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The Raulothim's Psychic Lance spell (FToD, p. 21) has the targeting rule:

You unleash a shimmering lance of psychic power from your forehead at a creature that you can see within range. Alternatively, you can utter a creature's name. If the named target is within range, it becomes the spell's target even if you can't see it. If the named target isn't within range, the lance dissipates without effect.

The description of the Cube of Force magic item says:

[...]

You can use an action to press one of the cube's faces, expending a number of charges based on the chosen face, as shown in the Cube of Force Faces table. Each face has a different effect. If the cube has insufficient charges remaining, nothing happens. Otherwise, a barrier of invisible force springs into existence, forming a cube 15 feet on a side. The barrier is centered on you, moves with you, and lasts for 1 minute, until you use an action to press the cube's sixth face, or the cube runs out of charges. [...]

Face Charges Effect
[...] [...] [...]
4 4 Spell effects can't pass through the barrier.
5 5 Nothing can pass through the barrier. Walls, floors, and ceilings can pass through at your discretion.
[...] [...] [...]

The Lance targets the creature. The creature is protected by the anti-spell barrier (or the "omnibarrier" of layer 5). Does the Lance still affect the target by virtue of just stating that the creature becomes a target? Or does the Cube protect the creature somehow?

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3 Answers 3

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The spell is blocked

I think this is a fairly clear application of Specific versus General, sort of. I'll at least be using the terms, because it's quite useful for parsing what Raulothim's Psychic Lance does.

The general targeting rule is that you must see the target of the spell (that's in the spell's first line). The spell then has a specific rule to override the normal sight requirement and total cover.

Cube of Force then introduces a new specific exception which says that creature's inside can't be affected by outside spells at all (by the spell effects not being able to pass the barrier). This is not total cover, nor is it sight obstruction, it is simply denying the spell. There's no hard general rule for what exceptions are more specific than others, but I think it's overwhelmingly clear in this case that the cube wins, since the spell gives no indication that it creates an exception to spell blocking effects.

You could even consider that the spell still targets the creature, however its effect can't get through the barrier.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for the well-written answer! An interesting conclusion too. My own inclination was to think that Lance would hit because while there's an obstacle in the way, there's no protection on the creature itself (unlike, say, Antimagic Field) and since Lance simply makes the creature a target, it would affect the target. The way I read the Lance is that it doesn't "pass through" anything but just "occurs" on the target: i.e. Lance bypasses all cover and Cube is just another kind of cover. Actually, this is probably identical to whether Prismatic Wall used as a sphere blocks Lance. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gilalar
    Commented Aug 2, 2022 at 9:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JarnoPorkka: Agreed that this answer doesn't fully justify the reasoning that spells in general need to "pass through" the space between the caster and the target, unless otherwise implied or stated (e.g. Teleport). Can a spell be cast through (semi) transparent things? quotes Crawford re: design intent that even a spell like Silent Image or Conjure Fey can't be cast with the effect on the other side of a glass barrier. "Spell effects pass through" is the same wording as Tiny Hut and Globe of Invulneratibility, BTW. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 3, 2022 at 2:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Correction, Globe of Invuln has different wording, only Tiny Hut uses "cast through". Anyway, turned these comments into an answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 3, 2022 at 12:18
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Spell Effects can't pass through the barrier.

All you need to ask yourself is "Does the spell originate from outside the barrier?"

The answer is YES. Whoever is inside cannot be targeted from the outside.

It's worth noting that this works the other way around too. You can't target someone outside of the cube if you're on the inside, as long as the #4 or #5 barriers are active.

To be more specific, it doesn't matter what the spell says when it comes to targeting. No magical effect can go through the barrier, and the spell still originates from you. Imagine the barrier as if it was an antimagic field.

Antimagic field gives you a good idea of how spell interacts with something that blocks all magic. In this particular example, this is what interests you:

Targeted Effects: Spells and other magical Effects, such as Magic Missile and Charm Person, that target a creature or an object in the Sphere have no Effect on that target.

In your case you can consider it as: Spells and other magical Effects originating from outside the Cube, [...], that target a creature or an object in the Cube have no Effect on that target.

