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According to an Evocation Wizard's Sculpt Spell class feature, they can create pockets of safety that allow the chosen creatures to:

...automatically succeed on their saving throws against the spell, and they take no damage if they would normally take half damage on a successful save.

I'm reading this to say:

  • If there's a save, those in these 'pockets' automatically make it.
  • If making a save would result in half damage, the 'pockets' take no damage.

So, if I'm reading this correctly, why not just say that those in the 'pockets' take no damage if there's a save? Why all the extra words?

When would someone in a Sculpt Spell's 'pocket of safety' take damage?

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Sculpt spell protects against more than damage

Spells can have effects other than damage. Automatically making a saving throw usually means these are negated. Let's take the humble thunderwave as our example:

[each target creature] must make a Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 2d8 thunder damage and is pushed 10 feet away from you. On a successful save, the creature takes half as much damage and isn't pushed.

If Sculpt Spells had only said the creature doesn't take damage if the spell causes a save, pocketed targets would still have to make the save against being pushed.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Then why didn't they just simply write that the creatures in those pockets are not affected at all by the spell? \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp May 25 at 13:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Philipp The creatures would still be affected by other effects that aren't tied to a/the saving throw. Say, difficult terrain, sleep, wall of fire (and other walls), etc. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil May 25 at 14:00
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Because sometimes the save isn't for half damage.

Consider earth tremor:

You cause a tremor in the ground within range. Each creature other than you in that area must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 1d6 bludgeoning damage and is knocked prone

Or gust of wind:

A line of strong wind 60 feet long and 10 feet wide blasts from you in a direction you choose for the spell's duration. Each creature that starts its turn in the line must succeed on a Strength saving throw or be pushed 15 feet away from you in a direction following the line.

Sculpt Spell lets you protect your allies from both the damage and the knockdown / other effects.

If Sculpt Spell used your simplified wording, they'd still have to save to avoid being knocked over. This is a small but significant difference in how it works.

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Some evocation spells do damage without a saving throw

Other current answers present very valid answers to the sub-questions in this post:

So, if I'm reading this correctly, why not just say that those in the 'pockets' take no damage if there's a save? Why all the extra words?

The answer to this being that many spells not only do damage on a failed save, but also impose a condition (i.e. being prone, restrained, etc.).

Yet no one answered the main question:

When would someone in a Sculpt Spell's 'pocket of safety' take damage?

Consider the 4th level Evocation spell (available to Wizards) Wall of Fire (Emphasis mine):

When the wall appears, each creature within its area must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 5d8 fire damage, or half as much damage on a successful save.

One side of the wall, selected by you when you cast this spell, deals 5d8 fire damage to each creature that ends its turn within 10 feet of that side or inside the wall. A creature takes the same damage when it enters the wall for the first time on a turn or ends its turn there. The other side of the wall deals no damage.

An Evocation Wizard using Sculpt Spell to exclude his allies cannot protect them from the second source of damage, which targets anyone that is within 10 feet of one side of the wall at the end of its turn, or goes through the wall. You can then see that someone in a Sculpt Spell's 'pocket of safety' can take damage in that situation.

There is also the ambiguous case of having a Dexterity saving throw on a paralyzed creature in a Sculpt Spell's pocket of safety.

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If your DM is a rules lawyer, be aware that the wording of Sculpt Spells has a loophole:

they take no damage IF they would normally take half damage on a successful save.

To make it easier to understand the problem with the above wording: this is the same as "if successful save does half damage then no damage".

This means that if the subjects do not take half damage from a successful save then they do not "take no damage". Instead they would take full damage. Additionally it says nothing about negating secondary effects from a successful save so you'd take that as well.

That said, the Sculpt Spells feature is for you to protect your allies from the evocation spells you cast. You'd never hit an ally with a single target spell so in order for your evocation spell to have accidental collateral damage it would need to be an area effect and one of these:

  • Has no saving throw at all.
  • A successful save does damage but it is NOT half damage (such as "they instead take 1d4").
  • A successful save does something besides damage (such as "they are Sickened instead of Nauseated").

To answer your question there are theoretically 2 ways for a selected ally to take direct damage from a sculpted evocation spell. A safer wording would have been "The chosen creatures are not affected by the spell" - which is also more simple.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You can also rule lawyer the "creatures that you can see" part to prevent allies from being selectable (if they are invisible or you are blind). But the question is about people who are selected. \$\endgroup\$ – SkySpiral7 May 25 at 17:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think your answer could be improved by quoting some examples. Nice catch for the loop hole. \$\endgroup\$ – aaron9eee May 26 at 23:35

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