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The Warlock ability Dark One's Blessing says (emphasis mine)

Starting at 1st level, when you reduce a hostile creature to 0 hit points, you gain temporary hit points equal to your Charisma modifier + your warlock level (minimum of 1).

Is there a general ruling on who or what is the author of damage? Most spells and attacks are written to describe how the target takes damage, rather than how the attacker does damage. I think it is safe to assume that an attack you make or a spell you cast is you doing damage, but I am unsure on how to rule in a more abstract example, such as forcing an interaction with a damaging environment.

Consider the following hypotheticals. None of them are my specific question, but serve to illustrate what I am trying to come to terms with. My question is whether there is a general underlying principle in the game that assigns authorship to damage.

For example, suppose oil has been spread on the floor and a hostile creature chooses to cross it. My warlock throws a lit torch into the oil and the DM requires an attack roll. The subsequent fire reduces the creature to 0hp. Does the warlock get to use Dark One's Blessing?

Suppose the same warlock lights a nearby patch of oil on the floor and the DM does not require an attack roll. A hostile creature later chooses to enter the burning oil and is reduced to 0hp. Does the warlock get to use the ability? Did he reduce the creature to 0hp, or did the fire? Does it matter that the creature chose to enter the fire through its own movement - if the warlock had been able to use a spell or action to force the movement, would the answer be different?

Finally, consider three warlocks who all have initiative before a target. One throws a flask of oil on the floor, one throws a torch that ignites the oil, and one uses a shove attack to move a hostile creature into the space where the flaming oil is / will be. Which warlock(s) get to use Dark One's Blessing? Does their order matter? That is, is it a different answer if the shove moves the creature to the space where the oil will be, vs. to a space where the flame already is?

Possibly related: If my familiar is forced through my action to drop a rock while over a target, is it considered an attack?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Woah. There is no range to this ability. Cover your base on traps, then go on an adventure. Every couple days you get free temp HP, right?? \$\endgroup\$ – Nacht Oct 27 '20 at 2:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ You forgot the fourth warlock who spends his action on Help to give the other warlock Advantage on the "throwing the torch" action. (And I'm only half being sarcastic. It's help actions all the way down.) \$\endgroup\$ – Ton Day Oct 27 '20 at 8:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TonDay It's difficult for me to see how you could help someone throw a torch - but certainly a warlock could Help with the shove attack, yes. So who gets to have DOB triggered then? \$\endgroup\$ – Kirt Oct 27 '20 at 15:18
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It's going to be up to the situation and up to the DM

There are no rules that specify who does what when it's not a directly related cause and effect that can easily be traced back to a creature. Heck, it's not even always cut and dry to trace back to a creature.

Because of that, the situations will matter and it will end up being a DM decision as to if the warlock is the source or something/someone else.

How I'd look at it

For me, it's good to generally let the character's mechanics trigger if they are relevant. If there is a good reason to assign the warlock as the source and it makes good enough sense, then I'd totally be on board. If it's a stretch to tie it back, then I'd be less likely, but overall letting mechanics trigger for a player is fun.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think it can be boiled down to this: If any action you take directly results in a creature being reduced to 0 hit points, then you are considered to be the one that reduced them to 0. Cast Fireball? That's all you. Stabbed with a sword? You again. Shoved off a cliff? Still you. tossed around inside a Spike Growth that the druid made? Still you, because you were the cause of them taking the spike damage. \$\endgroup\$ – RevenantBacon Oct 26 '20 at 18:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RevenantBacon: that last one, I think, gets to the crux of the issue: could the druid claim that the damage from the spikes was their doing and, thus, that they could trigger Dark One's Blessing (or some other, similar effect)? \$\endgroup\$ – minnmass Oct 26 '20 at 19:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @minnmass I agree that that is likely the original type of situation that brought up the question. Maybe it wasn't Spike Growth specifically, but similar none the less. My opinion is that damage dealt by hazards is attributed to the creature that triggered the damage effect, rather than the effects owner. If a goblin gets blasted by a Gust of Wing and shoved into the spikes, then the caster of the gust cause them to take the damage. If the goblin instead chooses to walk through the spikes on its own, the damage is self-inflicted. \$\endgroup\$ – RevenantBacon Oct 26 '20 at 20:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RevenantBacon However, and I do believe this is NautArch's point here, that belief is your own and there is no explicit rules-text agreeing (or disagreeing) with it. Notably, my own beliefs about damage would not come to the conclusion you have, which reinforces that this is all varies from one GM to the next \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Oct 27 '20 at 2:38

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