37
\$\begingroup\$

We have a PC that is getting very sneaky with his Sacred Flame application. Its fun outside-the-box play but if he carries a hand mirror or uses scrying spells its going to become far easier.

Can a mirror allow use of Sacred Flame around a corner?

Can a PC scry to the other side of a door and use this sight to activate sacred flame?

Rules for Total cover:

A target with total cover can’t be targeted directly by an attack or a spell, although some spells can reach such a target by including it in an area of effect. (PHB 196)

Sacred Flame Text:

Flame-like radiance descends on a creature that you can see within range. The target must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or take 1d8 radiant damage. The target gains no benefit from cover for this saving throw. (PHB 272)

Sacred flame specifically states "that you can see".

It is also confusing what the "area of effect" might be.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ Great first question! Answering it actually caused me to realise that a previous answer I've given included incorrect details, so thanks for that! \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Jan 25 '15 at 11:23
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ ♦ Reminder: We do not support answers in comments because comments do not support features like proper voting and the wiki-style editing that allow us to vet and improve the content. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 17 '17 at 18:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just a reminder that even if the RAW or RAI allow or disallow something, it's up to the GM (and the rest of table) if they want to play that way or not. It's okay to say X is more fun so we're going to do X instead. \$\endgroup\$ – Wesley Obenshain Sep 19 '17 at 17:00
9
\$\begingroup\$

Yes you can target the creature with a mirror

Sacred flame is an exception to the rule requiring a clear path to the target

Sacred flame says:

Flame-like radiance descends on a creature that you can see within range. The target must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or take 1d8 radiant damage. The target gains no benefit from cover for this saving throw.

Jeremy Crawford talks about this on the Jan. 19, 2017 episode of Dragon Talk ("Wolfgang Baur on DMing for Girl Scouts"). Starting at 36:20, he says:

There are spells that create exceptions to this rule about needing a path clear of obstruction. One cantrip [that breaks] this rule is sacred flame. Sacred flame is one of the low level spells that has this text: "The target gains no benefit from cover for this saving throw." [...] So, they're getting no benefit from cover [...] and that includes total cover. So sacred flame is one of the few spells that allows you to target somebody even if they're behind total cover. [...] You can be looking through the window in the tower and cast it on someone outside.

So, since sacred flame ignores cover, the only issue for the spellcaster is that they need to be able to see the creature. And the mirror takes care of that.

Narrative explanation

The reason this works narratively is also explained by Crawford in that same discussion.

The narrative reason for that, the reason I wrote it that way, is that sacred flame is coming down from above the person. The idea is the cleric is calling this divine energy down on the target and it is not actually shooting out from the cleric, it's coming down. [Which is an exception] and in the game the exceptional always beats the general.

\$\endgroup\$
11
\$\begingroup\$

No, you can't use a mirror to target Sacred Flame in this way. Note that this isn't about line of sight; the relevant section is on page 204 of the PHB, in the Targets section of the Spellcasting chapter:

A Clear Path to the Target

To target something, you must have a clear path to it, so it can't be behind total cover.

The rules for total cover that you quoted also support this conclusion. You can't use a spell directly on a target with total cover.

The bit about area of effect is just pointing out that while you can't target, e.g., a fireball, on a target with total cover, you can place it somewhere where a creature with total cover will be included in the radius of the fireball. Sacred Flame doesn't have an area of effect, so it can only be targeted on a single creature.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ @iraserd LOS =/= clear path, otherwise everyone would be able to walk right through glass doors. \$\endgroup\$ – user2813274 Jan 25 '15 at 18:02
  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ @iraserd Previous versions of D&D talk about "line of effect" and "line of sight" as separate things, where transparent glass blocks line of effect but not like of sight, opaque fog blocks line of sight but not line of effect, and stone blocks both. 5e doesn't seem to use these terms, but the notions behind them are still present. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 25 '15 at 19:55
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ @miniman: from the spell description, the flame does not travel from the caster to the target. It descends upon them once the caster identifies the target. The minimum condition to identify the target is met by seeing it. Once identified, down comes the sacred flame. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 21 '15 at 14:42
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ This answer ignores the specific part of Sacred Flame that ignores cover. \$\endgroup\$ – Derek Stucki Jun 15 '17 at 20:31
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ Please listen to this podcast's official Sage Advice segment where Jeremy Crawford specifically says that Sacred Flame ignores total cover. The discussion of total cover starts at 32:00, with sacred flame discussed at 36:20. \$\endgroup\$ – Derek Stucki Jun 16 '17 at 14:35
10
\$\begingroup\$

This is D&D - Specific Beats General

This book contains rules, especially in parts 2 and 3, that govern how the game plays. That said, many racial traits, class features, spells, magic items, monster abilities, and other game elements break the general rules in some way, creating an exception to how the rest of the game works. Remember this: If a specific rule contradicts a general rule, the specific rule wins. (Basic Rules p4)

General Rules

Targeting

A target with total cover can’t be targeted directly by an attack or a spell, although some spells can reach such a target by including it in an area of effect. (PHB 196)

Clear Path to the Target

To target something, you must have a clear path to it, so it can't be behind total cover.

