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The spell Wall of Fire has the following text:

One side of the wall, selected by you when you cast this spell, deals 5d8 fire damage to each creature that ends its turn within 10 feet of that side or inside the wall.

Does the 10-foot damage zone extends in both directions from that side of the wall?

For example, suppose I put a Wall of Fire extending from West to East. If I select the North side of the wall as the one doing damage, does that mean I can also take damage if I stand South of the wall?

After all, if I'm 9 feet South of the wall, I'm still standing within 10 feet of the North side of the wall...

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ling The text in the link matches the PHB text, and there are no errata for Wall of Fire. \$\endgroup\$ – Merudo Apr 20 at 6:20
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Strict RAW: you take damage on both sides of the wall

One side of the wall, selected by you when you cast this spell, deals 5d8 fire damage to each creature that ends its turn within 10 feet of that side or inside the wall. [...] The other side of the wall deals no damage.

Nothing in the description says that the other side dealing no damage strictly is meant to cancel out the clause in the first sentence which says that damage is done "within 10 feet of the [damaging] side". And technically 9 feet of non-wall space on the "non-damaging" side of the wall is within that range.

enter image description here

That leaves a narrow 1 foot segment on the "non-damaging" side that a creature would not take damage on.

The RAW is unintuitive, confusing, and changes the spell significantly

While by a very strict RAW reading the above ruling could be called correct, I do not think it would be wise to run it that way. At the very least, I would not and have never run it that way and I think doing so would be a bad idea at most tables.

Firstly, by the RAW reading the phrase saying the other side deals no damage has almost no use whatsoever. It creates a small 1 foot gap of safety and that is it. This is not even enough for a creature to stand in. This seems unlikely to have been the intent of the spell (though I have no proof of this). If it had been intended, the designers could have written this so much easier by omitting the safe side verbiage entirely and having damage radiate from the wall 10 feet equally in both directions.

I do know that when players and DMs (every one that I have played with) read that they can make one side of the spell "[deal] no damage" they rightly expect that that side of the wall is safe for them to be on (eg "creatures on this side of the wall take no damage").

enter image description here

I think this is a good, natural reading for the spell and I think the RAW is straining quite a bit. Running it by RAW is a jarring diversion from this reading and this could cause confusion and arguments at the table.

The RAW also would increase the damage potential of the spell by quite a bit. Now the damaging area of the spell is almost double. This does come with the tradeoff of making it much harder for the players to use the wall for protection on one side of them in cramped areas (without taking damage themselves). It also makes it more difficult to avoid damaging allies.

Personally, I think that the RAW should be disregarded here in favor of the more common and natural reading of the spell, but your table should do whatever is the most fun for them.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch The other side (aka the non-damaging side) is not damaging anything. It is the damaging side that is doing the damaging. Again, this is a very literal reading of the rules that is clearly unintended, but I'm not sure I see any other way around it. If it said "creatures on the other side of the wall take no damage" then that would fix it. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Apr 22 at 16:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Regarding cover: that is an interesting question but I think that isn't a good way out of the mess. The wall doesn't seem provide any kind of cover RAW. After all, you can just walk right through it and there's no indication it has any kind of special interaction with damage passing through it either. Technically you could fire arrows and spells through it as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Apr 22 at 16:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Apr 22 at 16:57
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No, it doesn't

It only damages creature on your chosen side (north). The spell description clearly states at the end of the same paragraph that the other side deals no damage at all:

The other side of the wall deals no damage.

Illustration of Wall of Fire

The side you chose is the red, not the grey. I can see your confusion arise from interpreting 'side' as the 'surface' of the wall. Using your interpretation, a ringed wall, meant to protect the caster inside from approaching melee skirmishers, would be useless as they will still receive the damage as long as they are within the ring. I believe that interpretation is not the intent of the 'ringed wall' use, therefore it must be incorrect.

