19
\$\begingroup\$

A creative player recently tried to do a number of clever tricks using Animate Objects, Catapult, and other spells that move objects (a few of which will have their own questions). The character in question used an extended Delayed Blast Fireball to the side while the party face was "making a deal" with a undead-worshiping cult's leadership. He waited two minutes for it to reach full charge (Metamagic for the win), then cast Catapult to throw it into the middle of the cultist group for 32d6 fire damage.

The DM was cool with it and gave him inspiration for clever use of resources, but I want to know about how RAW compliant that action would be.

The description of Delayed Blast Fireball:

A beam of yellow light flashes from your pointing finger, then condenses to linger at a chosen point within range as a glowing bead for the duration. When the spell ends, either because your concentration is broken or because you decide to end it, the bead blossoms with a low roar into an explosion of flame that spreads around corners. ... If the glowing bead is touched before the interval has expired, the creature touching it must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, the spell ends immediately, causing the bead to erupt in flame. On a successful save, the creature can throw the bead up to 40 feet. When it strikes a creature or a solid object, the spell ends, and the bead explodes.

...and Catapult:

Choose one object weighing 1 to 5 pounds within range that isn’t being worn or carried. The object flies in a straight line up to 90 feet in a direction you choose before falling to the ground, stopping early if it impacts against a solid surface. If the object would strike a creature, that creature must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, the object strikes the target and stops moving. When the object strikes something, the object and what it strikes each take 3d8 bludgeoning damage.

The weight of the bead is never specified, but it can be picked up and thrown, meaning it can be interacted with. Catapult does not have Animate Object's restriction to non-magical items, so that does not get in the way.

Is there anything in RAW that prevents a character from doing this?

\$\endgroup\$
15
\$\begingroup\$

Clever, but unlikely

In order for Catapult to work, it requires:

one object weighing 1 to 5 pounds within range that isn’t being worn or carried.

This is the requirement that Delayed Blast Fireball must meet. The question is: Does it?

Delayed Blast Fireball isn't explicit in the definition, but it does state:

A beam of yellow light flashes from your pointing finger, then condenses to linger at a chosen point within range as a glowing bead for the duration.

How much does a bead of light weight?

In order for that bead to qualify for Catapult, it must be at least one pound and less than five pounds. As Dale M states, that's likely a DM call. But how should the DM approach?

Well, it's a beam of light that condenses into a bead. How much does a bead of light weigh? I'd think that a bead of magic light does not weigh anything, but another DM may believe otherwise. Then it's a question of does a bead of light weighs more than 1lb. Even if it did have a mass, it's unlikely to weigh more than 1lb.

Without meeting the weight requirement, you can't use Catapult to launch the Bead for extra damage (pending the save failure)

Throwing the Bead

There is another option for interacting with the Delayed Blast Fireball:

If the glowing bead is touched before the interval has expired, the creature touching it must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, the spell ends immediately, causing the bead to erupt in flame. On a successful save, the creature can throw the bead up to 40 feet.

This does imply that it can be handled, but it doesn't answer weight or anything else. Ultimately, this is a magic bead made of condensed light and it does not necessarily mean it has mass. It just means that you can throw the magic bead. If a DM does rule that it has mass, then it still needs to weigh more than 1 lb (see discussion above on weight of condensed light.)

\$\endgroup\$
7
\$\begingroup\$

It very likely does not work by RAW, but it could be made slightly more reasonable

As others have noted, there are at least three obstacles to overcome to make this clever maneuver adhere to RAW: whether the bead of light can be considered an object, what constitutes as touching the bead (and may potentially cause it to detonate prematurely), and the weight restriction of the Catapult spell.

Is the bead of light an object

The target of the Catapult spell must be an object. However, the description of Delayed Blast Fireball does not specify the bead is an object, and while we'd usually consider any sort of bead an object, the description suggest it may just be a globule of light and no more. However, since the bead can be touched and subsequently thrown, having it obey the laws of gravity as an object with mass would, I believe that it is highly likely that the bead is an object that has non-negligible weight.

Is the Catapult spell touching the bead, and does it matter

One can argue that a Catapult spell does not touch anything, instead just magically propels it, but even that poses some problems when you look at it realistically.

The description of Delayed Blast Fireball clearly states: touch the bead and it explodes, either in your hand or at most 40ft away. In fact, it is important to note that the spell offers no other alternatives. It does not say "If you succeed on the saving throw, you may hold the bead to throw it on a later turn" or anything like that. And it makes sense if you consider what the Dexterity saving throw is supposed to represent. Saving throws in general are used to resist or avoid negative effects that would otherwise be inflicted upon you should you do nothing. In this case, you roll the Dexterity save to see if you are fast enough to throw the bead away from you before it blows up in your hand. The fact that you can throw it at someone you don't like is just an added bonus to keeping yourself intact.

