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I'm a bit confused on the wording of Spirit Guardians' "when the creature enters the area for the first time on a turn" I know it works if the creature runs into the spell, but does not do damage directly if the cleric runs onto the enemy (or when the cleric casts it on top of the enemy.) I've read somewhere that forced movement of an enemy still counts as "entering the area"

So I have a question related to Thorn Whip, and I've set up an example to demonstrate it better.

Suppose there is only one enemy, and a cleric:

enemy turn 1: runs forward,

cleric turn 1: casts Spirit Guardians

enemy turn 2: enemy attacks and flees (cleric doesn't take Opportunity Attack,)

cleric turn 2: states they want to ready their action to cast thorn whip the moment the enemy runs outside the spirit guardian radius, the cleric then uses their movement to run to the enemy and stand there.

enemy turn 3: enemy takes spirit guardians initial damage from the "starts its turn there" clause, runs out the field, triggering the cleric's reaction. The cleric hits and pulls them 10 feet back into spirit guardians.

The question is: Does the enemy take damage again as they are entering the area again?

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This will not work; Readying an Action to Cast a spell requires the use of Concentration

Ready

[...]

When you ready a spell, you cast it as normal but hold its energy, which you release with your reaction when the trigger occurs. To be readied, a spell must have a casting time of 1 action, and holding onto the spell's magic requires concentration (explained in chapter 10). If your concentration is broken, the spell dissipates without taking effect. For example, if you are concentrating on the web spell and ready magic missile, your web spell ends, and if you take damage before you release magic missile with your reaction, your concentration might be broken.

Actions in Combat, Player's Handbook, pg. 193

Unfortunately, Spirit Guardians is a spell that requires the user to maintain concentration. So if you tried to use this sequence of events, Spirit Guardians would end the moment you tried to Ready the Thorn Whip spell.

"Okay, but what if Thorn Whip was a Reaction spell that wouldn't interrupt Concentration?"

For the sake of argument, let's assume that Thorn Whip instead had a Casting Time of "Reaction, used when a target runs away from you". This would mean that we would no longer have to use the Ready action to prepare it, which means no longer needing to maintain concentration on Thorn Whip, meaning no longer breaking concentration on Spirit Guardians.

In this case, you would be able to trigger the second source of damage: this is the first time this turn that the creature has entered the Spirit Guardians' radius; previously, the creature started its turn within the radius, but it did not enter during its turn. So using Thorn Whip in this manner would deal the second source of damage that turn.

You're overcomplicating this

You don't need to bother with trying to ready an action. The effect of Spirit Guardians, in addition to dealing damage, is to slow movement of creatures affected by half. Most hostile creatures have a movement speed of 30-35 feet per round, which means that at half speed, a creature running directly out of the Spirit Guardians probably doesn't get more than 5-10 feet away from the edge of the AOE. As a result, using Thorn Whip on your own turn, as a regular Action, instead of trying to ready+Reaction it, is perfectly usable to pull them back inside the Spirit Guardians, triggering the extra damage. And if they're more than 25 feet away from you (meaning Thorn Whip cannot pull them inside the AOE), you can just move a few feet closer before casting it. This will cause them to take damage from being moved within the radius, and then take damage again when their turn starts.

So overall, this method deals the same amount of damage as the method you're trying to employ, but it doesn't require you to use your Reaction, it doesn't require you to invent a fake spell that is "Thorn Whip, but cast as a Reaction", and it is easier to make sense of in the rules of the game.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the concentration portion. I frequently forget that readying a spell indeed takes Concentration. I also liked the suggested details at the end. \$\endgroup\$ – G. Moylan Jun 12 at 15:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, SG states "first time ... on a turn", which means that they could be bounced in and out of it multiple times in a round, taking the damage each time. Having a friend that can grapple and drag could subject the target to the damage thrice once the grapple is in place. Once on the friendly's turn by using his move action to move the target out and back into the spirit guardians, then once as a reaction on any other turn to move the target out and in again. Then a third time when the target starts its turn in the area affected by SG. \$\endgroup\$ – cpcodes Jun 12 at 16:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Alternatively, you could have a Cleric casting Spirit Guardians while his Druid buddy readies a Thorn Whip. \$\endgroup\$ – nick012000 Jun 12 at 23:41

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