Mass Healing Word and other healing spells specifically say that you have to see someone in order to cast the spells. In contrast, Mass Cure Wounds just says that you choose a point and then choose 6 creatures within a 30-foot radius of that point.

Do you need to see a creature in order to choose them as a target of Mass Cure Wounds? For example, would you be able to cast it on someone who had been swallowed?

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    – Someone_Evil
    Jun 9, 2020 at 20:24
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    – Someone_Evil
    Jun 9, 2020 at 20:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: "If I have been swallowed by a Froghemoth and it is hit by fireball, do I take damage?" (fireball is a bit different since it can go around corners but in the case of being swallowed that doesn't matter) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 9, 2020 at 20:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do any of the answers provide a good enough answer for a green check? \$\endgroup\$ May 13, 2021 at 16:46

3 Answers 3


No, you cannot select a swallowed creature as a target for mass cure wounds.

When a creature is swallowed, e.g. by a remorhaz,

it has total cover against attacks and other effects outside the [swallowing creature]. (MM, pg. 258)

A creature with total cover

can't be targeted directly by an attack or a spell, although some spells can reach such a target by including it in an area of effect. (PHB, pg. 196)

Mass cure wounds states

Choose up to six creatures in a 30-foot-radius sphere centered on that point. (PHB, pg. 258)

The area of effect here applies only to the choosing, but the spell requires you to select the targets, which total cover prevents.

To put it another way, mass cure wounds is not an area-of-effect spell in the sense that it affects creatures in the area indiscriminately. The 30-foot radius just determines the area from which you may choose eligible targets, and a creature with total cover is an ineligible target because the rules for a creature in total cover say so explicitly.

Note: I linked the Remorhaz statblock for the Swallow action, but if a particular creature's Swallow action does not state that the swallowed creature has total cover, that may change the ruling.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Mass Cure Wounds is not an area of effect spell. The 30-foot radius just determines the area from which you may choose eligible targets, and a creature with total cover is an ineligible target because that’s what total cover means. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 9, 2020 at 21:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ I disagree - Mass Cure Wounds is absolutely a spell with an area of effect. The spell's description specifies an area that is a sphere. You have to choose which creatures within the area you actually want to effect, and there's an upper limit on how many, but you still are choosing an origin point and setting an AoE for the spell. The spell description even says "A wave of healing energy washes out from a point of your choice within range", which honestly seems pretty clear-cut to me, and should allow you to reach targets in total cover from you if they're not in cover from the origin. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    Jun 9, 2020 at 23:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Carcer I see the point you’re making, I’ll update my answer to clarify that, thanks! \$\endgroup\$ Jun 10, 2020 at 0:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Jun 18, 2020 at 3:39

Unfortunately, no - you also need to have a clear path to the target

Many spells do specify that you must be able to see a target in order to affect it, and mass cure wounds notably does not - so it's entirely possible to cast it on creatures that you can't see, so long as you are sure they are in the spell's area. Unfortunately for your scenario, though, there are more general rules about targeting spells and areas of effect which require a "clear path" to the caster or the point of origin, which in most cases rules out being able to affect a creature that has been swallowed by another creature with a spell like mass cure wounds.

In short: you need a clear path from you to the AoE origin, and from the AoE origin to the target, to be able to affect it with the spell - but the swallowing creature is an obstruction which blocks those clear paths, so you can't reach the swallowed victim with the spell.

In depth:

From the basic rules on combat, total cover:

A target with total cover can't be targeted directly by an attack or a spell, although some spells can reach such a target by including it in an area of effect. A target has total cover if it is completely concealed by an obstacle.

From the basic rules on magic, spellcasting requires a clear path:

To target something, you must have a clear path to it, so it can't be behind total cover. If you place an area of effect at a point that you can't see and an obstruction, such as a wall, is between you and that point, the point of origin comes into being on the near side of that obstruction.

And about areas of effect:

A spell's effect expands in straight lines from the point of origin. If no unblocked straight line extends from the point of origin to a location within the area of effect, that location isn't included in the spell's area. To block one of these imaginary lines, an obstruction must provide total cover.

In conjunction, these rules state that you can't directly target something that has total cover from you, but you can still catch it in an area of effect, assuming you can place the point of origin of the AoE somewhere that does have a clear path to the target - which in turn requires you to have a clear path to the point of origin.

