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The Situation

I am a high level caster surrounded by multiple high level archmages, all ready to 9th-level counterspell me if I cast a spell. For reasons unimportant to this question, I have no time to deke them with a cantrip. In my hands, a large bedsheet. It is my turn.

Also, my DM is very particular about rules and the specific mechanics of spells. This will be important shortly.

The Solution

I throw the bedsheet over myself and drop prone, covering myself entirely, and cast Time Stop (actual spell cast doesn't really matter) and proceed to Phase 2 (the famous "???" before "Profit"). Since I have Total Cover, I cannot be counterspelled.

I completely agree that this is a ridiculous solution, and shouldn’t be allowed by game rules. However, as I mentioned, my DM is very particular on how spell rules are worded to work, and loves loopholes like this, similar to the Peasant Railgun. (That’s why I have tagged this RAW.)

The Question

Does total cover actually work like this by a strict rules-as-written reading like my DM expects? Can I save myself from evil magic monster people by hiding under the covers?

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Your problem isn't solved by total cover.

As K-T already said, total covers conceals you fully and counts as an obstacle for whatever tries to assault you. This rule, at least as far as I can reason, does not actually apply or do much for you here.

Since you want to make the use of Counterspell against you impossible, you don't need any conventional cover. All you need to do is break line of sight, which you do by covering yourself up.

The only issue I see is that I'd most likely consider completely covering yourself up fully an action. As such you'd be on the ground for a round till you can cast Time Stop.

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  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ For the purposes of the question, say the process of covering up in time was solved with 2 levels of Rogue and a Cunning Action Hide. You're saying this is now legitimate? \$\endgroup\$ – Alex F Jun 29 '18 at 7:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AlexF It's a tough call, since you don't actually have any place to hide. It'd be a hide action that is unsucceedable (since you're just covering yourself up and the high level wizards around you should posess an understanding of object permanence). However, in failing your hide action you would at the very least break direct line of sight. It'd be good enough for me. \$\endgroup\$ – Scrawnoisis Jun 29 '18 at 7:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Hide" doesn't necessarily always have to mean "You don't know I'm there", I would argue that in this situation it would be used as "You don't see the specifics of what I'm doing". Similarly, I'd call it hiding to pull up your hood to block people from reading your lips. That's a tangential point, of course, as long as we agree that at the very least it breaks line of sight \$\endgroup\$ – Alex F Jun 29 '18 at 7:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ We're in agreement on that point, indeed. \$\endgroup\$ – Scrawnoisis Jun 29 '18 at 7:18
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PHB, Page 196:

A target has total cover if it is completely concealed by an obstacle.

I don't believe there is a rule on what constitutes an obstacle, so we must refer to the common understanding of what an obstacle is. Ultimately it's up to the DM, but personally I wouldn't consider a bedsheet covering the body to be an obstacle. Worn clothes aren't an obstacle, after all.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 29 '18 at 18:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure if I'd consider it concealing, either! I mean, in combat, concealment is something that hides your location, but I'd bet $10 I can still figure out pretty well where you are if you're just under a bedsheet. Compare that to, say, hiding behind a hanging bedsheet, where you could be anywhere behind it, but you don't know exactly where. \$\endgroup\$ – Fund Monica's Lawsuit Jun 29 '18 at 19:48
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No, but you're safe anyways

Let's start with "Total Cover":

A target has total cover if it is completely concealed by an obstacle.

As others have already pointed out, the blanket is not really an obstacle, so it can't provide you with Total Cover, but this is ultimately irrelevant, because of the way Counterspell works:

Casting Time: 1 reaction, which you take when you see a creature within 60 feet of you casting a spell

So unless the other mages can see through the blanket, they can't see you, therefore can't see you casting the spell and can't react.

Edit - as per Ling's comment: If you've simply draped the blanket over you, you're basically "wearing" it so it becomes a part of you, you need to have the blanket basically form a wall, so it doesn't show your contours.

(emphasis in quotes added by me)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, but the enemy casters might see your shoulders move or something when you do somatic components \$\endgroup\$ – MrHiTech Jun 29 '18 at 21:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ So basically, if it's enough for a quick change act, it's good enough to cast a spell! \$\endgroup\$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Jul 1 '18 at 16:13
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It depends on the spell, what else you have available, and whether or not you are a sorcerer with Subtle Spell.

