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We have the below snippet from the description of the Curse of the Evil Eye ability from Fomorian's statblock. (MM. Page 136)

...On a failed save, the creature is also cursed with magical deformities. While deformed, the creature has its speed halved and has disadvantage on ability checks, saving throws, and attacks based on Strength or Dexterity.

The question is: are all the things the affected creature gains disadvantage to only related to Strength and Dexterity? Or do they have disadvantage on all saving throws and ability checks?

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Looking at just the text, I think you are correct that it is ambiguous as the whether the "based on Strength or Dexterity" clause is attached to just attacks or all of the preceding items. Therefore, I don't think you will find an explicit answer in the text.

However, if we consider the actual description of the curse as deforming the target, we can make a reasonable supposition. Since the deformation at least causes attacks based on Strength or Dexterity (and no other kinds of attacks) to take a penalty, it seems to me that it is purely physical in nature. Thus, I'd suppose that the "based on Strength or Dexterity" clause should apply to all of the preceding items, and not only to attacks.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While I think this is a pretty solid answer, how would you respond to a comment regarding the cursed character's physical appearance in relation to their Charisma saves and ability checks? Being physically hideous can be detrimental to most of them. \$\endgroup\$ – D. Sorrim Jul 19 '16 at 3:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ They take no penalty to anything related to Charisma because the text doesn't say that they do. Any comment or ruling otherwise would be a house rule. If you are looking for a more fiction-based explanation as to why that might be the case, one could argue Charisma represents a character's force of personality, social grace, and eloquence, and that issues with appearance or physical grace are not enough of a problem to create a penalty. \$\endgroup\$ – Zhuge Jul 19 '16 at 3:40
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I believe in cases where they have a long string, the syntax of the semicolon separates the clause. For example, if you look at something with resistance to non-magical weaponry, it will have the semi-colon to separate those groups of lines.

So in order for it to be an independent description, it would be worded like: ability checks, saving throws; and attacks based on Strength or Dexterity.

That would remove the modified at the end, and make it just attacks based on STR or DEX.

Yes, I believe it is all the ability checks and saving throws related to STR and DEX.

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