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Based on the spell's name, you would think that all of the targets would end up all over the playing field, but per the Scatter spell description:

The air quivers around up to five creatures of your choice that you can see within range. An unwilling creature must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw to resist this spell. You teleport each affected target to an unoccupied space that you can see within 120 feet of you. That space must be on the ground or on a floor.

But there are two ways to read this;

  1. This is a many-to-one reading. Each of the up to five creatures are teleported to an unoccupied space. So all five go to one space.
  2. Each is for both target and destination. Each target is teleported to each target's unique designated unoccupied space.

My issue is, that the first interpretation is more "plain English" whereas the second is "loosely based".

So does Scatter really scatter, or does Scatter just teleport up to 5 people as a cluster to a single location?

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Each creature probably goes to a different location; you're right, it's ambiguous

I think the underlying questions here are the following:

  1. Do the creatures all make their saves simultaneously?
  2. Do the creatures all teleport simultaneously?
  3. Or even this: Does a creature attempt a save and suffer its effects simultaneously?

Perhaps these should be separate questions of their own though, I'm unsure. One thing we do know is that getting hit and taking damage are simultaneous events, but I'm not sure that that helps here.


The idea that each teleports separately is somewhat supported in the spell's word choice:

[...] You teleport each affected target to an unoccupied space [...]

Note that it does not say "every affected target" teleports, which would imply that they all happen at once, but instead says "each affected creature" which implies that this happens creature-by-creature. One problem with this is that the each/every distinction isn't exactly a strong thing to make any claims out of; it's a prescriptivist rule of English, and one many people don't even learn. However if this is the case, then once a creature is teleported, that space is now occupied and thus the next creature cannot also go to that same space.

There really isn't a lot of evidence to go on here and besides the small argument based on "grammatical correctness" I'm not sure what else one could point to. 

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is, unfortunately, probably the best answer we can hope for, barring errata. \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Nov 14 '19 at 21:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Memory is foggy at the moment, but don't the movement rules prohibit creatures from being in the same place at once except for passing through during movement? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Nov 14 '19 at 21:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @rubiksmoose I believe those say that creatures can't willing end their move(ment) in occupied spaces. The spell does prevent you from teleporting a creature into an occupied space though. The problem/question is whether you teleport them one-by-one or all at once \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Nov 14 '19 at 21:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Exactly. Spells like Sleep clearly spell out that it effects multiple targets one by one. But this, like most, leave the order of operation to the whim of the reader. \$\endgroup\$ – MivaScott Nov 14 '19 at 22:35
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The targets are scattered

Your first reading is incorrect. The spell would have to read:

You teleport the affected targets to an unoccupied space.

In standard English the determiner "each" refers to multiple entities but identifies them separately. The verb is then applied to this noun phrase.

Here is a rewording that may help you:

Each affected target is teleported to an unoccupied space.

Even though I just rearranged the phrases this should make it clear that the first reading is not correct.

Here are some examples using the same sentence structure:

Each person gets dressed in the morning

Each dog eats an apple

Each cat wants to be petted

Each student must study

Consider the use of the determiner "a/an". This determiner is used to refer to a new thing. Contrast this to the determiner "the" which refers to something already mentioned.

Look at these examples:

We each ate the cake

We each ate a cake

We all like the cat

We all like a cat

Each target is teleported to an unoccupied space

Each target is teleported to the unoccupied space

Hopefully this helps. If you have further questions I would suggest the English stack exchange site!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ 'Each' is used to identify multiple individuals, the targets, but there is no such modifier to the final destination. Consider, "We spent five days on the coast and each day we swam in the ocean." The determiner 'each' lets the reader know that the speaker is referring to multiple individual days. But there is a single destination for all of them; "the ocean". It would not make sense to read this sentence as multiple persons swam in multiple, separate oceans. So in the case of the spell "affected target" is what is qualified by "each", but "to an unoccupied space" would imply a single space. \$\endgroup\$ – MivaScott Nov 19 '19 at 22:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott You are mistaken. The determiner "the" is confusing you. How about "We spent five days on the coast and each day we swam in an ocean". Now did they swim in the same ocean every day? The difference is that the determiner "the" is used to refer to a thing that has already been mentioned. The determiner "a/an" is used to refer to something that has not been mentioned. \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Nov 19 '19 at 22:31
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Each target goes to a unique location

After you teleport the first creature to that location, it's no longer unoccupied, and is no longer a valid target location for the spell. Additionally, similarly sized creatures cannot typically inhabit the same space as one another. This interpretation seems to be reinforced by the name of the spell being "scatter" as opposed to something like "cluster"

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can the downvoter explain why they think this isn't a valid answer? \$\endgroup\$ – inthemanual Nov 14 '19 at 20:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Probably you are assuming that the targets are teleported sequentially, when there isn't actually anything to support that assumption. Even if each target makes a separate saving throw, mechanically they all happen at the same time so the space being "no longer unoccupied" doesn't apply. \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Nov 14 '19 at 22:38

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