Take a look at the actual description for what triggers it: "1 reaction, which you take when you see a creature within 60 feet of you casting a spell."

As spell casting is detected by you observing the components, that's the relevant bit here. You can try to make the argument that a bed sheet blocks sight to you as a creature, but a bed sheet is just fabric, and clothes don't block line of sight. By putting the sheet over you, you're basically just wearing an oversized cloak. Think of it this way: you can't claim total cover if a mage sneaks up behind you and you put your hood up. If it really were that simple, all wizards would wear oversized ponchos, but that's not what we see.

So the relevant part is whether or not they observe the components you use.

Normal clothes don't inhibit someone from telling that you are casting a spell because they can still hear vocal components, see somatic components, and see material components.

Being under a bedsheet would not prevent them from hearing you, so Time Stop, with its V component is out of the running.

Material components are easier. If you had the component with you and it could conceivably be occluded by the sheet (diamonds and wands are probably okay; staffs might not be), but so far as I'm aware, there's no such thing as a material only spell.

Somatic depends on the DM. How large are the gestures? By the definition of Counterspell, it seems the action must be visible from at least 60 feet, which means it probably involves gross motor movement. I would say that would be visible even beneath a bedsheet.

Now, if you have Subtle Spell, all this goes out the window. You would just succeed on your cast and wouldn't even need the sheet unless you're using a material component spell.

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I think you might be coming at this from the wrong angle. In my opinion the technical answer to this question is irrelevant.

As others have pointed out, depending on how you interpret "line of sight", this may or may not prevent Counterspell.

In my opinion you are attempting to metagame a perceived loophole in the rules. So let's look at this from a role-playing perspective:

Does it honestly sound like the act of a sane person to throw a bedsheet over themselves in the heat of battle with the expectation that their opponents will not see what they are doing?

Furthermore, in a setting where this is a viable strategy, it would arguably have been discovered by a large portion of other magic users, and I would imagine it would be common for them to wear clothing resembling a bedsheet with eyeholes. I think on lore friendliness alone, you can't allow this play completely unchallenged as a DM.

Going with the "Yes, and..." mindset, I would likely allow this with some sort of "Distraction" check on your opponents (possibly with disadvantage), with an explanation that your unusual antics caused them to mistarget their Counterspell. You would of course have to accept the good with the bad and start the beginning of your next round covered in a sheet and effectively blind.

You should probably discuss "unusual tactics"(Be honest, did you really expect the DM to agree with you immediately?) with your DM ahead of time to avoid arguing at the table and come up with a solution that everyone can be happy with which doesn't break other players' immersion. Remember that the goal of role-playing is that everyone has a good time, not that you prove to the DM how well you know every rule.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Jun 30 '18 at 19:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the point that if this worked, many people would already wear clothes giving that effect. Nice job considering the consequences of the way the world works on the people living in it. Perhaps it is common practice, but only for wizard duels. Maybe wearing a sheet is too much of a downside for other people? (maybe eye holes don't turn with your head? Maybe you can't use eye holes for some reason, so to see out you need some kind of magical vision-assisting spell) \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Jul 1 '18 at 9:52
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There are many legitimate ways that you could obscure yourself from sight (and possibility of counter spells).

If this came up in a game, and player said "I am covering myself with a sheet so that they cannot see me in order to react." then I would allow the attempt, and make a ruling as DM. Probably something like this:

  • It does not seem like a perfect option, but might reasonably obscure your actions so that opponents cannot react. So I would not disallow it

  • However, there are counter arguments that such a move would not stop most other things that require "seeing a creature" in order to target it for instance.

  • Without some cost, this could become a cheesy re-used move, and to me it gives the wrong feel to FRPG game that characters might wander around carrying blankets to hide under on their turn (the towels from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy notwithstanding).

  • Using the sheet is your free object interaction.

  • The intent is to prevent opponents seeing your action clearly.

  • If PC cast a spell whilst under the sheet, and the spell had a Somatic component, I would expect the PC to succeed in a Concentration check due to unusual circumstance. Actually, adding more rolls over-complicates things here. Being effectively blind later is already a high cost, and 5E errs towards simpler solutions. Some DMs might like to have PC make a Concentration check due to how odd the situation is.

  • I could allow the mage to make a Dex check (as an improvised action, no Proficiency bonus here, since a Stealth check to become hidden would not apply in my opinion) opposed by enemies' Perception. On a success, the enemies would not be able to react to a spell being cast (or any other subtle action taken under the sheet). As the PC has committed to the action, and would not be aware of how successful it was, I would get them to make this roll after attempting to cast the spell, and only if an enemy caster would attempt to react to spell casting.

