Suppose the Fighter is successfully grappling an Orc. The Fighter then drags the Orc into the area of his Druid friend's Moonbeam so that, grid-wise, the Orc's space is fully inside the Moonbeam's AOE while the Fighter is right at its edge, with his space fully outside of the AOE. The Fighter is maintaining the grapple throughout this time, and he intends to just hold the Orc there and cook him under the Moonbeam.

In the specific scenario, is the Fighter subject to the effects of the Moonbeam spell?

I know that different DM's handle this differently (I'm personally on the "Not Affected Because He's Not Fully In The AOE" camp), so what I'd really like is as close to RAW an interpretation as I can get. Thanks. :)


Excellent question. What we are looking at here is:

  • How do areas of effect work, and
  • How moving someone in a grapple works.

Area of Effect

The general rules for area of effects are detailed on p. 204 of the PHB. Now an area of effect is defined very precisely. What is not stated of how much of a target is required to be in the area of effect for it to be a target. For example, Moonbeam says "When a creature enters the spell’s area for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there, ..." which offers no clarification.

So, by the RAW you are either in the AOE or you aren't. If you are 100% inside then you are clearly in it. If you are 0% inside you are clearly not. In the absence of further information it is a DM call at what point between 0% and 100% counts as being in the AOE.


The grappling rules (p. 195 PHB) say:

When you want to grab a creature or wrestle with it, ... Using at least one free hand, you try to seize the target ... When you move, you can drag or carry the grappled creature with you ...

So, you must use "at least one free hand" but you can use one hand, both legs, a tail and your teeth if you want to. That hand is in physical contact with the other creature but there can be anything from 0 to say 4 feet between the bulk of you and the bulk of it for medium sized humanoids and from a game mechanics purpose it doesn't matter.

Can you hold someone in an AOE without being affected yourself?

Knowing what we know now the answer is clearly yes.

If the rules of your table require x% of someone to be in the AOE then you can certainly position yourself and the grappled creature (aka victim) so that he has at least x% in the AOE and you have less then x%, irrespective of what x is.

Optional Rule: Grids

This makes things even easier. DMG p. 195 says:

Choose an intersection of squares or hexes as the point of origin of an area of effect, then follow its rules as normal. If an area of effect is circular and covers at least half a square, it affects that square.

AOE therefore always conform to the grid; so you are either in a square within the AOE or you aren't. QED.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for a clearly-presented case. I especially like that "at least half a square" clause - I think I'll be adopting that rule for my tables. Thanks for that tidbit. ^_^ \$\endgroup\$
    – Pitzy
    Nov 19 '15 at 5:32
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Point of contention: There's no rule supporting % of body being damaged. Damage is irrespective of how much of something is showing. Case in point, a knight in full plate has no body parts showing. Another example is a target behind a tree with only a thigh showing. Hitting the thigh does not reduce the damage dealt. Heat Metal burns your hand if you're holding a metal weapon/object, and there is no reduction for that small percentage either. Because of this, I would argue that the target doesn't even need to be fully in the effect to suffer the damage. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 19 '15 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ If we are using Minis and we borrow from other battle systems (I.e. Warmachine, WarHammer, hordes, etc.) in those games, the rule is if the base of your mini is in range, then the mini is in range. If it's not then it's not. UNLESS, the AOE description says the mini must be fully within range. In that case the entire base of the mini must be within the AOE. So if we borrow than concept and read the AOE rule of the effect, does it say "any part of" or "anyone entirely within" as part of the description? If it doesn't, then I would rule that if the base is touching, then you are effected. \$\endgroup\$
    – Escoce
    Nov 19 '15 at 15:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's worth mentioning that the subject of the grapple and the grappler are still in their own spaces. It's more like joint manipulation than full on wrestling. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 19 '15 at 19:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LinoFrankCiaralli that's not what I say. All I say is that some part (x%) needs to be in the AOE to be affected. If you like, you can say that putting the edge of a fingernail is enough. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Nov 19 '15 at 21:44

I think the answer to this questions depends whether you are using a grid and miniatures or similar to handle combat, as opposed to a descriptive combat.

Having looked at the Player's Handbook, there isn't a clear RAW answer to your question. On page 195 it talks about "grabbing or wrestling with" the target - grabbing can be done at arms length, whilst wrestling implies wrapping your arms around it. In both instances, a character is in physical contact with the target.

Area of Effects (line, cone, cube, sphere, cylinder p.204) are not defined by squares as if using a grid, but by length, width and radii. Therefore, the AOE can occupy just part of a grid square as well as an entire square.

If using a grid (p.192), then the grappling rules don't specify you have to enter the target's square to create the grappled condition. Using miniatures and a grid, the two figures just have to be within reach (typically adjacent) of each other. Therefore, if the grappler moves the target into the AOE, wholly or partially, then it is affected whilst the grappler is unaffected, as represented by one miniature being within and one without the AOE.

If not using a grid, then it is not so clear. Grappling and being grappled requires physical contact, therefore I think RAW means the grappler is also affected by the AOE because we are dealing in absolutes (you are either in or out of the AOE, as you either take damage or you don't). There are no rules which specify proportionate damage, e.g. you are only 75% in the AOE therefore you only take 75% of the damage. As the grappler has to have physical contact with the target, and the target has to be in the AOE, it therefore takes the damage as well.

To conclude, if you are using a grid, RAW means the grappler can place the target in the AOE and remain unaffected. If not using a grid, RAW means the grappler is affected as well as the target.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ You can assume either scenario (grid or Mind's Theatre) 'coz we play in either mode, depending on circumstances. I think it's a lot easier to justify without a grid: "I grab the Orc by the neck, and press his back into the beam". From a descriptive point of view, that's enough for me to judge that the Orc is taking damage from the beam, while the Fighter doesn't. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pitzy
    Nov 19 '15 at 5:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with you and that's how I would apply it also. But the question was RAW. The grid removes the ambiguity from the grappled description, otherwise (RAW) they're both affected is my interpretation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Adrian
    Nov 19 '15 at 5:49

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