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The spell Acid Splash describes itself as:

You hurl a bubble of acid.

This is followed with the damage description:

1d6 acid damage. This spell’s damage increases by 1d6 when you reach 5th level (2d6), 11th level (3d6), and 17th level (4d6).

The item Vial of Acid is simply referred to as acid and notes its damage as:

2d6 acid damage.

The question is can the caster catch the bubble in a flask or container (they would then later pour it into a vial)?
Can the caster simply drop the bubble instead of hurling it?

If the caster can store the acid then would it deal damage equal to Acid Splash or to that of vial of acid?

If it deals damage equal to Acid Splash then what tool proficiency would be required to refine it
(Artisan's tools (alchemist's supplies), Herbalism kit, or Poisoner's kit) ?

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15  
This is why we can't have nice things. – KorvinStarmast Mar 25 at 13:16
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Honestly...if you're worried about being able to throw a vial to deal 4d6 damage at level 17, you're doing a caster wrong. – BaseHobo Mar 25 at 15:16
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FWIW: You'd need to throw two vials to match cantrip's awe inspiring 4d6 damage at level 17. (Your point on "no, it isn't game breaking" is taken). – KorvinStarmast Mar 25 at 18:06
up vote 5 down vote accepted

By the RAW, probably, but literally no-one will ever agree with you about this.

Combining the spell description

Duration: Instantaneous

You hurl a bubble of acid. Choose one creature within range, or choose two creatures within range that are within 5 feet of each other. A target must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or take 1d6 acid damage.

with the rules on 'Instantaneous' spell effects

The spell harms, heals, creates, or alters a creature or an object in a way that can't be dispelled, because its magic exists only for an instant

the absolutely most likely form of the spell is that it creates a bunch of acid that is in motion and is a created object. The description of hurling acid on people doesn't work with 'harms a creature' or 'alters a creature' - if it described 'burning a creature like acid was poured on it', sure, that's a metaphor for the type of damage (harm) the creature is receiving. But it refers to throwing actual acid at people and ergo, it is creating that acid in the first place.

Magic that only exists for an instant is not long enough for people to dodge with Dexterity saving throws and for acid to fly 60' away etc. That amount of time would allow counterspelling or not be 'instantaneous'. It is, however, long enough to create some acid-in-motion. And as 'creating' an item is explicitly something instantaneous spell effects do, it fits the listed facts about Acid Splash a lot better than any other explanation.

However, in general the attitude of the rules of 5e and the most common attitudes amongst it's players means likely few or no GMs or players of 5e DnD will use this reading or acknowledge it's relevancy. The entire philosophy of the game is almost directly against this, which would be termed by both the authors of the game and the most outspoken proponents of the system as 'an exploit/cheat and against the intent of the rules'. If not simply making an argument that the RAW doesn't say that in the first place.

Simply put, if your group is interested in this sort of 3.5e 'using abilities in ways they weren't intended', then yes, Acid Splash can be stored.

However, most 5e players will disagree strenuously - and what the rules suggest, in that circumstance, is rather irrelevant.

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1  
An interesting approach to the question. When I compare your citation of the rule on Instantaneous with Liesmith's, it seems that cropping that sentence subtly changes the meaning. Was that intentional, or was your purpose to emphasize the bit you bolded? – KorvinStarmast Mar 25 at 18:07
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What is the basis for your statements regarding the attitudes and/or philosophies of the game and its players and its authors? These statements come across as unsubstantiated and broad generalizations, and the answer would be improved if they were substantiated. – Jack Mar 26 at 20:48
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@Jack I tend to assume expertise and good faith on the author's part. Is there evidence that the answer is wrong in its interpretation of designers' and fans' attitudes and philosophies? – Hey I Can Chan Mar 26 at 22:07
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@HeyICanChan So an answerer can make any unsubstantiated assertion and it up to others to disprove it? – Jack Mar 27 at 11:13
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"Magic that only exists for an instant is not long enough for people to dodge with Dexterity saving throws and for acid to fly 60' away etc." Fireball and Lightning Bolt also have instantaneous durations, but the things created don't stick around, so I'm not sure that's the best justification; it seems "instantaneous" means "just for a moment or a few seconds" rather than literally instantaneous. – SirTechSpec Mar 27 at 15:14

No.

The duration of Acid Splash is "Instantaneous". In the PHB (pg203), the description of this duration is:

"...The spell harms, heals, creates, or alters a creature or an object in a way that can't be dispelled, because its magic exists only for an instant."

