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A 14th level Warlock whose patron is a Fiend gains access to the Hurl Through Hell ability:

Hurl Through Hell

Starting at 14th level, when you hit a creature with an attack, you can use this feature to instantly transport the target through the lower planes. The creature disappears and hurtles through a nightmare landscape.

At the end of your next turn, the target returns to the space it previously occupied, or the nearest unoccupied space. If the target is not a fiend, it takes 10d10 psychic damage as it reels from its horrific experience.

Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.

Pretty sweet.

But since the affected creature effectively loses a turn while it is gone, can it take actions while in the lower planes?

For instance, could a targeted spellcaster planeshift to get back earlier? If so, what about the psychic damage?

Or, could the target ready an attack to strike back as soon as it returns?

If no actions can be taken, is the affected creature effectively stunned while it is 'banished'?

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    \$\begingroup\$ That’s one Hell of a question ! \$\endgroup\$ – Gael L Apr 11 '18 at 13:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ The "what about the psychic damage" seems extraneous, since the spell text identifies who does not take that damage: a fiend. Since nothing else is excepted, why would the damage be mitigated? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 11 '18 at 14:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ "as it reels from its horrific experience". Was it a horrific experience if the creature left right away, of it's own accord? \$\endgroup\$ – Alex Millette Apr 11 '18 at 14:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast An answer to the seperate question could argue exactly that. Either way, I think mentioning it here distracts from this question unnecesserily. \$\endgroup\$ – Tiggerous Apr 11 '18 at 14:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ How would the target know that he will return at all? Why would he ready an action? \$\endgroup\$ – András Apr 11 '18 at 16:51
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While I appreciate the points made by the other answers, I don't find them satisfactory enough (maybe only a comment by a designer would be enough), so allow me to post my interpretation.

The Hurl Through Hell ability is somewhat similar to the 4th level Banishment spell:

Banishment

You attempt to send one creature that you can see within range to another place of existence. The target must succeed on a Charisma saving throw or be banished.

If the target is native to the plane of existence you're on, you banish the target to a harmless Demiplane. While there, the target is Incapacitated. The target remains there until the spell ends, at which point the target reappears in the space it left or in the nearest unoccupied space if that space is occupied.

[...]

Emphasis mine

There are of course differences: Banishment is a spell, requires a failed save, concentration and has other effects. But here the ramifications are clear: the affected creature is incapacitated and cannot do anything (interestingly, it also loses concentration, which would be another side question for Hurl Through Hell).

With the principle for 5e that spells and abilities do exactly what they do and nothing else, it can be deduced that something that is explicitly written (being incapacitated) in one spell, but not in a similar ability, is not applicable in the latter.

By RAW, the affected creature can take an action (keeping it's initiative) while gone.

An argument could be made that the designer's intention was the opposite and the clarification made in Banishment was forgotten for Hurl Through Hell, especially since it is a rather niche ability. More so, Banishment explicitly sends you to a harmless demiplane, while Hurl Through Hell sends you to a dangerous lower plane. It would make sense for the affected creature to have it's own abilities hindered in some way. But unless we get Crawford or someone else to pitch in, we cannot rely on that.

As for the ramifications, still according to RAW:

  • The affected creature can ready an action, as long as the trigger is a perceivable event (coming back is certainly noticeable). If it readies a spell, it will need to roll a CON save to keep it's concentration when it takes the 10d10 psychic damage.

  • The creature is on another plane and can use spells to change plane as always. But if it is not there already, it will come back to it's original position at the end of the Warlock's next turn. It takes the 10d10 psychic damage.

  • The creature does not see the original battlefield (unless it uses some sort of divination magic) and cannot predict exactly what the characters will have done before it's return.

