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The spell Protection from Evil and Good has the following in its description:

Until the spell ends, one willing creature you touch is protected against certain types of creatures: aberrations, celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead.

In a previous session, a player insisted that the wording "against certain types" meant that when one cast the spell, one selected the type of creature that the protection worked against - and the spell was basically worthless against the other listed creatures during that time.

For instance, if the spell were cast to protect the tank from a Vampire (undead), then the tank would not be protected against the Vampire's demon (fiend) minions.

This seems to be an overly specific interpretation of the spell.

Does the 'Protection from Evil and Good' spell protect from all listed entities, or just one?

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4 Answers 4

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The use of the plural form "types" and the word "and" both indicate that the spell protects against the whole list

The spell states (emphasis mine):

Until the spell ends, one willing creature you touch is protected against certain types of creatures: aberrations, celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead. [...]

If the spell were intended to only grant protection against one type of creature it would say something like this:

Until the spell ends, one willing creature you touch is protected against a certain type of creatures: aberrations, celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, or undead.


This is also supported by the fact that the spell makes no indication that the caster is supposed to choose a type. A phrasing I would very much expect to see if it were intended to only include some of the types listed. Such a phrasing appears in other parts of the rules such as with protection from energy and spirit shroud (emphasis mine):

For the duration, the willing creature you touch has resistance to one damage type of your choice: acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder.

[...] This damage is radiant, necrotic, or cold (your choice when you cast the spell). [...]

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The use of the plural form "types" doesn't indicate there's no choice; it just means there's more than one item in the list. "Chose one of the following types: ...". The other two points are solid, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – ikegami
    Jan 11 at 21:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ikegami The sentence you used is fundamentally different and includes he verb "choose", lacking that verb; the plural indicates you include all of them \$\endgroup\$ Jan 11 at 22:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Re "The sentence you used is fundamentally different', Yes, that's my point. Despite using "types" in the same manner (to refer to the list of types), the sentence and its meaning are completely different. It's the form of the sentence that's relevant, not that "types" is plural. \$\endgroup\$
    – ikegami
    Jan 11 at 23:52
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It protects against all the listed (plural) "certain types".

When a spell wants you to choose one from the list, it will say so. For example, Protection from Energy:

For the duration, the willing creature you touch has resistance to one damage type of your choice: acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder.

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And means And, not Or

Moreover, 'and' is used twice: One is the very title of the spell, and once as the logical operator over the various listed types.

The spell protects against Good and Evil, because that's what the name of the spell is. The spell protects against aberrations, celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead-- not or, requiring a choice, but and-- all at the same time.

Furthermore, consider the second and final paragraph of the spell description:

The protection grants several benefits. Creatures of those types have disadvantage on attack rolls against the target. The target also can’t be charmed, frightened, or possessed by them. If the target is already charmed, frightened, or possessed by such a creature, the target has advantage on any new saving throw against the relevant effect.

Emphasis mine: Creatures of those types. Not one of those types. Not some of those types. Creatures of those types; all of them. This is unambiguous, because 'types' is pluralized as well as 'creatures.'

That is the only plain English interpretation of that spell. There is no support anywhere for your player's interpretation.

(Going out on a limb: If your player is obsessing over the word 'certain', then the work that 'certain' is doing here is excluding all monster types not on that list, e.g., humanoids, constructs, etc.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Good point with your last paragraph. This spell will not protect against a Lawful Evil human "evil overlord" wizard or similar creature. It is just for the listed types. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 9 at 11:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with the answer, but I really don't like the tone of it. Not everyone here is a fluent English speaker, and things like that tends to differ slightly from language to language. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Jan 10 at 1:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot No disrespect to non-native speakers expressed or implied. But I will stand my ground that (1) the plain English reading is what all four current answers are saying it is, and (2) while there are some words with specially defined game meanings (e.g., 'Fiend') none of them affect this question or its answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Jan 10 at 4:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot: I think the wording is spot-on. It just makes it clear that the interpretation is quite obvious. Some rules or spells are somewhat ambiguous. This is not one of them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael
    Jan 10 at 7:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would hazard that the support for the player's interpretation comes from previous versions of D&D in which Protection from Good and Protection from Evil were separate spells. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 10 at 18:53
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The spell is called "Protection from Evil and Good". Were the suggested reading that only one type of creature should be selected, that means that, for example, choosing "fiends" does not protect from Good. Which would be nonsensical.

Plain English reading: the spell must protect from both, based on the name.

Moreover, nowhere does the spell claim that one type of creature should be chosen.

Plain English reading: one should not be choosing.

It goes on to demonstrate an inclusive list. If a menu describes a pizza as containing peppers, mushrooms, and cheese it has all three, rather than one of them. Thus there is no reason to claim that "aberrations, celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead." is only one of those.

Plain English reading: it has a list of all the things, not a list of options.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Re "The spell is called", That argument is far from definitive. It could just as easily be short for "Spell that can grant protection from evil and that can grant protection from evil from good" as for "Spell that grants protection from both evil and good". It's so inconclusive that I wonder why it was mentioned. The other points are solid, though. /// Re "It goes on to demonstrate an inclusive list.", That word doesn't mean what you think it means. "a, b, or c" can be just as much or as little of an inclusive list as "a, b, and c". An inclusive list is one that is complete, not open-ended \$\endgroup\$
    – ikegami
    Jan 11 at 21:05

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