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This situation came up at an Adventurers League game I played in the other day.

In an effort to block up a makeshift ramp, I cast Sanctuary on myself and stood at the top. As an ogre attempted and failed to attack me, I proceeded to attack the ramp he was standing upon.

The ramp eventually succumbed to my attacks and the ogre fell and took fall damage.

The question is do I lose my Sanctuary spell? If so, when is it lost specifically: after I attempt to attack the ramp, when the ramp breaks, or when the ogre falls and takes falling damage?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So what if you had attempted to instead of attacking the ramp, made a strength check to push the ramp away from you instead? Sanctuary would remain in place, would it not? \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandwich
    Dec 14, 2016 at 1:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sandwich that might be a separate question of it's own. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 14, 2016 at 3:05

5 Answers 5

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As per the 2018 PHB errata the phrasing of Sanctuary has been updated and appears to be much clearer.

Sanctuary was previously worded as such:

If the warded creature makes an attack or casts a spell that affects an enemy creature, this spell ends.

Sanctuary's updated text now reads:

If the warded creature makes an attack, casts a spell that affects an enemy, or deals damage to another creature, this spell ends.

This updated text makes it much clearer that there are 3 conditions that can end Sanctuary.

  1. The warded creature makes an attack [...] the spell ends.
  2. The warded creature casts a spell that affects an enemy [...] the spell ends.
  3. The warded creature deals damage to another creature [...] the spell ends.

Therefore, Sanctuary would end if the warded creature makes an attack whether that attack is made against a creature or an object.

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This is my interpretation of the spell's intent: While under Sanctuary, you are relatively safe from being attacked but you cannot attack (at all), cause harm, or target an enemy creature with a spell.

This spell would then be useful for protecting a helpless (maybe unconscious) ally, or protecting the support caster from attack as he/she flings Healing Words or concentrates on a support spell like Bless.

Think of it as a divine being shielding you from harm as long as you don't (directly) harm the enemy yourself. The moment you attack, or affect an enemy with a spell, that protection is gone.

I generally disagree with Purple Monkey's answer (from 2016). To me, the "or" separates the attack (targeting anything, as long as you made an attack roll), and cast a spell (that affects an enemy creature). So, in your case, the moment you start attacking the ramp to affect the ogre in a harmful way, it would break Sanctuary.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you relate your answer to the given situation a bit more? I'm not sure if you mean "attacking any object breaks sanctuary", "attacking the ramp is problematic because the intent is to affect the ogre, but smashing some chinaware just to release your anger won't break sanctuary" or "only your final blow to the ramp caused the ogre harm, so until that moment, sanctuary wouldn't have been broken" \$\endgroup\$
    – Jasper
    Dec 12, 2016 at 13:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ By your logic in your last sentence, @daze413, would Sanctuary be broken if I cast a harmful spell upon an ally? Maybe there was a good reason, maybe it was simply in jest, but I cast harmful spell on someone that might be not an enemy. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 12, 2016 at 14:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ “Follow the spell’s intent” is a meaningless suggestion. We don’t know what that is. We are reading the same words and coming to different understandings of the text, and that means the intent is ambiguous—that’s why we have the question to begin with. Please avoid presuming you know the authors’ intent unless you want to justify that assertion somehow. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 12, 2016 at 16:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical Might be worth asking that in another question, I think. \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Dec 12, 2016 at 23:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan This is 5e, rulings over rules, and where there isn't specificity then a best effort is all that can be made for understanding and using the rules where the gaps leave gray area. Rulings over rules is a feature, not a bug, and is where 5e is explicitly designed to be different from 3.5e. The rulings over rules is in the books for 5e. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 14, 2016 at 0:49
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It will break Sanctuary

The latest Errata update changes the specific wording for Sanctuary

If the warded creature makes an attack, casts a spell that affects an enemy, or deals damage to another creature, this spell ends.

Attacking an object is included under creature makes an attack, so this now officially breaks Sanctuary.

Theory is also supported by the now unofficial tweets by Jeremy Crawford

There have been several instances where Crawford has talked about Sanctuary, each ending with the statement that there are RAW loopholes, but that RAI is that if you deal damage, it ends Sanctuary.

That suggests that the idea of Sanctuary is that you are foregoing dealing damage to gain protection. If you choose to deal damage (to anything), you lose the protection.

Therefore, RAW may allow it, but the intent behind the spell is "If you want to get protection, then don't deal damage." Whether or not WOTC makes an errata on this remains to be seen. And if you see above...they did! Problem solved from both earlier intent and now official errata.

Spirit Guardians and Sanctuary

RAI: A damaging activity ends the spell

Witch Bolt and Sanctuary

witch bolt's damage ends sanctuary

Grappling/Shoving and Sanctuary

Grappling/shoving an enemy does end the sanctuary spell on you, since you have made an attack.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Each of those is damage to a creature. Object is a different class of thing than creature. Just a point, not agreeing or disagreeing. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 12, 2016 at 18:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ I understand that, but Jeremy also doesn't differentiate in his statement "A damaging activity ends the spell" as RAI. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Dec 12, 2016 at 18:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Understood, and clear as mud per Jeremy's RAW/RAI/RAF points in the sage advice compendium. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 12, 2016 at 18:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Agreed @KorvinStarmast. It does seem clear what Jeremy intended for the spell, but they really bunked it up in terms of final release language. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Dec 12, 2016 at 18:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ As of the 2018 PHB errata, the spell description now reads: "If the warded creature makes an attack, casts a spell that affects an enemy, or deals damage to another creature, this spell ends." The loophole has been closed. (Grapples/shoves are still attacks and do also end sanctuary) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    May 7, 2019 at 0:39
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Sanctuary states:

If the warded creature makes an attack or casts a spell that affects an enemy creature, this spell ends.

Attacking a ramp (which is not a creature) will not end the spell.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @daze413 makes a good point that the wording is unclear: it might be (makes an attack) or (casts a spell that affects an enemy creature) or it might be (makes an attack or casts a spells) that affects an enemy creature. Either of these readings seems valid to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 12, 2016 at 5:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Hm. I guess this can only be clarified with a Sage Advice question, then. I don't have a tweeter. :( \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Dec 12, 2016 at 5:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ As of the 2018 PHB errata, the spell desciption now reads: "If the warded creature makes an attack, casts a spell that affects an enemy, or deals damage to another creature, this spell ends." Given the phrasing/structure - "If the creature does A, does B that affects an enemy, or does C to another creature" - I think "makes an attack" is a standalone thing, and can't be read as "makes an attack that affects an enemy creature". \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    May 6, 2019 at 22:57
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Short answer: yes, it should break.

Longer answer: Sanctuary breaks whenever you attack. Sanctuary breaks whenever you cast a spell that affects an enemy creature. The spellcasting component isn't relevant in this case but attacking is. Attacking isn't well defined in the rules (which is weird, considering the game) but it is safe to assume that anything involving either an attack roll or a damage roll is an attack.
Presumably, in this case, you were attempting to smash the ramp with your weapon (which is an attack on an inanimate object). That would break your Sanctuary spell. Strangely enough, due to the way the rules are written, if you had attempted to destroy the ramp using a strength check (similar to bursting bonds) your sanctuary spell would've been fine.

As for when your spell would break, that would be the moment you started attacking the ramp.

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