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I have a question about plane shift, specifically the target requirement.

Target line

creature touched, or up to eight willing creatures joining hands

Spell Description

You move yourself or some other creature to another plane of existence or alternate dimension. If several willing persons link hands in a circle, as many as eight can be affected by the plane shift at the same time.

So there are 3 ways in which the spell can be targeted. First as just yourself. Second on a single unwilling creature. Third, upto 8 people with linked hands.

I am curious about the linked hands and willing part. If I have 10 people holding hands, but only upto 8 of them are willing, are those 8 willing plucked out of those holding hands and thus break the linked hands? Would the 8 willing have to be continuous? Does the caster have to be one of the 8 willing, meaning they could send 8 willing others? If there are more than 8 willing people with linked hands, does the caster get to choose which ones are shifted?

Finally I have the most important question, can the caster chose not to shift someone who is willing and linked hands?

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Going to answer out of order, to make my response flow a little better.

When using it to transport willing participants, you would be one of the 8; you could either send 8 others or yourself and 7 others along with you. This is because it says it targets 'up to eight...' not 'you and eight...' and no spell targets the caster for free (barring some special circumstances, which this does not indicate).

If one of 8 (or less) creatures in a circle decides they are no longer willing (I'm looking at you Superstitious Barbarian), that creature would roll their Save to negate the spell in respect to themselves, allowing the other (up to) 7 to continue without them. This is because one creature Saving (Failing, or willfully Failing) against an area spell does not Save/Fail for other creatures affected.

If you have more than 8 willing, how the spell responds would be up to the DM because of 'Rule 0' but you can expect them to cite Spell Failure because your 'target' is invalid. They may allow you to transport the nearest 8, or select up to 8 out of the circle to affect, though.

Finally, if you have more than 8 and some are willing but others aren't, it is still within the realm of the GM but with a couple different options. The most likely responses by the GM (in no particular order) are:

  • Allow the spell to transport the (up to) 8 willing creatures, giving the target option to the spellcaster, because there are (up to) 8 and they are holding hands in a circle, regardless of who else is in the circle. This functions I indicate in paragraph 1.
  • As above, but instead of selecting only willing creatures, grab the nearest (or random or however the GM decides) creatures (regardless of will) and have any unwilling creatures attempt to Save. They could treat this as in Paragraph 2, or use this last bullet...
  • The Spell fails, as Paragraph 3 because the 'target' is not what the spellcaster indicated, similar to if you attempt to cast and Evocation spell at a creature that has recently... say... Plane Shifted and is no longer in 'range'.

On your last question, you'd have to ask your GM. RAW, it doesn't indicate that everyone in the circle has/gets to go, so you could leave someone behind intentionally, but it is implied that the entire group travels as one, and it could be argued that leaving someone behind would 'break the circle' causing the invalid target situation I've mentioned. If you're trying not to tip off another player, you could send an IM/text the GM or ask them for a moment to the side. Most GM's will accommodate you.

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The spell plane shift says, "If several willing persons link hands in a circle, as many as eight can be affected by the plane shift at the same time." This is an incredibly dense sentence, and open to a variety of readings. It's possible for another reasonable GM to disagree, but below are this GM's rulings.

This GM reads that several generously as any number. Further, this GM reads this sentence as a plane shift spell's subject must be willing, not that the act of linking hands mandates a creature be willing! Willing and unwilling creatures can link hands, yet the spell will leave unwilling creatures unaffected. Also, this GM reads this as enabling the spell's caster to exclude from the spell's effect any willing creatures from those that've linked hands; in this case, essentially, the caster picking who is affected, and the creature picking if it's not. Finally, this GM would rule that creatures straight-up lying to the caster about being willing yet that the caster designates as targets of the plane shift spell would still count as targets of the spell. (For example, this GM would rule that as the spell's taking effect the spell does not, like, inform the caster that Lyin' Abe's not willing and allow the caster to designate instead Bob as one of the eight!)

Questions and Answers

With the above in mind, the specific questions become much easier to answer.

  • "If 10 creatures link hands, but only 8 of them are willing, are those 8 plucked from among those holding hands, breaking the link, and causing the spell to fail?" The spell plane shift functions normally only on the willing creatures the caster designates. That the link is broken after the spell's completion has no effect on casting the spell. (Although if shifting to the Elemental Plane of Air, for example, the subsequent (ahem) fallout may be severe for those no longer linked with the others!)
  • "Must the up to 8 willing creatures be contiguous?" The plane shift spell doesn't indicate that a creature must be linked to another affected creature for the first creature to itself be affected. That is, so long as the caster (A) and two other creatures (B and C) link hands somehow, any combination of them can be legally affected (A, AB, AC, B, BC, or C). Further, for example, this makes it possible to form a long sort of creature hoop (or oval) of unwilling plane shift targets to rescue from danger only one willing target (probably the one in the quicksand). (Although depending on how far off the creature arrives from the intended planar destination, the "rescued" creature might end up in an even worse predicament!)
  • "Must the caster be among the 8 willing creature affected by the spell?" It doesn't appear so. This GM would expect a responsible (and maybe even any good-aligned) caster to confirm the safety of those the caster shifted, though. A caster that can cast plane shift can also usually cast scrying, after all.
  • "Can the caster opt not to shift a willing creature that's part of the chain?" This also appears to be the case. For example, if 20 willing folks link hands hoping to receive the benefits of the spell plane shift, only eight of them can go, and—rather than, for example, either randomly determining who goes or saying the spell fails—this GM would allow the caster to pick who goes and who stays.

It's best to ask the GM before relying on any of this, though. For example, it's possible the GM views willing creatures linking hands as a necessity for the spell's success, in which case Lyin' Abe can ruin the trip to Baator for your whole devil-worshiping cult.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like your answer a lot as the wording seems to flow better, but both are very similar so Im awarding the other one as being the correct answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Fering Feb 2 '17 at 19:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Fering It's cool. I, too, found Ifusaso's answer solid, but I thought the Q-&-A format would help other readers get quicker answers to their questions. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 2 '17 at 19:46

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