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In many different RPGs, magic is defined many ways, especially when it comes to creating or modifying parts of the physical world such as a wall of earth or a fog bank. In D&D 5e specifically, when creating magical darkness, magical fog, or even raising a small wall of dirt, what happens when the spell expires? Is it defined in the rules to instantly dispel all effects and return to its previously untouched state, or does it act naturally and slowly dispel the fog/darkness or cause the dirt wall to crumble and leave a small mound of dirt?

Many of the spells only explain how the spell is created:

You create a 20-foot-radius sphere of fog centered on a point within range. The sphere spreads around corners, and its area is heavily obscured. It lasts for the duration or until a wind of moderate or greater speed (at least 10 miles per hour) disperses it.

I get that a wind can disperse a fog cloud, but what happens when the caster decides to end his concentration on the spell? Is this all flavor text left to the DM or are there rules related to this?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Flavor text is nowhere defined in D&D 5e. What's in the spell description is what describes a spell. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 12 '17 at 21:32
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TL; DR: It is not defined in the rules. Most of it should be gone almost immediately, though some unusable physical traces might be left behind. It is up to the DM though. Talk to the DM before assuming anything.


One thing the spells shouldn't do is to allow for unintended side effects that might eclipse the function of another spell. So if you want lots of water to drink or to irrigate your crops, summoning a water elemental won't be the best use of a spell slot. There is no consensus if parts of a creature remain after detached from a druid wild shape ref, even less for summoned creatures.

If allowed, Lingering spell remains should be completely innocuous/harmless after the effect ended. So even if wisps of a fog linger after the spell is over, nobody should have any problem seeing or breathing where the fog was. It is merely cosmetic.

It is an ambiance problem then, and ambiance is entirely the DM's playfield. Should a spell leave traces? Yes, if it adds flavor to the world, or even maybe if it is an investigative story, it would be good to see some clues of spells that took place:

In a corner of the woods, you see that the ground and grass are flattened in a circle about 20 feet in diameter. Roll intelligence(arcana)... the wizard you are tracking probably rested here the previous night; it seems he used Leomund's Tiny Hut.

Or:

Upon investigation of the room, you see signs that a fight took place. In a the middle there is a circular stain on the ground, with bits half-digested meat on it. When you approach, you pick a faint smell of rotten eggs. Roll arcana... Stinking cloud was used here.

So talk to the DM on how it should be handled for your campaign.

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