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Many spells where you can select targets specify you must select targets that you can see, for example Seeming:

This spell allows you to change the Appearance of any number of creatures that you can see within range.

However there are some spells which don't require seeing. I am considering the Paladin spell Destructive Wave for a character of mine (for its ability to knock targets prone), and it has this text:

You strike the ground, creating a burst of divine energy that ripples outward from you. Each creature you choose within 30 feet of you must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or take [damage and be knocked prone, save for half damage]

I would think this clearly allows using this spell even when blind, or against invisible creatures, if the target is not hidden. Also, line-of-effect rule is also in effect, because why wouldn't it be, right? (This is not the question, just assumptions I am making, and I'm pretty sure the DM will also make.)

But is it allowed to choose creatures which are also hidden from the caster, when the spell doesn't require caster seeing the targets?

There are at least these cases to consider:

  1. Creatures which the caster knows about, but which are hidden, so their location is uncertain to the caster. They may or may not be within range, but the caster wants them to be affected if they are.
  2. Hidden creatures, which the caster doesn't even know about, but the caster wants to choose every creature within 30'.
  3. Creatures the caster knows, but has no reason to think they might be within the spell range.
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Going by RAW, it's possible

Strictly going by the spell definition, there is nothing preventing you from choosing hidden creatures. However, I would rule you need to know the creature exists to be able to target them.

Going by the above, and looking at your examples, the first is valid (and of course if the creature is within the spell's range they would be affected), whereas the second wouldn't be.

EDIT: With regards to the third option, no, I don't believe the caster can target creatures it knows but has no reason to believe they would be within the spell's range. The spell doesn't explicitly prevent that, but doing so on the caster's part would seem more akin to meta-gaming rather than paranoia (EDIT #2: Example: entering an enclosed druid grove and targeting a young adult white dragon).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I am not saying you're wrong - but the implications of this are that a character can choose literally every creature in existence that the character knows about - just for the off chance that creature is within range. \$\endgroup\$ – Bob2Chiv Apr 2 at 18:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Bob2Chiv You're correct, and I honestly expected to find the spell has a limitation on how many creatures a caster can target at maximum. Yet the spell text doesn't. I would argue the whole point of the 'each creature you choose' was to avoid potentially friendly fire, but that's an imo \$\endgroup\$ – bigchickcannibalistic Apr 2 at 18:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe there's 3rd case to consider: choosing a known creature when there's no indication what so ever that the creature might be within spell range... \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir Apr 2 at 18:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Added the 3rd category to the question, as I don't think it invalidates this answer. But feel free to edit the answer if you want to address it. I suppose it can be considered to be either equal to 1st or 2nd example... \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir Apr 2 at 18:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would interpret this to require a character to choose 'specific' creatures - largely eliminating 'meta-gaming' but still allowing you to target the character's arch nemesis. Either way, adding some reference/justification from a book would improve this answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Bob2Chiv Apr 2 at 18:58
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I'd say that known hidden creatures are valid -- you know they are in the area, and can choose them even if you don't know exactly where. If any given such creature turns out not to be in the area-of-effect, then they don't fall down; no harm done.

As for unknown hidden creatures, I'd say the main limitation is that if there is more than one, you can't pick some of them without knowledge. I'd let a caster choose to affect all hidden creatures with that spell, or none. None would look like just choosing ones you can see or know about. All might look like "everyone in the area except this guy and that guy".

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How do you justify "everyone in the area except this guy and that guy" when the spell text explicitly says: "Each creature you choose"? \$\endgroup\$ – Bob2Chiv Apr 2 at 22:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you choose "everyone in this area" that chooses everyone who is in that area. If you choose "everyone in this area except these specific people I don't choose", then that chooses everyone who is in that area, except the specified people not chosen. It's simple language usage, man. \$\endgroup\$ – PhilB Apr 3 at 0:38
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It's possible, but you need to consider cover.

Destructive wave includes an area of effect emanating from you, and we need to follow the section about Areas of Effects (Player's Handbook page 204).

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.

Unless it is invisible, a creature needs some degree of cover in order to be able to hide from somebody else.

(Less than total cover would not interest the spell destructive wave, since it requires a Constitution saving throw and those cover bonuses apply to Dexterity saving throws and AC only)

You can target a creature that you cannot see within the area of a spell when that spell does not require sight and that creature does not have total cover. If the creature is not in the area (or has total cover from its point of origin), it's unaffected by the spell. You can even target any creature within the area, as far as the spell is concerned; the spell doesn't make differences: if you want to target a creature outside the area of the spell, that creature is unaffected. So all your hypothetical cases are valid (or at least they are if you include n.3 in n.2).

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