The portion I bolded seems the most relevant in this case: the acid bubble only lasts for the duration of the attack. Spells which create lasting attacks (such as Spike Growth) have specific durations listed (10 minutes, in the case of Spike Growth).

EDIT: For further comparison, the spell Create or Destroy Water specifically states that it "creates" water, with an instantaneous duration. The magic effect is the act of creation (mentioned in duration description above).

Conversely, the description of Acid Splash makes no mention of creating a sphere of acid. The magic effect is the attack itself ("...you hurl a sphere of acid...").

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consider that the spell Create Or Destroy Water is also instantaneous, but what is conjured does not disappear after an instant. Both Create Or Destroy Water and Acid Splash are from the conjuration school of magic...therefor the instantaneous magic is the summoning of the acid/water and the summoned liquid doesn't just disappear unless it is banished or destroyed by other means – name moniker Mar 25 at 5:52
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Clearly, the magic only exists for an instant. But "the acid bubble only lasts for the duration of the attack" doesn't seem to be supported by the text. The acid bubble can be seen as an effect of the magic, not the magic itself. The text doesn't seem to specify what happens to it, and what might occur if it does not hit an opponent. It's true that by the definition of the spell, the bubble is hurled. – sumelic Mar 25 at 9:43
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Use votes to disagree; use comments to help improve the answer. Please remember not to get those two uses reversed! It is fine to point out problems with the answer, but as soon as the comments devolve into repeating the same problem(s) they have slid into argument territory rather than constructive help territory. The line can be ambiguous, I know. – SevenSidedDie Mar 25 at 16:48
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Also of note, by RAW you can only target a creature with acid splash. You can't use it to melt a lock, and you can't use it to fill a vial. – New_DM_Tryingtobesneaky Mar 25 at 18:07
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@New_DM_Tryingtobesneaky - You target and they can dodge. What happens if they dodge, and behind where they are standing is a 5x5' glass, acid-proof container? Does the acid hit the container, or? That reading of RAW is correct but only provides a logistical difficulty to capturing the acid, it does not make doing so impossible. Not that it matters for this answer due to way it reads 'instantaneous'. – user2754 Mar 26 at 16:11

I don't believe the rules specify one way or the other, so we are left to use our imaginations. One core question to consider: why isn't everyone else doing this - or are they? Trying to keep it based in plausibility and logic, if I were your DM, I'd try to find a balance looking something like this:

  • With the right container, you can catch an Acid Splash, then pour it into a vial. (You may not have the control to put it directly in a vial without a very good attack roll.)
  • There's some limit, say 2-3, on how many vials of acid one can carry through a dungeon without breaking any, unless you have special containers (which might not break on impact).
  • There's a limited market in most low-tech societies for acid, and quality glass ain't free, so it's not a money tree. On the flip side, if the world is one where you can buy a flask of acid on every streetcorner, presumably the market is saturated instead, probably because you're not the first to use this technique. Or perhaps you are, and you're the one who's going to create the market and build a corporate empire. Any of those 3 options could be logically defensible depending on the setting and direction everybody wants the game to go.
  • It deals damage as Acid Splash unless refined with alchemist's tools (which were explicitly used to create acid in 3.5e, for what that's worth.) I might require one or more Intelligence (Alchemy) checks to recall/refine the technique, then one or more Dexterity (Alchemy) checks to apply it and combine two vials of weak acid (1d6) into one strong one (2d6) without injuring anyone. I'd probably only require the former once (if successful), then the latter once per vial; distillation is relatively straightforward as chemical operations go.
  • Since you're starting with acid and distilling it, rather than creating it from scratch, I'd probably only make it take half a day to a day per vial to make full-strength acid, rather than 5 days as suggested by the guidelines on PHB187 (25gp/(5gp/day)=5 days).
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I've found no guidelines for crafting at all in 5e, let alone alchemy - would love to incorporate them if someone can point the way. – SirTechSpec Mar 25 at 3:54
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Crafting is covered on PHB p.187, under "Downtime Activities." It's not much; the details are deliberately left to you and your DM. – nitsua60 Mar 25 at 4:33
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The DMG goes into a little more in-depth regarding downtime activities on pages 127 through 131 with some guidelines for creating activities on page 131. hopefully this helps! – name moniker Mar 25 at 4:53
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Upvoted, but: "There's a very limited market in most low-tech societies for acid" - Is this true? Acid is useful for separating many desired metals, minerals, and plant substances. I'm under the impression that a convenient source of acid, requiring little effort to obtain, would've been quite valuable in antiquity. – recognizer Mar 25 at 16:31
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A quick Google search doesn't reveal a significant recognition of possible non-food use in Europe until Pseudo-Geber in the 14th century with aqua regia, and the first commonplace industrial use I saw was 16th century dyes. Perhaps, if alchemists are significantly more common, powerful, and organized in DND worlds (which seems likely), you're right, but I don't know enough about the official settings to address that intelligently. In the generic pseudo-medieval, pseudo-European settings I'm thinking of, there'd be no existing market. Happy to adjust if you can provide a reference. – SirTechSpec Mar 25 at 16:57

