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The Earthquake spell creates an area of intense tremors. Creatures within the area are knocked prone:

When you cast this spell and at the end of each turn you spend concentrating on it, each creature on the ground in the area must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, the creature is knocked prone.

The creatures are knocked prone "at the end of each turn you spend concentrating" on the spell. Interestingly, it doesn't state that these turns have to be your own. Presumably, you keep concentrating through everyone's turn, and so the Earthquake spell can knock prone at the end of every turn, including those of your allies and enemies. Is that correct?

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2 Answers 2

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It says turn, but it probably means your turn.

If you want to apply this spell from a strict and literal reading of the rules, then sure, every creature makes the saving throw every turn.

However, this creates a highly unusual phenomenon: the power of the spell scales with the number of combat participants. Every creature that rolls initiative in a combat would increase the number of saves per round made by a victim of the spell. This makes exactly zero narrative sense. Given this, it seems clear enough that the spell should say something like “at the end of each of your turns”, so that the number of saves a creature makes per round is independent of the number of participants in combat.

So the way I would rewrite the spell description, and the way I have always run this spell, is:

When you cast this spell and at the end of each of your turns that you spend concentrating on it, each creature on the ground in the area must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, the creature is knocked prone.

Now, there is a rule we can draw support from to motivate this ruling - a combat round is always six seconds:

The game organizes the chaos of combat into a cycle of rounds and turns. A round represents about 6 seconds in the game world.

The idea here is that a round is always six seconds no matter the number of participants. Because of this, we can see that narratively, each individual turn in a round actually is happening at essentially the same time. In the fiction of the game, each creature’s turn is not a discrete event at a different time, all the turns are occurring at the same time, with initiative representing how quick each participant is to act in each combat round.

Thus, we should expect each casting of earthquake to produce a similar effect requiring the same number of saving throws made every six seconds that the spell persists. The idea that earthquake produces an arbitrarily large magnitude of effect scaling with the number of creatures that happen to be participating in combat is simply inconsistent with the narrative the combat rules are trying to represent.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Agreed. I'm a big proponent of "spells do what they say they do". However, when an interpretation leads to a completely absurd situation, it's usually not the correct one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Red Orca
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 0:34
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"Each turn" means each turn.

You've interpreted correctly. Rules only do what they say they do.

You are still concentrating during other creatures' turns - otherwise, why would you need to roll a CON save to maintain concentration when they hit you? RAW and RAI, earthquake knocks creatures in range prone at the end of every turn, regardless of whose.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You indicate that this answer is RAI, which I'm construing to mean Rules as Intended. Can you provide more support for this? Because by this reading if 500 creatures are in the area of the Earthquake spell, then they'd each need to pass 500 saves before being able to attempt to leave. Conversely, were 2 creatures in the area, you'd only be dealing with 2 saves. This strikes me as potentially not intended. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 21:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're concentrating during other creatures' turns, but are you "spending" those turns? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 23:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical Speaking from experience, if you are running a 500 creature combat and assigning individual initiative turns to everyone, your players are going to hate it. At the risk of calling out wrongbadfun, it is just a bad idea. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 1:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt That just further makes the point that this interpretation is nonsensical, because it would depend not only on how many creatures are in the spell's area, but also on how the DM decides to break up their turns. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 12:50

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