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Quite a bit of spell effects state that they work once in a round.

For example, Balor Nimbus:

each round, the flames deal 6d6 points of fire damage to any creature grappling you (or any creature you grapple) on your turn.

When exactly on my turn does the effect happen? Am I right assuming that the effect happens once on my turn at the earliest possible moment? There ought to be a clear ruling somewhere, I just can't find it.

To clarify a bit, consider this situation (Initiative order is X then Y then Z):

  1. On round 1, X casts Balor nimbus (standard action), then Celerity (swift action), then starts a grapple agains Y (standard action from Celerity) and gets a hold. Does his opponent get burned right away? Or does the damage occur at the beginning of the round?
  2. On Y's turn he breaks free.
  3. On Z's turn Z starts grapple with X and gets a hold.
  4. Next round, X breaks free from grapple (standard action). Does Z take damage from Balor Nimbus?

Bonus question, to complicate things more:

  1. X has Improved Grab ability and Balor Nimbus on. X grapples Y with one hand.
  2. It is start of X's turn. Does Y take damage from Balor Nimbus? If yes, when X grapples Z with his other hand, does Z take damage from Balor Nimbus?

If Balor Nimbus is too hard, let's try Wall of Fire.

TL;DR

"Once each round" effect: happens at the beginning of the round or at the earliest possible moment at the round? Goes off once at some moment in time or once for each creature affected, possibly at different moments?

I'm interested in an answer supported by the rules.

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Good question, we often have bleed vs regeneration order of operations arguments... –  mxyzplk Feb 1 '13 at 21:18
    
Ouch. I can see the players drawing their claws for this one. Since it's ongoing damage and to prevent the "grapple many opponents" option I would have ruled for the damage to be applied in the beginning of the grappled opponent's turn. But that's just intuition - I couldn't find rules which might apply. –  Shy Feb 4 '13 at 11:31
    
I could've sworn there was something in the PHB about the once-per-turn effects of spells with durations being applied on the caster's initiative count. If only I had my PHB with me... –  GMJoe Feb 5 '13 at 3:16
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2 Answers 2

Basically, so far as I can tell, they happen literally n rounds later, on the same turn they started on. If you first took damage from Balor Nimbus because you started grappling it, you’re taking damage on the beginning of every one of your turns. On the other hand, if you’re taking damage because the balor grappled you, you’re taking damage every round on his turn. In all cases, this should be the beginning of the turn in question.

You should not be able to take damage from these effects more than once per turn, so if you end the grapple on your turn, and the balor starts it up again, you just take damage again next round as if you’d never left.

But so far all of this is just based on what the unit of time known as “one round” literally means, not any rules citation. Still looking for that.

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As murky as rules are on the subject, there's one thing they've managed to state clearly: Balor Nimbus spell deals damage on caster's turn. –  Jeor Mattan Feb 1 '13 at 21:31
    
@JeorMattan Which makes sense considering that the damage generally starts on the caster's turn. I initially was going to suggest that it should always be that way, but that would be strange in the Balor’s case, because if someone grapples the Balor and then the grapple ends for any reason before the Balor's turn, that person does not take damage? Just weird. Anyway, a particular spell would imply an exception to the rule (specific trumping general) than necessarily refering to a general rule... –  KRyan Feb 1 '13 at 22:18
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Okay, completely misread the question - I thought it was talking about a Balor's special ability, not a spell ( points to you sir, for finding a spell I didn't know off the top of my head! ). Even so, I stick by my answer: At any point in time during the player's turn that he wishes for it to happen. Usually the first thing, but I can think of some instances where delaying it would be beneficial. The spell itself doesn't list when it happens, but we do get some insight from the description:

... to any creature grappling you (or any creature you grapple) on your turn.

Meaning that if any creature is grappling you it makes "when" not matter, because they can't let go during your turn they take damage. If you grapple a creature it, again, makes no difference as to "when", as you could start the round with them grappled and deal the damage or end the round with them grappled and deal damage, as both are still "on your turn" but allow you to grapple someone during a round and deal the damage, or grapple someone the round before ( potentially dealing the same damage ), deal damage to them again, then let them go and grapple someone else.

Honestly, "when" seems irrelevant to me. It's your turn, and you can decide the order of self-generated actions as you please.

Update: 1. Yes, Y gets burned right away. It is X's turn, and he has grappled someone. -- 4. Again, yes Z takes damage. It is X's turn, and he is grappled. Bonus #2: Yes and Yes, they both take damage.

As to Wall of Fire, that's is no different at all, same thing. It only specifies that it happens on your turn, not specifically when - or ever once, for that matter.

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Without a rules citation, I am extremely dubious about being able to delay it. –  KRyan Feb 1 '13 at 21:14
    
@KRyan - Then why would it have the bit about "(or any creature you grapple) on your turn"? If I grapple a creature with this spell effect on, does it not take damage the turn I initiate the grapple? –  Phill.Zitt Feb 1 '13 at 21:42
    
See my updated post for the situations where order of operations does matter. –  Jeor Mattan Feb 1 '13 at 22:07
    
Does that mean you can start the turn grappling one opponent, deal damage at start, release him and grapple another, and then damage him as well? –  TimLymington Feb 3 '13 at 12:56
    
@TimLymington - if you found a way to have that many actions in a round, yes. I don't see why you wouldn't damage both targets. –  Phill.Zitt Feb 3 '13 at 16:15
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