Caution: Minor spoiler ahead, Out of the Abyss, hard cover.

The question is whether any level magic spell will act per usual on an artifact possessing very high-level magic, which is featured in a campaign, especially when the exposition of the artifact within the DM guide does not expressly limit the use of magic spells, etc., to influence or alter the artifact.

Background/specific example (spoiler)

In a above mentioned campaign, members of the party decided to pay another visit to the Maze Engine after time traveling. This time around, they used an Enlarge/Reduce spell (reduce 2 ton weight of ME to 1/8th = 500lbs), then Levitate (up to 500 lbs limit) to move the ME to a position on land where they could then activate it literally dozens of times to gain two ASIs. (I did the best that I could to opt out of what I saw as shenanigans, but was still affected).

I know, the DM can allow whatever he wants.

But are there generally applicable rules, express or implied, that delineate the power of spells beyond what the text of the spell or the campaign specifies? It seems obvious that there must be some 'common sense' limitation here, but this DM says that anything is possible, if not expressly prohibited.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I added the out-of-the-abyss tag, as I have no clue what you're talking about and I guess that's because I'm not familiar with the adventure :) \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Feb 8 '18 at 15:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's not anywhere in the adventure that I can find. If that weight is written in, it was not well thought out. I'm hoping that someone on this site can provide a citation for it being officially 2 tons. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Brown Feb 8 '18 at 16:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is this an Adventurers League campaign (as in the other question about the ME)? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 8 '18 at 17:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ I can't imagine that these characters will be allowed to play as-is at other tables, regardless of documentation. Gaining 2 ASIs is pretty hard to justify if the DM was playing this right. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Brown Feb 8 '18 at 18:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think making the question more general would be helpful. It would probably be closed as unclear or broad due to artifacts varying so much. Stack Exchange prefers concrete specific questions rather than abstract general. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 11 '18 at 5:30

There are many serious problems with this plan...

A lot of this is going into spoiler tags, because it reveals details of how things work behind the DM Screen.

First off....

It's almost certainly too heavy to Levitate, even while Reduced.

Levitate specifies that...

The spell can levitate a target that weighs up to 500 pounds.

The Reduce factor of Enlarge/Reduce...

The target's size is halved in all dimensions, and its weight is reduced to one-eighth of normal.

So, the maximum weight you can move with this combo is something that weighs 4,000 lbs.

The Maze Engine is described as

a 20-foot diameter sphere built of 1-foot wide bands of magically hardened and shaped bronze. Gaps in the bands show various gears and articulation arms within the sphere.

We will be charitable here. We will assume that the engine is about 75% hollow, accounting for the space between all the gears and arms and such.

Bronze has a density of 532 lbs per cubic foot. The Engine has a volume of 4,189 cubic feet.

So, going at 25% of the density of bronze (133 lbs/cubic foot)...

This thing weighs about 557,137 pounds. Or about 278 and a half tons.

Even if we assume that this thing is 90% hollow...we're still looking at it weighing 222,855 lbs.

Reducing the Engine would still leave it weighing 27,857 lbs. Far in excess of what Levitate can lift.

And, beyond even that...

This would take EXTREMELY precise timing.

The Maze Engine is sitting 40 feet above the lava. And is wedged there just enough that, once it starts running, it rattles its way loose and falls into the lava

if you cast Enlarge/Reduce on the Maze Engine...

its diameter just halved. It is no longer large enough to be wedged into that crevice and immediately falls.

The time it takes for something to fall a given distance can be computed with

$$ \sqrt{2\times\frac{height}{9.8}} $$

So, running the math with the numbers we have...

Once you cast Reduce on the Maze Engine, you have about one and a half seconds before it goes splash in the lava and is destroyed.

You probably should have all died from this, anyway.

The Maze Engine is NOT controllable.

Every time it goes off, it does something at random. About a third of these things are BAD. A few are TPK material.

If you guys got through this without all dying horribly, you are incredibly lucky.

You have a 4% chance of getting that ASI. Statistically speaking, to get a pair of ASIs, you'd have to set the engine off about 50 times. Once activated, it goes off every single turn until it is deactivated or destroyed (the game is not specific as to whether or not it can be re-activated)

During that time, each time it goes off it...

