log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 5E Rulings, Not Rules vs Cool spell usage

MoutonRustique

Explorer
When I read this reply :
I absolutely disagree with this comment. Twice in my campaign, I have used this spell (albeit as a light domain cleric) to dramatically change the course of a fight. I'll admit it can be terrain dependant but in both cases there was a suitable 10 foot wide gap.
The first time, 2 connected rooms filled with enemies. As we engage I flaming phere the gap, we take on one half before I move the sphere to access the second half. Damage was limited but fighting 2 groups of 6 is much easier than fighting one group of 12. Total damage was about 30 made up of around 20 initially and the rest pushing into the second group, I had to drop it at that point though as I wanted my bonus action and concentration to case Shield of Faith.
Second case, another room of about 8 foes, again we engage and I use the sphere this time to block their retreat my blocking the stairs behind them. No damage this time but none of them got away to raise the alarm.

It does assume that creatures can't just run through it without taking damage, this is not explicit in the rules but is reasonably logical (as per the ramming rules with it) and my DM ruled that it could effectively block a 10 foot wide gap from passage if placed centrally (we were only dealing with medium sized creatures, it might need another discussion for small)

On burning hands, it can also be very situational but with co-operation from the rest of the party favourable circumstances can be engineered more often. My party now try to set up a fight so that the fighter and paladin are together but with a small <5ft gap between them so they can block and hold multiple enemies in a line. If it works, i will go next to the paladin to cast burning hands across their front. If I get attacked, I use warding flare or the paladin uses protection fighting to give the attack disadvantage. The gap is also used by the halfling bard to get in and cast thunderwave whilst the wizard being an evoc specialist can use burning hands from whatever the most favourable position is and sculpt round the fighter and paladin.
I thought about all the ways this could be called. For me, I prefer functional (as in one input = one output) systems - I'm limited that way. This situation is a pretty classic one and one likely to come up in play.

For my piece of mind, I'm missing some rules element/decision points here :
- is flaming sphere an obstacle?
- can flaming sphere be used by others by pushing things and creatures in it?
- if it is an obstacle, what kind of power is required to push through ?
- when you ram it into something - does it engulf it, or does it "stop" when it hits?

Anyone else have these issues? Anyone have an easy solution - because I'm apprehending a good deal of note taking required to keep all my calls coherent...
 

log in or register to remove this ad

I get your problem, and get why it's a problem, but I'm not sure what the easy solution is supposed to be.

Perhaps you could just trust in your own consistency. If you think about it, and rule one way in the first instance where it becomes an issue, then you should probably end up coming to the same conclusion if you were presented with it again. That way, you don't need to write or keep notes on anything, since you'll always get back to the same outcome when starting from the same place.
 

raleel

First Post
Yea, +1 to what Saelorn said. There isn't an easy answer. If you define everything in the world, it is hard to maintain consistency across everything. If you leave everything loose, then you have your problem.

I end up writing up house rules on a website. Often I will make a ruling in game, then go back after game and chat about it with the players. I don't really have a problem with changing the rule if it makes it more fun. They just want to know the parameters as well.

Some of it is that I can pull on a lot of lore, since I've been playing for a lot of years. That helps with many of them. That and if I make a ruling, i don't really have a problem with changing an action in that turn. Not in later turns though.
 

pming

Hero
Hiya.

I think you are thinking about it all in the wrong order. IMHO, thinking of the situation first, and then finding rules to fit it is the right way; taking a look at all the rules and trying to find one that fits is the wrong way. Very similar sentences, but with a subtle difference.

So...

Q: Is Flaming Sphere an obstacle?
A/Q: Would it stop you from walking down a hallway if it was directly in front of you? This is where you ignore your inclination to try and track down if/what an "obstacle" entails in RAW. Only after you have answered that question should you then move onto finding out if there is a rule to fit the situation; if there isn't, make it up.

Q: Can Flaming Sphere be used by others by pushing things and creatures into it?
A/Q: If you were standing in front of it and someone shoved you forward towards it, what would likely be the result? Likely, you'd fall into it...but maybe you could stop yourself or dodge to the side. Either way, the answer is obviously "yes". Now, go try to find a rule to fit that situational outcome.