Can it be stored? The rules are silent. A DM could rule that it can or that it can't.

A vial holds 4 ounces of liquid (Basic Rules p. 50). That much acid deals 2d6 damage, when used effectively (Basic Rules p. 47). Allowing the conjured acid to be stored requires that the DM rule on the volume of acid that is produced by the cantrip, and that the acid is a persistent material (conjuration of acid ex nihilo) rather than a magical effect that does a kind of damage(Acid).

A spell is a discrete magical effect(p. 78 Basic Rules)

  • Acid Splash produces a magical effect that is similar to the damage producing cantrips Sacred Flame(Radiant), Produce Flame(Fire) or Ray of Frost(Cold). The comparison to other damage dealing cantrips shows that they all produce a magical effect (for one attack) that do a certain kind of damage. None of the others create a permanent material. Some have lingering effects, like Chill Touch's spectral hand preventing a target's healing for the remainder of a turn.
  • Cantrips that conjure things do not create things that are permanent. Most of them last for a very short time, typically one round, one minute, or as long as concentration lasts. (Minor Illusion, Prestidigitation, Chill Touch(that hand), Dancing Lights (one minute), Sacred Flame, Thaumaturgy, Produce Flame).
  • Comparing powers of magic by spell level suggests that a cantrip is not a strong enough spell to create permanent material, but there is considerable variation. For example, a Web spell is a second level Conjuration spell whose web lasts for an hour. Create water at first level creates water that is persistent. Create Food and Water is a third level Conjuration spell that creates persistent food and water. Creation is a fifth level Illusion that creates things that are not persistent. Tenser's Floating Disc and Fog Cloud are first level Conjuration spells that last for an hour. Acid Splash is a cantrip. If acid is created, it won't last long based on the level of magic involved.

Opening Pandora's Vial.

  • A glass vial costs 1 GP (Basic Rules p. 48). If you buy 25 vials, and fill them with free acid from a cantrip (cast over and over) you will eventually have 25 vials of acid that each to 2d6 damage, having spent 25 GP. You save the 600 GP expense of providing the non-casters with 25 acid vial attacks. (This is more of an economic advantage at low levels than at higher levels).

    • Is this idea a wheel of Munchkin Brand(TM) cheese, or is this a clever and innovative use of downtime activity? The answer to that depends on your table, and the style of game you are playing.

    • Depending on your level of grittiness and gold/treasure for the PC's in your campaign, the acid arsenal could be a non-trivial bonus for low level PC's.

  • You are mixing two different game items into one

    • Mundane acid, purchased for 25 GP per (basic rules p. 48) that anyone can use
    • A magical effect that does acid damage. Acid Splash, the cantrip, has a zero GP cost and only a spell caster can use it.

      The rules are silent on whether or not the magical effect of acid, and acid made from mundane means, are the same thing. What they have in common (mechanically) is that they both deal the acid type of damage(p. 75 Basic Rules)

      What if the DM rules that the acid is permanent? With a casting time of one action, a player could cast Acid Splash once every six seconds into a large glass bowl and eventually create pints, quarts, or gallons of acid to fill up glass vials purchased locally. The only limit will be boredom, available containers, and the local OSHA office closing down production due to lack of Personal Protective Equipment.

      The DM will rule that you produce X ounces of acid (2.0 or 0.2 ounces or whatever) from each bubble. It becomes a matter of setting up production and casting enough cantrips to fill available containers.

    What are the consequences?

    (Scenario #1 of many possible) The Alchemist's Guild, who has been selling vials for 25 GP, can be easily undersold and put out of business. An angry alchemist can hire an assassin and provide him with a few vials of poison to remove his new competition: you. He's got a family to feed, and these wandering adventurers/murder hobos on downtime are screwing up his livelihood.

