The player characters are fighting a large creature, let's say dragon sized, in a large area like the town's market square. A player decides he wants his character to point at a boulder (large but still within the 10×10×10 size specs) and teleport it into the dragon.

It seems like the spell allows it. The very beginning says you can teleport yourself and X people, or an object that's 10×10×10 to a destination that's known to you. That last part is what's getting me: he's claiming that since he can see it, it's known to him.

As a DM, how do I control that? It's obviously catastrophic damage if it works. I can counter that he's never been inside the dragon, therefore the destination is unknown to him. But then he can just adjust to teleport it into what he can see, the dragon's outer stomach.

I've read the spell and I can't see an easy way to stop that, but there must be one or people would be doing this all over the place.

Not directly

he's claiming that since he can see it, it's known to him

The player wants to teleport an item inside the dragon. If so, he can't see the destination point.

Moreover, "the destination <...> known to you" in the context of this spell means some kind of a place, like a room, a square, a meadow, etc. Otherwise, a PC could be teleported inside a mountain rock due to the mishap. See the examples from the Familiarity column description:

such as a book from a wizard's library, bed linen from a royal suite, or a chunk of marble from a lich's secret tomb.

But the main mechanical reason for this not to work is the fact that killing in D&D is meant to be done through dealing damage (it's a game term, any damage dealt implies damage type and a number being subtracted from hit points). If a spell can deal damage its description always says that. For example, the Catapult spell explicitly says you can deal damage with it:

When the object strikes something, the object and what it strikes each take 3d8 bludgeoning damage.

The Teleport spell doesn't say it deals damage (besides the Mishap side effect, that might deal damage to teleported creatures). See also What is the source of the "spells do only what they say they do" rules interpretation principle?

As the DM, you resolve this by saying "no, you can't teleport an item inside a living creature, it is a limitation of the spell".

However, the player might try to teleport a rock above the dragon. I'd say it's possible to deal damage in this case — you can use rules for a similar trap to adjudicate this:

Collapsing Roof

When the trap is triggered, the unstable ceiling collapses. Any creature in the area beneath the unstable section must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, taking 22 (4d10) bludgeoning damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

See also How might the weight of a falling object affect the damage it causes?

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    Some guidance on falling objects: does weight make a difference? and dropping objects on monsters. – NautArch Aug 9 at 15:18
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    A good rule of thumb in this situation is, if the result if easily repeatable in most encounters, make sure the damage is the same or less than direct damage spells of the same level. – Jonathon Aug 9 at 18:12
  • So... If one were to have dragon droppings, that's analogous to a book from a wizard's library, right? A particular disgusting prequest to go on, but... <shrug> – T.J.L. Aug 9 at 18:14
  • Great suggestion!! All in all, it is awesome to have creative players, that thinks outside the scope of hack and slash. Alternative to the suggestion of dealing damage to the target, you could instead allow the spell to be used for providing a condition to the dragon - e.g. the stone lands on the dragons tail, restricting the dragons movement. This could perhaps buy the PC's a round or two, as the dragon must use its action to break free. – Kasper Thystrup Karstensen Aug 10 at 7:52

The inside of a dragon is not a known destination

he's claiming that since he can see it, it's known to him

In addition to enkryptor's answer, I'd also argue that the destination is not known to the PC, as per the description of Teleport. It has a table of levels of familiarity on PHB, pg. 281, including Permanent circle, Associated object, Very familiar, Seen casually, Viewed once, Description and False Destination. Let's look at each of them.

Permanent circle: The inside of a dragon is not a permanent circle.

Associated object: The inside of a dragon could be argued to be associated with the outside of a dragon, but the spell description defines this to mean "that you possess an objected taken from the desired destination", which I presume the PC has not.

Very familiar: This, as per the spell description, "is a place you have been very often, a place you have carefully studied, or a place you can see when you cast the spell". None of these are true of the inside of a dragon.

Seen casually: This is "somewhere you have seen more than once", but I doubt that in this case.

Viewed once: This is "a place you have seen once, possibly with magic", so unless your PC has been eaten by the dragon and survived (and even then, creatures swallowed by other creatures are usually considered "blinded") or has scryed inside this particular dragon, this one doesn't count either.