Q: If it is an obstacle, what kind of power is required to push through?
A: This one is totally up for grabs. No help anywhere as far as I can tell...definitely a "make it up" situation.

Q: When you ram it into something - does it engulf it, or doe it "stop" when it hits?
A/Q: How bit is the "something"? If that something is smaller than the sphere, then there's your answer; if it's bigger, there's your answer.

In all honesty, there's virtually no situation in 5e that has come up for me that had me truely scratching my head. I think there was one situation where the decision was so "maybe yes...maybe no", and nobody at the table (including myself) could get a clear idea...I just said "Roll d20; odd you can, even you can't. Sound good?", and the player just rolled a d20 and we played on. Sometimes you do just have to pick a chance and "wing it". The game play and pacing is more important than virtually all the rules of the game, so don't sweat it. :)

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

MoutonRustique

Explorer
Thank you both - good advice.

I much prefer when things are known by players before hand, but I guess we'll have to have "that first case" first and take it from there. There are good deal of cool things in 5e - but I see all these little holes everywhere... They always make me stop myself before I commit to this edition.
 

MoutonRustique

Explorer
Hiya.

I think you are thinking about it all in the wrong order. IMHO, thinking of the situation first, and then finding rules to fit it is the right way; taking a look at all the rules and trying to find one that fits is the wrong way. Very similar sentences, but with a subtle difference.

So...

Q: Is Flaming Sphere an obstacle?
A/Q: Would it stop you from walking down a hallway if it was directly in front of you? This is where you ignore your inclination to try and track down if/what an "obstacle" entails in RAW. Only after you have answered that question should you then move onto finding out if there is a rule to fit the situation; if there isn't, make it up.

Q: Can Flaming Sphere be used by others by pushing things and creatures into it?
A/Q: If you were standing in front of it and someone shoved you forward towards it, what would likely be the result? Likely, you'd fall into it...but maybe you could stop yourself or dodge to the side. Either way, the answer is obviously "yes". Now, go try to find a rule to fit that situational outcome.

Q: If it is an obstacle, what kind of power is required to push through?
A: This one is totally up for grabs. No help anywhere as far as I can tell...definitely a "make it up" situation.

Q: When you ram it into something - does it engulf it, or doe it "stop" when it hits?
A/Q: How bit is the "something"? If that something is smaller than the sphere, then there's your answer; if it's bigger, there's your answer.

In all honesty, there's virtually no situation in 5e that has come up for me that had me truely scratching my head. I think there was one situation where the decision was so "maybe yes...maybe no", and nobody at the table (including myself) could get a clear idea...I just said "Roll d20; odd you can, even you can't. Sound good?", and the player just rolled a d20 and we played on. Sometimes you do just have to pick a chance and "wing it". The game play and pacing is more important than virtually all the rules of the game, so don't sweat it. :)

^_^

Paul L. Ming
I get what you're saying, and it can work fine that way indeed.

But as a DM, I prefer to make coherent decisions (as I'm "setting the physics of the world") and as player, I like to know what I'm choosing when I choose something. In the current case, having flaming sphere be an obstacle or not is huge aspect of it!
- if it is, then I have a plethora of tactical options open to me (block corridors, stairs, create hard choke points for my allies, etc, etc.)
- can something be pushed in/on it for immediate additional damage : this game is played as a team, if I can set up a situation to offer a source of additional damage to my fellow players, that's something I want to know - if not (and I think I can) I'll be very disappointed when I use my limited resource to a much lesser impact than I had planned.

These are things I want to know now - when I choose the spell (both as a player and as a DM) because it impacts how I'll create and play my character as well as how I create and plan my encounters.

I understand that not every situation can be defined, but I chose this example because it is NOT a corner case, these are things I wondered as soon as I read the spell.

But still, thank you for your advice. :)
 

But as a DM, I prefer to make coherent decisions (as I'm "setting the physics of the world") and as player, I like to know what I'm choosing when I choose something.

