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One of the uses of the prestidigitation spell is:

You create a nonmagical trinket or an illusory image that can fit in your hand and that lasts until the end of your next turn.

There are a lot of questions about prestidigitation's "nonmagical trinket" ability that tend to have an answer that you can create any item that fits the stipulations (nonmagical and fits in hand). However, I couldn't find any that specifically answer this question:

Could you make a working key with prestidigitation?

This would definitely require that the caster have exact knowledge of the key (or a drawing of it) so that they aren't just able to open any lock, but would you theoretically be able to create a nonmagical key that fits in your hand to the exact dimensions of a key needed to open a lock?

My assumption is yes, but I wasn't sure if there was a Sage Advice on the topic I missed or if a DM would object.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related (but certainly not duplicate): Can “Minor Conjuration” create a physical key? \$\endgroup\$ – user37158 Jun 12 '18 at 21:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ This question is interesting to me because one of my players has a wizard who wants to melt the only key for his magical vault and just conjure one via Prestidigitation whenever he needs access! \$\endgroup\$ – Hamstertron Jun 13 '18 at 11:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Hamstertron You know those mobile phone "pattern locks" where you draw a shape on a 3x3 grid? Imagine that, except there is no grid. You have to draw a shape, freehand, that matches the shape you originally drew within ~1 mm of tolerance. This is a great way to end up with a lost vault of magical swag for future adventurers to raid. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Jun 13 '18 at 18:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind that prestidigitation lets you create things like music boxes that can fit in your hand, which are far more complex than a key. The key point is that you're creating it with magic. And thinking about it, if you're a decent artist replicating something you've drawn in the past might take a couple tries but is by no means impossible. \$\endgroup\$ – Bobbito Jun 13 '18 at 20:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ "It's a key." "No! Much more better! It is a drawing of a key." \$\endgroup\$ – vonBoomslang Oct 17 '18 at 11:11
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Maybe, but how useful is it?

If a player says "I cast Prestidigitation and conjure a key to this safe", well, they can't. Because they don't know the design of the key. That's like casting Illusory Script and specifying that you write "the correct answer to the Sphinx's riddle", or Eldritch Blast with a target of "the invisible guy I know is around here somewhere".

There's no rule that says that you have to know the design of an object to magically create it, but it's implied by this limitation on Fabricate:

You also can't use it to create items that ordinarily require a high degree of craftsmanship, such as jewelry, weapons, glass, or armor, unless you have proficiency with the type of artisan's tools used to craft such objects.

Now if you have a detailed, accurate image of the key to work with, it might be possible. But your wizard doesn't have a smartphone, so images of that quality are pretty much limited to magical scrying (for example with a familiar or Arcane Eye), or having access to the key for long enough to trace it on paper, or looking directly at it. There are cases where Prestidigitating a key might still have benefits over (having your familiar steal it / taking the paper to a locksmith / picking up the key with your hand) but it's hard to see anything game-breaking there.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Making copies for you to break in other ppl houses after they lent you the key once for you to take care of their dog! - anyway, agreed with the point that it has a very restrictive condition which leads it almost useless most of the time and thus is not a problem if allowed \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 13 '18 at 1:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd argue that the only feasible method of being able to replicate a key just by looking directly at it would be if you had the Keen Mind feat. People would typically have significant difficulty perfectly replicating a key just from memory. Your other suggestions there are more reasonable. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 13 '18 at 1:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast I agree that memorizing the shape would be impractical. I was thinking rather of looking at the real key while casting the spell, which sounds utterly useless except that low-fantasy settings are full of dumb jailers who leave keys just outside the cell door. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Jun 13 '18 at 1:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Prestidigitation is mostly used by Wizards. Wizards who have familiars, that the Wizard can see through. Even in a high-fantasy setting, the combination is very useful. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Zastoupil Aug 27 '18 at 18:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ "images of that quality are pretty much limited to magical scrying (for example with a familiar..." \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Aug 27 '18 at 18:20
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TL;DR

If you can do that or not is up to the DM. Given the restriction (possession of the key's design) and the fact that it's easily "countered" by DM fiats requiring that the key has some specific property that the spell can't replicate, I can't see any problem with allowing it.

PHB: Maybe...?

Trinkets are exemplified in pages 160 and 161 from PHB. One of the possible examples are "An Old Key". So certainly, by book's standard, a key can be a trinket. Can you make a functional key? In particular, does the spell allow you to insert such a level of detail that it actually works? It seems completely up to the DM.

"I wasn't sure if a DM would object" - ask him. Easiest solution ever.

English: Maybe...?

As far as I know, a "Trinket" in English Language usually refers to jewelry, or, at best, "items of little value" - this was reinforced by googling "trinket meaning" to be sure. If we take that to face value, it would depend whether the DM considers the key is "an item of little value" or not. Again, it seems up to the DM.

Checking if allowing it is broken, fine or what

Usually, for most DMs I have played with, and certainly for me, "creative" uses of spell are fine, as long as they

  • Don't overstep the purpose of other/higher-level spells.
  • Don't create an incredibly easy solution for a challenge that was supposed to be hard.

The second bullet may seem harsh on the players, but I would rather not having them get access to that super important door that should require defeating the Dungeon's Boss by... using a cantrip.

Honestly, this can be "forced" by the DM while still allowing you to try, e.g. "the key needs to be made of diamond, because the door is special and breaks usual keys" - a diamond key is certainly not of little value. Or "the specific key is magical", w/e.

For other particular uses, personally, I would totally allow it as long as you were using it to have some fun (and not simply trying to break my game - okay, maybe breaking my game is your fun, but then we would be playing a very different game from what I usually DM).

Does it overstep other spells/features?

Not really sure. You might say it it crosses the boundary of Minor Conjuration, maybe? Other than that, it doesn't actually overstep, for example, a Rogue with Thieves' Tools using Lockpick, as you need the design of the key, which shouldn't be that easy to find, for things that actually matter.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't forget Knock. \$\endgroup\$ – Javelin Jun 12 '18 at 23:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Javelin same argument for Thieves' Tools applies, imho. Requiring the key design (and I mean a detailed one, not "oh I saw the key once") makes it situational enough to not overstep Knock. Plus Arcane Lock. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 12 '18 at 23:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ tl;dr are most useful at the top of a post. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Jun 13 '18 at 16:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Grosscol I agree. Never thought about this awkward convention from internet to put it at the end. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 13 '18 at 16:28
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Welcome to the Grey Zone!

Can you use Prestidigitation to make key as a trinket?

  • Yes. (PHB pg. 161)

Can you make a key without tool proficiency?

  • Not a useful one.

Can you replicate an original key?

  • Yes, with an appropriate tool proficiency.

A key is a finely crafted item (even a medieval one) and making one by hand needs specialized tools and a skill set. I would allow someone to attempt this, but there it would involve a Thieves' Tools check for replicating the original key in hand. But you would have to homebrew separate rules for this.

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