However, there is likely a component of finesse, too. While throwing the bead away fast enough is imperative, you could technically do the same by hitting the bead with a bat, baseball style. But I'm sure we all agree that, if you did that, it would just blow up in your face instead (though, again, it is not specified in the spell description). Therefore, it is likely that a part of the Dexterity saving throw applies to carefully handling the bead as you grab and throw it.

What does that mean for the Catapult spell? Not good news.

While it's easy to argue that a spell which can chuck a 5lb object 90ft in a straight line surely makes the object fly fast enough to automatically succeed on that part of the Dexterity saving throw, the forces applied to the bead are likely too large to keep the bead intact. One could argue that, if a human can safely throw the bead 40ft away, that you can tone down your Catapult spell to do the same. However, that significantly reduces the effectiveness of the combo and delves too deep into uncharted waters to give a more concrete answer than "it's up to the DM".

Does the bead weigh at least 1lb, and does it matter

The only inkling of the weight of the bead comes from the fact that it can be thrown 40ft away. Let's compare that to a regular item, like Alchemist's fire (which weighs 1lb). Those can be thrown at a target using the improvised ranged attack rules: it can be thrown at a target 20ft away, or 60ft with disadvantage. The fact that throwing the bead at a target does not require a separate attack roll suggests that it is quite easy to throw, and likely much lighter than 1lb. Granted, you do not have to be too precise with it to do significant damage, but doing the same with a 1lb jug sounds rather unreasonable.

But what if we increased the weight? Naturally, you can't make the bead itself weigh more (unless you think the Enlarge spell would work), but you could put it in a flask and then catapult the whole thing. Or, to be more precise, bring the flask up to the levitating bead and carefully raise it open-end-up without touching the bead, so it ends up inside. Now, if you were to just catapult that, the flask would likely slam into the bead and have the same effect as the baseball bat from before. You would have to, again, carefully bring the bead to the inner edge of the flask, so the two objects accelerate as one as the Catapult spell takes effect. This would most likely require a Dexterity roll of some kind (possibly Sleight of Hand), which appropriately substitutes the Dexterity saving throw you would have to make if you just tried to throw the bead by hand.

If a DM would allow that, maybe they would also allow to fill the flask with liquid, saving you the trouble of finding a flask that is 1lb heavy when empty, and potentially softening the application of force to the bead, making the whole thing slightly more reasonable. Of course, the question stands whether immersing the bead in liquid counts as touching it. That one in turn raises a couple of other interesting questions: is casting the Delayed Blast Fireball spell safe to do during rain, or could a random raindrop spell your doom? How about casting it underwater?

Conclusion

Using clever tricks, there is a possibility of making the whole maneuver slightly more reasonable, but by RAW the problem of touching the bead is at least partially disruptive, and the problem of the bead's weight makes the maneuver impossible without said trickery. A DM might house-rule it to make it possible as is, or may require additional effort as described (to at least restore the requirement of a Dexterity saving throw), but they have more than enough arguments to just make it impossible from the start.

\$\endgroup\$
6
\$\begingroup\$

The RAW answer is easy:

  • if the DM thinks the “bead” is an object (it doesn’t say it is or isn’t) its a valid target for catapult,

  • if the DM decides that “touching” means physically rather than with magic (it doesn’t say) then no save is needed, if they decide that using catapult on it is touching it then the caster must make the save or it explodes before it gets thrown,

  • if no save is needed or the save is made then it will get thrown and the caster can stop concentrating to make it explode.

This particular DMs ruling falls within RAW.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Note that Catapult also requires that the object be between 1 and 5 pounds (so the DM must decide/agree that the bead weighs at least 1 pound and less than 5 pounds). \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 14 '18 at 10:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ That said, the glowing bead is, well, a bead, so I'd argue that it's an object. And D&D descriptions are written in language, so "touching" means touching - nothing more, nothing less. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 14 '18 at 10:08
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Also note that RAW also specifies that catapult does 3d8 bludgeoning damage regardless of what is put in there. A bead would probably not qualify as an object that could do this. So, I'm pretty sure this use is not strictly RAW even if the above is agreed upon. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 14 '18 at 11:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose well, it does 3d8 bludgeoning if it hits something, so arguably it would hit, do 3d8, and then go back to following the normal rules for a DBF bead again since there's nothing about catapult subjects being destroyed on impact. It touching whatever it hit should probably count as triggering it unless you want your campaign to have a more "Looney Tunes" flavour. \$\endgroup\$ – Perkins Oct 3 '18 at 23:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.