Whereas for me, I enjoy seeing my players try something I hadn't thought of with their spells, and as a player, I often take spells because I'm interested in seeing what I can think of to do with them. In that respect, a prefer "fuzzier" editions (1E, 2E, 5E) to more concrete/spelled out ones (3E, 4E).

Obviously, there are limits. I want to know all the basics of what a spell can do when I pick it. But I don't want every possible case, or even every semi-likely case, spelled out.

So I guess my advice to you is, before you decide anything, figure out what your players prefer. What seems like a pure consistency issue to you can drastically alter the playstyles available--or enjoyable--to them. :)
 

MoutonRustique

Explorer
Whereas for me, I enjoy seeing my players try something I hadn't thought of with their spells, and as a player, I often take spells because I'm interested in seeing what I can think of to do with them. In that respect, a prefer "fuzzier" editions (1E, 2E, 5E) to more concrete/spelled out ones (3E, 4E).

Obviously, there are limits. I want to know all the basics of what a spell can do when I pick it. But I don't want every possible case, or even every semi-likely case, spelled out.

So I guess my advice to you is, before you decide anything, figure out what your players prefer. What seems like a pure consistency issue to you can drastically alter the playstyles available--or enjoyable--to them. :)
Indeed! And that's my point - I want to know so I don't stifle anyone (either my players, or myself!)

For me, clear rules make unexpected applications possible. Otherwise, everything is simply probable and I've found that "clever" use of spell is often equanamous(spelling?) to "improper application of miss-understood Earth-type physics" or "illusions imposing effects that would require much higher leveled spells due to "realism"". This is probably an issue that relates more to the people I play with (and myself) than the actual game - though, from play reports I've read, it is not something only I have encountered.

In a game with things like a fear spell, making people flee because a roar down the hall or the image of a mighty beast is displeasing to me : why set the fear spell at level X, when you can have the same effect at level X-3? (I chose a fear effect, because it was the first thing in my head - it is simply an example.) The idea is cool, the implementation is cool, but it brings so many world building concerns with it...

I am firmly in the camp that separates the characters' abilities from the players', I don't want a game where one has to "outwit" the DM (or the players) consistently (of course, once in while is fun! But it shouldn't be a "normal" part of the game.)

I don't really know where I'm going with this anymore so I'll leave as is and let you guys worry about making any kind of sense out of it.

Cheers!
 

KarinsDad

First Post
My take is that it is an object that can be pushed through. It's fire. Something easy to understand.

Just moving past it does nothing. Moving through it should do damage. IMO.

The original quote that you brought up did allow it to stop foes from moving through a 10 foot wide gap, but I would not allow a 5 foot effect to do that. In grids (squares or hexes), the player would need to pick one. In theater of the mind, NPCs could move in the 2.5 foot area around the spell with difficult terrain.

I also view that the effect stops in the square of the target on a ram. It hits him and stays put (abet in the same square). This makes adjudication easy for where the target can be when the wizard moves the spell. The target is 30 feet max away, not 35. I could see a ruling for it stopping in the previous adjacent square, but I don't see a need to muddy the waters.
 


transtemporal

Explorer
Nah, flaming sphere isn't an obstacle. Its just formless, incandescent ball of flame. In our last session, the DM ruled the sphere provided 1/2 cover due to basically blinding you trying to shoot at something on the other side.

Technically, you could have enemies move through it without taking damage as long as they didn't end their movement within 5. But I would call BS on that for most enemies, since it looks like a giant magical bonfire and logic would dictate you'd burn yourself moving through it, so they wouldn't risk it just to test the theory (unless they specifically knew the spell). What I might have them do is dash and jump over it though. That seems like a legit move.
 

raleel

First Post
So, from a historical perspective, Flaming Sphere has been a spongy ball that is on fire since 2nd edition. It hasn't been able to push anyone because of this, and specifically says so.

That is somewhat supported by the notion of it "ramming into" the foe and stopping moving, and by it going over 5' tall barriers. if it was a ball of flame with no substance, why would it stop moving? if it was insubstantial, why wouldn't it just go through a barrier?

