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I know that plant growth can enrich an area, but can anyone think of a spell or ritual that will let you cleanse an area?

I'm thinking things like an area is diseased, or there's some kind of poison, or maybe some kind of necromantic corruption. I haven't come across anything in the mechanics for cleansing something like this, at best it would be something more cinematic.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you by chance looking for something big and instantaneous? \$\endgroup\$ – Aguinaldo Silvestre Jul 28 '18 at 10:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @U2mad, some additional information might be useful. Do you have a specific scenario in mind? Small area? Big area? From a player's point of view? Or from a GM's? \$\endgroup\$ – Jack Jul 28 '18 at 11:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ I wasn't necessarily thinking instantaneous, but it would probably be something bigger given the time to cast the spell. Something like how plant growth can effect a square mile if you do it over the course of a day. I'm also looking at this from a characters point of view primarily, but could also be options that players could use while I'm GMing. \$\endgroup\$ – U2mad Jul 28 '18 at 23:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ So have a great example of this after a "one" shot today. Undead seems to be corrupting a river that's started having an effect on a town. We're in the process of heading up to stop the corruption, but not sure how to help reverse the damage that's already been caused. Best thing we've though of so far is to do a kind of extended ceremony spell to create change the source into holy water for a bit. \$\endgroup\$ – U2mad Jul 29 '18 at 9:13
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For poisons and diseases, try unseen servant.

It's a 1st-level ritual spell, and one of the functions the servant can perform is "cleaning." See PHB p. 284-285. For poisons, diseases, etc., depending on their form, you might or might not need to provide a countermeasure such as a cure or antidote that the servant could dispense or disperse. Some forms of pollution might be cleansable just with manual labor, which the servant can provide on its own.

For necromantic corruption, maybe try hallow.

It's higher-level, not a ritual, and impermanent (its duration being "until dispelled"), but hallow does offer one effect that unseen servant might not: a hedge against the "necromantic corruption" you suppose in your question. One of hallow's potential add-on effects is:

Everlasting Rest. Dead bodies interred in the area can't be turned into undead.

See PHB p. 249.

So, at least while the spell is in effect, necromancy of the sort that creates undead from corpses wouldn't function. It's not "cleansing" exactly, inasmuch as the corruption would remain and presumably resume its effects if hallow ended.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I hadn't thought about using unseen servant like that. Hallow would work for some of the situations I can think of, like getting rid of a corrupted shrine and the like. I was mainly concerned with situations like "helping to slow down or cure a disease effecting a forest, or deal with some kind of radiation type magical damage in a large area." Most of these stem from some kind of creature or object you have to rid of as a story element to allow the area to start healing on its own, but there doesn't seem to be any good way that I've run across to help promote healing, or slow down the effects \$\endgroup\$ – U2mad Jul 28 '18 at 23:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ You mention that hallow is "impermanent (its duration being "until dispelled")" - but that is what a "permanent"-duration spell is. According to Jeremy Crawford: "True polymorph: recent printings of the PH clarify that "permanent" means the effect lasts until dispelled." \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 29 '18 at 21:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, the game's counterintuitive use of the concept of permanence ("It's permanent if it can be dispelled!") makes my head hurt, and makes talking about actual permanence difficult. I'm using "impermanent" here to convey that using hallow might prove to be a solution of less than absolute finality, not to suggest that the duration of the spell is other than game-mechanically "permanent." I realize it might be confusing, but frankly I'm not sure what else I could say that would be accurate and wouldn't run into the same problem. \$\endgroup\$ – screamline Jul 30 '18 at 10:57
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As another option... Forbiddance

In addition to the suggestions of the other answers, the Forbiddance spell says the following (PHB, pg. 243):

You create a ward against magical travel that protects up to a 40,000 square feet of floor space to a height of 30 feet above the floor. [...]

In addition, the spell damages types of creatures that you choose when you cast it. Choose one or more of the following: celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead. When a chosen creature enters the spell's area or starts there turn there, the creature takes 5d10 radiant or necrotic damage (your choice when you cast this spell).

So, focusing specifically on the "necromantic corruption" example in your question, you could effectively "cleanse" a 40,000 ft. area of undead creatures by dealing 5d10 radiant damage to them every round. This is a good way to "fumigate" an area of a certain type of enemy!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Ooh, great suggestion. I completely forgot about forbiddance. \$\endgroup\$ – screamline Jul 30 '18 at 10:58
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Maybe? But you'd run into some difficulties

As screamline mentioned, there are some spells that could help you out (I especially agree that Hallow could be helpful). I'll add to them with a couple of other mentions:

Dispel Magic: If the contagion or poison in the area is a result of a spell or magical effect, then Dispel Magic may help remove it.

Purify Food and Drink: This spell can purify all (nonmagical) food and drink of disease or poison within a 5 foot radius, up to 10 feet away. If the contagion was entirely within a small (very small) body of water, a large number of low level casters could cast this spell simultaneously, each choosing a different part of the location. Most usefully, this is Ritual spell. So a single spellcaster could conceivably cast this spell again and again (taking ten minutes and six seconds each time) over the course of a day, diluting the poison so much that it was no longer harmful.

In spite of these spells being useful, I have to stress that there is one major element of magic that may impede any magical attempt to free an area of pollution:

Cover excludes area of effect

In the rules on area of effect, it is stated that (PHB, p. 204)

A spell’s effect expands in straight lines from the point of origin. If no unblocked straight line extends from the point of origin to a location within the area of effect, that location isn’t included in the spell’s area. To block one of these imaginary lines, an obstruction must provide total cover, as explained in chapter 9.

Many DMs would consider the ground to give total cover to anything underground. So many spells which would remove disease, poison, or some other pollution from an area might only do so on a surface level. For example, if you were to cast "Purify food and drink" on an area suffused with poison, you might purify the plants growing there (since part of them are above ground, they do not have total cover), and any above ground water. But you would not necessarily purify the poison in water bellow the ground.

Many similar spells could have their effects blocked by the solid earth. Although there are some spells that explicitly penetrate barriers, most of those are divination spells, rather than ones which could heal or destroy something.

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