Sunbeam's text reads:

A beam of brilliant light flashes out from your hand in a 5-foot-wide, 60-foot-long line. Each creature in the line must make a Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 6d8 radiant damage and is blinded until your next turn. On a successful save, it takes half as much damage and isn't blinded by this spell. [...]

You can create a new line of radiance as your action on any turn until the spell ends.

Is my understanding of how this spell works correct?

My interpretation: A creature may be affected by beams over and over. If a creature makes its saving throw, it can no longer be blinded by additional beams. However, on subsequent turns, it still needs to make a Con save against the damage. Is that correct?


Any failed saving throw results in damage and blinding

Each time a creature is targeted with a beam of light from the spell, it must roll the saving throw, and it suffers the effects as normal. Passing any one saving throw does not confer any protection from the effects of failing future saving throws against the same spell. The spell's text specifies that on a successful save, a creature isn't blinded by the spell. This is written in the present tense: it just means that the creature doesn't get blinded right now. There's nothing that says it can't be blinded by future light beams from the same spell.

Generally, if saving against a spell once confers any kind of ongoing protection against that spell, this will be clearly spelled out in the spell's text. For example, the Eyebite spell says (emphasis added):

On each of your turns until the spell ends, you can use your action to target another creature but can't target a creature again if it has succeeded on a saving throw against this casting of eyebite.

Sunbeam does not contain any text like this.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While I understand your reasoning based on the fact that Eyebite explicitly specifies that a successful saving throw gives immunity to any further instance of the same spell, I'm still not convinced. The description of Sunbeam says that a creature which succeeds in the saving throw isn't blinded by this spell, not by this [single] beam. \$\endgroup\$ – StackLloyd Aug 6 '19 at 8:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @StackLloyd Given that it doesn't specify "this casting" like Eyebite does, are you arguing that succeeding on a saving throw against Sunbeam should grant permanent immunity to blindness from all castings of Sunbeam by all casters? \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Aug 6 '19 at 16:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have a squirt gun, which I can use 4 times before running out of water. I squirt it at you, and you shift to avoid the spray. (Reflex save!) You are not wetted by this squirt gun. Is there any reason to believe that you will not be wetted if you are hit by the next squirt? \$\endgroup\$ – AjimOthy Aug 6 '19 at 18:17

You are correct.

The spell description says that a creature that makes its save "isn't blinded by this spell." It doesn't say "isn't blinded on this turn." This means that it cannot be blinded on future turns during the duration of this casting of sunbeam.

However, there is no verbiage that states that a creature that has made its save can't take any more damage from this spell. Therefore, if such a creature subsequently finds itself in the path of new sunbeam during the duration of same casting, it will still be harmed by the spell, and will need to make another Constitution saving throw for half damage. If it fails the save, it will take full damage, but not be blinded.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not convinced that passing the first saving throw makes a creature immune to future blinding attempts from the same spell. It just says the creature isn't blinded, in the present tense. It doesn't say it can't be blinded by the spell in the future, it just isn't blinded now. Usually if a successful save grants ongoing protection against future effects of the same spell, this is explicitly spelled out (e.g. see Eyebite). \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Aug 5 '19 at 22:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RyanThompson Rather than focusing on the tense of the verb (as present tense is also the tense of general truth, absoluteness, giving what I'm about to explain even more significance), I'd focus on the "by this spell" part. It's a clear distinction from the beam (s) you can subsequently cast as an action after the first instance of the spell. A creature can't be (isn't) blinded by the "whole" spell, not by that single beam. \$\endgroup\$ – StackLloyd Aug 6 '19 at 9:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JohnClifford Since the text distinguishes between the spell itself and an eventual subsequent beam and the saving throw part cites the first instead of the latter, without any temporal reference (there's no at that moment, or in this turn, etc.), as a DM, I'd rule that the Sunbeam spell can't blind that creature after it succeeds on the saving throw, while it can still deal damage with ulterior beams. \$\endgroup\$ – StackLloyd Aug 6 '19 at 12:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @StackLloyd I can see where you're coming from but logically that doesn't make sense: why should any given beam of light be more or less likely to blind something on the basis of whether it was blinded or not by a different one? It isn't any less radiant lighty. :P \$\endgroup\$ – John Clifford Aug 6 '19 at 13:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JohnClifford They're not different, they come from the same spell, so every blast of that spell is the same. Thus, how's that logical? If the same light as before wasn't enough to blind me, why should it be able to blind me anytime afterwards? \$\endgroup\$ – StackLloyd Aug 6 '19 at 15:16

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