Mold Earth says you can target loose earth and move it up to 5 feet away. However it's not really clear what that means, since the spell has a range of 30 feet. Does this mean you can move the earth to within 5 feet of yourself? Or five feet from where the earth started? Is there some other interpretation I'm missing?
The dirt must be moved up to 5 feet from its original location, the "away" is there because the verb "deposit" requires it
The mold earth spell states:
You choose a portion of dirt or stone that you can see within range and that fits within a 5-foot cube. You manipulate it in one of the following ways:
- If you target an area of loose earth, you can instantaneously excavate it, move it along the ground, and deposit it up to 5 feet away. This movement doesn’t have enough force to cause damage [...]
The spell allows you to target any 5-foot cube of earth that is within the range (30 feet), and one thing you can do to that cube is move it and deposit it up to 5 feet away. Though it doesn't explicitly specify what it has to be 5 feet away from, the rules of fifth edition dnd are written in plain English and the most natural way of reading this spell is that the earth must be moved to somewhere within 5 feet of where it originally was; To say that this meant 5 feet away from the caster would be especially unusual and quite far from a natural reading of the phrase.
The following sentences show this point as well:
Pick up that box and move it 5 feet.
Pick up that box and move it 5 feet away.
These have the same meaning in nearly any context. The reason that the word "away" is in the spell description is because of the verb choice. Note that it is ungrammatical to say the following:
deposit the dirt up to 5 feet.
The word "away" is required to be there to maintain grammaticality.