    (Scenario #2 of many possible) Party finds an artisan to make three large glass globe, each filled with about a half gallon of acid per the above production method. Local cleric is concerned about a young green dragon that's been raiding cattle lately. (CR=8 136 HP). Rogue form a successful hide (invisibility from the the wizard and she beat the dragon's passive perception check, nice roll!) ambushes the dragon after the other party members get the dragon's attention and it gives chase. Rogue has one shot ... scores a hit! 1/2 gallon = 64 ounces = 2d6 x 16 = 32d6 acid damage, save for half damage. Dragon saves, but still takes 16d6 damage (avg 56). Rogue misses with the next one as she has to throw and run for full cover since breath is coming! A few turns later, she scores a hit with the last globe (dragon saves again, but that seriously hurt!). The party barely defeats the dragon ... thanks to globes of acid and a bit of luck on the rogue's part. Reminds me of OD&D and 1e days ...

Why Acid production could be a good idea.

A town has a quarry that harvests granite to build the Duke's new castle. They purchase acid from the local alchemist's shop. They pour acid into the holes they drill, and then they pound in spikes, and then eventually break loose great slabs of rock. The local alchemist just set fire to his lab (a little "oops" while producing alchemist's oil, and the usual failure to follow OSHA guidelines).
Production has stopped.
The funeral was yesterday.
The PC offers to produce enough acid to keep the production going so that the town's quarry operations don't shut down and people lose jobs, the Duke gets mad, etc.

While I'd rule against -- because I see the Acid Splash as a magical effect rather than creation of a permanent substance by a 0 level spell -- allowing this provides a way to solve an in-game problem that gains the party favor with a local population. This favor can be returned for support of their further adventures.

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Looking at this from the point of view of a game, the object is to have fun. So, when someone gets a clever idea like this, plenty of DMs might not use "realistic simulation of how things would work in the game world" as their primary criteria. Instead, it's about knowing your players and knowing your game.

  • Take stock of the other players. Are they impressed or excited by this nifty hack? Or are they rolling their eyes? If the group isn't enthusiastic about using this to solve a current problem, restrict acid-making to a downtime activity at most.
  • Think about this player. Will they be disappointed if you shut them down? In general, you want to encourage creative thinking to create a positive experience, especially if they're new, but some veterans might be used to throwing ideas at the DM without expecting all of them to work. Are they likely to want to do this often, or will they be satisfied that it worked once? If the former, you'll need to put more thought into the exact process and limitations before answering - see below.
  • Think about the character. Is this the sort of thing they'd do? Are they trained in alchemy? If not, I'd limit it to 1d6. If so, I'd let them roll to refine it into normal acid, unless it seemed likely to become a problem. Tool proficiencies ought to be good for something.
  • Think about the style of game you're running. Is it a sandbox style, where people are free to try different things? Do you have a specific plot that this would distract from? Is there a strong emphasis on adventuring, that crafting and commerce would detract from? In a sandbox game, I'd let them give it a shot, but impose limits as below. In other styles, you could let them do it with the same caveats, but it's also fine to say no without really saying no by redirecting, which can avoid arguments. "Hmm, you think that might work, but there's no time to find out now - the Prince/world/banquet is in danger!" This is easier if you're already on the same page about the style you're going for in this particular game.
  • Think about where you want the game to go. If you rule it's possible, it still doesn't have to be easy, especially if they think it's free money.
    • If you want to discourage this without forbidding it: Maybe refinement takes the full 5 days per PHB187 (in which case it'd be no easier than the standard method, or maybe this is the standard method). Maybe it takes many conjurings to fill a vial - and just because cantrips are at-will doesn't mean you can do them from dawn to dusk without suffering exhaustion.
    • If you want to reward the player with acid for them, but not infinite money: Maybe the acid lasts longer than an instant but not forever (perhaps a day or two), so you could use it but not sell it. Maybe adventurers are the only ones who really buy flasks of acid, and industrial use is already taken care of by the Alchemist's Guild, who can offer better prices/efficiency in bulk.
    • If the players seem really interested in pursuing the money: Maybe it is insanely lucrative at first... but now they've got market forces and disgruntled competitors to deal with. That could be the start of an interesting and unusual campaign, or a single adventure that makes the players realize they'd rather hunt dragons, and save the get-rich-quick schemes for retirement.
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I think your first sentence nails it down pretty nicely. As per answers above, I think that RAW this method of acid storing should not work but working out some way that would not break the game (infinite acid source, yay!) would be probably the best way to go. -> I suggest adding something along this way under your "think about your game" point. - since the acid is being conjured, should the player make a specific roll for how long the acid lasts or be limited by several applications per day/hour to prevent unlimited acid spam? – pppddd Mar 26 at 17:15
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Thanks for your suggestion. I split the "game" bullet into style and direction to better explain the relationship between limitations and intended game outcome. Let me know what you think. – SirTechSpec Mar 26 at 18:00
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I think you did a great job. - you described basically all game related issues I had in mind with the last bullet point as well as provided examples and solutions. – pppddd Mar 28 at 13:31