  • The PC is effectively blind to their surroundings until they remove the sheet. As they have already used their free object interaction, and cast a spell, then that will likely mean until start of their next turn.

At no point will the character have Total Cover. For instance, anyone would be able to target the character, no penalties to ranged or melee attacks, and no bonuses to saving throws against effects that target the PC.

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No for under but yes for behind.

If you are on the ground and have the bed sheet on you, it is basically like lying on the ground in the winter clothes which is too big for you - everyone is able to see the correct position of you.

On the other hand if the bed sheet is hanging there from the ceiling to the floor and creates some sort of soft wall and you will be behind it, then it is yes for me. It is irrelevant that an arrow can go through it (as Paul suggested), because there is always something that can go right through your cover. The point here is that nobody can see if you are behind that kneeling or standing on your head - they are not able to recognise your silhouette as if you are under the bed sheet. It is like being behind the standing tower shield (I know that it is not in 5e...).

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I'd rule you get possibly 1 round of cover:

  • Deploying the bedsheet over yourself causes it to parachute over you
  • A DC 15 ability check for getting it to successfully parachute and stay over you results in a single round of full cover before...
  • The sheet settles and conforms to your body at which point you're obscured for the purposes of counter spells, but simply prone AND blind for melee purposes
  • I'd also force a DC 10 ability check to disentangle from the sheet after it settles, or a DC 5 before it settles.

I'd work out with you which abilities are relevant before hand... :-D

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A target has total cover if it is completely concealed by an obstacle.

And using the dictionary definitions...

concealed: kept secret; kept out of sight.

obstacle: a thing that blocks one's way or prevents or hinders progress.

While you're blanket does not hinder a sword from hitting you, it does hinder people from seeing what you are doing. Since you are "completely out of sight", You have total cover for purpose of line of sight. (Anyone who challenges this due to "Object permanence", just reference them to any stage magic. What you think you see is not the same as what you actually are seeing.)

Casting Time: 1 reaction, which you take when you see a creature within 60 feet of you casting a spell

We already established that they cannot see you (even if they think they see you). They may be able to target "the moving mass under the blanket", but at this point, they cannot confirm that you are, in fact

A) Still within 60 ft

B) Are still a creature

C) Are casting a spell as apposed to rambling (debatable, but is something to think about in relation to bluff)

However!!! We should also consider another part of key wording

Casting Time: 1 reaction

It only takes 1 reaction time to cast the spell. So This could still be cast as a readied action, or simply as a reaction to what the mage believes they are seeing. So we really need to look at the valid target of this spell...

range 60ft...

instant...

Counterspell

3 abjuration
Casting Time: 1 reaction, which you take when you see a creature within 60 feet of you casting a spell
Range: 60 feet
Components: S
Duration: Instantaneous
Classes: Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard

You attempt to interrupt a creature in the process of casting a spell. If the creature is casting a spell of 3rd level or lower, its spell fails and has no effect. If it is casting a spell of 4th level or higher, make an ability check using your spellcasting ability. The DC equals 10 + the spell’s level. On a success, the creature’s spell fails and has no effect.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, the interrupted spell has no effect if its level is less than or equal to the level of the spell slot you used.

The word "attempt" means that this spell is a shot, not an affect. So you can cast it to no avail (IE, against nothing)... I don't see anything about line of sight, other then the implied one to get the reaction... it doesn't appear to actually require knowing where a creature is.

So what you really need is 2 blankets, a puppet, and learn ventriloquism so that they all blast your puppet instead of you. ^_^

Actually... forget the blanket. Jut learn ventriloquism. They can't target you because the puppet is casting, but they can't target the puppet because it is not a creature. :3

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Wouldn't a final roll of less than 5 still count here? As they need to hear you well enough to know you are speaking magic words? I'm not sure exactly on how "speak quietly" rules work. Don't have the actual book with me right now. \$\endgroup\$ – Tezra Jul 2 '18 at 14:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm going with a hearing (Perception) DC 5 as is "generally very hard to F up". I'm much more familiar with 3.5, but my understanding is the DC rating transfers much the same for determining difficulty of a task. \$\endgroup\$ – Tezra Jul 2 '18 at 15:06

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