I realize it does not say it's a spongy ball, but it is somewhat supported by the flavor of the text.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
When I read this reply :

I thought about all the ways this could be called. For me, I prefer functional (as in one input = one output) systems - I'm limited that way. This situation is a pretty classic one and one likely to come up in play.

For my piece of mind, I'm missing some rules element/decision points here :
- is flaming sphere an obstacle?

No more so than a ball of flame. If someone wants to run through it, I'd have them take damage and run through it. If they wanted to stand in the space, I'd have them take the damage every round. If they wanted to jump over it to avoid, I'd have them make an athletics check to clear a 5x5 foot sphere of fire. It's not solid. It's a ball of fire. You can run through fire. You can stand in fire. If the player is willing to take the damage, they can do all that you can do in a ball of fire.

- can flaming sphere be used by others by pushing things and creatures in it?

Yep. It's a ball of fire. You can push people into fire. None of the legalistic nonsense rules you might find in 3E/Pathfinder. You adjudicate it as you would a ball of fire with all the possibilities and limitations.

- if it is an obstacle, what kind of power is required to push through ?

Locomotion of any kind.

- when you ram it into something - does it engulf it, or does it "stop" when it hits?

Stop where it hits. Target has to move out of the fire or burn every round. It's no more solid than fire. It occupies no more space than a ball of fire.

Anyone else have these issues? Anyone have an easy solution - because I'm apprehending a good deal of note taking required to keep all my calls coherent...

I did at first because I was in Pathfinder/3E thinking mode. Once I thought like 5E, I understood how to adjudicate it. 5E mode is acknowledging this is a ball of fire and deciding how a ball of fire should react to various things. Ask yourself, is the fire solid? No. Is there anything solid about the fire such as a fuel source? No. Can you walk through fire? Yes. Will you burn for doing so? Yes.

One of the many elements I like about 5E is things are what they are to use a tautology. A ball of fire is a ball of fire. You need only think in terms of what is possible with a magically controlled ball of fire to judge how it would react to what the players or enemies do.
 
Last edited:

DEFCON 1

Legend
So, from a historical perspective, Flaming Sphere has been a spongy ball that is on fire since 2nd edition. It hasn't been able to push anyone because of this, and specifically says so.

That is somewhat supported by the notion of it "ramming into" the foe and stopping moving, and by it going over 5' tall barriers. if it was a ball of flame with no substance, why would it stop moving? if it was insubstantial, why wouldn't it just go through a barrier?

I realize it does not say it's a spongy ball, but it is somewhat supported by the flavor of the text.

We also always talked about the "flaming nerf ball" and what one could and could not do with it. ;)

As I has a Conjurer in my game currently, it's probably going to be a spell that enters my game soon... and I will be discussing with that player the reintroduction of that particular older piece of flavor description that does not seem to be present in the 5E version. Specifically so that the sphere *does* "ram into things" and "roll over low obstacles" like the spell details say. Thus, no "engulfing", and the sphere itself is solid and thus can be an obstacle itself and unable to be run through like a wall of fire can.
 

Uchawi

First Post
Each spell is a separate sub-system and is magic. Therefore, in application it does not touch bases with implied world physics covered by other rules. But if you decide to make ad hoc rulings, then I would try to extend it to all classes. Things like a fireball should have extended affects if flaming sphere is considered to be solid.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
This is why I think "flavor text is part of RAW." It's used to adjudiciate edge cases. If the spell were called lava flow it might have the exact same rules but we wouldn't be having this same discussion.
 

KarinsDad

First Post
We also always talked about the "flaming nerf ball" and what one could and could not do with it. ;)

As I has a Conjurer in my game currently, it's probably going to be a spell that enters my game soon... and I will be discussing with that player the reintroduction of that particular older piece of flavor description that does not seem to be present in the 5E version. Specifically so that the sphere *does* "ram into things" and "roll over low obstacles" like the spell details say. Thus, no "engulfing", and the sphere itself is solid and thus can be an obstacle itself and unable to be run through like a wall of fire can.

