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I am looking for clarification as to the mechanics of the Blink spell. I believe that the spell reads quite clearly, however most of my play group does not agree with my recent ruling. Some background:

The campaign is run using the D&D 5e ruleset. During a recent session one character managed to disguise himself, pass over a dozen stealth and persuasion checks to bypass 7 cultist camps, and found himself at the top of a fair sized hill, addressing the leader of the forces arrayed on the hill. He is found out once he arrives at the pinnacle, is soundly cudgeled and, having used Misty Escape to teleport 60' and turn invisible, casts Blink.

From the Blink spell description on PHB p. 219:

Roll a d20 at the end of each of your turns for the duration of the spell. On a roll of 11 or higher, you vanish from your current plane o f existence and appear in the Ethereal Plane (the spell fails and the casting is wasted if you w ere already on that plane). At the start of your next turn, and when the spell ends if you are on the Ethereal Plane, you return to an unoccupied space of your choice that you can see within 10 feet of the space you vanished from. If no unoccupied space is available within that range, you appear in the nearest unoccupied space ...

The spell, to me, seems quite clear. A character, on the turn they cast Blink:

  1. Finishes their turn, including movement, bonus actions, and any other action allowed under the normal turn structure by their class, abilities, and items.
  2. Once their turn is declared to have ended, the player rolls a d20. On a roll of 11 or greater, they jaunt to the Ethereal. If they do not jaunt, they remain on the Prime Material.
  3. Play proceeds, with other players, NPCs, and mobs taking their turns in order of initiative.
  4. The player who cast Blink begins their next turn, appearing within 10' of where they left the Prime Material.
  5. The player takes their turn, including actions, movement, bonus actions, and any other action allowed, per Step #1.
  6. The player ends their turn and this cycle repeats until the spell ends, willfully or otherwise.

Most of my players do not believe that the spell would allow a character, should they roll 11 or higher at the end of their turn, to avoid attacks, spells, and other hazards when their character is not acting. They believe that the caster will be vulnerable each round, even when they succeed on their Blink roll.

As it was, the character in question managed, with the aid of Boots of Speed, several Dexterity (Acrobatics) checks, and good Blink rolls, to run and tumble down the hill (very exciting!), avoiding 3 bugbears, 3 worgs, 2 werewolves, 11 cultists, 3 evil druids, and a fire elemental while lighting half the camps on fire and causing much mayhem and hilarity. He was reunited with his party, horde in tow, and battle was joined.

So, to put this novel to rest: Was my ruling correct by RAW?

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Can someone explain the sandwich thing? – Javelin Jan 30 at 3:48
@Javelin The Sandwich Punch Game is a silly, rather childish, game wherein participants attempt to literally punch the sandwiches of other players. I have only seen this game played in settings used for tabletop games - games stores, Magic: The Gathering tournaments, etc. In those settings it is possible to hear people use the punching of a sandwich as both a threat and a curse, e.g. "I'm going to punch your sandwich!", or "I hope someone punches in your sandwich!". – Ruthaford Feb 8 at 14:28
@Javelin As it relates to the question, having your sandwich punched in is referencing the player injury and/or death that could be expected in the event that the above scenario unfolded without the character having an 'out'. – Ruthaford Feb 8 at 14:30
up vote 41 down vote accepted

Yes, your interpretation and ruling was spot on. Not only is Blink a VERY useful defensive tool for mages (you know how squishy they can be sometimes) as it COMPLETELY removes them from harm and detection save for things that can see into and effect the Ethereal Plane, Anything that might do Force Damage where the caster is standing, as well as anything that might happen to the caster during his or her brief stay on the Prime Material in between blinking; but it also does NOT require concentration, allowing that same spell caster to use its concentration for other nasty things in between blinking out of existence.

Most of my players do not believe that the spell would allow a character, should they roll 11 or higher at the end of their turn, to avoid attacks, spells, and other hazards when their character is not acting.

But that is PRECISELY what this spell is meant for and supposed to do. That's why it costs a resource (Spell Slot) to cast, and requires a good roll to actually work and remove the caster from combat until they appear again next turn.

If they need a realistic description of the spell? A ROUND (everything taking 1 turn in the initiative) happens in the span of 6 seconds. So every 6 seconds our dear mage who cast Blink is appearing for a brief moment to do something, then vanishing again to the Ethereal Plane. Every 6 seconds; thus appearing to be blinking in and out of existence upon the battlefield and giving us the namesake of the Spell itself.

A few counters to this spell include:

  • Counterspell it as it is being cast (Perhaps one of the obvious ones)
  • Dispel magic
  • Etherealness
  • Any area protected by Forbiddance
  • Forcecage
  • Magic Circle
  • Mordenkainen's Faithful Hound (Can see into the Ethereal Plane)

And that was just half of the spell list I browsed. This doesn't even touch on potential creature abilities that could nullify the effectiveness of Blink, or a creature waiting in the Prime Material plane for the mage to blink back into existence for the duration of it's turn and ready an action just for that very instance. So it is certainly not a fool proof guarantee of safety, even when the dice are in Blink's favor.

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Worth mentioning, though, is that they aren't immune to all attacks. Force magic from the Prime Material still affects the Etherial, and they can still provoke Attacks of Opportunity during their turn. (I'm not too familiar with 5e, but I'm assuming this hasn't changed.) – Smurfton Jan 29 at 16:21
@CrusaderJ This has been asked: Does Force Damage Affect Ethereal Creatures? Seems that force does still affect the ethereal but the problem is line of sight. The caster would have to see into the ethereal plane. – J. A. Streich Jan 29 at 16:43


A particular sentence of the spell description makes it very clear:

"You can only affect and be affected by other creatures on the material plane".

In the scenario described, you allowed this one character to defeat a small army. If your players are calling out your ruling its because they believe this is too powerful, rather than because they think the rules work a different way.

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Let's be accurate: the character didn't defeat the army, just escaped them. A mid-level spell specifically designed for avoiding attacks is reasonably applied to this purpose and seems appropriate. – TuggyNE May 15 at 3:06

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