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My 9th-level Tempest Domain cleric is about to embark on a sea voyage to the ice sea. I realized that my new destructive wave domain spell requires that "You strike the ground" to trigger it.

Is there a way to trigger this spell while on a ship?

We have been warned there will be encounters on the journey at sea.

I am trying to head off a debate with my DM when I try to use this spell at sea.

  • Since we walk on the deck, can that be considered ground (i.e. can I strike the deck)?
  • Like vampires that take dirt along to survive sea voyages, can a bucket of dirt (ground) be used (I strike the 'ground' in the bucket!) to trigger the spell?
  • Or if I walk onto an iceberg, since I have a ring of water walking, can that be considered ground?

Tempest gods are followed by seafaring people as storms impact them greatly. So it would seem kind of odd not to be able to use a unique Tempest Domain spell at sea.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is the word "ground" used anywhere else in the rulebook? There might be another usage that would set a precedent. \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 2:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DCShannon The spell description does not mention the spell being confined to earth (the element). As the books are not out in digital format, a word search for earth is a bit tedious across two volumes. Ground seems to be a generic "what you are standing on" but as my answer suggests, a rules lawyer can make hay with that. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 3:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast: I suppose it's now possible to search spell text for "ground" on D&D Beyond! And there are quite a few such spells that mention "the ground". (That may not be an exhaustive list, since I know the search has issues.) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 20:52

1 Answer 1

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The wording can be seen to be ambiguous.

The spell description does not mention the spell being confined to earth (the element). A fair interpretation or ruling would be that you strike "whatever you are standing upon" but that leaves open some interpretations such as those you present in your question.

PHB p. 231: You strike the ground, creating a burst of divine energy that ripples outward from you.

(Constitution save for half of 5d6 radiant plus 5d6 necrotic or thunder as chosen by the cleric)

Since one could interpret this as "ground" meaning only earth or that which is attached to the earth (how would the wooden floor of a second story building apply?), and since some folks are rules lawyers and/or very literalist (word over spirit of the rules) in their take on rules ... it would be a good idea to discuss this detail with your DM before you begin the adventure so that you know where it does and does not work. This discussion will clear the air and help the DM decide where it works, or doesn't, ahead of time.

How would I rule it?

If I am in a building on the land, and on the second floor, and that has a wooden floor, I'd still be able to "strike the ground" and make the spell work. Likewise on the deck of a ship, or on an iceberg.

KISS principle in action.

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