I have a question regarding the spell Divine Wrath.
Divine WrathYou can channel the fury of your deity against foes of opposed alignment. Choose an alignment your deity has (chaotic, evil, good, or lawful). You can’t cast this spell if you don’t have a deity or your deity is true neutral. This spell gains the trait of the alignment you chose. You deal 4d10 damage of the alignment you chose; each creature in the area must attempt a Fortitude save. Creatures that match the alignment you chose are unaffected. Those that neither match nor oppose it treat the result of their saving throw as one degree better.
Divine Wrath says it deals "4d10 damage of the alignment you chose" so that means if I chose Law, it would deal 4d10 Law damage. Now, after this the spell goes on to say that it can't injure creatures who match the chosen alignment and that creatures who neither match nor oppose suffer reduced effects of the spell. Now, the confusion comes in when you look up Alignment Damage.
Weapons and effects keyed to a particular alignment can deal chaotic, evil, good, or lawful damage. These damage types apply only to creatures that have the opposing alignment trait. Chaotic damage harms only lawful creatures, evil damage harms only good creatures, good damage harms only evil creatures, and lawful damage harms only chaotic creatures.
This means that if you choose law, you only injure chaotic creatures, because the spell deals Law damage. But if that were the case, why mention all of the stuff after the damage type? It reiterates that the spell can't injure creatures who match the alignment, but then also adds that it has reduced effect against creatures that are neither opposed nor aligned, which isn't something Alignment Damage does.
There is another spell, Divine Decree, which functions very similarly to Divine Wrath, but it inflicts untyped damage. This makes sense with the difference in effect being purely based in the text of the spell.
So, here's my question. How does Divine Wrath work? Is it supposed to function like Divine Decree? Is Divine Decree wrong? I can't actually find a third spell with this mechanic to compare to. If Divine Decree if wrong, are these spells exceptions to how Alignment Damage normally works?
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I don't think the wording is wrong, I think it is specifically worded the way it is so that it overrides the general rule specified on Pg 452. This way the spells can damage those who are true neutral or are neutral and not directly opposed. However, since they are not directly opposed to the Alignment typed damage, they receive the benefit of one degree better result from their Fortitude saving throw.
In your example, you chose Law; so LG, LN, LE characters would be unaffected. NG, N, NE characters receive the one degree better result. CG, CN, CE characters receive normal saving throw results/damage.
I think this is an example where the "Specific Overrides General" Game Conventions mentioned on Pg 444 applies.
If we go with the rule of "Specific overrides general" then I would say that you would ignore the normal rules for alignment damage as the spell explicitly tells you how it is intended to function.
Also from my reading of Divine Decree the only difference from the two spells is one line that reads "of the alignment you chose" but the end result is the same because both tell you exactly how to treat creatures of each alignment when you use the spell against them.
My guess is that the slight difference in wording is the result of editors not catching something precisely because the text tells you how the damage should interact with different alignment types. This may be something they errata just to make it more consistent but I think the intention is clear on how the spell would work in a game.
The only difference I can see is that if a NG, N, or NE character critically failed against a Divine Decree using Law as the Alignment chosen, they would not suffer the enfeebled 2 for 1 minute effect. However, if the same character critically failed against a Divine Wrath using Law, they would be sickened 1.
This isn't a case of Specific vs General. The text of Divine Wrath doesn't contradict the general rule. It would need to actually say that it can damage those creatures if that was the case. Compare with the Champion's Vengeful Oath, which explicitly says that the Good damage dealt by it can effect non-evil creatures.
What you're missing is that Divine Wrath does more than just damage. On a Failed or Critical Failed save, Divine Wrath inflicts sickened 1 and sickened 2 + slowed 1 respectively.
So that clause makes it so that, in your example, Lawful creatures can't be sickened by the spell and Neutral creatures can, but only if they critically fail, because it bumps them up to a regular failure.
Your interpretation may be correct, but then the Divine Decree doesn't make any sense - since it specifically says:
"Those that neither match nor oppose it treat the result of
their saving throw as one degree better and don’t suffer
effects other than damage."
If neutral+not opposed creatures don't suffer any damage *and* don't suffer effects, then there is no reason to include any text about the neutral + non opposed creatures.
I stand by what I said - my interpretation will have the neutral + non opposed creatures take damage - but with a better chance of avoiding it.