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Let's say a vampire is trapped inside a Resilient Sphere, which says:

Nothing can pass through the sphere, inside or out, though the subject can breathe normally.

And now this vampire (and that sphere) is put under the natural sunlight.

Since "Nothing can pass through the sphere, inside or out", should I say this vampire can survive? If so, should I tell my PCs that "light and sound cannot pass through, so all you can see is a purely-black (or mirror-like, if it reflects all kinds of lights) sphere that you just created, and creatures trapped by it are also considered blind and deaf to the outside world"?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure how the question in the title goes with the question in the body. (Also, it's enough to link to the spell and quote the relevant parts; the whole spell isn't necessary. And using code for quotations interferes with universal access; quoting normally is better.) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 8, 2023 at 14:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Thanks for noting, it is supposed to be "light effect" not "force effect". \$\endgroup\$ Jun 8, 2023 at 19:51

2 Answers 2

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The vampire's safe from outside sunlight while it's inside the sphere

Unlike some force effects that call out the fact that they're invisible, the 4th-level Sor/Wiz spell Otiluke's resilient sphere [evoc] (PH 258–9) doesn't say that its globe effect is invisible but, instead, that its effect is a "globe of shimmering force." (Compare this with, for example, the 5th-level Sor/Wiz spell wall of force [evoc] (PH 298–9) that, in part, says, that it "creates an invisible wall.")

So while I had always imagined the resilient sphere effect as transparent—because, let's face it, it totally sounds like it's trapping a victim within a magical hamster ball—, the spell hasn't ever actually said that the force effect that it creates is transparent—or even translucent like the amber that's half of its material component (clear crystal is the other). To make sure, I went back and checked, and, sure enough, that part of the resilient sphere spell's description remains unchanged from the spell's original appearance in Gygax's "New Magic-user Spells" (Dragon #67 (1982) 57) through "the Player's Handbook (1989) for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Second Edition, and into Third Edition.

Before you asked this question, I would've ruled that the vampire was destroyed because the sphere effect is obviously transparent. However, now that you've pointed out that I've imposed my imagination on this spell for the last forty years, I'd rule that the vampire's safe, both sound and light (even the direct light of the sun) being unable to penetrate the resilient sphere effect.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @TerryWindwalker This really makes me doubt a little that the sphere is really meant to be opaque. Otiluke's Telekinetic Sphere functions just like Otiluke's Resilient Sphere with the additiion that the sphere can also be lifted and moved. The caster can either be outside or inside the sphere. In the latter case, and if vision was blocked, steering the sphere would be a blind-flight. This would be rather inconvenient for an 8th level spell... \$\endgroup\$
    – Peregrin
    Jun 9, 2023 at 7:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, they really could have been a bit more precise about "nothing" :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Peregrin
    Jun 9, 2023 at 8:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TerryWindwalker As a side note, the pathfinder version of the spell (Resilient Sphere) works "as a wall of force". \$\endgroup\$
    – Peregrin
    Jun 9, 2023 at 10:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Peregrin I think it may be important to keep in mind the presentation of telekinetic sphere: Its very last line of description is this: "You can move the sphere telekinetically even if you are in it." The remainder of its description assumes you're poké balling not you, rendering the question of its opacity largely moot. Perhaps self-sphering is mentioned last exactly because it's typically impractical? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 9, 2023 at 16:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Peregrin RE: "Not being able to see and maneuver the sphere from inside makes the spell much weaker." Does it though? I'm serious! It's an impractical spell for long-range travel given its speed and the necessity of constant concentration. Is the plan to fly around in it and pre-explore the dungeon? Prying eyes is a 5th-level spell. Searches from the air? Mass fly is also a 5th-level spell. What did you want to do inside your invulnerable sphere that you can't now that it's opaque? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 9, 2023 at 17:47
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A bit late, since this question already has an accepted answer, here are some arguments why we should think that...

The Sphere is transparent.