Interesting. Would you rule this way if you hadn't played the earlier version?

Or would you just rule it as fire as per the first sentence of the spell "A 5-foot-diameter sphere of fire appears in unoccupied square..."?
 

Rod Staffwand

aka Ermlaspur Flormbator
Flaming sphere is another case of lame 5E spell text. It completely ignores what happens if someone moves into or through the flaming sphere's space--a very common situation given the function of the spell.

If one goes by a strict reading of the spell, you don't take damage unless you end your turn within 5 feet of it (including right on top of it). Common sense would indicate some damage, though. So I'd just have anyone moving through the flaming sphere take 2d6 damage, half on a save as if they had been rammed by it or ended their turn near it. I would only do this for moving through the sphere. If it's in the center of a 10 foot wide corridor, Medium sized creatures would be able to skirt the sides for no damage as long as they didn't end their turn next to it.

I'd also allow a Dex check instead to avoid damage completely (or 2d6 on a fail) if there was enough room to vault over it since I'd do this for any sort of hazard.

The ramming opponents text indicates that the sphere has some "weight" to it, but there's nothing to say that it forms a physical barrier that cannot be moved through. Making the flaming sphere physical opens up a huge can of worms that's best left closed: What happens if you roll it over a prone opponent? Couldn't you create it 60 feet in the air and drop it on someone for extra "falling fire!" damage? Can you use it to stand on to get that book off a top shelf?

Of course, all of this analysis would be avoided with a couple of extra lines explaining how the flaming sphere actually works.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
Flaming sphere is another case of lame 5E spell text. It completely ignores what happens if someone moves into or through the flaming sphere's space--a very common situation given the function of the spell.

If one goes by a strict reading of the spell, you don't take damage unless you end your turn within 5 feet of it (including right on top of it). Common sense would indicate some damage, though. So I'd just have anyone moving through the flaming sphere take 2d6 damage, half on a save as if they had been rammed by it or ended their turn near it. I would only do this for moving through the sphere. If it's in the center of a 10 foot wide corridor, Medium sized creatures would be able to skirt the sides for no damage as long as they didn't end their turn next to it.

I'd also allow a Dex check instead to avoid damage completely (or 2d6 on a fail) if there was enough room to vault over it since I'd do this for any sort of hazard.

The ramming opponents text indicates that the sphere has some "weight" to it, but there's nothing to say that it forms a physical barrier that cannot be moved through. Making the flaming sphere physical opens up a huge can of worms that's best left closed: What happens if you roll it over a prone opponent? Couldn't you create it 60 feet in the air and drop it on someone for extra "falling fire!" damage? Can you use it to stand on to get that book off a top shelf?

Of course, all of this analysis would be avoided with a couple of extra lines explaining how the flaming sphere actually works.

Or a DM that is open to creative player interactions. Dms and players don't need to be told everything. I still remember the old school of D&D. We didn't need to be told everything a spell can do to decide what it was capable of doing.
 

KarinsDad

First Post
Or a DM that is open to creative player interactions. Dms and players don't need to be told everything. I still remember the old school of D&D. We didn't need to be told everything a spell can do to decide what it was capable of doing.

I think people pull the "I still remember the old school of D&D" way too often here on the boards to justify subpar wording in 5E.

In 2E (i.e. old school), Flaming Sphere stated "Flammable substances are set afire by contact with the sphere. Creatures in contact with the globe must successfully save vs. spell or suffer 2d4 points of fire damage.".

I suspect that "old school" was not quite as dumbed down and required DM adjudication as many people claim. Spells said what they did. 5E Flaming Sphere, not so much.

We should quit justifying poorly worded or designed 5E spells with the generic "the DM can adjudicate that" types of explanations. How hard was it to put a phrase "anything in contact with the sphere" into the spell? Sorry, this is a 5E designer minor fail. We should stop justifying it when 5E designers put vague or incomplete rules or spells into the game system.

Old school was not always as open ended and up to DM interpretation as people here claim either.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top