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I ran into this situation in a gaming session last week and didn't want to make a big deal of it at the time, but I am curious.

The components of the banishment spell are:

V, S, M (an item distasteful to the target)

(emphasis mine)

In my session, we were trudging along through a swamp and came to an island with a mysterious altar, and 2 statues to either side of the altar. The statues turned out to be iron golems. Our wizard managed to banish one of them, which kept the fight reasonable for our party of 13th-level characters.

What I'm wondering is what is distasteful to a golem? I've always envisioned golems as mindless. If there is nothing distasteful to a golem, can you replace it with a spellcasting focus or component pouch?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jul 4 '18 at 17:37
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One can always replace costless, non-consumed components with a focus appropriate for their class

A character can use a component pouch or a spellcasting focus in place of the components specified for a spell. (Player's Handbook 5e, page 203)

This means you don't have to produce anything distasteful to the target in the first place - one's spellcasting focus can substitute for it since it has no cost associated and it is not consumed.

Note that a literal reading of the rules places the component pouch in a similar spot - it can replace the specific components without any stipulation that the particular component has to be known or even exist! This might feel strange to the observant player or GM, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a GM to forbid using the spell against creatures who cannot feel anything to be "distasteful". However, personally I'd recommend against this, as it introduces a layer of complexity that can hurt pacing and make spellcasters tougher to manage. If the spell was intended to be unusable against mindless creatures, it'd say so in the description.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jul 4 '18 at 17:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @kviiri Fluff you say? Apparently it's rules all the way down. \$\endgroup\$ – Jack Jul 16 '18 at 21:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jack Very well, I corrected that. It doesn't really change the substance of the answer, though - one doesn't actually need to have anything the target finds "distasteful" to cast the spell. A pouch or focus is still enough. \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Jul 17 '18 at 9:26
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From the MM p.167 to 170 all but flesh golems have int 3, with the flesh golem having int 6.

This means they have the intelligence of a panther, octopus, mastiff etc. all of which have the cleverness to turn their noses up against things they know are not good for them (off meat, dung etc.)

So a Golem may well find things that harm them, or represent their destruction, to be distasteful in minor amounts, so suggestions below:

  • Clay Golem: a ball of clay that has been squashed into a formless shape
  • Flesh Golem: a lit taper or glowing coal
  • Iron Golem: a pinch of rust
  • Stone Golem: a handful of gravel

Anything with a non-zero intelligence will have things that they will have an aversion to, even mosquitos don't like citronella.

On a meta level the component pouch and the focus are not meant to be perfect, unassailable rules items, they are meant to be way of generally avoiding all the hassle and admin around maintaining a list of "common" or trivial spell components, to avoid the shopping sessions for the spell casters. To be able to concentrate on the action rather than the trivia. Examining them too closely erodes this purpose, as they are like a metaphor in that they will, of course, fail to model what they describe at some point.

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