong. I own PotA but not EE) has the range entry for thunderclap as 'Self (5-foot radius)' on p240.

Xanathar's Guide to Everything has the range as '5 feet' on p168.

It's hardly surprising that the writers use these terms interchangeably, since they both result in exactly the same creatures being affected whichever way they are written!

And now you say D&D Beyond has something else meaning the exact same thing! Further evidence of a distinction without a difference.

On the contrary.

Princes of the Apocalypse came out a bout 3 years before Xanthar's Guide. So between those two publications Thunderclap was deliberately changed. You can tell the change is deliberate because (a) cut-and-paste means it's a lot easier to leave things the same and (b) a similar change was made in two official sources.

If something is identical in meaning, there is no point in going to the trouble of changing it.

Ergo, we can conclude that WotC does not consider Range: 5' identical in meaning to Range: Self (5').

Ergo, we have to conclude that Thunderclap was deliberately changed so that it can benefit from Distant Spell, making it work consistently with Sword Burst and Word of Radiance.

I expect that that since Distant Spell and Thunderclap (et al) are weaksauce on their own, WotC wanted them to synergise.
You think that 'It becomes different when some individual creatures can be excluded'? Let's see:-

Word of Radiance. Similar to Thunderclap apart from it doesn't hit targets the caster chooses not exclude, or anything within range that the caster cannot see (e.g. invisible). It's functionally a pbaoe but actually separate rays shoot out and hit each valid target within range. Since they are separate rays, it does not make sense to exclude it from Distant Spell. But, since Thunderclap is functionally similar, it makes no sense to exclude that either.

Distant Spell does not inherently exclude pbaoes (it relies on the bracket notation to indicate what is excluded), and the changes made to Thunderclap indicate that is working as intended, not an error.
 

They really messed this up. Area of Effect and Range should have been seperate lines.

The have fixed that in D&D Beyond by changing the wording from "Range:" to "Range/Area:".

I assume it is to much of an epic task to go back and add the clarification to all the print books.
 

Arial Black

Adventurer
On the contrary.

Princes of the Apocalypse came out a bout 3 years before Xanthar's Guide. So between those two publications Thunderclap was deliberately changed. You can tell the change is deliberate because (a) cut-and-paste means it's a lot easier to leave things the same and (b) a similar change was made in two official sources.

I can certainly accept that the way they chose to communicate which creatures can be affected by the spell was deliberately changed, while at the same time they did not change which creatures are actually affected.

If something is identical in meaning, there is no point in going to the trouble of changing it.

Sure there is: clarity. It makes sense that things that work the same way should be presented the same way, for clarity.

Ergo, we can conclude that WotC does not consider Range: 5' identical in meaning to Range: Self (5').

Ergo, we can conclude that since WotC does consider that both ways mean the same creatures are affected, that they might as well take the opportunity to standardise their presentation of this style of spell.

Ergo, we have to conclude that Thunderclap was deliberately changed so that it can benefit from Distant Spell, making it work consistently with Sword Burst and Word of Radiance.

I find it unwarranted to conclude that WotC writes spell blocks worrying about Distant Spell!

I expect that that since Distant Spell and Thunderclap (et al) are weaksauce on their own, WotC wanted them to synergise.

Word of Radiance. Similar to Thunderclap apart from it doesn't hit targets the caster chooses not exclude, or anything within range that the caster cannot see (e.g. invisible). It's functionally a pbaoe but actually separate rays shoot out and hit each valid target within range. Since they are separate rays, it does not make sense to exclude it from Distant Spell. But, since Thunderclap is functionally similar, it makes no sense to exclude that either.

Distant Spell does not inherently exclude pbaoes (it relies on the bracket notation to indicate what is excluded), and the changes made to Thunderclap indicate that is working as intended, not an error.

Spirit guardians, similar to thunderclap, does not affect creatures the caster chooses to exclude. In fact, the spell description talks about 'they flit around you to a distance (i.e. 'range') of 15 feet'. Y'know, like you measure the range of each creature from the caster, in exactly the same way as you would measure the distance of a ray-type spell.

Whether 'range: 5 feet' or 'range: self (5-foot radius) is the form used, they result in exactly the same creatures being affected, and this remains true even if the caster can choose to exclude some creatures from being affected.

In fact, if they reprinted the PHB and changed the range entry of spirit guardians to 'range: 15 feet', nothing would change about how the spell works!

Imagine one cleric was casting spirit guardians using 'range: self (15-foot radius)' and another cleric at the same table was casting the same spell using 'range: 15 feet', explain what difference it would make to which creatures are affected by the spell! We can already do this with the two versions of thunderclap.