Description: This one looks promising, since someone can easily describe what they think the inside of a dragon might look like, but the spell description says "you know through someone else's description, perhaps from a map", so this one doesn't work either.

False Destination: Even this one doesn't work because, as per the spell description, "Perhaps you tried to scry an enemy's sanctum but instead viewed an illusion, or you are attempting to teleport to a familiar location that no longer exists".

So my conclusion is that, in addition to what enkryptor has said, they do not know the inside of a dragon, therefore the target is invalid and the spell will not teleport the rock inside the dragon.

  • What if the PC has read "Dragon's anatomy" book or simply study the anatomy of a Dragon, that would fit in the "Description" category and be a valid destination? – frikinside Aug 10 at 6:26
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    @frikinside that would be a general description of a specific studied (probably dead) dragon, not the dragon in question. Even then it would likely be a false destination unless said dragon had not yet decomposed. – spade Aug 10 at 7:20
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    That would still fail because there exists more than one dragon. Knowing a general description of what a group of places look like, in general, is not enough. – Dayton Williams Aug 10 at 7:21
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    "or has scryed inside this particular dragon" Well, lets assume he did scry the insides. What now? – Kim André Kjelsberg Aug 10 at 7:39
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    @KimAndréKjelsberg He teleports the boulder into the dragon's stomach. The dragon now has indigestion. Your party is suddenly fighting a large enraged dragon. – Chronocidal Aug 10 at 13:24

Help the player to make his idea work differently

Adding to the few answers that are already here, the inside of the dragon isn't a known location.

However, as a player in several campaigns over the years, my DM's have been very helpful to players adding to their imagination and ideas and changing an implausible use of a spell into a variant use of the spell.

In your situation, using teleport on a boulder to displace it into the dragon to instantly kill it is not possible as it isn't a known location. However, you know the location around the dragon, and a falling boulder hurts. That is changing your utility spell into an offensive spell.

Following this, the rules of a falling object would apply.

The fall damage of objects was quite thoroughly discussed in this question and this link. The ruling seems to be hard to determine for large and heavy objects, but the DM can definitely house rule it to satisfy the player and make the game entertaining!

  • For more direct help, providing the mechanics (including damage) or citing where to find all of that may greatly help OP. – NautArch Aug 9 at 14:58
  • @NautArch Good call, I remember reading on this fall damage a bit ago. I will modify my answer – Louis Aug 9 at 15:00

There's a couple reasons this might not work

For starters, it depends on the actual spell used to teleport the boulder. Teleportation Circle, for example, contains text which says "Any creature that enters the portal instantly appears within 5 feet of the destination circle or in the nearest unoccupied space if that space is occupied." (Emphasis mine). Arcane Gate reads "If the portal would open in the space occupied by a creature, the spell fails, and the casting is lost.".

So we have a precedent that, at least for some spells which permit teleportation, that the space being occupied results in one of two things:

  • The spell fails entirely
  • The creature/object is teleported to the nearest unoccupied space

Now, for the Teleport spell in particular, there's no specification of what happens if the target location is occupied. The closest thing we have is "False Description", which might be what would happen if we rule that trying to teleport to an occupied space counts as falsely describing the destination. That's a pretty out-there ruling, but again, we don't really have a RAW answer.

One could also rule it as a "Viewed Once" or "Seen Casually" roll, since you're ostensibly targeting the space where the Dragon is occupying, but you can't currently see said space.

From where I stand, I think the "teleported to the nearest unoccupied space" outcome is most correct. It might not be specified by the spell itself, but there aren't really good reasons to permit an object to be simply spliced into the creature, unless you want to give your players an easy way to cheese their way through many combat encounters.

Yes but...

First of all: If you can see the dragon, spell's destination will be where the dragon is which you can obviously see. You can flavor that it'd be inside the stomach, it won't matter for what I'm suggesting, so keep reading.

BUT! Before you keep reading, let me say this: I personally approve using spells that weren't meant for combat being used in combat creatively, so what I've suggested at the end of this answer is not completely RAW.

Now, obviously, teleport is not a damaging spell, it was not created for a combat situation. This is a safe assumption about developer intent. Even in-game, one can safely say the wizard who created teleportation didn't mean for it to be used in this matter. (There are better ways to hurt a dragon than magically feeding it a big boulder.)

