What are outcome-changing circumstances mentioned in Augury and Divination?

This is one of those naval-gazing questions that may have actual mechanical bearing. Both Augury and Divination predict the outcome of future events:
In the case of Augury

“the results of a specific course of action that you plan to take within the next 30 minutes”

and in the case of Divination

“a specific goal, event, or activity to occur within 7 days”

Where I’m having trouble is deciphering the caveat found in both spells:

The spell doesn’t take into account any possible circumstances that might change the outcome, such as the casting of additional spells or the loss or gain of a companion.

A plain reading of this seems absurd to me, basically amounting to
“outcome X will happen unless circumstances are such that outcome X does not happen”
“outcome X will happen unless it doesn’t.”

For example, a prediction of “you will defeat the evil warlock” might have a possible outcome-altering circumstance of “his archdevil patron makes a surprise appearance and obliterates your entire party in an instant.”

I can see a more charitable reading: “Outcome X will happen unless the party introduces outcome-altering circumstances. And this helps particularly in the case of Augury: There is only so much a party can do to alter the course of the events up to 30 minutes from now. But with Divination’s seven days? How is a party ever to know what contingent facts must hold in order for the predicted outcome to occur? What are “additional spells” when, for some members of the party, spellcasting is done as a matter of course?

How do you calculate an average damage when damage is conditional on circumstances?

I’m trying to compare two rogue builds to each other. The first rogue is easy. It’s a wood elf with a long bow in a wilderness campaign, doing 1d8+mod damage and always being hidden with SA damage. Fine. My second rogue however is a dungeoneering halfling who might use a rapier, or might use a short sword and a dagger in the off hand.

What I’m trying to figure out is how to calculate the average damage with five different possible scenarios in mind. Each scenario might be used depending on the circumstances: who’s in the room, what obstacles are there, etc.

  1. Shortsword(d6+3) + cunning action + SA(d6) (advantage) = (9)
  2. Shortsword(d6+3) + dagger(d4) + SA(d6) (no advantage) = (7.5)
  3. Rapier(d8+3) + cunning action + SA(d6) (advantage) = (9.9)
  4. Shortsword(d6+3) + dagger(d4) (no SA available) = (5.4)
  5. Shortsword(d6+3) + dagger(d4) + SA(d6) (advantage) = (11.25)

How do I figure out the odds of each of those 5 scenarios – just do average damage compiled then divided by 5? And how do I get a final reasonable number?

So does this become (9 + 7.5 + 9.9 + 5.4 + 11.25)/5 = 8.61 at level 1?

Under what circumstances does a phantom steed take a minute to disappear

Phantom Steed
3rd level illusion
Casting Time: 1 minute
Range: 30 feet
Components: V S
Duration: 1 hour
Classes: Wizard
A Large quasi-real, horselike creature appears on the ground in an unoccupied space of your choice within range. You decide the creature’s appearance, but it is equipped with a saddle, bit, and bridle. Any of the equipment created by the spell vanishes in a puff of smoke if it is carried more than 10 feet away from the steed. For the duration, you or a creature you choose can ride the steed. The creature uses the statistics for a riding horse, except it has a speed of 100 feet and can travel 10 miles in an hour, or 13 miles at a fast pace. When the spell ends, the steed gradually fades, giving the rider 1 minute to dismount. The spell ends if you use an action to dismiss it or if the steed takes any damage.

Looking at the wording of this spell, it appears that because “when the spell ends, the steed gradually fades” and “the spell ends if you use an action to dismiss it or if the steed takes any damage,” is it correct to interpret this as meaning that even if a steed is attacked in combat, it is still a fully-functional mount for the next minute?

If so, to what extent does this apply? Would a steed targeted by Dispel Magic or one inside an Antimagic Field also take a minute to fade away as the spell ends? Is there any circumstance in which it would immediately disappear?

Would a HTTPS protected URL be secure in the following circumstances?

I am looking at enabling a hosted phonebook provided by a hosted VOIP provider.

The phonebook is hosted on a server. The phonebook is accessed via a username / password protected web GUI for inputting contact details, and produces a XML feed where VOIP phones can connect to it so the contacts can be called from the phonebook.

All connections to the server are HTTPS.

