Using a literal reading of the rules, will this criteria for Locate Object yield this result?

The criteria: "A lead object that is blocking a direct path between me, and an item that fits criteria X, Y, Z."

The result: The direction of the nearest item that fits criteria X, Y, Z that is being blocked by a lead object.

Does the criteria lead to the result, given that you read the spell description of locate object literally?

Locate Object can be blocked by lead, but it can also locate lead itself regardless.

3 Answers

"A lead object that is blocking a direct path between me and an item that fits criteria X, Y, Z."

I'd have to say no ... for a few reasons:

1. For this to work, the spell would still have to be able to "locate" that item fitting your criteria X,Y,Z (that is, in order to properly identify your chunk of lead, it would have to know that your item is behind it). Since it's blocked by lead, it is unable to do so.
2. You are not really describing the object. You are trying to describe the area around the object, or describing an object in relation to another object. Neither of which appears to be as Locate object says "Describe an object"
3. You are likely not familiar with the blocking lead object, so again, going by first part of Locate object .. not going to work

I would, however, allow you to locate the nearest block of lead, since as it states later in locate object

"Alternatively, the spell can locate the nearest object of a particular kind"

...which is simply "Find the nearest hunk of lead." OK, sure. :)

• Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. May 29, 2017 at 3:42

No, it does not work this way

There is a difference between the use of the criteria and the Locate spell itself. It is not likely that you can utilize the knowledge that lead can occlude the object as a means to locate the object by Locating the lead.

The key phrase that my suppositions are based on is (PHB 256)

Describe or name an object that is familiar to you.

• If an object is not in range, then Locate Objects will return a null result.
• If the object is in range, but is blocked directly from you by lead, then Locate Object returns a null result.
• In order to use the criteria as a workaround for the Null Result, the caster would then have to use Locate Object on the lead object that is blocking it - which they wouldn't know of and therefore not be able use Locate Objects to find.

However, if you do know that the Object is obstructed and be familiar with and can describe the lead obstruction, you could use Locate Object on the obstruction to then find the object.

Specific example from OP

A lead object that is blocking a direct path between me and an item that fits criteria X, Y, Z.

If you can describe the object you are looking for, then Locate Object can find it. A general description doesn't fit something you are familiar with; it is the difference between a "water bottle" and the "blue nalgene with a nick on the top" water bottle. One is an oject - the other is an object you are familiar with.

In this case, if Criteria X,Y,Z describe a specific object it would work. But if you are guessing, then it is not something you are familiar with and the spell wouldn't work.

If you are interpreting it as(bracketed info provided by me)

A lead object [that I am not familiar with] that is blocking a direct path between me and the Mona Lisa.

You may know something is there and what it is constructed from, but you don't know what the actual object is. And if you don't know what it is(aren't familiar with it), then you can't Locate it.

Metagaming?

The problem as I currently see it the caster trying to find an object has to know whether or not the object they are looking for simply isn't there or if it's obstructed by lead. They are free to recast the spell as many times as they like, but the assumption that the object is there but obstructed isn't necessarily true. And Casting for lead objects could easily provide false positives. Then the DM either has to provide those false positives or "Just allow it to work", in which case - why have the restriction at all?

• Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. May 23, 2017 at 18:07
• @SevenSidedDie I can't access the link (or chat in general). Weird.
– user27327
May 24, 2017 at 0:16
• Your last sentence, "why have the restriction at all?" is exactly my feelings towards this, and it's why I asked this Q. I disagree that it is metagaming. Metagaming is using information the character doesn't have. Presumably, the caster will know the exact abilities of their own spells.
– user27327
May 24, 2017 at 0:24
• @markovchain I don't know if it's it's ever been made clear whether or not casters know all the fiddly details of their own spells. Certainly, it was possible for casters not to be familiar with all the effects of their spells in second edition (see rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/57172/…), but I don't know whether that's carried over to Fifth. May 24, 2017 at 9:59
• @GMJoe Even in that case, it would not be metagaming anyway if the character played is smart enough to figure the stuff out by themselves.
– user27327
May 25, 2017 at 2:01

No

The spell description says:

The spell can locate a specific object known to you, as long as you have seen it up close—within 30 feet—at least once. Alternatively, the spell can locate the nearest object of a particular kind, such as a certain kind of apparel, jewelry, furniture, tool, or weapon.

So, you set a search criteria — you get the result.

The only valid criteria are:

• It is the specific desired object known to you
• It's a random object of a desired type

All other criteria - "it is something made from lead between me and object X", "it is a piece of clothing that the murderer is wearing", "it is a ticket that is guaranteed to win the lottery" - are invalid.

• All other criteria you describe that are invalid, can fit in either of the two criteria you give. The object could be known to you. Alternatively, it could be of a known type, a type of "lead object"
– user27327
May 24, 2017 at 0:01
• The winning ticket or the murderer's hat fit these criteria too. That doesn't mean you can win the lottery or find the murderer using the "locate object" spell. May 24, 2017 at 9:46
• This answer is quite close: it notes that the spell uses physical description ("you have seen it up close—within 30 feet") as its metric. Other descriptors are not specified within the spell, so RAW are not part of the spell. The alternative usage has to have something to define object types, and the spell already starts with physical description. May 24, 2017 at 15:00
• May 25, 2017 at 18:04