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The plane of force created by Tenser's floating disk

floats 3 feet above the ground [..] It can move across uneven terrain, up or down stairs, slopes and the like. (PHB 282)

Does a liquid surface count as "ground"? Can the disk follow a wizard making use of water walk? Is ice ground? Is snow ground? Copious amounts of jelly?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Tenser's Floating Disk is a fictional magic spell, it has no real world properties we could learn about. Its description doesn't say explicitly if it can go across water, leaving this up to the DM. Do you ask, how will your DM adjudicate this? Or are you the DM and do you ask about possible game-breaking issues, if you allow this? Please clarify this in the question. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Sep 3 '18 at 14:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor I ask what I asked. Where is the line between "ground" and "not-ground"? Is ice ground? Is snow ground? Jelly? Calm water? If there is no official stand on this, then that is the answer. Reasonable rulings (as sidenotes) are welcome, but not required. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Sep 3 '18 at 14:24
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Tenser's floating disk cannot move across liquid.

Merriam Webster defines ground as

the bottom of a body of water

or

the surface of a planet (such as the earth or Mars)

So I don't think "3 feet above the ground" can mean "3 feet above water" by any stretch of the word. However, the first definition indicates that the disk may float "3 feet above the bottom of a body of water".

Moreover, Merriam Webster defines terrain as

(1) : a geographic area (2) : a piece of land : GROUND

or

the physical features of a tract of land

Given the context, it is most likely that terrain is being used as a synonym for ground.

And finally, I don't believe a "body of water" quite fits among "stairs, slopes and the like".


My interpretation.

Nowhere in its description does Tenser's floating disk mention liquids, or anything related to liquids. The spell only describes features attributable to solid surfaces when it explains the disk's capabilities:

It can move across uneven terrain, up or down stairs, slopes and the like, but it can't cross an elevation change of 10 feet or more.

As such I do not think the disk is meant to cross liquids. Anything between liquids and solids is undefined and up for DM adjudication. If you ask me whether the disk can float across a particular surface, I would ask: "If this surface were a steep slope, would it maintain its shape?"

Water? Nope.
Ice? Sure.
Snow? If it's packed sure, but the disk may plow through the fluffy snow.
Copious amounts of jelly? Probably not, but I'm unfamiliar with copious amounts of jelly.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Your point is valid. If you could find and add an official source that this is also RAI, that would be nice. I included the stairs part as example that the disk can perform some unexpectedly complicated things already and thus the intention might be different from the plain reading. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Sep 3 '18 at 14:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ One must not forget the lesson about hoverboards over water from "Back to the Future" – they just don't work! :-) \$\endgroup\$ – J.E Sep 3 '18 at 14:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ I also edited the question to give some other examples in search of the demarcation line between "ground" and "not ground". Just a heads up. Your answer still holds up, but not being able to use it over a frozen lake "feels" less clear a case than a liquid lake. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Sep 3 '18 at 14:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ There are actually several JC tweets about "ground" IIRC. Try searching for those. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Sep 3 '18 at 15:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ If Tenser's floating disk fly above ground and only ground, that means it cannot fly above any kind of artificial floor. A wooden floor is neither "physical features of a tract of land", nor "surface of a planet". If it can, that means this interpretation is incorrect. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Sep 3 '18 at 20:15

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