Same goes the other way around.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You say those inside can't target those outside, but the spell specifically calls out that it can target anyone, how does that fit? \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 20:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri Those are two different things I believe. Being able to target someone does not ensure that the spell effect can actually reach them. Think of it like shooting at someone who is behind bullet proof glass. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 22:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AllanMills they are, but this answer confuses them I think, I was hoping my comment might trigger the poster to clarify in the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Commented Aug 2, 2022 at 5:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri Hope it's clearer now. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mr_Bober
    Commented Aug 3, 2022 at 11:13
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This answer's reasoning is wrong, see comments. Becomes the target does bypass the rule about obstructions.

I'll have to look at the rules again to see if that justifies bypassing Tiny Hut or Cube of Force. Arguably not; they specifically call out spell effects being "cast through" or "pass[ing] through", which could be specific enough to beat the ability to target a creature without a clear path.


Old answer, in need of a rewrite

It's blocked because you still need a clear path to target

And would also be blocked by mundane glass, or other solid material like wood or stone. A non-straight path around an obstruction might let the spell work, or not. Speaking their name helps in cases like an invisible or hidden / totally obscured creature, or if you're blind. But not with other implicit targeting rules.

At least that's my reading; I find it hard to justify being blocked by a Cube of Force if it doesn't require a clear path to the target. (or Tiny Hut which has similar wording: spell/magical effects can't be cast through it or extend through it.) And I don't think it would be sensible to have it usable from inside a Cube of Force or Tiny Hut.

I'm not sure of the design intent of Psychic Lance, whether it was intended to bypass mundane total cover when given a name. Or the game balance implications of allowing that.


One key question is whether the spell effect for Psychic Lance has to pass through the space between the caster and the target. Since that's what Cube of Force blocks.

The default is that spells do need a clear path between caster and target, so a magical barrier like this, or a glass bubble, would block it. (See the tag; a term used in previous D&D editions.)

Speaking the target's name removes the sight requirement, but does not explicitly remove the clear path requirement, so it seems a valid reading to have it not bypass that requirement. And the spell description even implies there's a visible beam going from you to the target.

You unleash a shimmering lance of psychic power from your forehead at a creature that you can see within range. Alternatively, you can utter a creature's name. If the named target is within range, it becomes the spell's target even if you can't see it.

Becoming the target doesn't mean the spell effect can reach the target; it could still be blocked by something. You need a target to cast the spell at all, but you don't always know ahead of casting whether there's an invisible barrier that will block a spell. Or whether a magic barrier you can see will actually block a spell.

So sight (or a name) lets you cast the spell, but then clear path to target, or lack thereof, determines whether the spell reaches the target. For some AoE spells like Fireball, they detonate if intercepted early. For Psychic Lance, hitting a barrier would leave it with no effect.

If the spell description wanted to override the path-to-target rules, it could have said "If the named target is within range, it is affected by the spell even if you can't see it." That goes directly to "affected", bypassing the unstated requirement of needing a clear path to target because of targeting rules. Although that wording would be potentially confusing because you'd wonder if they meant that it bypassed the saving throw if you know their true name. So if they meant to bypass the clear-path requirement, saying that explicitly would be best. "If the named target is within range, it becomes the spell's target even if you can't see it, and the spell effect can pass through solid objects to reach it." Or something about bypassing total cover, except that might allow it to bypass Tiny Hut or Cube of Force as well as mundane solid objects.

But it doesn't say any of those things, so we can read the spell as not meaning that.

I don't think it's clear enough to be sure my proposed reading is the only possible one, but I think it's the most consistent with how other 5e things work.


Related Q&As:

But on the other hand, a few spells muddy the waters by being written in ways that only make sense if they go through things, without explicitly saying they do. Notably Sending, which has Range: Unlimited so the "target" is the actual creature, unlike Misty Step and Teleport which have Range: Self or 10 ft. Is there a rule that enables Sending to ignore the spell targeting rules regarding Total Cover? discusses that problem. (Could be taken as an accidental exception to the rules.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ For what it is worth, this node arrives at the conclusion that Psychic Lance does ignore normal targeting requirements: Can the Raulothim's Psychic Lance spell hit a creature behind full cover if you utter the creature's name? \$\endgroup\$
    – Gilalar
    Commented Aug 3, 2022 at 21:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JarnoPorkka: Hmm, I think "becomes the target" is stronger than I thought. The PHB says you can't target a creature behind an obstacle (total cover). So my argument that you can target but the spell might not reach them falls flat. I'd forgotten there was some actual written rules wording, and this wasn't all just stuff Crawford had added on in tweets. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 3, 2022 at 22:58

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