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The description of the Pulse Wave spell (EGtW, p. 188) states the following:

[...] every creature that fails the save is either pulled 15 feet toward you or pushed 15 feet away from you, depending on the choice you made for the spell.

In addition, unsecured objects that are completely within the cone are likewise pulled or pushed 15 feet.

What happens if you pull a creature (or object) that's less than 15 feet away from you?
I haven't found rules that govern this kind of scenario so I'm wondering if there's a general rule that can help me resolve this.

I should note that this is different from the text of Thorn Whip, which has different wording which states that it pulls creatures closer, such that they cannot go past the caster.

I can see any number of interactions that might take place. Do they pass harmlessly through you or inflict any kind of damage on their way past you? Or do they simply stop at your feet? I must say that it makes for a bit of a silly mental image; I have difficulty imagining that a Wizard would hurl other creatures and discarded trash at themselves without any guarantee that they'll stop before arriving.

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If at any point a creature is moving away from you that is supposed to be moving toward you, then you have misapplied the effect.

This seems pretty straight forward to me. It simply contradicts the text of the spell for a creature to move toward the caster, and then continue past the caster. I’m not going to quote a dictionary here - we all know what “toward” means. If a creature were to continue past the caster, then they would be moving away from the caster, despite the effect of the spell being to cause a creature to move toward the caster. This would be a contradiction.

So we conclude that a creature moves toward the caster until they can move no closer.

However, one ambiguity remains. A creature cannot willingly end their move in another creature’s space, but there is nothing that prevent forced movement from causing two creatures to occupy the same space. The DM will need to make a ruling here - does the pulled creature land in the caster’s space, or the space immediately adjacent?

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    \$\begingroup\$ The duration of Pulse Wave is Instantaneous so there's no opportunity for the pull direction to be re-evaluated and "corrected". According to the spell's description, there's a single instance of targets being "pulled 15 feet"--not some continuous pull as you've described. \$\endgroup\$
    – Andrendire
    Apr 5 at 4:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andrendire "Pulled towards you" I believe is what Thomas is focusing on. If I told my kid to run towards me and they ran past me, I'd be upset. There is a clear point where towards is no longer happening. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Apr 5 at 12:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ "towards" is a direction. If someone throws a ball towards you and you miss catching it, they still threw it towards you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Andrendire
    Apr 5 at 14:37
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The wording of the spell definitely leaves a lot of room for ambiguity, which means the GM is going to have to make some rulings.

The spells says:

And every creature that fails the save is either pulled 15 feet toward you or pushed 15 feet away from you, depending on the choice you made for the spell.

In addition, unsecured objects that are completely within the cone are likewise pulled or pushed 15 feet.

The issue is what does "toward" mean? Typical usage is that something comes toward you, then it passes you, then it's going away from you.

So for creatures and objects within 15 feet of the caster, either they stop at the caster, or they don't go 15 feet.

That is an ambiguity that the GM will have to resolve.

Two possible interpretations, creatures and objects within 15 feet of the caster move:

  • "Toward" the caster and then past the caster to the full 15 feet.

  • "Toward" the caster, then stopping at the caster.

There is also the issue of what if there is a barrier immediately behind the caster? Or for that matter, if a barrier is encountered pushing in the other direction.

I think a reasonable interpretation is to rule that objects travel up to 15 feet, stopping when encountering the caster or a barrier.

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There are no secret rules

The spell causes things to be "pulled 15 feet toward you"; it does not say "up to 15 feet toward you".

This tells you how far they move (15 feet) and in what direction (toward you). If you are closer than 15 feet when the spell is cast, then the object will move into your space, out the other side, and keep going until it has gone 15 feet. If you are exactly 15 feet away then it's party time as everyone ends up in your space.

Since there are no secret rules, these things do not damage you (or anyone or anything else) or themselves when they do this. Presumably you duck.

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