Of course all of this is subject to the DM's ruling. He could certainly decide that the affected creature, while gone, is in no shape to do any kind of actions (giving more weight to the 'Hurtles' word in the description, which means: move or cause to move at a great speed, typically in a wildly uncontrolled manner). Likewise, the DM could decide that the creature not only can escape it's hell, but by doing so will prevent some, if not all, of the psychic damage. A save would be appropriate.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Comparison to Banishment spell is well made. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 12 '18 at 12:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would add that readying an action is highly unrealistic... The target is rapidly moving (presumably falling), has no clue that they will soon return to their previous position, and is likely to be spinning, upside down, etc. Seems strange to me: "I raise my sword to strike as I am falling through hell. I'm waiting until I return to my original plane, whether that happens in 1 second, 1 hour, 1 year, or never..." \$\endgroup\$ – Joshu's Mu Apr 12 '18 at 17:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this answer. Altought, in line witb josbhsmu's comment, I doubt more than 1% of creatures would have the reflex and clarity of mind to do anything more than instinctive actions. The 10d10 is paychic damage from fear and other psychological trauma after all. \$\endgroup\$ – 3C273 Apr 12 '18 at 22:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @3C273 This is an entirely reasonable ruling for a DM to make, but the RAW have nothing to say about it. There's nothing in the text itself that makes the opposite determination any less likely. A devil might even just sigh, roll his eyes, and ready Fireball for the return. \$\endgroup\$ – user47897 Dec 27 '18 at 21:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @3C273 I like your interpretation, though I think a PC might just qualify for that 1% you mention lol. I know in D&D, a level 1 character is already an extraordinary individual by virtue of simply having reached level 1, so I think it feasible that a PC who's already experienced the effects of the spell before might have the composure to realize "This will end soon, and I need to be ready when it does." But, I don't think I'd allow a readied action the first time it happens to a PC. On later attempts, I wouldn't consider it unreasonable to impose a Wisdom save for the attempt. \$\endgroup\$ – MrSpudtastic Dec 28 '18 at 15:33
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This calls for a DM ruling for (at least) two reasons

When looking at this class ability's duration (from the action taken on your turn to the end of your next turn), and considering the normal initiative order, the target creature's turn will come up while experiencing the disorienting effect of being hurtled through hell. There are a number of things that can happen depending upon

  1. What creature is being hurtled through hell
  2. Whether or not the creature is aware that it will return to its original location. (How much metagame information does a given NPC or creature have? That consideration is solely in the hands of the DM)

    That this question (what does that hurtled creature do for its six second vacation in Hell?) is left open for a flexible ruling is a good thing: it allows the DM some room to apply the unique skills of some NPC/monsters to this dangerous situation as needed for the setting and the story.

Creatures with special powers/defensive powers are likely to apply them on their turn

Three Cases to examine:

  1. Is this creature a warlock or arcane spell caster familiar with this power?

    Such a creature will likely recognize what's going on (all damage considered for breaking concentration on any spell that's up when hurled), and can thus be expected to take some action to be in either an offensive or defensive "stance" upon return.

  2. Is the creature able to adopt a defensive or protective "stance" when thrown into a hostile environment?

    For those not quick-witted, nor educated in the arcane to the extent of case 1, a variety of creatures can turn invisible, or put up protective spells, as an action or a bonus action on their turn. Being suddenly in a dangerous environment will tend to evoke the self-preservation instincts of any creature. (An Archmage NPC might, for example, put up a wall of force or a globe of invulnerability; a Martial NPC may take the dodge action, or ready an action since they don't know what the threat is while hurtling through Hell).

    A subset of this consideration is "would an arcana check be applicable here to help the creature deal with this" but since that takes up an action, it probably isn't helpful unless a bonus action allows for a defensive / protective measure to be applied.

  3. Is the creature aware enough to respond to the sudden change in environment?

    Consider the T-Rex. It has an intelligence of 2. What is the likelihood that it will do anything but react for that turn? A cloud giant, on the other hand, Int 12 and Wisdom 16 (insight +7) might be quick witted enough to turn into gaseous form to protect itself; if it understands what just happened as it hurtles through hell, the cloud giant might ready a casting of fog cloud for its return to original location in order to confuse the warlock upon arrival.

    All of the above considerations are worth folding into a DM ruling. There are dozens of other creatures with unique capabilities that, in this situation, ought to be applicable; the examples are given for illustration purposes.

