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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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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 5 feet, neither take the extra damage, but the target still takes the original 3d8+2 damage from the original impact of the whirlwind.

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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\$ – Allan Mills Jan 9 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\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 9 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 at 11:45
  • \$\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\$ – Allan Mills Jan 9 at 19:13

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