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I have little understanding of the rules and systems of 5th Edition, as I have never played myself.

Are you able to cast area-of-effect spells such as silence or darkness on a smaller (or significantly smaller) area than normal?

For example, could a Way of Shadow monk cast silence in a 3-foot radius around their feet to run silently (even though the standard radius of the spell is 20 feet)?

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No, you can't

Unfortunately, spells only do what they say they do. They have a fixed area of effect, unless they say otherwise - if they do, usually they include "up to x feet" instead of "x feet".

For example, wall of fire spell description says

You can make the wall up to 60 feet long, 20 feet high, and 1 foot thick, or a ringed wall up to 20 feet in diameter, 20 feet high, and 1 foot thick.

so you can make the wall shorter or smaller (in case ringed wall).


The darkness spell description says:

Magical darkness spreads from a point you choose within range to fill a 15-foot-radius sphere for the duration.

The description of the silence spell says:

For the duration, no sound can be created within or pass through a 20-foot-radius sphere centered on a point you choose within range.

Both don't say "up to", so you can't reduce the area of effect of the spells.


Silence area of effect won't move once cast, so your scenario casting silence around your shoes to move sneakily won't work well, because the silenced area won't stick to your shoes. Darkness however, can be cast onto an object, so you can cast darkness on an object and put it within a box, and only opens it when you need the darkness.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You might also want to mention that silence's area of effect doesn't move once cast, since that's relevant to the example of silencing one's footsteps while running around. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan Thompson Jan 18 at 4:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ While not applicable to the spells in the question (Silence, Darkness), it is sometimes possible to reduce the effective area of some spells such as Fireball by targeting them high in the air such that they project a smaller circular silhouette on the ground, which might be worth mentioning as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim C Jan 18 at 6:09

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