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If Water Walk has been cast on someone, can they still choose to submerge themselves or is their buoyancy now determined and final until the spell ends?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The question is framed as "either / or" ... but I suppose that any answer could challenge that frame as part of the answer. No worries, I don't have a better answer that what is already there. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 16, 2018 at 21:09

2 Answers 2

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RAW is Insufficiently Explicit

Water Walk says...

This spell grants the ability to move across any liquid surface [...] as if it were harmless solid ground.

Spells in D&D tend to do only what they say on the tin. At first blush, this one is pretty clear. However, they're also meant to be parsed with normal human language. Having the ability to do something does not explicitly require one to do that thing.

However, it also says...

If you target a creature submerged in a liquid, the spell carries the target to the surface of the liquid at a rate of 60 feet per round.

This part of the spell doesn't use language that introduces the possibility of caveats - if the subject is submerged, they rise. There is no indication it ends after they surface.

Suggested Handling

With the first part being theoretically optional, but the second part clearly mandatory, there are two choices.

  1. Treat the 60 feet as negative downward movement. A sufficiently fast character (able to Swim more than 60 feet in a turn) could choose to dive into the surface, but wouldn't get very far. A slower character couldn't even try to swim down.

  2. Apply the 60 feet upward at the end of each character's turn - a character who could swim 30 would get down 30 feet, then be pushed back to the surface at the end of their turn.

Personally, I've ruled the second without complaint from players, but the first is an equally reasonable approach.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There is also at least a 3rd choice: use it as it is worded. Which poses no complications whatsoever. \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Apr 16, 2018 at 18:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Szega I disagree with the level of clarity and level of unambiguity you're applying to that wording. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Apr 16, 2018 at 19:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ While I am not sure this is RAW I am fairly certain that it is RAI, and makes the most sense to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Apr 17, 2018 at 8:45
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Yes you can voluntarily go underwater

First,

This spell grants the ability to move across any liquid surface (PHB 287)

Having an ability does not force you to use it every time when applicable. If they wished for it to be otherwise, they could have worded it differently, like "Creatures affected by the spell do not sink in liquids, but can walk on their surface.".

What might be a source of confusion is that:

If you target a creature submerged in a liquid, the spell carries the target to the surface of the liquid

This applies only when you target a creature submerged in a liquid, i.e. at the time of casting. The creature cannot "opt out" of it, though. The spell explicitly forces it up at the stated rate.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Though consistent with the rules as written I cannot help but feel the intent is that Water Walk precludes you voluntarily going under. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    Apr 16, 2018 at 18:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Carcer Especially given that last paragraph's verbiage. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Apr 16, 2018 at 18:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Carcer Nowhere does the spell say that your buoyancy changes. The last part is a completely separate effect. Not being able to submerge is neither RAW, nor RAI. \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Apr 16, 2018 at 18:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Szega I just read it differently, I don't see it as two separate effects and I don't see one ending simply because you were brought to the surface. This question was asked to SageAdvice but there has been no reply by anyone of note... yet. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Apr 16, 2018 at 19:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Yes. Also, the mention of targeting separates it from the first paragraph/effect. \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Apr 16, 2018 at 19:46

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