Summons 2 additional Mephits that you must fight. You have a 1% chance of all of your magic items being irrevocably destroyed. You have a 2% chance of being blasted back to the past again. You have a 4% chance of someone of the DM's choice being resurrected and appearing nearby (not necessarily friendly). You have a 5% chance to get blasted for 10d6 lightning damage. A 5% chance of getting attacked by a Green Slaad. A 4% chance of getting polymorphed into a flying snake. A 5% chance of getting hit with an AoE Disintegrate spell. And a 4% chance of being Petrified.

So, statistically speaking, in the amount of time it took you to get the two positive results you wanted...almost all of those things should have happened at least once, if not more.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If my math is right, to weigh 4,000 lbs. or less the ME would have to be at least 99.9999999887819% hollow! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 8 '18 at 17:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Yup! 20' Spheres of metal are heavy \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Feb 8 '18 at 17:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not to mention the fact that there is an antagonist who is motivated to keep you from attempting this at all. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Brown Feb 8 '18 at 20:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, Levitate doesn't make something weightless, and doesn't provide any non-vertical movement, so how did they move it around? \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Feb 8 '18 at 20:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Seriously though...extending your exposure to the Maze Engine is like playing Poker with a Deck of Many Things. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Feb 8 '18 at 20:53

Levitate can only target objects or creatures weighing 500 pounds or less. Paired with the reduce spell, you could manage 4000 pounds.

It's unlikely that the Maze Engine is less than 4000 pounds. As described in the book it is a 20' diameter metal sphere (with gaps in the bands but filled with machinery). So the shenanigans probably shouldn't have worked anyway (not without the danger of the lava). Also, I think it is reasonable for an Artifact of this power to resist either/both of the spells. Without levitation, the ME would probably immediately fall into the lava. Sounds like the perfect time for Slaughtertusk to attack the party and break the concentration on either one of these spellcasters.

The Maze Engine is supposed to sink into the lava on the 13th round after being activated. It seems like the only way to get a 2nd chance would be to get sent back in time before it does.

Is the party trying to get extra experience from fighting the mephits? Maybe the DM should throw in some harder monsters after the first few times that the ME is disturbed. Maybe the mephits' supervisor needs to investigate, along with his "fixers".

Is the DM remembering to spawn the 12 mephits every time that the ME is re-activated? Trying to maintain contact with the ME for the ASIs (4% chance per ME turn) would severely limit combat mobility.

Is the DM rolling for the ME effects on each turn? Some of the effects can be quite bad. I would expect a few of these to occur before getting multiple ASIs (or even one). The resurrection option for instance could bring in an NPC villian that the party already defeated.

I think it would be extremely reasonable for a DM to award the ASIs once per creature.

And you would only be affected by the ASIs if you were in contact with the ME on its turn that it granted them. So you either are or are not participating in this.

Lastly, it is up the DM to keep a rein on the story. If the DM wants all of the characters to have abilities of 24, that's the DM's story, but it makes playing 5e harder (for the DM).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point. The original question wasn't very clear and I thought maybe they had enlarged a character to help move it or reach it. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Brown Feb 8 '18 at 16:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks I added the particulars about the two spells, explaining how it was "possible", at least according the spell limits/abilities. \$\endgroup\$ – Conrad Feb 8 '18 at 16:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Only possible if the machine is unreasonably light. Get a grasp of how big a 20' diameter sphere is and then imagine it being made to metal and filled with machinery. I think minivans are way more than 2 tons. A Corolla weighs almost 3000 pounds and is so much smaller. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Brown Feb 8 '18 at 16:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nick, some of that probably needs to be in spoilers. I made a first guess on what needs to be in spoiler tags. please revise if more needs to be int them. My minivan is listed as more than 4000 pounds. (Toyota Sienna). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 8 '18 at 16:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair enough, but if you keep reading after the first line in the question, it's your fault. Although some details in my answer are much more spoiler-y then the question.... \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Brown Feb 8 '18 at 16:30

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