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Call Lightning says that you pick a point for lightning to strike, and each creature "within 5 feet of that point" are affected by the strike. What does that mean?

I'm tempted to read it as only affecting a single 5-foot square, but the wording suggest that it is intended to be an AOE attack (unless it's accounting for the very rare occasion of two creatures sharing a space).

So, when using a standard grid, does the caster pick a square, and then all adjacent squares are affected? If so, why not say it affects a 15-foot cube centered on the target-point? (I guess the spell effect section doesn't describe square areas, just cube areas).

Similarly, does Arms of Hadar affect 10 squares from the caster in every direction? (so, ultimately a 50-foot square area)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Arms of Hadar affects targets within 10 feet of the caster. Distances in 5e are always specified in feet (or miles), never 'squares'. \$\endgroup\$ – Marq Jul 7 '17 at 10:13
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It means 5 foot radius.

  • You pick a point (If you're using a grid, that would be a grid intersection)
  • All creatures within 5 feet (ie, squares surrounding the grid intersection) are affected.

If it only affected a 5-foot square, that would be a 5-foot diameter (or 2.5 foot radius).

If you are not using a grid, the DMG (pg 251) has:

Sphere, circle, cilinder: # creatures affected = radius / 1.5 (round up)

So for a 5 foot radius, this means 4 creatures and it matches the grid pattern too:

What is a radius on a square grid?

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    \$\begingroup\$ You might want to add the DMG's definition of "point of origin", found in page 251: "Choose an intersection of squares or hexes as the point of origin of an area of effect" \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Jul 7 '17 at 1:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Upvote. Learned something new today. \$\endgroup\$ – Jesse Cassino Jul 7 '17 at 1:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ah, interesting. That was one interpretation my players came up with but I didn't like it because I thought picking a grid intersection was a wonky non-conventional reading. (We didn't argue it too much, since going for two enemies with the broader area of effect would have fried one of the PC's). I had no idea the DMG specifically said that. \$\endgroup\$ – Max Antinone Jul 7 '17 at 6:01
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I also read it as a 15 cube using a grid table, since you could target an empty square, and everyone in a 15 foot cube creating the border of that 5 foot square would be within 5 feet.

Arms of Hadar: 10 foot radius. So thats two squares out from your square, which at best is 25x25 foot square. Some DMs enforce literal distance using a protractor, so the four corner squares might not count.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Nit: A protractor measures angles, not distances. Maybe you meant a compass? \$\endgroup\$ – Marq Jul 7 '17 at 10:16

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