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The human body contains approximately 60% water on average. (According to the USGS). The spell Create or Destroy Water states: "You destroy up to 10 gallons of water in an open container within range." In addition, "When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, you create or destroy 10 additional gallons of water". A gallon of water weighs roughly 8.35 pounds.

Say there's a human who weighs 200 pounds. 60% of 200 is 120 - approximately 120 pounds of water are in this person. dividing 120 by 8.35 = around 14 - so those 120 pounds of water are, in other words, around 14 gallons. The destroy water spell can destroy up to 20 gallons.

According to these measurements, "destroy water" could theoretically completely dehydrate a 200 lb human.

The biggest argument against this in my eyes is that the water must be in an "open container". However, the human body is technically the container of the water. Thus, if a barbarian takes a big slash across the torso, resulting in a large open wound, the wounded human may, technically, count as an "open container".

Now, the 64 million dollar question - would "destroy water" dehydrate a human with an open wound, removing all water from their body and instantly killing them?

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Allowing you to target a person makes the phrase meaningless

What is a "container"? Merriam-Webster says,

a : a receptacle (such as a box or jar) for holding goods

Is a human a receptacle for holding water? The wording of the definition suggests that there is some intent--that the object is intended to hold water, in this case. Do people keep humans around to hold water? That seems unlikely.

However, let's say that humans are valid "open containers". Then, what is not an open container? Sure, the human's blood is "open," in some sense, but the vast majority of it is still inside the body. If we say that the wound makes that "open," then basically any gap is "open". Therefore, literally everything that has any water in it is an "open container". Heck, why use the level 4 spell Blight to kill plants, when plants are "open containers"?

Finally, consider game balance. Should a 1st level spell be an instant kill on any humanoid that's taken damage? Probably not. You can often do crazy things with magic in D&D, but it is ultimately a game, and not a physics simulator.

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Although there's already an excellent semantic answer to this question, there's also a RAW answer. From the "Targets" section for spellcasting on p263:

A typical spell requires you to pick one or more targets to be affected by the spell’s magic. A spell's description tells you whether the spell targets creatures, objects, or a point of origin for an area of effect (described below).

In other words, there are three distinct possible targets for (a mode of) a spell: a creature, an object, or a point in space. Create or Destroy Water specifies modes that target objects and modes that target points in space, but no modes that target creatures.

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This came up as a suggestion of cleverness by a younger campaigner in a group recently, but their thought was regarding drowning a person by creating water inside the lungs. I put the kibosh on that by telling him 1) it would be a called shot on a target (the lungs) under complete cover 2) using the spell in this manner demonstrates a particular level of evil, (I'm not alignment heavy, but the player is), and 3) if I allowed this use of the spell I would extend that use to NPCs.

I would add two things to this of destroy water to balance the game. If a character wanted to use this as an attack, I would suggest that they research necromancy and dehydration and make a new necromantic spell as this spell demonstrates a manipulation of the element of life, not just water.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for citing your experience handling this at the table, and for the conclusion that what they're describing is, functionally, a different spell. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Dec 30 '19 at 15:28
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No. Spells do what they say they do, and it doesn’t specify any damage rolls.

Create or Destroy Water doesn’t specify any damage rolls in its Destroy Water mode. If it was capable of desiccating creatures, it would do so. As an example of a spell that is capable of damaging creatures this way, look at Abu Dalzim’s Horrid Wilting (Elemental Evil, 150) - it does a large amount of necrotic damage to creatures struck by it.

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I think it's all up to your DM. That being said I would like to point out that the average person has 5.5 liters of blood or 1.4 gallons. Blood is 92% water so you would only need the level one spell to destroy a person because without blood the body would shrivel. I think this is OP, maybe you could do a dexterity check and s medicine check. This could curb the chance of destroying all the water. It would mean your character would understand anatomy and have the dexterity to control the spell enough to target the water in the blood as it ran through the veins. This could possibly allow you to dehydrate possibly a limb putting an opponent at disadvantage and possibly doing damage. I would count damage as a portion of the person. Torso and head would each be 30% of max health. Each limb would count for 10% of max health. This is all just my thought, I would love to see this happen n in a campaign and would allow it as a DM

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi Cameron! Welcome to the RPGSE! Your answer could benefit from quoting/linking evidence to support your assertion about the volume of blood in the human body. Consider adding this info in. Your answer also leans heavily on homebrew ideas for how to handle the question. The OP is asking about what the rules would explicitly. Homebrew solutions, while germaine, don't really address the question being asked and your answer may get downvoted. When you get the chance, I encourage you to read more about this site's format by taking the tour or reading the help center Again, welcome to the RPGSE! :) \$\endgroup\$ – Rykara Mar 10 at 17:10
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The definition of a container is "an object that can be used to hold or transport something" and the definition of an object is "a material thing that can be seen and touched" So by definition a human is a container

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to rpg.se! Take the tour and visit the help center for more information. Alternatively you can ask here in the comments (use @ to ping someone). Do you have a source for your definitions? Unless the source is relevant within the context of D&D 5e this isn't really an answer to the question. You can edit your post to add more information, otherwise it may be removed. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Jul 16 '19 at 3:58

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