The problem is that the VOIP phones cant handle authentication so the XML feed is kept on a long unique 100+ character URL, which is essentially security by obfuscation. If someone gets hold of the URL they have access to the full phonebooks contents.

The VOIP provider has assured me this is secure, as the URL is essentially a password. But I am not sure about this…

Obviously someone could find the URL, which would be hard for them to randomly stumble across, but if they did the contents are unprotected.

But if someone was sniffing traffic on the LAN, the VOIP phones are connected to, would they be able to see the VOIP phones contacting the XML feed, or would the URL they are using be encrypted by virtue of it being SSL ?

Compassionate circumstances

We are UK citizens in USA since 29 January travelling on a recently acquired ESTA and 3 month waiver programme on a compassionate visit overseeing the care of my wife’s sister who is back home recovering from treatment for incurable cancer. We know we have to leave USA end 29 April . We have British passports . We intend to travel to Mexico for 48 hours. Will we need visas for this in order to be allowed re entry to USA?

Can produce flame be an attack in the right circumstances?

With the wording of produce flame, It seems like you take the cast the spell action to make the flame appear. And can then attack with it later, it does use the wording “ranged spell attack.” But what if a tavern brawler or a monk punches with the hand holding the flame?

Would that be considered a spell attack, or an unarmed strike because the hand is passively holding the flame? And could you use the flame as an improvised weapon?

Another example could be grabbing someone’s face with the hand, grabbing someone’s face would be considered a grapple. What if you use a tavern brawler strike with your action, and then use your free hand to grabble. The freehand which is currently holding fire.

Produce flame

A flickering flame appears in your hand. The flame remains there for the duration and harms neither you nor your equipment. The flame sheds bright light in a 10-foot radius and dim light for an additional 10 feet. The spell ends if you dismiss it as an action or if you cast it again.

You can also attack with the flame, although doing so ends the spell. When you cast this spell, or as an action on a later turn, you can hurl the flame at a creature within 30 feet of you. Make a ranged spell attack. On a hit, the target takes 1d8 fire damage.

This spell’s damage increases by 1d8 when you reach 5th level (2d8), 11th level (3d8), and 17th level (4d8).

Improvised Weapons

Sometimes characters don’t have their weapons and have to attack with whatever is at hand. An improvised weapon includes any object you can wield in one or two hands, such as broken glass, a table leg, a frying pan, a wagon wheel, or a dead goblin.

Often, an improvised weapon is similar to an actual weapon and can be treated as such. For example, a table leg is akin to a club. At the GM’s option, a character proficient with a weapon can use a similar object as if it were that weapon and use his or her proficiency bonus.

An object that bears no resemblance to a weapon deals 1d4 damage (the GM assigns a damage type appropriate to the object). If a character uses a ranged weapon to make a melee attack or throws a melee weapon that does not have the thrown property, it also deals 1d4 damage. An improvised thrown weapon has a normal range of 20 feet and a long range of 60 feet.

Tavern Brawler

Accustomed to rough-and-tumble fighting using whatever weapons happen to be at hand, you gain the following benefits:

Increase your Strength or Constitution score by 1, to a maximum of 20. You are proficient with improvised weapons. Your unarmed strike uses a d4 for damage. When you hit a creature with an unarmed strike or an improvised weapon on your turn, you can use a bonus action to attempt to grapple the target.

(P.S. I am making a character for a silly one shot. I am not planning on trying to pull this off for a serious campaign, it’s just a goofy concept. This side note probably won’t affect any answers but I wanted to include it anyway.)

How do I narratively explain how in-game circumstances do not allow a PC to instantly kill an NPC?

Inspired by this question, in particular this aspect:

. . . how do I handle realism and one-shotting bosses out of combat?

What I’m wondering is how to narratively handle a situation in which—outside of combat—a PC attempts a called shot for lethality on a creature that logically would be vulnerable to it, beyond telling the player “no you cannot do this” or “your hand slips for some reason”.

In combat, aiming at specific body parts can be narrated away by saying the creature happened to redirect a targeted blow to a less critical body region, and this explanation is aided by the fact that AC and HP are abstractions of how difficult a creature is to hit and kill, respectively.

But if an NPC’s movement is fully restricted with the neck exposed, how might I as the DM respond to a player wanting to slit the NPC’s throat in a way that prevents his/her desired result from taking place when rules don’t support it, but still narrating the attempt?