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When casting WoF, you can cast it as a ring, and designate the inside of the ring to be the damage side (thus, everyone inside must save or take 5d8 at the time of casting). The spell then says

"A creature takes the same damage when it enters the wall for the first time on a turn or ends its turn there."

So, by making a ring-shaped wall, are the creatures inside forced to save again on their turn (because they either ended within 2 squares of the damaging side, or they entered the wall's space)?

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Yes, that's almost (but not quite) correct.

Creating the wall of fire as a ring means everyone inside is going to take damage, yes. However, it's better than you're thinking, because they don't get any saving throws!

The saving throw is only for anyone in the area of the spell when the wall of fire first appears:

When the wall appears, each creature within its area must make a Dexterity saving throw.

That's the only time the spell grants anyone a saving throw. Since spells only do what they say and no more or less, and only grant saves when they say they do, nobody gets a saving throw for any other part of the spell.

Further, the area doesn't include the space surrounded by the wall: the area of a wall spell is only those spaces the wall itself actually occupies — everything surrounded by the wall is just “a bad place to be” (especially for wall of fire). And notice that the save is Dexterity: it's for partially getting out of the way of the forming wall, not for partially resisting the damage (like a Con save would indicate).

So the short version: you cast the spell as a ring with the damage side in, and everyone standing exactly where the wall forms takes 5d8 damage or half on a Dex save; meanwhile anyone surrounded by the ring takes no damage immediately, but will start taking 5d8 damage (no save) at the end of their turn, every turn, until the spell ends or they exit through the wall (taking another 5d8 fire damage, no save, for the effort).

One last point: Careful Spell metamagic (which someone mentioned in a comment) isn't very useful for a ringed wall of fire. All Careful Spell lets a sorcerer do is let a chosen creature automatically succeed on any saving throws the spell grants — it won't protect anyone surrounded by the ring, because they're not getting any saving throws. You could give a friend who happens to be standing right where you want the wall itself to form an automatic save (for half 5d8 damage) just when the wall comes into existence, but that's it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ For some reason, this appears answered 4 hours ago (and I got a notification), despite the question being ~2 years old. However, I'm wondering if this has been errataed in the Sage columns? \$\endgroup\$ – Khashir Jul 29 '16 at 20:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Khashir This is a new answer, yes. The other one is (in my humble opinion) wrong on some details, such as the saving throw. I wrote a new answer that is, I believe, more accurate. (Questions are never “dead” here so long as they are open, so that their answers always have the possibility of improving.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 29 '16 at 20:30
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Yes, by casting it as a ring with the damage side inward you are forcing all creatures within to make the saving throw again regardless of whether or not they try to escape.

As you observe everyone within the ring is within 10 feet of a wall so if they stay, they have to make a save. Likewise if they try to leave they will enter the wall and be forced to make a save as part of the action. Wall of Fire has lots of utility; imagine casting it as a ring with the damage facing out to protect the party.

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    \$\begingroup\$ woah! and you can use the metamagic careful spell to exclude an ally to allow him to potentially stay in the ring of fire and be unhurt while everyone else is going to be taking damage, save or no save! \$\endgroup\$ – othniel2005 Sep 16 '14 at 21:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, though WoF still deals half damage on a save... \$\endgroup\$ – Khashir Sep 16 '14 at 21:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ my golden dragonborn is gonna be just frosty with that hehehe \$\endgroup\$ – othniel2005 Sep 16 '14 at 21:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JoshuaAslanSmith: So, after reading the spell description more carefully, I think the answer is not correct =\. On the turn it's cast, WoF deals damage only to creatures that are inside the wall's space (i.e., excluding the damage-dealing side); and the damage-dealing side only deals damage when the creature ends its turn in the area. However, there's still a way to get 2x with one casting (though it will depend on the creature wanting to brave the wall): basically, casting it at 20/25 ft away from the creature, with the damage-dealing side on the side opposite to the creature. \$\endgroup\$ – Khashir Oct 1 '14 at 13:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer is incorrect. The initial casting of the spell is the only part that allows a saving throw. The damage for passing through the wall or remaining in the area that deals damage does not grant a saving throw. \$\endgroup\$ – Bill Nadeau May 10 '17 at 19:38

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