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I'm not sure if this is the intent, but the Ring of Earth Elemental Command states (DMG pp 190)

You can move in difficult terrain that is composed of rubble, rocks, or dirt as if it were normal terrain.

It also states:

You can move through solid earth or rock as if those areas were difficult terrain

The implication here in RAW is the following:

  1. Ring grants passage through difficult terrain made of rock/dirt/rubble at normal pace
  2. Ring grants passage through solid earth/rock as difficult terrain
  3. Solid earth/rock is composed of rocks/dirt/rubble
  4. Therefore, it becomes "difficult terrain that is composed of rubble, rocks or dirt"
  5. This then activates the passage through difficult terrain made of rocks/dirt/rubble at normal pace for going through solid earth/rock.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Please don't answer in comments. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Mar 20 '17 at 16:20
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Order Matters

The order of statements matters. Look at the rules for Darkvision in the various races:

You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light.

This obviously doesn't mean you can see in total darkness as if it were bright light, because the order these are applied matters. I've never seen anyone try to argue for bright light sight in total darkness based on the two clauses.

Similarly:

In addition, you can move in difficult terrain that is composed of rubble, rocks, or dirt as if it were normal terrain.

Is stated, and gets applied before:

You can move through solid earth or rock as if those areas were difficult terrain.

As in the case of Darkvision they are both moving two things one level up. Difficult terrain becomes normal terrain, and impassible terrain becomes difficult terrain... It doesn't allow the transitive property to apply, else they would have simply written "You can move through solid earth or rock as if it were normal terrain."

In vs Through

A weaker case may be made for "in" versus "through" being the deciding factor, but English is messy so that seems less solid an argument to stake claim on; but it is there none the less.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Great example! Hadn't thought about finding an equivalent circumstance to help support the mechanics. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 20 '17 at 15:41
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The difference between the two is that in the first quote, you can move (either walking, climbing, crawling, etc.) on rubble, rocks, or dirt without suffering penalties on your movement.

You can move in difficult terrain that is composed of rubble, rocks, or dirt as if it were normal terrain.

The key phrase is "move in difficult terrain", as in, you are in an area of difficult terrain.

The second quote means you can move through, as in, walk through objects like walls or the like that are made of rock, rubble, or dirt, albeit slowly. In this case, you are still slowed, and the first quote does not apply because you are only moving through it "as if in difficult terrain", it isn't actual difficult terrain.

Logically, this interpretation would seem correct, otherwise they wouldn't have distinguished them, and the second quote would just say "You can move through solid earth or rock normally" or else give you a burrowing speed.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ My gut is in agreement with you, and I'm fairly certain RAI is that as well, but I'm having a hard time with the RAW difference between moving in difficult terrain composed of rubble/rocks/dirt and solid earth composed of "rubble/rocks/dirt". It changes the solid earth into difficult terrain composed of rubble/rocks/dirty which then moves into the territory of the first ability. I feel that this is entering munchkin territory, but also seems legitimate RAW. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 20 '17 at 13:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch The edit make the argument more solid to you? I can think of things like fluff examples, but other than what I stated above, I can't see anything else to say to support it. \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Mar 20 '17 at 13:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @adam Sure, but when I think about moving, I'm thinking on the ground. If you're climbing or flying, you wouldn't be experiencing the difficult terrain. Am I missing something? \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Mar 20 '17 at 13:35
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Based on further review, moving through solid earth/rock is not done at normal terrain pace for the following reason:

Passage through difficult terrain made up of rocks/dirt/rubble as normal pace is moving through an aggregate of materials; it is not a single solid piece of rock, it is rough, ragged terrain. Made up of multiple rocks, dirt and rubble.

Passage through solid earth/rock is just that - solid earth or rock. It is not made up of multiple rocks, dirt or rubble and the ring would not grant the benefit of normal pace. Just the benefit of difficult terrain pace through something you had no business travelling through to begin with.

However, structural materials such as dry-stack stone walls may trigger the first ability as it is not solid earth/stone. But that is very likely a DM ruling as to whether or not it is "solid"

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