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The web spell description says:

The webs are flammable. Any 5-foot cube of webs exposed to fire burns away in 1 round, dealing 2d4 fire damage to any creature that starts its turn in the fire.

I'm confused with the wording of the flammable part.

Let's say that on turn 1, I cast web; the web is supported by the floor and the ceiling that is 15 feet up. I catch a Medium creature on it and it fails its saving throw.

On turn 2 I cast fireball engulfing the whole web on its radius.

The wording says that "Any 5-foot cube of webs exposed to fire burns away in 1 round" - so, what exactly happens?

  1. What does "Any 5-foot cube of webs exposed to fire burns away in 1 round" means? Does any area of the web affected by fire will vanish and free whoever was caught on that area after 1 round?
  2. If the answer for 1 is yes, what if I use a single-target spell like fire bolt or chromatic orb, will the creature still free itself?
  3. What does "in 1 round" means? At the start of round 3? At the start of my third turn? At the end of my third turn?
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It will start burning when you cast the spell (introduce the source of fire) and stop burning and vanish by the start of your next turn (one whole round). So:

  1. Yes, it will vanish after one round of burning and free whoever caught in it. A strict RAW reading suggests that the creature is freed only after the whole round (i.e. not immediately after it is burned). A more benevolent DM might rule to free the creature when it gets burned, so effectively one turn sooner.
  2. That is questionable, but I would rule that you cannot hit a creature entangled in webs without hitting the webs as well, so same as 1.
  3. "In 1 round" means after everyone had their turn, so if you cast fireball on your second turn, it finnishes burning with the start of your 3rd turn, see the answer to Do effects with the duration of one minute end at the beginning or the end of your turn?
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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with your answer to question 2, but I would go further and say that in the case of fire bolt or a chromoatic orb using fire as the damage type, not only would the web in the creature's own space be set on fire, but so would every piece of web along the flight path of the fiery projectile, because the description says that simply being "exposed to fire" is enough to set the web ablaze. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan Thompson Jun 22 '18 at 6:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Considering that the web burns in portions of 5 feet cubes, wouldn't a medium creature be caught vertically in more than one portion of the web? \$\endgroup\$ – Manner Jun 22 '18 at 15:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Manner That is a good point, but I would claim that this simplification is a good one to make. The rules of combat don't cover much of the vertical axis, so you wouldn't know which cube you hit and if you hit the bottom one, the web would fall anyway, or perhaps caught fire from the other cube. But this is all just an abstraction. If you are not a hard-core RAWer, I would go for the method that seems the most flavorful which to me is the one I described (and is not - not really at least - at odds with rules). \$\endgroup\$ – J.E Jun 22 '18 at 15:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Manner Hitting a creature with a fire bolt doesn't set the entire creature on fire, so I don't think there's an issue. Most of the time you would not be getting a head shot, so the 5-foot cube in question would be the one on the ground, not the one containing the target's head. On the other hand, if you cast Immolation on the creature, which does set the entire creature on fire, I would say that any 5-foot cube of web touched by the creature begins burning, which for a 6-foot-tall human includes at least the 5-foot cube they're standing in as well as the one directly above it. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan Thompson Jun 23 '18 at 0:06
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Reading the description of the web spell

  • It takes exactly 1 round for the web to burn away, meaning that the web has burned away, when the the initiative tracker reaches the caster - one round after ignition.

  • When casting fireball, a larger area are exposed to fire, this means that; if the entire web is engulfed in flame, the entire web will start burning at the time fireball is casted.

  • Rephrasing part of the spell definition: Any fire damage dealt within a 5'ft cube that contains web, causes the web to be ignited. As a GM I would rule that the same goes for attacks made within the webbed area, using melee weapons or ammunition that deals fire damage.

  • Igniting the web is independent to which spell is casted, reagardless of the area of web that is ignited, the area of ignited web still takes one whole round to burn away. One could argue though, that if the areas supporting the webs are ignited, then the entire web is released once these areas have burned away!

Example

ROUND 1: Günter the wizard has the initiative of 7, he cast web and catches a spider (ironically enough) who has the initiative of 5, the web covers a 15 ft area.

ROUND 2: The spider attempts to break free, but fails. Günter then casts fireball, the spider takes XX dmg and the entire web start to ignite.

ROUND 3: The spider start it's turn inside a burning web and takes 2d4 fire damage. The spider, now heavily burned, attempts to break free - It fails yet again. Now the initiative tracker has reached 5 and it is Günters turn, however first the web has burned away, the spider is no longer restrained. Being out of spells, Günter start shooting his crossbow at the spider, but he misses. Since Günter is alone against the spider, he spend his movement to run away.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "I would say that more than just fire damage can ignite the webs. Just waving a mundane torch around would be enough." Uh... a mundane torch deals fire damage. 1 fire damage per hit, to be precise. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Nov 22 '18 at 22:03

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