Specific Rule

Sacred Flame

Flame-like radiance descends on a creature that you can see within range. The target must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or take 1d8 radiant damage. The target gains no benefit from cover for this saving throw. (PHB 272)

The specific rules of the spell are clear and explicit - "that you can see within range". No mention of the general targeting or clear path rules. Specific trumps general so yes you can.

Crawford calls this particular spell out in a podcast (http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/wolfgang-baur-girl-scouts-midgard.), explaining that it is an exception to the normal rules of targeting. For example, it can be cast through a pane of glass, where other spells cannot.

This is quite imaginative play but remember, what's good for the goose is good for the gander; one day the PC should not be surprised to have a Sacred Flame (or something with the same targeting mechanic - hint - Magic Missile) coming back the other way.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Except, nearly every spell is worded that way. Are we supposed to believe that most spells ignore the basic targeting rules unless they repeat them in their description? If yes, then one wonders why the basic targeting rules even exist… \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 27 '15 at 23:32
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This is not a case of specific beats general. First off; Sacred Flame does use the general targeting rules: "The target must succeed... The target gains no...", not all spells are worded as "choose a target" or "you target X". Secondly; very few (if any) spells specifically state in their description that you need a clear path to the target, thus the general targeting rules are in play. Thirdly; "that you can see within range". Range is linked with targeting. *"The target must be within the spell's range." (PHB pg.202) \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey Jan 27 '15 at 23:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ PM: Dale seems to have parsed the spell description accurately. The Sacred Flame descends and does not appear from its description to travel from the finger of the caster to the target, like a magic missile. So, you have to be able to see the target (and I'll grant you, it can't be under full cover) for that magical flame to descend upon that target. As the LOS between the target and the mirror does not block seeing, and the LOS between the caster and the mirror is not blocked, cumulatively you have no blocking of the requirement to see the target. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 21 '15 at 14:38
  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ This answer is correct but for different reasons than the ones stated. Jeremy mentions in the podcast at 36:30 that the exception is in the phrase "The target gains no benefit from cover for this saving throw"; since "cover" is unqualified and includes all degrees of cover, he argues the target gains no benefit from total cover either and thus can be targeted. \$\endgroup\$ – Doval Jun 15 '17 at 21:25
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Note that this discussion from Crawford falls within the "Sage Advice" section of the podcast and therefore should probably be considered an official rule/ruling, as per how we treat Sage Advice column answers. (Though @Doval is correct as to why the Sage Advice segment says Sacred Flame may hit the target) \$\endgroup\$ – CTWind Jun 15 '17 at 22:26
1
\$\begingroup\$

Please note that during his 1/19/17 dragon talk podcast Jeremy Crawford specifically said that Sacred Flame is the only exception to the Line of Effect. As long as the caster sees (LoS, through a glass window, via scrying ... all valid) the target he can hit it with sacred flame.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Who said? And is there a link to the primary source available? \$\endgroup\$ – SirTechSpec Sep 19 '17 at 16:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SirTechSpec I think it was Crawford, but the clue is in 1/19/17 dragontalk. I think that's something findable/linkable on the net. LIke this podcast \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 19 '17 at 16:55
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @SirTechSpec He's referring to the same source Dale M has in his answer here, likely the portion Doval mentions in his comment on that answer. \$\endgroup\$ – CTWind Sep 19 '17 at 16:59
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ He did not say it is the only exception only that it is an exception. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Feb 19 '18 at 16:53
-1
\$\begingroup\$

No, you can't target sacred flame through total cover, even if you can see the target.

The target of the spell is a creature within range, and the general rule of targeting is that it must not be behind total cover from the caster. This is mentioned both in the rule of total cover you quoted, and in the Targets section.

To target something, you must have a clear path to it, so it can't be behind total cover. (Clear Path to the Target, PHB 204)

If the spell description would have said you did not need clear path to the target, then it would have won over this general rule. The description of the spell does mention cover, but not in relation to the targeting mechanism. It only states the target would not benefit from cover for the saving throw of the spell.

Flame-like radiance descends on a creature that you can see within range. The target must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or take 1d8 radiant damage. The target gains no benefit from cover for this saving throw. (Sacred Flame, PHB 272)

This means that if the target has half or three-quarter cover it would not have bonuses for the Dexterity saving throw it will need to roll. You can see those bonuses in the cover section, just before the total cover rule you quoted.

A target with half cover has a +2 bonus to AC and Dexterity saving throws...
A target with three-quarters cover has a +5 bonus to AC and Dexterity saving throws... (Cover, PHB 186)

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ You being around the corner does not mean that the creature has total cover. The use of the mirror that ends up with a line of sight to the target means that total cover is not present. The spell does not originate in the caster the way firebolt does, or acid spray. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 15 '17 at 20:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ You might be right about it not being a total cover. The unfortunate use of the word "concealed" in the rules of total cover might mean concealed from the caster's eyes (though I really doubt that was the meaning). Luckily, we don't need the rules for cover here. You can't target something without "a clear path to it", and you don't have it if you're around a corner, so you can't target it, regardless of cover. \$\endgroup\$ – Syberpuppy Jun 20 '17 at 0:53
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ FWIW< this podcast may be helpful \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 19 '17 at 16:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.