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The cloud lasts up to 1 minute, and specifies 4d4 damage. Is the damage rolled when you cast it, or is it rolled each time an enemy is afflicted by the cloud?

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3 Answers 3

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A creature takes 4d4 slashing damage when it enters the spell’s area for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there.

This 4d4 damage is per time affected (and per creature), not once for the spell. You do not roll once when casting the spell and then deal the same damage to the affected creature each time the spell deals damage; you roll once for each instance of damage. This is true for almost all methods of dealing damage.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! This makes sense to me. I guess what got me hung up was how on multi-target affects you "roll damage once for all [targets]" (PHB 196), but it makes sense to consider that more of a "roll once for each instance of damage". \$\endgroup\$
    – alienth
    May 12, 2015 at 9:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @alienth Ah, that makes sense. Yes, I'd rule that that's one instance of damage whereas everyone running into the cloud is damaged separately. If they all walked into it at once somehow (maybe mass teleportation of some kind?) I might roll once for the group but I'd more likely skip the initial damage and just have them take damage at the start of their turns. \$\endgroup\$ May 12, 2015 at 18:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ That rule for damage rolls applies when an "[...] effect deals damage to more than one target at the same time [...]" (PHB 196; bold emphasis in original, italics mine) It's not just about AoE spells, even something like magic missile follows the rule as written. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 16, 2021 at 6:22
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This question was officially clarified in the Sage Advice Compendium:

Does moonbeam deal damage when you cast it?

...[N]o.
Here are some spells with the same timing as moonbeam for their areas of effect:

  • blade barrier
  • cloudkill
  • cloud of daggers
  • Evard’s black tentacles
  • forbiddance
  • moonbeam [sic]
  • sleet storm
  • spirit guardians

(emphasis in the question in the original; emphasis in the answer mine)

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You fill the air with spinning daggers in a cube 5 feet on each side, centered on a point you choose within range. A creature takes 4d4 slashing damage when it enters the spell’s area for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there. (PHB 222)

That means it only takes damage on its turn, either when it starts there, or if it moves into the cloud.

Also a nifty trick: get another party member to grapple the opponent and hold them in the cloud. Or have someone perform a shove to knock them into the cloud. If the cloud is in a corridor, your tank can stand next to the enemy and they will be forced to disengage if they want to leave the cloud.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It doesn't only take damage on its turn. Note the spell says "enters the spell's area for the first time on a turn". \$\endgroup\$ May 12, 2015 at 6:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, it seems like that is the case. Although, the wording there is confusing: how can you move when it's not a turn? \$\endgroup\$
    – rlbond86
    May 12, 2015 at 6:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ What I mean is that the spell doesn't say "enters the spell's area for the first time on its turn". Therefore it can take damage if it's forced to enter the cloud on someone else's turn I.E. via the shove action. So it doesn't take damage only on its turn. \$\endgroup\$ May 12, 2015 at 6:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ If it didn't have "on a turn" you could enter the cloud one turn take your damage, leave and then next turn reenter the cloud and not take damage because it isn't the first time you entered the cloud. "On a turn" is providing clarification as to how often you can take the damage, not implying there is a way of moving into the cloud outside of turns. \$\endgroup\$
    – diego
    May 12, 2015 at 13:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ The example provided by @KorvinStarmast isn't accurate. When B casts daggers where A stands, A doesn't take damage during B's turn because A didn't enter the spell area in B's turn. A will suffer damage on its own turn instead. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tarod
    Dec 29, 2023 at 1:58

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