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The party paladin (Oath of Vengeance) is currently 18th level and we are planning on playing to 20th. Eventually he will get the Avenging Angel class feature, which states, in part:

At 20th level, you can assume the form of an angelic avenger. Using your action, you undergo a transformation...You emanate an aura of menace in a 30-foot radius. The first time any enemy creature enters the aura or starts its turn there during a battle, the creature must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or become frightened of you for 1 minute or until it takes any damage.

I am unsure whether the "first time" clause is only for the first part of the compound sentence, or whether it distributes to both parts.

That is, am I supposed to parse this as:

The first time any enemy creature enters the aura, as well as the first time any enemy creature starts its turn in the aura during a battle, the creature must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw...

such that any given creature could be made to save at most two times

or as:

The first time any enemy creature enters the aura, or whenever any enemy creature starts its turn in the aura during a battle, the creature must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw...

such that there is no limit to the number of times a creature can be made to save so long as the battle continues?

Which of these readings is correct?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @anagkai Wikidot is a non-licensed third party and their extensive use of IP material is problematic. I believe site policy is that we do not link to them, but you could flag for moderator attention to receive a definitive answer. I appreciate your edit but have removed the link. The correct link would be to the Oath of Vengeance section in the paywalled PHB. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Mar 31, 2023 at 23:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ I checked on meta. Different linked site but I think the the same reasoning applies. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anagkai
    Apr 1, 2023 at 5:42

2 Answers 2

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It's neither - each creature is affected only once.

The "the first time" refers to the first time during a battle (combat) the condition in the ability is fulfilled, which can happen in one of to ways (hence the "or"). The "any creature" refers to the fact that each creature can be subject to the effect once per battle.

There's a parallelism with spells like Moonbeam which say:

When a creature enters the spell's area for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there

What we have at hand is the analogous formulation for once per combat instead of once per turn.

The second part of the sentence does not make sense without the first part. In the Moonbeam case you need the "when" at the beginning of the sentence to build a valid English sentence. In your case the "the first time" is necessary for the second part to make a valid English sentence:

a creature starts its turn there

does not make sense as a conditional,

the first time a creature starts its turn there

does. The sentence therefore could be read as:

The first time a creature enters the area or the first time a creature starts its turn in the area

Since it is connected by an "or", not an "and" it only happens once and not twice.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The part about the second part of the sentence not making sense as a conditional was what I was trying to understand but couldn't put my finger on. Well done. Will likely accept unless something better appears. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Apr 1, 2023 at 17:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt: Also remember that moving the area (in this case by the paladin walking) doesn't count as a creature "entering" area (Is the Moonbeam spell amazing, or are we doing it wrong?), so it makes sense that wording intended to be once-per-combat would cover both entering (walking or being pushed in) and starting a turn in the area (paladin moves toward them), to not let them charge in and attack the paladin from outside 30ft without being affected, and to not let them avoid having ever "entered" the area if they stay still. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 1, 2023 at 18:56
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Your second parsing is correct.

There are several similar spells and effects that are templated in much the same way. They cause an immediate effect the first time that enemies are close enough, and again on any later turn when any enemy starts its turn within the area of effect. For example Spirit Guardians, Moonbeam, and Cloud of Daggers.

Presumably this is to prevent requiring multiple saves by moving back an forth so that enemies cross the boundary multiple times, while still being a relevant ongoing effect, which applies on any turn that an enemy starts its turn in the affected area.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Moonbeam at least I addressed in a comment to Anagkai's answer. Spirit Guardians and Cloud of Daggers use the same structure as Moonbeam, but not the same structure as Avenging Angel. That is the source of my confusion and so far your answer does not address it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Apr 1, 2023 at 16:31

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