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I'm playing a 7th-level cleric in D&D 5e. My DM is questioning my way of targeting the fireball spell.

Can I cast the Fireball spell to target a point such that its area affects an opponent next to me, but doesn't affect me?

For example, I'm playing on a grid, and two enemies are standing adjacent to me. One enemy is in the square in front of me, and the other is in the square diagonal to me and the first enemy, so I cast fireball about 25 feet in front of me, just far enough to hit the two enemies but not me. The fireball isn't hitting a hard surface; it's hitting air.

Is that possible?

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The Rules

The description of Fireball on D&D Beyond clearly says to choose a point within range. It makes no requirement for hitting a hard surface - it makes no requirement at all, other than picking a point.

The spellcasting section says:

To target something, you must have a clear path to it, so it can't be behind total cover. If you place an area of effect at a point that you can't see and an obstruction, such as a wall, is between you and that point, the point of origin comes into being on the near side of that obstruction.

So... You can absolutely pick a point that's just far enough away to avoid singing the caster's eyebrows, but completely envelops adjacent enemies. You could not pick a point beyond something like a wall (because that's total cover), but can otherwise start it where you please.

When playing on a grid, the DMG (p 251) says you have to pick an intersection of gridlines for your targeting point. It should not have any particular effect on placing your spell in this situation. If you could aim it to meet your goal off a grid, you should be able to do the same on a grid.

Your DM

If there were any doubt about the spell landing exactly where the caster wants it, there would be a roll involved in the casting - some spells have an ranged spell attack roll, fireball does not. If your DM wishes to add additional rules to spell targeting, that's his prerogative, but he's making things more difficult than they were designed to be. The fundamental assumption is that characters are competent. If the DM wishes to make them feel less competent, he can... but I wouldn't play his game.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does my cleric know where to throw a fireball? He cant count the distance in feet and cast fireball there in one round. For me, the player, is easy to count the distance, but is it for my character ? \$\endgroup\$ – Spellcaster Sep 18 '17 at 18:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ The default game rules work the I've described. If there were any doubt about the spell landing exactly where the caster wants it, there would be a roll involved in the casting - some spells have an ranged spell attack roll, fireball does not. If your DM wishes to add additional rules to spell targeting, that's his prerogative, but he's making things more difficult than they were designed to be. The fundamental assumption is that characters are competent. If the DM wishes to make them feel less competent, he can... but I wouldn't play his game. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Sep 18 '17 at 19:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ On top of T.J.L.'s comment, even if he does so, is he fair with it? Unless he's imposing similar "are you actually competent enough to do this" tests on melee or ranged attackers (which I doubt, how would you even do that?), this is effectively a nerf on spellcasters. \$\endgroup\$ – sevenbrokenbricks Sep 1 at 19:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ This rule should also apply to other area spells like shatter as long as they include wording like "choose a point you can see within range" or similar. \$\endgroup\$ – Zeiss Ikon Oct 7 at 13:05

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