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Q&A

How to determine the target(s) of Catapult?

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In the D&D 5th Edition Player's Handbook Spellcasting section, under Casting a Spell, we find a loose definition of "target" for spells.

A typical spell requires you to pick one or more targets to be affected by the spell's magic. A spell's description tells you whether the spell targets creatures, objects, or a point of origin for an area of effect [...]

Knowing what a spell targets, or at least having a way to consistently adjudicate edge cases is important. Not only for adjudicating the effects of the spell, but also for interaction with other game mechanics, such as the sorcerer's Twin Spell Metamagic feature, which requires a spell to be incapable of targeting more than one creature, or the charmed condition, which prevents a creature from targeting the charmer with harmful abilities or magical effects.


The Elemental Evil Player’s Companion supplement introduced the catapult spell, which has me a little puzzled on how to rule.

The relevant sections from the description of catapult seem to be as follows:

Choose one object weighing 1 to 5 pounds within range that isn't being worn or carried. The object flies in a straight line up to 90 feet in a direction you choose[...]

[...] If the object would strike a creature, that creature must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, the object strikes the target and stops moving. [...]

Given that a creature that fails the Dexterity saving throw is referred to as a target specifically, that seems pretty clear. But what about a creature who succeeds? Should that creature be considered a target? What about a creature who never makes a saving throw because the object stopped before it reached them?


If a Mage catapults an object toward Alice, Bob and Charlie, who are standing in a straight line, as shown:

M o A B C

Then Alice succeeds on her saving throw, Bob fails his and the object stops, so Charlie never makes one. Are Alice and Bob both targets of the spell? Just Bob? Alice, Bob and Charlie?

Would it make a difference if the Mage is charmed by Charlie?

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None of the creatures are targeted by Catapult.

From the same sections you quoted:

A spell's description tells you whether the spell targets creatures, objects, or a point of origin for an area of effect

and

Choose one object weighing 1 to 5 pounds

Alice, Bob, and Charlie are not targets of the spell Catapult. The object is the target of the spell. The spell happens to have effects on non-targets.

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Too literal (4 comments)
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It seems to be up to interpretation

I could not find any clear interpretation of the definition of target. The definition you quoted,

A typical spell requires you to pick one or more targets to be affected by the spell's magic. A spell's description tells you whether the spell targets creatures, objects, or a point of origin for an area of effect

seems to have a few issues - for example, an AoE spell such as Fireball technically only "targets" one person, but does damage in a 20 ft. radius, and the spell description indicates

A target takes 8d6 fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

which means Fireball actually has multiple targets, which means it cannot be twinspelled (which I think is a general consensus - AoE cannot be twinspelled).

Catapult specifically

In a similar vein, I would say Catapult would target all of A, B, and C in your example because it has the potential to hit all of them. While Fireball does damage whether the targets fail their saving throw or not, other spells, such as Tasha's Caustic Brew, only affect/damage the target if they fail their throw, and I think even creatures that succeed on the throw are targets, as they had the potential to be affected, but their saving throw, well, saved them.

Similarly, with Catapult, you could say that B failing their saving throw saved C, but C still had the potential to be damaged.

Now, if A was charmed by C, based on the definition of charmed,

A charmed creature can’t Attack the charmer or target the charmer with harmful Abilities or magical Effects.

then I would say A cannot cast Catapult in this line because it does target C.

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Targeting clarification (3 comments)

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