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Otiluke's freezing sphere states:

A frigid globe of cold energy streaks from your fingertips to a point of your choice within range, where it explodes in a 60-foot-radius sphere. Each creature within the area must make a Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 10d6 cold damage. On a successful save, it takes half as much damage.

If the globe strikes a body of water or a liquid that is principally water (not including water-based creatures), it freezes the liquid to a depth of 6 inches over an area 30 feet square. This ice lasts for 1 minute. Creatures that were swimming on the surface of frozen water are trapped in the ice. A trapped creature can use an action to make a Strength check against your spell save DC to break free.

You can refrain from firing the globe after completing the spell, if you wish. A small globe about the size of a sling stone, cool to the touch, appears in your hand. At any time, you or a creature you give the globe to can throw the globe (to a range of 40 feet) or hurl it with a sling (to the sling’s normal range). It shatters on impact, with the same effect as the normal casting of the spell. You can also set the globe down without shattering it. After 1 minute, if the globe hasn’t already shattered, it explodes.

Assume that I am deep underwater with the surface nowhere in sight, and that I have the means to cast spells underwater. I cast Otiluke's freezing sphere, targeting a point 120 feet away from me (which is also underwater). What happens? Does the spell reach the intended target? Does it explode as soon as it leaves my hand and touches the water? Does any water get frozen?

Additionally, does anything different happen if I use the option to refrain from firing the globe and instead throw it or launch it with a sling?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I will have to try to track down my 1E books, but I believe the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide had a listing of the effects of various spells underwater, including Ottiluke's Sphere. Different edition, but it might still be useful. \$\endgroup\$ – Sean Duggan Jul 2 '18 at 11:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ryan, is a mechanic/lore from a previous edition suitable for an answer, or do you only want 5e material. (Pursuant Sean Duggan's comment). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 2 '18 at 12:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm looking for the designer intent on how this spell ought to work when cast underwater, in 5th edition, since the spell's text doesn't seem to anticipate this case. If you can find a rule from a previous edition that covers the underwater effects of the spell and make a solid case that this rule reflects the designer intent for the spell in 5th edition, go ahead. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Jul 2 '18 at 23:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanThompson: On further perusal of my book, the mechanics suggested in 1E is for a method apparently not carried on the the 3E and 5E versions where the effect originates in a sphere around the caster, starting the freezing on any water it contacts. So I do not have an answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Sean Duggan Jul 6 '18 at 2:05
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It seems to be that the Orb refrains from freezing the liquid if it is cast underwater.

The intention seems to be that throwing the orb underwater wouldn't be considered striking the water. Striking usually refers to as one thing coming into contact with another, with the intent to hit, and when your orb 'strikes the body of water' isn't clear. It is also IN a body of water, so the orb isn't really capable of striking a body of water if it is already in one.

If the globe strikes a body of water or a liquid that is principally water (not including water-based creatures), it freezes the liquid to a depth of 6 inches over an area 30 feet square

Emphasis mine.

While getting into a bit of semantics depth is the distance from the top of something to the bottom. It would be slightly unintuitive if one could consider something 'the top of' if it started in the middle of something, such as the ocean or body of water you are in. Depth doesn't seem to apply properly in this scenario.

If it froze underwater using area and depth would be an inconvenient way to do things.

If the intention of the spell was to properly freeze while cast underwater it would, for more ease and out of a normal expectation, probably freeze in a radius or a more spherical shape. The wording of the spell seems to indicate it is made to freeze the surface of water. It is measured in area and with depth included, not a measurement and description you would use for underwater (at least not normally).

With this and the phrasing of 'strike' and with the observation that the area the spell freezes is an 'area' (with a six inch depth) it can be argued that the orb would not instantly explode with contact with water, if it were already underwater. But further on...

It would not freeze any water.

The freezing of the water is not directly related to the cold damage the spell does. With the orb not properly preforming it's second function, the freezing of water, there is no reason that the freezing would take place. Cold damage does not freeze water without DM intervention (or a certain effect says so, like with the case of some spells like Wall of Water).

Lastly...

There is no difference between casting the spell or taking the orb and throwing it.

It shatters on impact, with the same effect as the normal casting of the spell. You can also set the globe down without shattering it. After 1 minute, if the globe hasn’t already shattered, it explodes.

Emphasis mine.

Outside of a slight word difference between 'explodes' and 'shatters' the spell functions the same whether you are throwing it or casting it and throwing it instantly as apart of the spell. There is no difference between the orb shattering or exploding in a body of water. As long as the orb doesn't strike the water it shouldn't be.

Perhaps more is needed....

If designer intent was that the spell was to instantly freeze water it hit (or started in), excluding water based creatures such as elementals, then it could be that this interpretation is incorrect. I've tweeted Crawford over the issue to see what the intent is.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Did you ever get a reply from Crawford? \$\endgroup\$ – bubbajake00 Nov 30 '18 at 18:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sadly I never did :l, feel free to tweet him tho \$\endgroup\$ – Jihelu Dec 1 '18 at 23:08

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