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In a fairly high stakes scenario, I (DM) put a Prismatic Wall in a party's way.

It goes off, does Prismatic Wall things, one person is hit by the Indigo and Violet layers and here we develop a problem.

"I have Freedom of Movement", PC X says, "So I am immune to the Indigo layer. Look at this random YouTube comment!"

The comment in question:

'My level 15 druid of the spore tanked a prismatic wall cast by an arch wizard almost completely unharmed. being immune to the blinded condition let him ignore the violet layer, he had freedom of movement on him as a standard start of combat buff spell so he ignored indigo, shield master absorbed blue, poison immunity ignored green, absorb elements reduced yellow and the 60 temporary hp from symbiotic entity soaked up orange and red. The look on my DM's face when I just walked through his 9th level spell with less than 10 damage to my actual hit points was fantastic.' [sic]

I mentally sigh, decide not to be shitty and automatically rule out 'YouTube comment' as a secondary source, and go to the RAW.

  1. Firstly, the Green layer of Prismatic Wall just does a bunch of Poison-type damage: "The creature takes 10d6 poison damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one." I am pretty sure – from things like Dwarven Resilience which confer resistance to being poisoned AND to poison damage – that immunity to the condition does not confer immunity to the damage. (Wasn't relevant in my session, but being completest.) Am I correct?
  2. Secondly, the Indigo layer of Prismatic Wall says: "On a failed save, the creature is Restrained. It must then make a Constitution saving throw at the end of each of its turns. If it successfully saves three times, the spell ends. If it fails its save three times, it permanently turns to stone and is subjected to the Petrified condition. The successes and failures don't need to be consecutive, keep track of both until the creature collects three of a kind." This is way less clear in its interaction with:
  3. Freedom of Movement says that "the target's Movement is unaffected by Difficult Terrain, and Spells and other Magical Effects can neither reduce the target's speed nor cause the target to be Paralyzed or Restrained."

Now here's where I get hung up: it doesn't say 'As long as the creature is Restrained, it must make saves' – it says to my eyes that

  • a) The creature is restrained.
  • b) The creature must then make 3 successes or 3 fails on a save; 3 successes you win, 3 fails you stone.
  • c) Freedom of Movement does not say bupkis about the Petrified condition.
  • d) I don't see why Freedom of Movement interrupting a) means it then interrupts b).

In summation, it really looks to my eyes like the above means that you get to run around un-Restrained, good for you, but 3 fails and you are OUTTA there, a statue, I say to you GOOD DAY sir. This will make it much easier to keep going through the layers and kill the caster or get to a place where you can Dispel Magic on the condition affecting you I guess, but it's not a concentration spell so I feel like you are just making your saves.

I went with this call and it was immediate war on the part of the PC who wanted a "DM Gotcha" moment I guess – I kept returning to my logic here and that, y'know, it's a 9th level spell and the purported pinnacle of defensive spells (ahem – Forcecage – but I digress) while they lean hard on "But it says they get restrained, THEN save – it's a progression! there's no Restrained, so no THEN something happens!" I disagree and have to nuclear option version Rule 0 –
"Ok, ultimately, I am the DM and it's 10:45 PM so move on."

Am I in the wrong here? Should the condition being imposed be a 'condition precedent' for further save or suck riders?

We ended up calling it to cool tempers before we even got to whether someone immune to Blindness might escape the forced Banishment of the next Violet layer, which has a similar structure to Indigo.

Any advice would be appreciated. I'm inclined to stick to my ruling as reasonable anyway, but if I'm way off base I might consider some kind of walk-back.

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    \$\begingroup\$ A similar question: Freedom of Movement and Petrification from a basilisks gaze. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 16 at 23:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wouldn't it be 4 failed saves, as you need 1 failed save to even start the effect? \$\endgroup\$
    – Alan
    Feb 17 at 0:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related Q&A is here: The DM is always right As to 9th level spells, they make the game go all wonky, and the example you have presented is a fine test case. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 17 at 1:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Go to the store and pick up some potatoes, then go pick up my mom from the station." "Sorry honey, the store was closed, so I had to leave your mom at the station." \$\endgroup\$ Feb 17 at 10:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Btw: kudos to you and player(s) calling it to give some breathing room and time to sort it out. That's a simple-to-state meta skill that not enough of us have the wherewithal to actually call up in the moment. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Feb 17 at 15:35

3 Answers 3

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Immunity to Poison means immunity to poison

There's a previous question on the topic, and it cites the Sage Advice Compendium, which is a 1st party source. That is, it has the same weight as printed rules or errata. If you are immune to poison, you are immune to both the condition and the damage type.

The Indigo Layer is a bit opaque

On a failed save, the creature is restrained. It must then make a Constitution saving throw at the end of each of its turns. [...]

Are the restrained effect and the saving throws leading up to petrification unconnected? Maybe. Another reading would be understanding the missing sentence you suggested, "As long as the creature is Restrained, it must make saves", as implicit. A third would be, "oh, bypassing the Restrained part? Well, roll to save against petrification, then."

There was some unkindness all around

However, I would in true kindergarten style say your player started it.