The correct interpretation would be choosing which side to be 'front'/damaging side (read: zone). Being 'behind' the wall (the other side) automatically means you don't receive damage because you're not in the 'danger zone'.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @MrSpudtastic this answer use a different definition of 'side' than you use. It's not 'surface side of wall', but rather 'direction'. That's why I use the term 'zone' to better reflect the difference than using the same word 'side'. I get the literal reading if you use 'side' as in the surface, but as I explained, that interpretation doesn't make sense and must be wrong. \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Apr 22 at 17:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree that this is not intended at all, but how do you measure 10' from a zone? Is it 10' from the square adjacent to the wall (setting aside the fact that the wall doesn't even take up a full square)? How does that work in your interpretation? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Apr 22 at 17:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose simply 10 ft 'zone' away from the wall. It does not say '10 ft from the side', but '10 ft of the side'. It is a bit messy if we start asking if it's perpendicular or trapezoid or the zone length extends 10 ft - 10 ft more than the wall, but I prefer the simplest and natural reading. \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Apr 22 at 17:39
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Absolutely not, the damage only extends from one side of the wall and not through the other side of the wall.

Strictly RAW the damage only occurs on one side of the wall, it is never stated that the damage can spread around corners or cross the (internal) boundaries of the wall to support Rubiksmoose's answer.

(emphasis mine)

One side of the wall, selected by you when you cast this spell, deals 5d8 fire damage to each creature that ends its turn within 10 feet of that side or inside the wall. A creature takes the same damage when it enters the wall for the first time on a turn or ends its turn there. The other side of the wall deals no damage.

RAW, several things are happening that could/should negate taking damage or indicate that it does not happen.

You take no damage on the other side of the damage dealing wall side (possibly RAI but "the other side of the wall deals no damage" covers the opposite side of the damage dealing wall side, and indicates that no damage is dealt on the other side that you choose deals no damage).

Even if you could be considered within 10 feet of the damage dealing side of the wall while on the other side (being on the safe side), it is a wall despite whatever it may be made of. The damage would need to go around the wall to hit you, so you could only conceivably be in danger of taking damage at either end of the wall.

It never specifically states that the damage is capable of going around corners, as with many other spells that are capable of doing so specifically state, so it specifically is only able to deal damage directly in front of the damage dealing side.

Only one side of the wall when you cast this spell is capable of dealing damage, and if the wall is stretching from West to East then presumably the caster would choose either North or South to deal damage. The spell never explicitly states that the damage is capable of spreading around corners or through walls, and so the other three sides of the wall would be safe to stand near (even the top and bottom of the wall, so the ground remains unscorched and anything flying immediately overhead would be safe).

Simply put, if you are not on the side of the wall that deals damage, you do not take damage; it does not spread out in a sphere or cone or line or cube or anything centered on the side through to the other side of the wall. It just deals damage 10 feet from the one side of the wall, not through or to the sides.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "Even if you could be considered within 10 feet of the damage dealing side of the wall while on the other side (being on the safe side), it is a wall despite whatever it may be made of" - Are you implying all Wall spells provide full cover? \$\endgroup\$ – Merudo Apr 28 at 13:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's not at all what was being implied and is not necessary for the spell to work RAW. If you consider a standalone wall as having two long sides and two short sides, you will only ever be on one side of the wall that has four sides, and only one of those sides actually deals any damage and only to things that are on that particular side. \$\endgroup\$ – Seidr Apr 28 at 15:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure I agree that Opaque provides total cover from a spell effect. It definitely affects targeting, but being opaque shouldn't stop the damage effect from crossing over. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Apr 29 at 14:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Seidr I agree with you in overall terms, but that isn't what a RAW reading states. THat's my issue. I think Rubiks is right on the actual RAW, regardless of whether or not it makes sense. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Apr 29 at 17:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ "The damage would need to go around the wall to hit you" how do you conclude this? The wall is not solid and does not block effects of any kind. You can walk through it, shoot arrows through it, cast spells through it, and indeed have effect pass through from one side to the other. What about the spell would make you think otherwise RAW (besides the fact that it obviously is not intended to be read this way)? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose May 1 at 2:18

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