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I am looking to choose spells for my Sorceror, and I found Earth Tremor in XgtE.

Range: 10 feet

You cause a tremor in the ground within range. Each creature other than you in that area must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 1d6 bludgeoning damage and is knocked prone. If the ground in that area is loose earth or stone, it becomes difficult terrain until cleared, with each 5-foot-diameter portion requiring at least 1 minute to clear by hand.

My problem is that no where in the spell description does it tell you how big of an area is affected. You clearly can choose a point within 10 feet (the range of the spell) but there no area listed.

I looked on DnD Beyond and they enter the information as "Range/Area: 10 feet", but they also do the same thing for every spell even when there is no area involved (compare and contrast Fireball and Firebolt).

How big is the area affected by Earth Tremor?

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3 Answers 3

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The area is the ground within a 10 foot radius of you.

The wording of the spell is a little ambiguous, but it intends a 10 foot radius from the caster.

1) A previous version of the spell has a range of "Self (10-foot radius)" and explicitly states that "you cause a tremor in the ground in a 10-foot radius." (See: this older edition of the Elemental Evil Player's Companion from 2015). This indicates the original design intent.

2) The current version of the spell specifies that "you cause a tremor in the ground within range." Literally, the ground within the range of the spell includes precisely the ground within 10 feet of you. Therefore the range of the spell itself sweeps out the area: a circle with a 10 foot radius centered on you.

Yes, the new wording is dissimilar from how most spells indicate a similar area (using a range of "Self" and mentioning the nature of the area in the spell text), but I conjecture that the designers revised the spell to simplify the wording and inadvertently introduced an ambiguity.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That older version is much easier to understand. They used the same ambiguous wording for the Thunderclap cantrip (also from XgtE), and I was wondering if I should post another question for it. It's annoying how they completely change how they use Range for spells for these 2 spells in particular. \$\endgroup\$
    – GreySage
    Jan 30, 2018 at 20:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ If this is going to be the answer of choice, you may want to add the citation to the official ruling and I can delete my answer since they are redundant. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 30, 2018 at 20:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron: No reason to delete your answer unless you really want to. It is good to have multiple good answers and you have no way of knowing which way the votes will go. rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6690/… \$\endgroup\$ Jan 30, 2018 at 20:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron I agree with the comment above. Your answer is meaningful on its own merits. No need to subsume it. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 30, 2018 at 21:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ I do wonder if the intention was better synergy with the sorcerer's Distant Spell metamagic, which doubles the range of a spell (but not the area-of-effect size). \$\endgroup\$ Feb 28, 2020 at 23:01
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10 feet in every direction.

The center of the area is yourself. Every creature within 10 feet makes the save and the location of the difficult terrain (if the ground in that area is loose earth or stone) is a circle with radius 10 feet.

Jeremy Crawford has confirmed:

“That area” refers to the ground within 10 feet of you.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose THe spell later says "...it becomes difficult terrain until cleared, with each 5-foot-diameter portion". Probably a good thing for David to add in to confirm radius. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Jan 30, 2018 at 20:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubicksmoose Sorry. Cited \$\endgroup\$ Jan 30, 2018 at 20:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rubicksmoose You can't clear the area evenly. Small circles within the radius can be cleared. It takes more than 4 cycles to clear since there is space between the circles you can clear. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 30, 2018 at 20:13
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It covers 5x5 squares on a grid and not a circle with 10 ft radius

Why the previous answers are not accurate

I consider the previous answers to be incorrect for two reasons:

  1. The spell does not specify a range or area based on a radius in its official description.
  2. When you create an area of effect with a range of self, your space (i.e. 5 by 5 feet for a Medium creature) is the point of origin.

My conclusion

Disclaimer: this answer assumes that you are playing on a grid.

The current official description of Earth Tremor is the one provided in Xanathar's Guide to Everything. This description is the same found in DnD Beyond, and it states the range is 10 ft that originates from you.

If we look at the description of range (Player's Handbook p.202, emphasis mine):

Spells that create cones or lines of effect that originate from you also have a range of self, indicating that the origin point of the spell's effect must be you.

Now, point of origin (Player's Handbook p. 204, emphasis mine):

Typically, a point of origin is a point in space, but some spells have an area whose origin is a creature or an object.

Finally, Areas of Effect in Dungeon Master's Guide, p. 251:

Choose an intersection of squares or hexes as the point of origin of an area of effect, then follow its rules as normal.

Taking advantage of the same explanation given in the question Is there a difference between cube areas-of-effect with Self or 5-feet ranges?: your character sits at the center of a square and occupies the entire square. The edges and corners of your square are 0 feet. The next square over, those far edges are all 5 feet away (including diagonals).

So with all this information, this is the Area of Effect for Earth Tremor, where the green circle is the player and the blue squares the area affected by the spell:

enter image description here

Jeremy Crawford (unofficially) has clarified this

Earth tremor causes a tremor in the ground within 10 ft. of you. Each creature, other than you, on that ground must make a save, even if behind a barrier; being on the ground is the key.

Question: How do spells with range Self (X-foot radius) work for bigger creatures? Is the radius from center or creature?

Jeremy Crawford: When you create an area of effect with a range of self, your space is the point of origin, whatever your size.

Reply Question: So an Ancient Dragon with Destructive Wave has the potential to wreck more than a Medium cleric doing the same? (Awesome)

Jeremy Crawford: That's correct.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Your title is confusing (at least to me). The title says it's a 5x5 ft square, but then you seem to be arguing it's a 25x25 ft square. And your drawing does not quite clarify. The green circle is the player. Is the 5x5 white circle the 5x5 ft square of the title? Is the blue supposed to be the affected area? \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Apr 28 at 18:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sorry... I meant 5x5 squares. I will update the text. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – Tarod
    Apr 28 at 18:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Given that you are coming in six years after an answer has been accepted, and your conclusion is different (square not circle), you might address why the previous answers are wrong. You do a good job of citing support for your answer, but an explicit statement of the faulty reasoning in the other answers would improve this one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Apr 28 at 19:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think it's a worthwhile POV, and some interesting thoughts, +1; however, the section in the DMG that you quote is in the section entitled "Using Miniatures", toward the beginning of that section it says "The Player’s Handbook offers simple rules for depicting combat using miniature figures on a grid. This section expands on that material.". If you go look at the referenced section in the PHB, it says "VARIANT: PLAYING ON A GRID / If you play out a combat using a square grid and miniatures or other tokens, follow these rules." \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Apr 28 at 20:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ You already had my upvote, but I do consider your edit an improvement. You might also mention that a ruling here is of high consequence; depending on whether the shape is circular or square, and whether you measure form the center or edge of your square, you might affect up to 12 more or fewer opponents. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Apr 28 at 22:21

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