Mass cure wounds isn't a directly targeted spell, as it produces an area of effect - a 30ft. radius sphere - from which you may choose which creatures you'd like to affect, and it describes the "healing energy" of the spell as originating from the origin point of the AoE. Unlike certain other AoE spells such as fireball, the spell has no language allowing the AoE to spread around corners, so the normal rules requiring an unbroken straight line to the AoE's origin apply.

Being swallowed by a creature unfortunately means that the swallowed victim is in total cover relative to anything outside the swallowing creature - all creatures that have the swallow ability have similar text in their stat block that explicitly states so (at least, I'm not aware of any exceptions, though for a particularly unusual creature this might not hold true, at the DM's discretion). For instance, from the giant frog:

The swallowed target ... has total cover against attacks and other effects outside the frog

If the AoE's point of origin is outside the swallowing creature, the area cannot include the swallowed victim, since they have total cover from the point of origin. You can't be crafty and place the spell's point of origin inside the swallowing creature, either, because the creature's outside presents an obstruction to your clear path to its inside - if you tried, the AoE would just originate from a point on the surface of the creature instead, and still wouldn't reach the swallowed victim. Altogether, this prevents you from being able to affect a swallowed victim with cure mass wounds.

Of course, with a willing DM, you might be able to contrive some way to reach the unfortunate victim regardless - perhaps if you can poke a large enough hole in the swallowing creature to be able to target inside it, or time the spell's casting for a moment when you can see down the creature's mouth/throat. (As a last-ditch resort, being swallowed by the creature yourself would allow you to reach any other victims it had already swallowed.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ "If no unblocked straight line extends from the point of origin to a location within the area of effect, that location isn't included in the spell's area." - this is the real kicker. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 10, 2020 at 3:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @gszavae: Yeah. That looks like the general rule that Fireball's "spreads around corners" wording overrides. Without similar language of around corners (and down throats), that would block Mass Cure Wounds. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 10, 2020 at 11:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Carcer and @gszavae: do creatures block line of effect? Does Lightning Bolt affect everyone in its line of effect? argues they don't (in Pathfinder). 5e Lightning Bolt is still supposed to go through creatures, though. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 11, 2020 at 9:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes if the DM decides that a creature grants total cover to things behind it, then yes, it would block the line of effect. You could imagine hitting a gargantuan dragon square in the chest with a lightning bolt might stop that bolt there. However, creatures normally only provide half-cover at best, according to the guidelines in the combat rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    Jun 11, 2020 at 10:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes This is not a case of a creature blocking line of effect. The feature states "[the swallowed creature] has total cover against attacks and other effects outside the [swallowing creature]" \$\endgroup\$ Jun 15, 2020 at 0:59

I respectfully disagree with the prior two assessments, though they have many good points.

Firstly I will assume the "selection" criteria are resolved as the caster simply imagines their target, of course, some may disagree, and this would reasonably be best left to the GM.

Secondly, there are prior examples of AOE "around corners" and ignoring cover as pointed out above. The disagreement is primarily that a text describing the exception is missing, except that it is not.

As @Carcer mentions, the description contains "A wave of healing energy washes out from a point". This description is extremely specific, implying an expansion that I argue would "go around corners" and, like darkness would likely ignore most cover as it is a wave of another kind.

Whether this means "healing energy" (I am lacking the appropriate terminology) is blocked by the swallower I would determine is not absolute unless that creature's attribute specifically blocks healing.

TLDR; I believe the GM should decide if the swallowed can be selected based on their concept of the selection process. Then, based on swallower's known attributes or resistances, a decision on failure can be made as opposed to merely "total cover".

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi, welcome to rpg.se! Take the tour and visit the help center or ask here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) for more information. This is a pretty good first answer, but could be improved by including the examples you mention of going "around corners". I think you may find the examples you are thinking of have the explicit exception in the word of the spell. I.e. fireball says "the fire spreads around corners" which is an exception to the standard rule. Mass Cure Wounds does not contain this text. Either way, thanks for contributing, good luck and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Jun 11, 2020 at 2:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @linksassin: Agreed that radius effects need to say "spreads around corners" explicitly. However, whether creatures block line of effect is an interesting point: consider lightning bolt. It very clearly is designed to go through creatures. This pathfinder Q&A raises that Does Lightning Bolt affect everyone in its line of effect?. So if this answer wanted to justify line of effect going through creatures, that would be where I'd start. There's actually a good argument to be made there, leaving just the target-selection problem. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 11, 2020 at 9:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Even permitting "goes around corners" to allow MCW to get through total cover, you would still need a corner to go around. A swallowed creature has total cover from any and all directions - there are no corners to go around. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 11, 2020 at 14:02

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