There's also the KISS principle

It's just as useful to simply consider the creature/NPC is gone for a round, apply the damage, and play on, if the DM doesn't want to ponder any of the above more detailed ideas or if the creature isn't unique enough to take this a level deeper. The rationale here is that the disorientation is sufficiently great that during that six seconds, whomever is being hurtled through Hell is having enough time coping with the sudden change in environment.

Asking for a "one size fits all" answer leaves out too many fun and interesting choices.

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    \$\begingroup\$ For example, the creature could cast mind blank and become immune to psychic damage. .. 😉 \$\endgroup\$ – Garret Gang Apr 12 '18 at 20:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GarretGang In the comments under the question, the issue of when the damage occurs was agreed as a separate question. Would you care to ask it? (I like your example ...) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 12 '18 at 20:44
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I would say that the spell does exactly what it says and allows nothing more.

Really, the spell description (while opening up possibilities that resulted in your question) is just 'fluff text' to explain the actual mechanics of the spell. Namely: The creature disappears then returns at the end of your next turn then takes 10d10 psychic damage.

I believe that is the intent of the spell, but it would need a designer to step in to confirm this.

Further rationale behind my reasoning:

  • No spell or ability description can mention every single thing that can and cannot happen during or as a result of that spell or description. E.g. Hurl through hell also doesn't say that the target isn't burnt by hellfire or hit by a pit fiend while 'banished' by the spell. But it would be harsh to assume this could happen as it is clearly not the intent, just as I don't think it is the intent that the target can take actions during this time. So as mentioned above, sometimes you just have to see the intent behind the words (admittedly not always obvious and there are sometimes differences in wording between similar abilities that can muddy the waters).
  • For justification using just the text, consider the name: Hurl through hell. This conjures up images of the target hurtling chaotically through the lower planes. Not conducive to carefully considering your next move.
  • The experience causes the target massive mental trauma as indicated by the massive psychic damage. So again, clearly the target is not getting banished to a nice pool-side sun-lounger in hell where he can carefully prepare what to do on his return (in fact, how would he know that he will return at all)!
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    \$\begingroup\$ There is no hard distinction between rules text and fluff text in D&D5E. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Apr 11 '18 at 13:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ability also doesn't say the target is incapacitated... therefore it is reasonable they can take actions on their turn, but not see the battlefield from which they were violently wrenched. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Apr 11 '18 at 14:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ I did answer the question. The answer being that the creature affected cannot do anything in that time. This, I believe, is the intent (though some people clearly disagree). \$\endgroup\$ – PJRZ Apr 11 '18 at 15:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ In a comment under the question, @András raises a verisimilitude concern that is related to how you are approaching your answer. How would the target know that he will return at all? Why would he ready an action? Not sure if you want to fold that consideration into your answer or not. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 12 '18 at 12:17
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Ready (p. 193). You have until the start of your next turn to use a readied action.

This post was brought up in the comments. So I wanted to edit to include the corrected information.

Either case they'll be able to ready an action.

It was brought up in the comments, what's a perceivable thing that they could see on the battlefield to trigger it. I believe the argument could be perceivable event would be seeing the battlefield. However, that might not be specific enough and likely would be up to DM's discretion.

I do think that there would be a number of things that would suggest that DM's discretion should be used. This is a horrifying place, so a creature likely wouldn't be able to plan out an action, unless they are a fiend or some creature that is very familiar with horrific planes already.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm don't think that this reasoning is correct as readied actions can be carried over into the next round of play. See for reference: Does a readied action extend into another round?. \$\endgroup\$ – Tiggerous Apr 11 '18 at 13:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, good to know that the errata for that is out there, I've added in an edited part to my answer to include that. \$\endgroup\$ – The Scando Apr 11 '18 at 13:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer is predicated on a poor understanding of the nature of turns as opposed to rounds. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Apr 11 '18 at 13:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Rather than put in an "EDIT" section, you should just edit your answer to read correctly for first-time readers. There's no point in keeping incorrect information on display. It makes your answer easier to read, and it's what the edit button is for. :) \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Apr 11 '18 at 13:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ready also indicates it has to be perceivable for it to be a valid trigger, while in "Hell" what can it perceive on the battlefield? \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Apr 11 '18 at 14:02

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