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For quick context, in a story about a group with special powers, there is a human with shadow-based magic, including teleporting between shadows. He uses this in the following escape-trick:

He swirls his large cape around, releases the button that holds it around his neck and ducks down flat below it (the cape is large and he keeps it pretty close to the ground during the swirl), creating a pretty dark shadow around him. He then teleports away to a nearby shadow he could see from below the falling cape.

Could a Way of Shadow monk use a similar trick to get out of trouble?

I assume the set-up would also require an action.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Rules aside: I love the imagery of this a lot. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Dec 14 '18 at 14:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is this inspired by a Zelazny novel \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 14 '18 at 18:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Its not as far as i know... but it might have been. Its a home-made story using multiple people and their suggestions as inspiration. \$\endgroup\$ – Honore Shadeshield Dec 14 '18 at 18:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast that's what I thought \$\endgroup\$ – Gnudiff Dec 14 '18 at 22:14
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DM's Call

This sort of question falls squarely in the realm of the DM as to whether shadows exist for a Shadow Monk to teleport from are contingent upon the lighting described by the DM. The Shadow Step feature itself simply indicates that the character be in dim light or darkness, nothing more.

This DM might allow it depending on a few factors including:

  • Source of lighting.
  • What style of play the table has agreed to.

The last element I'd rule on is whether or not permitting this creates an unfair advantage. In a more high power game, I'd probably be inclined to permit liberal use of this method of Shadow Step, especially since it's still contingent upon a suitable receiving location that I need to provide.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It also requires abandoning the cape (if only temporarily), and would probably require at least some sort of action to pull off. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Dec 14 '18 at 14:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Personally, I'd treat that as your free object interaction and keep the feature to a Bonus Action as written in the PHB, but I often side more in favor of Rule of Cool for the players than worrying about whether something is perfectly fair for the monsters (those guys are gonna be dead in 10 minutes anyways). \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Dec 14 '18 at 14:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ that's both reasonable and generous... but it's still consuming your free object interaction. That's not much, but it's not entirely nothing. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Dec 14 '18 at 14:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a good way to look at it. I know a lot of GMs who would get squicked at the cleverness of this approach, but there's nothing different about the shadows under a cloak that would prevent this from working. \$\endgroup\$ – MarkTO Dec 14 '18 at 15:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ The "lose the cape" aspect was kinda obvious to me as well, though i'm suprise that such a quick but kinda difficult movement (no seriously, i tried after hearing the story and it took me a long time learn how to do it) would be okey to do as a free interaction... o wait, thats what the skill checks are for. \$\endgroup\$ – Honore Shadeshield Dec 14 '18 at 19:02
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It's up to the DM, but allowing it doesn't require ignoring the rules.

In a technical, purely RAW sense, creatures and objects (like cloaks) don't create areas of dim light or darkness. Lights throw a radius of light, and that light level exists everywhere in the radius.

But even without invoking the "rule of cool" or DM fiat, I think it's obvious that this isn't the intent. There isn't technically a rule anywhere that says that a heavily obscured area -- like, say, "dense foliage" -- blocks light in any way, or that objects that provide total cover throw a shadow. There isn't even a rule in the book that says that walls block light! Because there doesn't need to be. This is clearly one of those areas where the players and DM are just expected to understand how light works in the real world, and apply that understanding to the game. We're meant to just understand that the light from a torch doesn't go through walls to illuminate the corridor beyond, because that's not what light does.

The definition of "dim light" specifically calls out that it's also called "shadows", which is a clue to what kind of light you might expect to find when there's an ogre between you and the torch, or under a large cloak.

So yes, it's generally going to be up to the DM to allow or disallow this trick, but only in the sense of whether it's a reasonable thing to be able to do, not because cloaks don't throw a shadow.

If this were my game, I wouldn't have a problem with a player doing it. I'd count swirling the cloak to be your usual free item interaction, and of course the bonus action to actually teleport, but no cost beyond that. However, it is a move that requires a bit of subtlety and grace to pull off, so if you're under time pressure (such as in combat), I might call for a modest Acrobatics check (DC 15-ish) to make it all work. If you fail, you've taken off your cloak and thrown yourself on the floor to no benefit, and it'll cost half your movement to stand up (as usual) with a sheepish expression (no action).

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Ultimately it is the DM's call as Pyrotechnical points out in his answer.

Here is what you have to look at to make that call:

  1. The monk has to be in an area of dim light as defined on p186 of the PHB.
  2. If the monk is in an area of bright light he cannot use this ability.

So the crux is as follows:

Would you as a DM justify granting a creature disadvantage to Wisdom(Perception) checks that rely on sight if they were in another creature's shadow (this is what dim lighting does) or under the shadow of a cloak? Probably not. This however might change depending on how big that cloak is as JC points out in the link in point #1.

If you would grant disadvantage in that situation then it is entirely justifiable to allow a monk to do this. This is a more rules-centric interpretation though. Ultimately do what works for your world and narrative. Just be aware that loose interpretations open up for abuse and can sometimes be unbalancing.

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