A Prismatic Wall is a 9th level BFC spell, and attempting to render it useless is calling for escalation.

D&D is both a game as well as a tool for collaborative storytelling/improvised theater. What the player tried to do was basically saying "No" to you, instead of "Yes, and...".

However, you did the same right back. Understandably, but perhaps unfortunately, since friction arose.

You are the DM ; you control the world

I would not get stuck up on rules in a narrative instance. Would it be fun and interesting if the player passed through the wall mostly unscathed? Let them. Would it make a climactic fight an anti-climax? Don't let them, unless you and your group enjoy those.

Either way, I would put the rules discussion off until after the combat, and announce a pro tempore ruling that moves action along. Once combat is won, any discussion on the rules is likely not to be as heated.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ IMHO freedom of movement should work. Yes, it's "only" a lvl 4 spell but it's a quite niche spell from a class that doesn't get too many, so the cost of having this spell on standby should be included. And a 4th level slot to bypass 1/7th of a 9th level spell seems fair \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Jul 6 at 15:23
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Your ruling is correct

However, even if it wasn't, your ruling is correct because you are the DM

That is the fundamental rule of D&D 5e stated on p.6 of the PHB: "The DM narrates the results of the adventurers’ actions." Good DMs are open to discussions before they make their rulings but there is no argument once the ruling is made. If a player insists on arguing, this is the correct response:

Dr Evil Zip it

Am I in the wrong here?

Maybe - not relevant to your role as DM. If being wrong bothers you then maybe being a DM isn't for you.

If you need my validation

First, do something about your self-esteem issues: my validation isn't worth anything. Just kidding, my opinion is awesome.

  1. Immunity or resistance to poison damage does not imply immunity or advantage on saves against the poisoned condition. AFAIK, they always go together but they don't have to.
  2. Freedom of Movement prevents you from being Restrained it does not prevent you from being Petrified. So, when exposed to the Indigo wall the character makes a saving throw even though they cannot be Restrained - if they succeed we're all done, if they fail then they still have to make the saves to avoid being petrified.
  3. Finally, immunity from being Blinded would not allow you to avoid the planar transport of the violet layer.
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your opinion on point 1 disagrees with the Sage Advice Compendium (official rules clarifications). See the other answers. I assume that's what most of the downvotes are about. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 19 at 1:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Your ruling is correct" is a valid statement BUT has absolutly 0 implications on whether it is a GOOD ruling. \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Jul 6 at 15:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Hobbamok which is why the answer has a second part \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Jul 6 at 15:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM and 1. is directly contradicted by Sage Advice, which means that it IS a bad ruling \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Jul 6 at 16:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Hobbamok I agree the Sage Advice is a bad ruling \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Jul 6 at 16:36
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"Immunity to poison" is clarified by Sage Advice

Sage Advice has the following section :

Does a monk’s Purity of Body feature grant immunity to poison damage, the poisoned condition, or both? That feature grants immunity to both. As a result, a monk with Purity of Body can, for example, inhale a green dragon’s poison breath unharmed. Similarly, the monk is unaffected by ray of sickness, which both deals poison damage and imposes the poisoned condition.

For context, the relevant monk feature is worded as "immune to disease and poison". As such, we can conclude that being "immune to poison" means you are immune to both the damage type and the condition.

It makes sense to have both the condition and poison damage listed in Dwarven Resilience, because while you can resist poison damage, there is no such thing as "resisting" a condition defined in the rules.

Failing the saving throw applies all effects unless stated otherwise

The indigo layer of the wall states :

On a failed save, the creature is Restrained. It must then make a Constitution saving throw at the end of each of its turns. If it successfully saves three times, the spell ends. If it fails its save three times, it permanently turns to stone and is subjected to the Petrified condition. The successes and failures don't need to be consecutive, keep track of both until the creature collects three of a kind.

Even if the character is immune to a condition given by a spell, it isn't exempt of saving throws imposed by the spell. The immunity simply prevents them from suffering of the condition, if they fail the saving throw.

The word "then" refers to what happened "on a failed save". Even if it did not have any effect on the character, this situation still resolved, so the character is affected by the rest of the spell's effects, which means the character will be subject to the petrification's saving throws.

The spell would work the way your player thought only if it was stated that the petrification effect was dependant on the player being restrained.

Do note that even if the character was immune to the Petrified condition, they technically would still have to do the saving throws (although it would be fine for a DM to rule otherwise, for the sake of combat clarity).

The same logic apply to the violet layer : even if you're immune to blindness, failing the saving throw still makes you subject to all of the related effects, including being Banished.

Finding fault in someone for being wrong is very subjective

All I see here is someone making the final decision in a debate, so that the game can keep going. That's what a referee does in any game, and guess what? The DM is the referee. So if you're the DM, you're doing your job.

Whether or not the way you did your job was good or not is a whole different can of worms, which might be worth its own question if you really care about it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Having a resistance to one does not imply the other." <- This seems to go against the Sage Advice linked in a later answer. Do you have a comment about that? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael W.
    Feb 17 at 23:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelW. you are correct, I actually misread the description of Dwarven Resilience. I'll edit accordingly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthieu
    Feb 18 at 19:00

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