  • Some force effects caused by spells are invisible (for example a Wall of Force), some are opaque (or partly opaque like Leomund's Tiny Hut which is "opaque from the outside" and "transparent from within") and some spells simply leave it to our imagination to decide whether their effects are translucent, transparent, opaque or invisible (for example Tenser’s Floating Disk). What "force" really is or means in game terms isn’t defined in the rules. Since – in real life - a force is something we cannot see, we do rather not expect a force effect created by a spell to be visible – unless the spell explicitly says so. "A globe of shimmering force" seems to describe something like a soap bubble. We can see that it’s there, it’s not invisible but we can look through it.

  • With Otiluke's Telekinetic Sphere which "functions like Otiluke's Resilient Sphere" the sphere can also be lifted and moved. The caster can either be outside or inside the sphere. It doesn't seem plausible that the caster, in the latter case, should not be able to look outside and has to maneuver the sphere blindly.

  • The spell Crushing Sphere (Lost Empires of Faerun, p 31) also builds on and "functions like Otiluke's Resilient Sphere, except that the sphere painfully constricts the target, hampering her movements and breathing". The illustration shows a troll captured in a transparent sphere.

  • The Wizard's Spell Compendium Volume Three from 1998 has on page 644 an illustration of the spell Otiluke's Telekinetic Sphere showing two transparent spheres. This is, of course, the 2nd edition version of the spell but the decisive parts ("A globe of shimmering force", "Nothing can pass through the sphere, inside or out") did not change*.

So, if we assume that the sphere is meant to be transparent, the definition "nothing can pass through the sphere, inside or out" obviously cannot include light and vision.

Is the vampire in trouble? Probably. - Although it remains for the DM to decide whether the vampire inside Otiluke's Resilient Sphere is exposed to direct sunlight (which the vampire, due to it's vulnarability, has to be afraid of) or if the sunlight passing through becomes indirect sunlight that can't destroy a vampire. (Also see this Q&A here).


*Note, that in the 1st and 2nd editon versions of Otiluke's Resilient Sphere the sphere could be moved like a hamster ball (which also wouldn't make much sense if you could not see which way you roll). For the 3rd edition the line "the globe can be moved physically either by people outside the globe or by the struggles of those within" was changed to "the sphere cannot be physically moved either by people outside it or by the struggles of those within". I suppose, it was simply too complicated to define how moving the sphere from inside and (possibly at the same time) from outside should work within the complex 3rd edition rules.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ In such a case, I assume the sphere would be described as "The sphere somehow intelligently block anything that can affect objects and creatures in game-stats mean (that can cause game-stats changes) while still allowing the captured creatures sense the battlefield. That is, the captured creature can see and hear the outside world but would not be subject to any effect (even those light/sound-based effects) that would normally cause change on their character sheets. So the captured creatures would be immune to the blind effects like glittering dust and sunburst but just see a flash instead". \$\endgroup\$ Jun 13, 2023 at 0:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TerryWindwalker Yes, of course, a spell should unambiguously define what its effects are. Unfortunately, some spells simply fail to do that, especially if they were - more or less - just copied from previous editions of the game. Note, that the 5e version of Otiluke's Resilient Sphere finally defines the term "nothing" and makes things much clearer ("Nothing – not physical objects, energy, or other spell effects – can pass through the barrier, in or out…"). ... \$\endgroup\$
    – Peregrin
    Jun 13, 2023 at 7:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TerryWindwalker ... I believe, when the designers wrote the phrase "globe of shimmering force" they simply thought, it would describe something that is obviously transparent. The illustrations clearly show that the sphere is intended to be transparent. We somehow have to deal with the inconsistency of this spell ("transparent sphere" vs "nothing can pass through"). \$\endgroup\$
    – Peregrin
    Jun 13, 2023 at 7:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Even though, there's one issue remains. The Wall of Force made it clear that "Gaze attacks can operate through a wall of force" since it is transparent. But the Resilient Sphere has no related description. Instead, it simply describes "nothing can pass through the sphere, inside or out". Normally, even watching the image of the creature via a reflective surface still only gives you 50% chance to avoid gaze attacks. Is there a way to make it work by keeping the sphere transparent (like a wall of force) while still blocking the gaze attacks? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 1, 2023 at 4:55

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