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The rules for Wild Magic Surge are:

Immediately after you cast a sorcerer spell of 1st level or higher, the DM can have you roll a d20. If you roll a 1, roll on the Wild Magic Surge table to create a random magical effect.

And the rules for Tides of Chaos are:

Starting at 1st level, you can manipulate the forces of chance and chaos to gain advantage on one attack roll, ability check, or saving throw. Once you do so you must finish a long rest before you use this feature again.

Any time before you regain the use of this feature, the DM can have you roll on the Wild Magic Surge table immediately after you cast a sorcerer spell of 1st level or higher. You then regain the use of this feature.

How do these features interact with each other? I see two options:

  1. They are the same roll. If the player has used their Tides of Chaos, any roll on the surge table will reset it.

  2. They are different rolls. So only a roll specified as resetting Tides of Chaos would do so, and any other surge would not. By extension of this the DM could have the player get 2 surges on one spell, 1 for Wild Magic Surge and 1 to reset Tides of Chaos.

Our play group is not sure which is the correct option to use.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 13 down vote accepted

There is nothing to prevent you from being made to roll twice on the table.

They are two separate class features, if you've used Tides of Chaos, the DM is well within his rights to make you roll the d20 to check to see if you need to roll (for casting a spell), and making you roll on the table to get Tides of Chaos back.

That's not to say he should, however there might be a few situations where he would. The way I envision this working is that he asks for a d20 roll to check to see if you go to the table, and you pass it. Then he might also mandate that you roll on the table to get back your used Tides of Chaos advantage.

These class features appear to be mutually exclusive and as such are invokable together on any spell cast. Your second interpretation is correct.

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Neither option is correct. The DM either asks you to roll for Magic Surge, or they ask you to roll for Tides of Chaos, but never both.

To clarify, there are 3 possible options:

  1. DM demands you roll a d20 for possible wild surge, and you roll a 1, rules then demands you roll a d100
  2. DM demands you roll a d20 for a possible wild surge, and you roll > 1, DM then demands you roll a d100 anyways since you have used Tides of Chaos.
  3. DM demands you roll a d100 for the wild surge table since you have used Tides of Chaos.

In case 1: You do not gain Tides of Chaos In case 2: This scenario is not allowed In case 3: You do gain tides of Chaos.

The reason for this is because both class abilities state "immediately after you cast a level 1 spell". Only one thing can happen "immediately after". Thus, you can't have two things which both trigger on "immediately". The DM has "lost their opportunity" to demand a roll once they have picked on option over the other. So option 2, can't be the correct interpretation. Granted the word immediate is not a key term defined in the rules, however it used in a consistent way within the rules to always preclude some other option. It's my argument that the consistent usage of the word, and lack of use of the word , informs us of the intent of the rules.

Note here that the word "immedately" is not being applied to the game fiction, but rather to what the DM is able to do. The DM gets to choose immediately. Unless there are multiple DMs each choosing their own action at the same time, there is no way to have the word "immediately" mean anything other than an exclusion to the other option.

If the intent of the rule was just to say that after the spell is cast the DM may then ask for a roll on the surge table, there would be no need for the word immediately to be included. For example in the rules for Making a basic attack it says:

You make the attack roll. On a hit, you roll damage.

There is no loss of meaning if the rule was stated:

Any time before you regain the use of this feature, the DM can have you roll on the Wild Magic Surge table after you cast a sorcerer spell of 1st level or higher. You then regain the use of this feature.

The word immediately is used a few times in the rules, also to imply that nothing else can happen between the two events, but never to casually link two dice rolls together. For example, in the spell Delayed Fireball Blast it reads:

On a failed save, the spell ends immediately, causing the bead to erupt in flame.

The contingency spell reads:

The contingent spell takes effect immediately after the circumstance is met for the first time, whether or not you w ant it to. and then contingency ends.

The High Jump and long jump ability says:

feet equal to 3 + your Strength modifier if you move at least 10 feet on foot immediately before the jump.

Similar language is used for the Charger feet. But it is never used for casual causality. (One might argue that this is the only time it does, but that seems like stretch to me.) Immediately is always used to exclude some other action from happening. The only counter argument I can hear to this is that it's to prevent the player from moving before the wild surge die gets rolled, but like in the case with all abilities, you can't move between the attack and damage rolls, so that would be unnecessary here as well.

Just think of the narrative of what is happening here. You cast a spell. That spell casting has a chance of having a wild effect, either the effect has a small chance of happening, or it has a definite chance of happening because of your earlier actions in affecting fate. Suggesting that it does both, based on the same event doesn't fit the narrative, nor the literal meaning of the rules.

This is why there appears to be no other instructions as to when the DM should decide when to ask for a roll. It's the DM's choice which one to choose, but one is always chosen. I can foresee the argument that it does not say "instead of" in either rule, but I believe that is to allow for the possibility for never rolling at all. This allows each table to have the level of chaos that they desire.

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No more arguing in comments please. Several commenters think this isn't a very good usage/definition of "immediate" but clearly @GMNoob thinks it is and intends to stick to it, so vote your consciences and move on. – mxyzplk Aug 18 '14 at 20:34

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