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I saw this question and was reminded of something that happened in one of my games recently: I, as a Life Cleric, used my Channel Divinity: Preserve Life feature on an ally who had been swallowed (It didn't affect the outcome significantly; I had two other possible plans that would probably have saved said ally).

But I'm curious. My ally had total cover, which prevented targetting her with a spell (say, Mass Cure Wounds, as in the linked question). But Preserve Life is not a spell. RAW, is this legal?

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Yes, this works. (RAW)

Total cover specifies,

can't be targeted directly by an attack or a spell. (PHB, pg. 196)

Channel Divinity: Preserve Life is neither an attack, nor a spell, so the only eligibility condition for targets is that a creature be

within 30 feet of you. (PHB, pg. 60)

This is a obviously strict rules as written interpretation, and it relies on the principle that there are no secret rules, e.g. there is no secret rule that total cover prevents class features or racial abilities that are not attacks or spells from targeting the covered creature.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm accepting this because it's the RAW answer, which I asked for, even if I would (in the future) rule with the other answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 15, 2020 at 20:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ I feel like thematically this makes sense as well, since you're literally asking your god to intercede on you behalf, and something like a mere 13' of digestive tract isn't really going to stop a god. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 2, 2020 at 20:57
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Channel Divinity: Preserve Life requires a clear path to its targets

The rules on "A Clear Path to the Target" state:

To target something, you must have a clear path to it, so it can't be behind total cover. [...]

Thus, if something is behind total cover (like when swallowed), it cannot be targeted.


The quoted rules do not apply only to spells

The rules quoted above are found in "Chapter 10: Spellcasting" in the section "Casting a Spell", subsection "Targets" but that does not mean those rules apply exclusively to spells.

Also found in chapter 10, in the same Casting a Spell section, are the rules that define cones, cubes, cylinders, lines, and spheres. Clearly those rules apply to non-spells (those shapes are used for things that are not spells), and I see no reason the rules requiring a clear path would not also apply to non-spells.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are there really no Crawford tweets on issues like this? Seems like something someone would have brought up with him before. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 16:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov I didn't find anything since all his regarding total cover are about spells (He has said that being behind total cover means you are outside of a creature's blindsight radius, but that's quite different and barely supports this). Not to mention the fact that his tweets are not official rules or rulings and are merely indications of what he felt at the time he made the tweet (he's gone back on his own tweets numerous times) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 16:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Anyway, I upvoted, I think you've got RAI right on in this answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 16:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ How do you feel about this answer, does dream require a clear path to the target? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 12:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer would benefit from comparison to other channel divinity options, and if they assume spell casting rules or specify explicit rules themselves. For example Turn Undead by this interpretation would require clear path, and "..or can hear you" in rules is not actually sufficient, there must also be spell line of effect. This sounds like "secret rule" to me. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 18:11

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