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I stumbled across an incredibly vicious trap. (Seriously, whoever came up with this, they need help)

In the bottom of a well contains water 20 feet deep. At the very bottom of the well, a sword sticks out of a pile of debris, hilt up. Scattered across the floor of the well are piles of bones. If a character tries to grab the hilt of the sword, they find that the hilt is covered with Sovereign Glue. To pull themselves free from the sword, stuck in the bottom of the well requires a DC Strength Check...

My question is, is there any source that says that Sovereign Glue would dissolve in water or any other liquid? Would this substance work as the trap is written?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Putting this in a comment, because it doesn't answer the question being asked but is related to the trap being described. Many swords easily disassemble by removing the nut on the end of the pommel and letting the handle and hilt slide free of the tang. Anyone with weapon familiarity would know this and it would be a clever way to circumvent such a trap. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Nov 1 '17 at 1:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @keithcurtis I'd imagine someone creating a trap using a legendary adhesive has probably considered using a sword that doesn't simply unscrew. Or, you know, used the glue on that too. \$\endgroup\$ – Luke Nov 1 '17 at 21:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Probably so. Just suggesting it as a way a clever player could foil the trap, or a way to narrate a good trap evasion roll. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Nov 2 '17 at 1:34
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So, firstly, water has no effect on sovereign glue. This isn't a bottle of clag paste; this is a legendary magic item.

The glue takes 1 minute to set. Once it has done so, the bond it creates can be broken only by the application of universal solvent or oil of etherealness, or with a wish spell.

Unless the well is full of universal solvent, it won't affect the glue in any way.

Now, that said, this trap probably won't work. The glue takes a minute to set, and only binds unbreakably after that time. So unless the glue is placed on the sword just before someone tries to grab it, and they're still holding it when the glue finishes setting, having held it for a full minute 20 feet underwater, the glue won't bind to their hand. Instead, the sword's hilt will be unbreakably bonded to... nothing.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Isn't water considered a universal solvent? \$\endgroup\$ – Geekdude3 Jan 29 at 4:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Geekdude3 Universal solvent is a specific magic item listed in the DMG. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Jan 29 at 5:02
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Sovereign glue won't dissolve in water, though it will in universal solvent (DMG p.209).

But the trap still won't work:

The [sovereign] glue takes 1 minute to set. Once it has done so the bond it creates can only be broken.... (DMG p.200, emphasis mine)

It's very unlikely someone will spent a full minute 20 feet underwater holding onto a sword unbreakingly.

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Sovereign glue works underwater.

The glue takes 1 minute to set. Once it has done so, the bond it creates can be broken only by the application of universal solvent or oil of etherealness, or with a wish spell.

If water was considered a universal solvent, the description would very likely stop at water, and also not require a wish.

This trap would work as it is written.

Because it is a trap.

Trap Effects

The effects of traps can range from inconvenient to deadly, making use of elements such as arrows, spikes, blades, poison, toxic gas, blasts of fire, and deep pits. The deadliest traps combine multiple elements to kill, injure, contain, or drive off any creature unfortunate enough to trigger them. A trap’s description specifies what happens when it is triggered.

Things do what they say they do, and a trap that says works underwater, works underwater.

There are many examples of real-world adhesives that only work at particular heat, etc. So, of course, it's not a stretch that a Legendary, magical item could only work when there is interaction with it.

The trap does NOT take a minute to work.

This trap does not say it takes a minute, it says "If a character tries to grab the hilt of the sword [they are stuck and require a strength DC check]". Since the bond from sovereign glue is unbreakable after a minute, it makes sense that there is SOME bond before the minute is up and a strength DC could break that bond.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I can see that, the interpretation of this trap could be that the sovereign glue is already partially set before the PC touches it, but not set all the way (Maybe because it's in water and doesn't have another surface to bond with?) and when it's touched, it forms a partial bond but (because of the water?) can't form a full bond, which is why a normal DC check is required instead of requiring a Wish or universal solvent. It would be like touching regular glue after it's gotten a little tacky, doesn't work as well as if it was applied fresh! \$\endgroup\$ – Taegost Nov 1 '17 at 13:17
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Soveriegn glue works underwater

As other anwerers have said, water has no effect on the legendary adhesive, only universal solvent.

The trap won't work because the glue does not work on creatures

This viscous, milky-white substance can form a permanent adhesive bond between any two objects. 

The description of Sovereign Glue says quite clearly that it is to be used with objects only. In 5e living creatures are creatures not objects (dead creatures, however, possibly are objects depending on how you interpret Crawford's various tweets on the matter).

Allowing creatures to be glued, while completely within the power of a DM, makes this a houserule issue and the DM would have to decide how to handle the new interaction this causes.

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