[RPG] If 2 creatures in range have the Sanctuary spell cast on them, can you repeatedly switch targets between them until you succeed on the save


The description of the sanctuary spell states:

You ward a creature within range against attack. Until the spell ends, any creature who targets the warded creature with an attack or a harmful spell must first make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature must choose a new target or lose the attack or spell. This spell doesn't protect the warded creature from area effects, such as the explosion of a fireball.

How the spell works is quite obvious when only one creature is warded at a time.

However, I am wondering how this would work when two creatures are warded and both within range. Could a monster switch between targeting either of them until they succeed on their Wisdom saving throw?

As an example: two clerics – Alice and Jasper – are ambushed by an powerful vampire named James. They are fiercely opposed to killing, and so instead of harming James, they both cast sanctuary on themselves. James attempts to bite Alice, but fails his save. He then switches his target to Jasper, but fails his save again; now what happens?

The spell seems to state that he is to choose a new target, and does not appear to prohibit targeting Alice once again (Alice's ward is a completely separate effect to Jasper's ward). However, that does seem to defeat the purpose of the spell.

So, what happens RAW? And RAI?

Best Answer

It depends what one means by 'new'

In order for the problem you mention to be a problem, 'new' needs to mean 'different from the current one'. If new means instead 'that you haven't picked so far' there's no problem.

I think the unproblematic interpretation of 'new' is slightly more common in ordinary usage, and thus more the "rules as written" with the very-problematic natural language convention thingy. Neither interpretation violates the RAW without that convention, however.

Regardless of the RAW, I've never seen anyone use the problematic interpretation here-- new, in this context, always means that you haven't yet tried to target this attack.