By RAW: The spell description doesn't say you can't do what your player is suggesting. Even if the destination is not known to him, the spell has information about targetting a described location. Personally I'd say he is targeting the dragon's space and use the "seen casually" part of that table. Also note the spell doesn't say you can't teleport into occupied space or any mention of what happens if you do. Then, unrelated to the spell you would have to rule what would happen to a dragon with a boulder in his stomach.

(That is not part of the spell so doesn't need to be included in the spell. Same as teleporting the boulder high in the air above the dragon to drop it to deal damage.)

Assuming you have allowed the casting of the spell, if it was successfully cast, your players will expect the outcome to be harmful to the dragon, of course.

Here's my suggestion how that'd would work.

Whether teleporting people or objects, doing so into anoter creature or any occupied space is not safe or harmless. I'd rule if any creature or objects were to be teleported into an already occupied object or creature, you count that as a mishap as described in the spell:

Mishap: The spell's unpredictable magic results in a difficult journey. Each teleporting creature (or the target object) takes 3d10 force damage and the DM rerolls on the table to see where you wind up (multiple mishaps can occur, dealing damage each time).

Only difference in this case: You can rule any creature or object in the destionation space also takes that force damage if this happens as a result of teleporting into occupied space. Then the object or creatures that had teleported are pushed into the closest empty space.

  • Have you used this occupied space rule for teleport in your games? There isn't actually anything in Teleport that discusses appearing in an occupied space. – NautArch Aug 9 at 14:47
  • How is ruling that a creature in the destination space takes damage align with the rules as written? – Grosscol Aug 9 at 14:48
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    It would be hilarious to teleport a rock into your own stomach due to mishap. – enkryptor Aug 9 at 14:48
  • @Grosscol it does not. I've edited the 2nd paragraph to point that out better. – FenrirG Aug 9 at 14:49
  • This is my preferred solution. Using the familiarity table your player only has approx 25% chance of success and could squash himself or a friend if it goes off target. While it's fun in principle, he'll quickly learn that it's an inefficient and risky use of a seventh level spell slot compared to the alternatives. – Tiggerous Aug 9 at 14:50

Depending on the DM's interpretation of the Teleport rules, it may be possible to choose a visible destination on the surface of the dragon's body (such as the dragon's eye), and the teleported boulder will then displace a portion of the dragon's head and brain when it materializes, likely killing it instantly.

However, I would argue since objects cannot be teleported to unseen destinations, no part of the boulder can materialize inside the dragon's head (which is unseen). Instead, the boulder will automatically shift from it's target destination so that all parts of the boulder will materialize in empty air. Otherwise Teleport could be used as an incredibly powerful one-shot assassination spell.

Nevertheless, a clever spellcaster may still be able to use Teleport as a superweapon. For example, a spellcaster could target a boulder that is falling at speed from a great height. The moving boulder is then teleported from thin air to a known destination point, such as the cliff directly above the dragon's nest. A generous DM might rule that conservation of momentum holds post-teleportation and the boulder materializes with enough speed to squash the dragon.

Why stop it? Sure, it's a potentially game breaking use, but what is the player trying to achieve? They are looking for a creative way to interact with the encounter. You could say that the boulder is too big to fit inside, and thus the teleport gets rejected, but... the magic splinters and deals #d8 damage (like 5d8 or 7d8) to the creature as splinters the length of your arm burst through it. Find an appropriate damage range.

You could also say that the spell's innate magic tries to avoid landing "on/in" living things, and require that the person spend an extra spell slot as they "try" to manipulate the spell on the fly.

Always make a path forward whenever you say no.

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    Welcome to RPG Stack exchange! This violates the fact that spells do only what they say, plus when answering with homebrew try to stick to answers that you've tried out yourself in games and mention how it went. – Josh Aug 9 at 14:34
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    @Josh "violates" is a bit of hyperbole, surely. (not disagreeing with your general point) – KorvinStarmast Aug 9 at 15:24
  • I think the general message of this is generally good advice: try not to say no to your players when they propose something fun/interesting. However, I think you could really improve/expand upon your suggestions. How should a DM determine how much damage is done? Why would the rock shatter if it was too big and not just be fail to be transported? Etc. Supporting your house rule suggestions with current rules is also highly recommended. – Rubiksmoose Aug 10 at 16:24

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