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From the description of Zone of Truth, PHB p.289:

Until the spell ends, a creature that enters the spell's area for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there must make a Charisma saving throw. On a failed save, a creature can't speak a deliberate lie while in the radius. You know whether each creature succeeds or fails on its saving throw.

If you read this carefully, you will discover that a creature staying inside the area has to roll saves every turn until it fails one. After that it is affected until the spell ends or he leaves the area. However

  • The last sentence is about a singular save.
  • This is the only spell that works like this, but it is not explicitly stated.

These led me to question whether this is intentional or not. Can anyone point me to sage advice / RAI clarification / errata?

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This is likely intentional

Can anyone point me to sage advice / RAI clarification / errata?

I was unable to find an official response at the time this question was asked, however Jeremy Crawford recently answered this question directly. See the answer by V2Blast.

I believe you have interpreted the spell correctly, and I believe it is intentionally designed to function in that manner as it follows the same pattern as similar spells.

Compare Zone of Truth:

On a failed save, a creature can’t speak a deliberate lie while in the radius.

To Evard's Black Tentacles:

When a creature enters the affected area for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there, the creature must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or take 3d6 bludgeoning damage and be restrained by the tentacles until the spell ends.

Or Web:

Each creature that starts its turn in the webs or that enters them during its turn must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, the creature is restrained as long as it remains in the webs or until it breaks free.

Or Control Water:

When a creature enters the vortex for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there, it must make a Strength saving throw. On a failed save, the creature takes 2d8 bludgeoning damage and is caught in the vortex until the spell ends.

The spells are broadly similar in that:

  • Each spell forces a save when a creature enters the affected area, or starts its turn there.
  • Each spell specifies an effect the creature will suffer on a failed save.
  • Each spell specifies that the condition will last until some other condition is met (spell ends, creature leaves the affected area, creature breaks free, etc...).

Zone of Truth follows the same pattern. It would appear that this is the intended design.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The OP posits that the target must make a saving throw every turn, and you contend that they have interpreted correctly, yet your examples all seem to point in the opposite direction. Do you believe a save must be made every turn, or just the initial save counts for the entire duration of time within the effect? \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis May 12 '17 at 20:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @keithcurtis No. Creatures make a save every round. That's part of bullet #1 at the bottom of my answer. Any time a creature starts its turn in the affected area it makes a save. If it fails any save it is afflicted until some condition is met (spell ends, it leaves the area, or breaks free, etc). \$\endgroup\$ – Seamus May 12 '17 at 21:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @keithcurtis I think the point is that just because the creature saves each round, doesn't imply that the effect only lasts until the next round. Each spell clearly outlines when the effect ends. \$\endgroup\$ – Seamus May 12 '17 at 21:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, I see your point. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis May 12 '17 at 21:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Thanks. I'll add an edit with a link to your answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Seamus Jun 19 '18 at 2:02
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Jeremy Crawford, lead rules designer for D&D, addressed the question here:

How does Zone of Truth work exactly? It seems the saving throw repeats until you're going to fail. But then does it keep repeating once under the spell? If not, why make a saving throw in the first place, it seems it'd be simpler for it to just work.

Zone of truth requires you to make a saving throw when you enter the zone for the first time on a turn or start your turn there. If you fail your save against the spell, you don't keep making the saving throw; you're now affected by the spell for its duration.

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I think it does not read that way. Even after the creature fails a save, it still on subsequent turns starts its turn there, and thus has to make another save. So every turn, each creature in the area makes a save; the ones that fail cannot lie until their next turn, and the caster knows which ones cannot lie on that turn.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you mean “the ones that fail cannot lie [that round]”, or do you mean “cannot lie [for the rest of their time in the AoE]”? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 12 '17 at 18:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ A save is not for a single round, that is explicitly stated in the text. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega May 12 '17 at 18:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, that is not explicitly stated in the text. It's not even implicitly stated in the text. The text makes a statement about location, not time. \$\endgroup\$ – Phil Boncer May 12 '17 at 19:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ The "It starts its turn there" is just a way of covering people who are within the area of effect but have not yet started their next turn (when they would make the save), as opposed to people who walk into it after it has been cast. The remainder of the sentence: "while in the radius" is a statement of time. it does not say "if within the radius". \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis May 12 '17 at 20:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, it says "a creature that enters the spell's area for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there must make a Charisma saving throw". You might rule that there is only the one save, the first time you enter or start there, that then applies (success or fail) to the rest of the duration of the spell. OR you might apply it as written to the first time a creature enters, or any turn the creature starts there. Neither of those rulings includes the OP's reading of "save every turn until you fail, but only a failure applies until the spell ends". \$\endgroup\$ – Phil Boncer May 12 '17 at 21:11

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