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I'm specifically thinking about Flaming Sphere, which states

A 5-foot-diameter Sphere of fire appears in an unoccupied space of your choice within range and lasts for the Duration.

but this is probably applicable to other spells, notably conjuration spells, as they tend to target empty space, rather than creatures.

In the situation where the caster is behind a wall, but still has a way to see the other side (though a window, or looking through their Familiar's eyes, for example), could they cast Flaming Sphere "through" the wall, assuming they're targeting a point within range?

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To target something, you must have a clear path to it, so it can't be behind total cover. (PHB 204)

The path must be a direct line, otherwise a 10" by 10" wall segment would not provide any cover if effects can just go around.

You cannot define a path to target through a window, according to Jeremy Crawford:

Cover is a physical obstruction, not necessarily a visual one.

You might be able to see your target, but not know whether a clear path is present. For example, nothing says you cannot target through magical scrying sensors in the descriptions of either clairvoyance or scrying. So this is a DM call, but taking into account that:

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. (PHB 204)

you might be surprised.

You will need two actions in a turn (or a casting time of bonus action or reaction) to do this with a familiar, though, as:

as an action, you can see through your familiar's eyes and hear what it hears until the start of your next turn (PHB 240 on find familiar, emphasis mine)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Indeed, I missed the action part of using the familiar's senses. Thanks for pointing that out :) \$\endgroup\$ – karhell Aug 25 '17 at 10:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ nowhere is it stated that the path has to be direct/a line, just "clear" - doesn't "it can’t be behind total cover" imply a straight line of sight? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Aug 25 '17 at 11:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ There is also significant clarification on the podcast at wizards. Dragon Talk - 01/19/2017 \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Aug 25 '17 at 16:36
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PHB p.204:

A Clear Path to the Target

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.

Seeing is not enough (and not even necessary unless the spell calls it out): there must be an unobstructed path between the caster and the target.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I see. I was thrown off by the spell description not specifying anything emanating from the caster, just the sphere appearing at a chosen point. I guess the official stance is that the magic itself has to find a path, then. Thanks :) \$\endgroup\$ – karhell Aug 25 '17 at 10:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ There is also significant clarification on the podcast at wizards. Dragon Talk - 01/19/2017 \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Aug 25 '17 at 15:47

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