No, you cannot collect acid from Acid Splash (or poison from Poison Spray for that matter)

Spell effects are described in the description

Many spells, including cantrips, affect only a targeted creature (or creatures). Acid Splash is one of those spells.

A typical spell requires you to pick one or more targets to be affected by the spell's magic. (PH 204)

Spells that also affect the environment have those effects spelled out. Sticking with cantrips, consider Firebolt:

A flammable object hit by this spell ignites if it isn't being worn or carried. (PH)

Extrapolating from other spells, it's clear that RAI, cantrips don't create permanent effects.

Cantrips create limited effects

In particular, cantrips (which are not practically limited in their casting) create limited effects. Considering Light:

The spell ends if you cast it again. (PH 255)

Dancing Lights (PH p.230) and Friends (PH p. 244) require concentration, so you cannot get more than one of those either.

Prestidigitation (PH p. 267) specifically allows up 3 effects.

Permanent effects require spell slot expenditure

Spells that create permanent effects generally require the expenditure of a spell slot (they are level 1 or higher, and don't have the ritual tag). Consider Conjure Barrage, Conjure Celestial, Conjure Elemental (PH p 225), Create Food and Water, Create or Destroy Water, Create Undead, Creation (PH, p 229).

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RAW says it lasts one round, and doesn't mention anything about what happens to it after that, or what happens beyond damage to the target. Of course, the GM is free to alter or ignore rules, but even making a strict interpretation, the rules don't say.

It's always useful to keep in mind "the players describe what they want to do", "the DM narrates the results".

To my interpretation, it has to be hurled, and the acid disappears after one round. It doesn't damage anything else, and if it misses the target, it doesn't hit anything else.

Here's an example:

Magisteria the wizard: Let's decide this acid splash thing once and for all.
GM: Okay.
Magisteria: I cast it, but instead of hurling it, I just drop the acid in a bucket.
GM: Well, you try, but nothing happens. The way you learned the spell, it has to be hurled.
Magisteria: I try tossing it.
GM: Nope.
Magisteria: Throwing it?
GM: Nope.
Magisteria: Flinging? Pitching? Underhanded?
GM: No, no, and nope.
Magisteria: Okay. I try hurling it into the bucket.
GM: That works.
Magisteria: What's in the bucket.
GM: Nothing.
Magisteria: Does it smell like acid?
GM: Nope
Magisteria: I hurl it against myself.
GM: Interesting. Roll a saving throw.
Magisteria: I decline the save.
GM: Roll damage
Magisteria: 3
GM: You do 3 damage to yourself.
Magisteria: Do I have any acid on me?
GM: No
Magisteria: What about my clothes. Are they acid-burned?
GM: Hah. Good question. A little. Since we don't want to play clothes and candles, we make the assumption that your stuff takes normal wear and tear and that you mend minor damage and replace stuff as we go along. You just did the same sort of damage to your clothes that say a sword fight might do. We ignore it. If you guys want to go for that level of detail, I'm up for it, but it's going to be tedious.
Magisteria: Hmm. Hey, Throg, Miles. Here, you guys hold this bucket and let me hit you with acid splash.
Throg: Seriously?
Miles: Can we get on it? We'll never do anything interesting til this is resolved.
Magisteria: Okay you guys look in the bucket while I cast.
{Magisteria casts acid splash at Throg and Miles. It hits Throg, misses Miles.}
Throg: Ow! That stings!
Magisteria: Did any acid land in the bucket?
GM: Yes
Magisteria: What did they see?
GM: Miles, you definitely saw some acid land in the bucket, but then it just disappeared.
Magisteria: Why can't I hit an object with it.
GM: Because that's not what the spell says.
Miles: Let's go already.
Magisteria: What if I practice trying to hit an object like 20 times a day, for months?
GM: You can try it.
Magisteria: Can I make up a new cantrip? One that allows me to hit an object with it?
GM: Well, let's talk about that next break.
Throg: Can we get on the road now?

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