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Suppose I'm a wizard and I'm facing a ranger. If I drop Flaming Sphere between him and myself, do we still have line of sight to each other or does the sphere block it?

Unlike Wall of Fire, Flaming Sphere is not explicitly stated to be opaque which would lead me to think that it is a translucent magical fire that just happens to be in the shape of a 5 foot sphere, but you have to create it on an unoccupied space and the description speaks of ramming it into other objects as if it were physical which makes me think it's like some kind of Indiana Jones boulder covered in napalm, but ramming things doesn't do bludgeoning damage, so is it like one of those human hamster balls but covered in fire?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you more concerned with the wizards line of sight, or the rangers? \$\endgroup\$ – Drunk Cynic Aug 22 '16 at 5:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik Please don't attempt to answer in comments by guessing/asking if this edition works like a more familiar edition. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 22 '16 at 14:29
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GM ruling covers this: line of sight may be obscured

The rules don't specify whether the flaming sphere opaque or not, but there are some rules that can help the DM make a ruling on this situation (italic emphasis mine):

Making an Attack (SRD p. 94):

  1. Choose a target. […]
  2. Determine modifiers. The GM determines whether the target has cover and whether you have advantage or disadvantage against the target. In addition, spells, special abilities, and other effects can apply penalties or bonuses to your attack roll.

The GM makes a ruling on cover (yes/no) and how much cover(half, 3/4, total). What is available to assist in making this ruling? Cover and Vision rules offer some help.

Cover (p. 96 SRD):

A target with half cover has a +2 bonus to AC and Dexterity saving throws. A target has half cover if an obstacle blocks at least half of its body. The obstacle might be a low wall, a large piece of furniture, a narrow tree trunk, or a creature, whether that creature is an enemy or a friend.

A target with three‑quarters cover has a +5 bonus to AC and Dexterity saving throws. A target has three‑quarters cover if about three‑quarters of it is covered by an obstacle. The obstacle might be a portcullis, an arrow slit, or a thick tree trunk.

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. A target has total cover if it is completely concealed by an obstacle.

But the fire isn't solid, is it? (Neither is a portcullis, but I digress). You could shoot through the fire if you see some of the target behind there. But is there a penalty to the shot, since you can't see the whole target?

Look at the situation and decide if the flaming sphere provides some, a lot, total, or no cover.

  • How much of the target can the Ranger see?
  • How big is the target as compared to the flaming sphere?
  • Does the Ranger have some room to move to get a better look before releasing the arrow?

It will depend on the situation. In a 5' wide hallway, you could make the case for 1/2 cover, while in a large room where a Ranger can step to either side there may be no cover at all.

Why "cover" from a non-solid object?

Obscured vision. Is the target partly obscured by this big old ball of fire?

Vision and Light (SRD p. 86):

In a lightly obscured area, such as dim light, patchy fog, or moderate foliage, creatures have disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.

Foliage isn't opaque, per se, but it can certainly obstruct vision. You could consider the flaming sphere something like a burning bush: if not opaque, certainly an obstruction to vision.

Combine "obscured" with "cover" and you can make a good case for 1/2 cover in a situation where the Ranger can't move to get a clearer look at the target. I'd have a harder time arguing 3/4 cover or total, since the flame isn't a solid object.

Make a ruling, and play on!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Edit appreciated, much cleaner. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 22 '16 at 15:13
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If you like; I prefer my flaming spheres with a coppery green colour with little clowns playing leapfrog amongst the flames.

What the rules do say is, its a sphere of fire:

a round solid figure, or its surface, with every point on its surface equidistant from its centre.

A sphere can be either a solid ball i.e. fire all the way through, 5 feet of which is going to be pretty damn opaque no matter how translucent the flames are or its the surface. Both are valid English meanings. It is not, however, anything "covered with fire"; it's just fire.

As the rules don't say then it is up to your group to imagine how these things are:

  1. Its opaque and blocks line of sight
  2. Its translucent and doesn't
  3. The caster can decide each time they cast the spell

Hint: No 2 is by far the simplest to play with.

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