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The spell continual flame (p. 227 of the Player's Handbook) is a touch spell. It does not offer any parameters as to what qualifies as a target other than it has to be an object. In theory you could touch an opponent's helmet and a flame would spring forth, potentially blinding them (with no save and no attack roll).

Whereas the light cantrip (p. 255 of the Player's Handbook) specifically states:

If you target an object held or worn by a hostile creature, that creature must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw to avoid the spell.

This leads me to believe the spell is working as intended.

Is there a rule or ruling that I am missing?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Sam, as I read the light cantrip text, it seems to be pointed at "your armor is lit up for an hour" or "your weapon/shield just got lit up" so that any attempt to hide or take advantage of dim light would be foiled unless the armor, shield, weapon, wand, whatever were let go/removed. I am not sure where you get "creature is blinded" from that piece of the cantrip. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 9 at 20:49
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No, it won't blind them

While you can cast it on enemy's helm, it won't do anything besides provide light for those around them.

Nothing in the spell description states the light imparts the Blinded condition. If it did, it would suggest this is possible, but the light just has the brightness of a torch, turning someone's helm into a headlamp won't blind them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ But if you hold a torch in front of someone's face they will get disadvatage as they will be unable to see through the flames very well. If you cast this spell on the nose bridge of a helm I would argue the same applies. Not as a direct effect of the spell but as a side effect. \$\endgroup\$ – Sam Lacrumb May 9 at 13:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Sam Spells do only and exactly what they say they do, or at least that's the case when reading the rules literally. You can always houserule things differently but be wary of making spells too powerful; blinded is a strong condition. There also aren't rules on the action(s) required for removing helmets or how AC changes if somebody simply removed the helmet, so you'd likely want to come up with answers for those as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 May 9 at 13:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SamLacrumb As Medix2 states, there are no rules around removing helms which makes this trickier. Heck, how do you know the helm has a nose bridge? That's not a feature on every helm. And where in the rules does it say a torch in front of your face gives the Blinded condition. Non-darkvision party members may not like that ruling. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch May 9 at 13:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ All of that said, this is a RAW ruling. If you want to try something like this in-game, you'll have to talk to your DM and see how they, personally, would rule it. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty May 9 at 15:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ In general I agree with this answer - but as a GM I'd also require some kind of roll to succeed. A Dex save seems appropriate, but a grapple check might also work. The spell just says "an object" which is assume to be sitting there doing nothing. Generally objects held or carried by a creature or character are specifically called out. So your attempt to touch the helmet would definitely be opposed. \$\endgroup\$ – Eric Anderson May 9 at 18:42
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Only if the DM is absurdly indulgent.

I could see, in some play styles, a player proposing this as a situationally useful trick: we're attacking a sentry who has been on watch in the night for three hours, their eyes are fully adjusted to the dark, and I've got this continual flame spell, maybe it'll blind them for a round and buy us some time. And the DM could consider that and decide it's a clever and plausible use of the spell.

But if you're playing that way, the DM's job is also to set limits, and require an attack roll to tag the guy's helmet, or allow a Con save to resist being blinded, or something. (Likely the easiest thing to do would be to look over at light, see that it allows a Dex save, and follow that precedent.)

And at that point you're switching to rules-lawyer spells-do-only-what-they-say mode: "But the spell doesn't say I have to make an attack roll, so I don't."

The spell doesn't say you can do this at all! It doesn't say that it blinds anyone; torchlight in general doesn't blind people.

In a very rules-strict game, that alone is enough to prevent this trick from working. In a more pragmatic game, the DM can and likely will permit some defense against it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The light spell does just this. :) And it's a cantrip. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 9 at 19:48

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