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In what direction does the area of the incendiary cloud spell move at the start of the caster's turn?

  • Does the cloud move in a continuous line away from the caster?
  • Or can the caster choose any direction that does not cause it to get closer to them?
  • Or something else?

The description of the incendiary cloud spell says, in part (PHB, page 253):

The cloud moves 10 feet directly away from you in a direction that you choose at the start of each of your turns.

I'm struggling to comprehend this sentence and what it means.

This part is pretty clear to me:

The cloud moves 10 feet directly away from you [...]

I'm assuming that it means drawing a line between two points (being the caster and the center of the cloud) and then having the cloud continue moving away directly down that line.

However, then there's this:

[...] in a direction that you choose [...]

...But the direction was already specified: directly away from you.

Is it trying to say that it moves 10 feet directly away, and then can be moved slightly to the left or right? Is the presence of the word(s) "directly" or "from you" an error?

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It moves in a straight line in a direction of your choice, as long as that direction moves the cloud "away from you"

I believe, in this instance, the definition of directly refers to the manner in which the cloud moves (without changing direction or stopping), not the exact direction. "In a direction you choose" is what determines which way the cloud will move.

It seems that the wording of the spell is a little ambiguous and could probably be worded a little better but for what it's worth, Jeremy Crawford has also stated that you do choose the direction in which the cloud moves:

Q: Does 'incendiary cloud' move directly away from you, or in a direction you choose?

A: Check out the final sentence of the spell for the answer.

Q: So it does both, then? But 'directly away from you' doesn't give you much of a choice, does it? There's a reason I asked.

A: You choose its heading.

So in other words; you choose the direction the cloud moves and it moves in that direction "without changing direction or stopping" (essentially in a straight line) as long as the chosen direction moves the cloud away from you.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So the direction can only be chosen if the caster is in the center of the cloud? That seems rather unhealthy as the caster is being damaged by the cloud, which also might end the spell due to losing concentration. \$\endgroup\$
    – nwp
    May 30 '17 at 7:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the OP may be using definition 2.1 of directly- "Exactly in a specified position" \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    May 30 '17 at 8:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that the caster's position can change each round... \$\endgroup\$
    – Chemus
    May 30 '17 at 14:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ The ambiguity came from the word "directly" being modified by the word "from you", suggesting that the cloud must move away from the caster in the most direct route possible. It would be much more clear if the sentence read: "The cloud directly moves 10 feet away from you..." instead of "The cloud moves 10 feet directly away from you..." \$\endgroup\$ May 30 '17 at 17:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ When Crawford says "You choose its heading." it technically includes the direction towards you. \$\endgroup\$
    – user27327
    May 31 '17 at 6:34
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When you cast the spell, choose a direction. The cloud travels in a straight line in that direction for its duration, and does not change direction or speed for its duration. Once the spell is cast, the movement of the caster has no effect on its direction of travel.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "at the start of each of your turns" gives the lie to this, sadly. \$\endgroup\$
    – user17995
    Mar 23 '18 at 0:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ "As with a cloudkill spell, the smoke moves away from you at 10 feet per round. Figure out the smoke’s new spread each round based on its new point of origin, which is 10 feet farther away from where you were when you cast the spell." Thus, the cloud's movement can only be based on the caster's initial position. Any text contradicting this is a simple misprint or a failure of editors to communicate with each other. \$\endgroup\$
    – scjksrjv
    Mar 23 '18 at 1:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ That there is a contradiction is almost undeniable. But simply picking one arbitrary piece and ignoring the rest is not sound. \$\endgroup\$
    – user17995
    Mar 23 '18 at 2:44

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