If there is no difference in the way the spell works in the game world (since they are not aware of D&D game mechanics), then why would Distant Spell interact differently? What could be the cause if a different interaction when there is no difference in function of the spell?

Also, what does 'pbaoe' stand for?
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Also, what does 'pbaoe' stand for?

Point Blank Area of Effect. It's a topic which comes up so rarely that it's not really appropriate to be using an acronym for it (and if you're going to use the acronym, then at least accept the obligation to capitalize it correctly so people can tell it's an acronym and not some weird typo). I suspect it causes more time delay in people having to look it up than it saves in not having to type the whole thing out.
 

In fact, if they reprinted the PHB and changed the range entry of spirit guardians to 'range: 15 feet', nothing would change about how the spell works!
Yes, it would - the spell would now allow the use of Distant Spell metamagic!

Personally, my argument for disallowing Distant Spell for areas of effect is the low point cost for exponential increase in targets.

On a grid, a 15ft radius casting affects up to 36 medium creatures. A 30ft radius casting affects 120 creatures.

That is way too much of an increase for 1 sorcery point.
 

Arial Black

Adventurer
Yes, it would - the spell would now allow the use of Distant Spell metamagic!

That's a metagame reason; because the players can read the statblock of the spell.

But the creatures in the game world cannot be aware of game mechanics, and neither spells nor metamagics can make decisions about how they want to work, they just work the way they work.

Whichever way these spells are written in the metagame-'Self (x-foot radius)' or 'Range: x feet'-in the game world these spells affect creatures that are within a certain distance from the caster. In game, why should a meta-magic apply to some of these spells and not to others, when they all work identically in that game world?

If one player at the table is using the statblock of thunderclap from PotA and another is using the statblock of the same spell from XGtE, why would Distant Spell affect one but not the other when both spells affect the in-game reality in exactly the same way no matter which way the range entry is written?
 


Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
On a grid, a 15ft radius casting affects up to 36 medium creatures. A 30ft radius casting affects 120 creatures.

That is way too much of an increase for 1 sorcery point.

I know it's a fantasy game, but you don't have to apply just fantastical examples to it just because it's fantasy themed! Come on, you know quite well the number of targets is almost never like that. It's going to increase the targets by usually a couple in actual play situations most of the time.
 

Come on, you know quite well the number of targets is almost never like that. It's going to increase the targets by usually a couple in actual play situations most of the time.
No, I don't know that.
I ran a combat last week where some of the combatants were out of torchlight and darkvision range and that was exceptional. For almost all of the game I GM, combats have been at 60ft or less. In the Out of the Abyss game I play in, the same happens, though that is probably because light issues are much more important (we have humans in the party).

The increase in range of spirit guardians would extend it from "the melee foes next to the cleric" to simply "every foe." Too much for one sorcery point.

I take the view that Jeremy Crawford does - "Distant Spell can change the range of a spell, not the size of an area of effect created by the spell."
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
No, I don't know that.
I ran a combat last week where some of the combatants were out of torchlight and darkvision range and that was exceptional. For almost all of the game I GM, combats have been at 60ft or less. In the Out of the Abyss game I play in, the same happens, though that is probably because light issues are much more important (we have humans in the party).

The increase in range of spirit guardians would extend it from "the melee foes next to the cleric" to simply "every foe." Too much for one sorcery point.

I take the view that Jeremy Crawford does - "Distant Spell can change the range of a spell, not the size of an area of effect created by the spell."

You say you don't know that...and then none of the rest of your response supports any of that.

You know darn well in typical situations it's not going to impact 120 creatures. Can't we discuss a typical example without you pushing that fairly exaggerated extreme theoretical number? You gave an example from last week. Would the spell have his 120 creatures in your actual example?
 

It would be resonable to assume that Distant Spell would enable an area spell to hit four times as many targets (as a 2D grid is usually used), assuming the number of targets is not capped by the spell.

However, I don't think their are any spells with radial ranges greater than 5' that can affect an uncapped number of targets.

Hypothetically, a spell with a range of "touch" could affect all targets in a 30' radius if there where no cap on the number of targets. But as no such spells exist it is pointless to worry about it.

As for Spirit Guardians, that quite clearly has a range of Self (and twice zero is zero). The issue is some people don't understand the notation used in the print books - it's not sufficiently clear. I direct those people to D&D Beyond - you don't need to own anything to see the spell Range/Area listed.
 
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