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I am already aware of these questions:

but I'm unsure how to tell if the effects of a spell are "linked" or not. For example, there have been these questions:

where it is contentious whether or not the effects are linked and even whether or not the target makes a saving throw at all.

And thus I am wondering about the immolation spell, which states:

[...] The target must make a Dexterity saving throw. It takes 8d6 fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. On a failed save, the target also burns for the spell’s duration. The burning target sheds bright light in a 30-foot radius and dim light for an additional 30 feet [...]

Assuming the target is immune to fire damage, what happens when they are targeted by immolation? Do they shed light if the fail the saving throw? Do they make a saving throw at all?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I"m uncertain that these aren't duplicates of each other. They all seem to ask the same question, but we're getting differing responses until your efforts to consolidate and figure it out. But I'm not sure that asking it for each case is ultimately helping. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Oct 9 at 19:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Yeah I'm not entirely sure what to do either, but I'm wondering if this might be a different case of some kind... \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Oct 9 at 19:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch User SeriousBri in another question commented "[It] certainly seems a tricky issue, a few different answers every time a question like this gets asked. Every different spell seems to be interpreted based on its specific wording. I am not sure I like that, but I think it is the only sensible option" and so I'm wondering if there's some way to ask a general question... However, it seems like the variability in the word choice of the features may prevent this and so they'll be left on a case-by-case basis \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Oct 9 at 19:53
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The immolated creature makes a save as normal and, on a fail, suffers the illumination effect but not the fire damage.

The interesting thing in this situation is that the creature is making a dex save to avoid the immolation. Essentially, they are jumping out of the way of the incoming flames. How dexterous they are has no impact on their immunity to fire.

The rules for making saves (PHB 179) states:

A saving throw—also called a save—represents an attempt to resist a spell, a trap, a poison, a disease, or a similar threat. You don’t normally decide to make a saving throw; you are forced to make one because your character or monster is at risk of harm.

The creature is immune to damage from the fire but consider this: if the spell only made the creature cast illumination, might that, in and of itself, be a "risk of harm" (and therefore warrant a saving throw despite the fact that the target is immune to fire damage)?

It would seem the answer is "yes" because the light cantrip requires an unwilling target to make a dex save. By way of example of how light could be detrimental, consider the Gloomstalker ranger's Umbral Sight ability:

While in darkness, you are invisible to any creature that relies on darkvision to see you in that darkness.

So, I'd argue, the creature still needs to make the save against immolation. But what, then, of the illumination effect? If the creature is immune to fire damage, is it immune to the illumination effect as well?

I can easily imagine a situation where a fireproof object is engulfed in flames (one might say "burning") but, because it is fireproof, it is not actually suffering any harm from the blaze.

In the case of an immolated target, it requires only a small amount of imagination to envisage a creature that is alight but not harmed by immolation's flames in the same way. (Think Khaleesi emerging from the burning Dothraki hut in Game of Thrones).

I think the wording of this spell is a little unfortunate because one might read it as the target is doing the illuminating. It's more true to reality (and arguably intended) that the phrase "the burning target" considers the target and the flames around it as a singular combination (that is, the flames and the creature they are engulfing).

So if the target is unable to avoid immolation's flames, it still does continue to shed light as a result of the harmless flames that engulf it even though it is immune to the damage those flames would normally cause.

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The target is uninjured, but surrounded by magical fire that produces light, if they fail the saving throw.

Flames wreathe one creature you can see within range. The target must make a Dexterity saving throw. It takes 8d6 fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. On a failed save, the target also burns for the spell's duration. The burning target sheds bright light in a 30-foot radius and dim light for an additional 30 feet. At the end of each of its turns, the target repeats the saving throw. It takes 4d6 fire damage on a failed save, and the spell ends on a successful one. These magical flames can't be extinguished by nonmagical means.

In the example situation, because the target is immune to fire damage, it cannot be harmed.

However, the spell forms magical fire around the target, which stays if they fail the saving throw. It is likely this magical fire is the source of the light the spell mentions.

Which means as long as the target fails the saving throws, they will be surrounded by a light source.

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The target is immune to fire and thus cannot be actively burning

The key sentence we need to parse here is this one (emphasis mine)

On a failed save, the target also burns for the spell’s duration. The burning target sheds bright light in a 30-foot radius and dim light for an additional 30 feet [...]

D&D is written in natural language, and burns and burning are not explicitly defined in the game, so we need to understand what these two words mean.

Dictionary.com defines burn and burning respectively as:

Burn (without object):

  1. to undergo rapid combustion or consume fuel in such a way as to give off heat, gases, and, usually, light; be on fire: The fire burned in the grate.

Burn (with object):

  1. to cause to undergo combustion or be consumed partly or wholly by fire.

Since the creature is immune to fire, they cannot be combusted, or consumed by the fire. Thus the creature cannot be classified as the burning target.

As there is no burning target there is no light to be shed by the spell.

Alternatively the Collins Dictionary defines burn as:

  1. If you burn something, you destroy or damage it with fire

Using this definition the meaning of the word is clear, in order for something to be burning, it has to actively be being destroyed or damaged by fire. Since our target is immune to fire, it cannot be destroyed or damaged by fire. Therefore it is not burning, and as a result there is no burning target for the light to be shed from.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this is a good answer but I'd also point out that one of the definitions for burn is "be alight" meaning, simply to give of light (eg, a lantern). I think there's room to interpret the rules of this situation either way. \$\endgroup\$ – Rykara Oct 11 at 15:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rykara a lantern, (particularly one in a pre-electric state like the realms), will be giving of light via the medium of fire. Fire requires fuel that it consumes, which is consistent with the definitions I've quoted. I should perhaps have been more specific...D&D uses the normally understood meaning of the words. For an object to be "alight" without being consumed by fire is not a normal use of the word, particularly when you are actually interpreting something burning. Interpreting burning as simply meaning giving off light is a particularly large leap from it's natural meaning. \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Oct 11 at 15:54

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