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I have looked for this exact situation a lot already and don't think it has been answered yet. I am a newer DM and think I know the rules fairly well, but if I am wrong and have debated with my group for nothing, please let me know.

We just had a session where our wizard cast web, and then lit portions of the web on fire to damage the creatures inside the web.

The web spell reads as follows:

The webs are flammable. Any 5-foot cube of webs exposed to fire burns away in 1 round, dealing 2d4 fire damage to any creature that starts its turn in the fire.

My group argued that because the creatures trapped in the web would be starting their turn in the flaming web, they should take 2d4 fire damage immediately (at the end of the wizard's turn). I interpreted the description to mean that the damage would be dealt at the start of the creatures' turns, as the spell says "2d4 fire damage to any creature that starts its turn in the fire."

I tried to explain that it really doesn't make a difference in this case, as no other creatures around them had any actions to save the creatures caught in the web, so whether the creatures took damage at the start of their turn or right at that moment, they would still be taking the damage before using their action. My players argued that it should happen right away since they wanted to know if the fire killed the creatures, or if they should keep attacking them.

Because I am playing with new players and we are only playing for the summer with the interns at our work, I try not to be a stickler for the rules in this mini campaign. I ended up saying we will let it happen right away (since it didn't matter anyway), and I would look into it before our next session.

Reading the spell description again, I still think the damage should happen at the start of the trapped creatures' turn. Any advice, insight, or links to helpful discussions would be appreciated!

TL;DR: If a creature is trapped inside a web (from the web spell) that is on fire, should that damage be rolled at the start of its turn, or right away?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 28 '19 at 5:06
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You're right: at the start of the creature's turn

This is a very straightforward effect. Per the web spell description (emphasis mine):

The webs are flammable. Any 5-foot cube of webs exposed to fire burns away in 1 round, dealing 2d4 fire damage to any creature that starts its turn in the fire.

When the spell is initially cast, it's the caster's turn - not the creature's. (Unless the caster uses the Ready action, in which case the spell is cast immediately but its energy is held until the trigger occurs.)

The fire damage from a burning web specified in the spell description is only done when the creature starts its own turn in the fire - not on any other turn, including the caster's.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It worth mentioning that there are some things which can be done by creature before the beginning on its next turn to escape its doom or to hinder the party: taking reactions, using legendary actions, using lair actions, using readied action, relying on allies help to move from the AOE (e.g. using grapple). So if a creature is standing in the fire, that does not mean it will be there on its turn. \$\endgroup\$ – Revolver_Ocelot Jul 28 '19 at 5:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Revolver_Ocelot: That doesn't really change the answer. OP already knows there are things that could otherwise be done to free creatures from the web, they're just wondering when the damage happens (or rather, confirming that their own reading is correct). \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 28 '19 at 5:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Revolver_Ocelot This is the main reason I wanted clarification. In this situation it technically didn't matter, but if it happened again, I might be able to stop the damage taking effect. Which makes sense to me. The webs take a full round to burn away (~6 seconds) so the damage to the creature in the web might not happen right away. And yes I agree that the creature can me moved and therefore does not start his turn in the burning web. Thank you both for clarification! \$\endgroup\$ – Eli Sutherland Jul 28 '19 at 12:36

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