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The air elemental has the Whirlwind action, which allows it to try to throw every character in the same space as it.

The description reads:

Each creature in the elemental's space must make a DC 13 Strength saving throw. On a failure, a target takes 15 (3d8 + 2) bludgeoning damage and is flung up 20 feet away from the elemental in a random direction and knocked prone. If a thrown target strikes an object, such as a wall or floor, the target takes 3 (1d6) bludgeoning damage for every 10 feet it was thrown. If the target is thrown at another creature, that creature must succeed on a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw or take the same damage and be knocked prone.

If the saving throw is successful, the target takes half the bludgeoning damage and isn't flung away or knocked prone.

Are the affected targets thrown along the ground or up in the air? (That is, are they being hurled along the ground up to 20 feet, or are they being hurled up in the air and landing up to 20 feet away?)

The main reason I'm asking is because a throw along the ground might only go 5 feet before they hit another character, in which case the other character has to make a Dexterity save, but neither character takes damage as the required 10 feet of movement hasn't occurred.

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2 Answers 2

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They are thrown “away”: horizontally. Otherwise it would say “up into the air” and remind you to apply fall damage as well, and it doesn’t.

If the target hits another creature after less than 10 feet, neither take the extra damage, but the target still takes the original 3d8+2 damage from the original impact of the whirlwind, and the collided-with creature may be knocked prone.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I know D&D doesn't use real world physics but that doesn't quite make sense. If you have been thrown with enough force to go 20 feet but only manage to go 5 feet before hitting something you'd still have the same momentum as if you would have travelled 20. Falling damage might not be included if you aren't thrown at least 10 feet up in the air. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 9, 2019 at 0:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AllanMills I know, but it’s what it says it does. You’re welcome to rewrite the ability to work differently in your campaign, but that’s beyond the scope of what we can do here. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 9, 2019 at 0:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AllanMills: Or you could just think of the throwing effect as a gust of wind that pushes the target, starting gradually (relatively) but picking up to speed after the 5' to 10' point. \$\endgroup\$
    – PJRZ
    Jan 9, 2019 at 11:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ My visual image is that the creatures are literally grabbed by a whirlwind and tossed around like Dorothy's house in the Wizard of Oz. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 9, 2019 at 19:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ "If the target hits another creature after 5 feet, neither take the extra damage, but the target still takes the original 3d8+2 damage from the original impact of the whirlwind." Do you mean to say "at 5ft" or "in less than 10ft"? Because the way I read the spell suggests that a thrown creature hitting another creating at 10 feet (which is after 5ft) and farther takes the 1d6/10f dmg, and the creature the thrown creature hit has to make a save, and take the same 1d6/10f dmg if it fails. \$\endgroup\$
    – Porter
    Nov 1, 2021 at 19:49
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The creatures can be thrown in any direction.

A careful reading of the Whirlwind action points out (emphasis mine):

If a thrown target strikes an object, such as a wall or floor, the target takes 3 (1d6) bludgeoning damage for every 10 feet it was thrown.

Considering the common meaning for floor, the above description suggest this possible scenario: a creature is thrown 20ft up in the air and then it hits the floor. Per description, they take 2d6 bludgeoning damage, 1d6 for every 10ft: but this matches exactly the amount of damage for falling creatures:

At the end of a fall, a creature takes 1d6 bludgeoning damage for every 10 feet it fell, to a maximum of 20d6.

The Whirlwind ability allows hence to throw creatures in any direction, since the damage caused by hitting a floor is included in its very description and follows the falling damage rules.

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