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Prayer of Healing has a casting time of 10 minutes. The typical case for this spell would be a cleric casting this on injured members of a party while they rest. But what if one more fellow drops in right before the casting time is done?

That is, do the targets of the spell need to be chosen when the spell casting is started? Or upon completion of the casting time?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So my question's closed as a duplicate of a question that was asked 4 years later? As a good reputation on SE is important for my high-tech profession, you can be assured I'll never ask another question on StackRPG. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tim Grant
    Mar 4, 2022 at 12:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Closing as a duplicate is the best tool available to point future users to where an authoritative answer can be found. In this case, your question now points to a question with the more general case and that has an answer backed by a Sage Advice Compendium ruling. The duplicate flag simply links the questions together so people can find an answer without that answer having to be repeated on every variation of the general answer. It in no way reflects on the question's author's reputation, especially since timestamps are visible as a record of what happened when. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 4, 2022 at 13:55

4 Answers 4

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Its entirely up to your group

The spell says:

Up to six creatures of your choice that you can see within range ...

It doesn't say when you need to see them. Referring back to information on targets or casting time for spells doesn't clarify this. Indeed, Can a spell be readied to trigger when its intended target comes into view? hinges on the same thing.

There are three clear alternatives:

  1. They need to be there and visible when you start casting the spell. The magic locks on and follows them wherever they go or whatever happens to your vision of them thereafter.
  2. They need to be there and visible at the end. Your spellcasting is a matter of gathering the magical energies and unleashing them upon the targets at the end.
  3. They need to be there and visible throughout. The magic is working on them while you are casting and finally takes effect at the end of the spell.

Of these, I prefer No 2. This is based on the fact that if you stop casting (or lose concentration), nothing at all happens, no effects, no spell slot loss, nothing. To my mind that means the magic happens at the end.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Your #2 also comports with the interesting suggestion by SSD, that targeting is part of the spell's effects, not prerequisites. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Sep 9, 2016 at 2:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ The PH agrees with your number 2. Page 202 (bold mine): "Each spell description in chapter 11 begins with a block of information, including the spell's name, level, school of magic, casting time, range, components, and duration. The rest of a spell entry describes the spell's effect." Choosing targets is part of the effect, not part of the casting. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 9, 2016 at 14:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Christopher that's an excellent quote to point out. I encourage you to peruse the Q&A that Dale M links in his answer and consider whether some of those posts would be improved by including it. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Sep 10, 2016 at 0:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ I like your last paragraph, and would have preferred to see that as the first paragraph, with your best supporting arguments (and the caveat that this is really a judgement call, lower down). I'm not big on "It's up to you" for an answer — everything is, right? \$\endgroup\$
    – Tim Grant
    Sep 11, 2016 at 21:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Christopher: An official Sage Advice ruling also make number 2 the (semi?)-official interpretation. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 4, 2022 at 6:31
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The spell doesn't specify, therefore it's a matter of a DM ruling

The spell description is sparse:

Up to six creatures of your choice that you can see within range regain hit points equal to 2d8+your spell casting ability modifier. The spell has no effect on undead or constructs. (snip "at higher levels" text).(PHB p. 267).

That's it.

Since that language does not include a requirement of presence by all while the spell is being cast, it can be easily read or ruled as "for a mass healing effect like this, it takes more casting to get all of that healing energy set up to release at once."

Alternatively, you could read from "that you can see within range" an implication that you have to be able to see all of them before you start casting. It doesn't specify that, but you could reasonably infer that.

DM judgment call, work with your DM.

If you are the DM, well, how do you want it to work?

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There is no need for the target to be present during the casting time.

If a spell requires interaction with its target during casting, it says so

Consider Identify:

You choose one object that you must touch throughout the casting of the spell...If you instead touch a creature throughout the casting, you learn what spells, if any, are currently affecting it.

(Identify, D&D Basic rules, p. 94)

Contrast that to Regenerate which simply says, "You touch a creature." (Regenerate, D&D Basic rules, p. 99) No requirement of constant contact or interaction is specified here, just one touch, similar to Cure Wounds.

Prayer of Healing which says they "must be seen" and be within range, 30 feet — but no “throughout” condition is specified.

The spell description for Identify calls out a special case where the object or creature must be interacted with throughout casting. Therefore, the general case would be that interaction with the target is not needed throughout casting.

Spells that take effect gradually over a period of time have a non-instantaneous duration.

Consider Regenerate. It has a casting time of 1 minute, and a duration of one hour. Some benefits come into effect instantly, at the casting time is completed, the spell slot expended, and the magic released. The effects that take effect gradually occur during the duration of the spell.

The target regains 4d8 + 15 hit points. For the duration of the spell, the target regains 1 hit point at the start of each of its turns.

(Regenerate, D&D Basic rules, p. 99)

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If a spell doesn't specify, targeting happens at the end only

An official Sage Advice ruling is applicable:

You choose the targets of a spell when you complete casting a spell, not when you start.

The context for that ruling was a 1-action cast time which became 2-round, but it's hard to see how one could follow this ruling for Slow but not for spells which naturally have a longer cast time.

If a spellcaster is affected by slow and takes two turns to finish casting a spell, what happens if their target has moved out of range or out of sight?


Some spells make exceptions to that rule

Some spells do specify that you need to be in contact with the target for the entire cast time, e.g. Identify.

You choose one object that you must touch throughout the casting of the spell...If you instead touch a creature throughout the casting, you learn what spells, if any, are currently affecting it.

Or Teleportation Circle (10 mins, range: 10 feet):

As you cast the spell, you draw a 10-foot-diameter circle on the ground inscribed with sigils that link your location ...

So clearly this isn't one you can cast while fleeing from pursuers, and given the 10 ft range, the circle on the ground is the spell's official "target".


House rules for specific spells?

As always, a DM can override RAW and decide that any given spell works differently in their world, e.g. deciding that Prayer of Healing does gradual healing to the chosen targets over time, rather than building up energy in the caster's mind / around their body, to eventually be released in a burst.

But note that interrupting a long cast time does not cost the spell slot, and has zero effect. You can abandon (or lose) your concentration on Prayer of Healing at any time without losing your spell slot, so it's narratively problematic for it to do partial healing. If you do really want to restrict PoH, you could say that magical energy starts to build up in the bodies of the targets, but dissipates if the casting isn't finished.

As @DaleM points out in a 2020 answer on a duplicate(?) question, Does casting a spell with a long casting time require the target to stay in range and line of sight the whole time? (which disagrees with his 2016 answer here), this means RAW you could have someone teleport you near the end of a long cast time, for example of a spell like Hallow (24h cast time, You touch a point and infuse an area around it with holy (or unholy) power). It seems entirely reasonable for a DM to decide that the cast time of Hallow must be spent in the target location, for example to burn the incense there and dab the oil around.

But a very reasonable choice for allowing this is Tsunami, 1 minute cast time, A wall of water springs into existence at a point you choose within range. If you were hidden, or walking towards a fight during the 1 minute cast time, and only stepped out from behind cover as you finish casting, that's a fun way to kick things off.

Tsunami seems reasonable to me because the spell creates an effect that isn't really tied to that location, it just happens to be there instead of somewhere else. (Just to be clear, that's pure narrative justification, nothing in the rules makes that distinction. This part of my answer is separate from the rules question.)

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