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It is clear that a net, being a 3 lbs item, can be used with a Catapult spell. Using the Catapult with an object against a creature is described as (emphasis mine):

On a failed save, the object strikes the target and stops moving.

The description of a net states that:

A Large or smaller creature hit by a net is restrained until it is freed

Would using a Catapult spell to throw a net also count as a creature being "hit" by the net and thus cause a creature to be restrained as well or is the description on the Net applied only specifically to attacks made with the net?

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No, you can't use the net to restrain targets this way.

Since the net is a weapon that you use an attack roll to hit with, then you must make an actual attack with it. If the net were an object that you threw, it would be used with the Use an Object action, like siege weapons are described. Sure, the description says "when you hit something" with the net, but you must read it within context.

Proficiency with a net allows you to add your proficiency bonus to the attack roll for any attack you make with it.

A Large or smaller creature hit by a net is restrained until it is freed.

When you use an action, bonus action, or reaction to attack with a net, you can make only one attack regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make.

It's not just throwing a curled up net at a creature; you have to attack with it.

Another thing to pay attention to is the actual spell description.

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 impact always causes 3d8 points of bludgeoning damage. If you threw an axe with catapult, you wouldn't deal 1d6+STR as if you had made an attack with it, you would instead deal 3d8 bludeoning from the impact.

Whatever you throw is just a placeholder; there are no special properties for items.

enkryptor also makes a good point. 5e uses the hit terminology for a successful attack roll. In the spell description, the projectile is striking something, not hitting.

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"Hit" is a term in 5e

"Hit" and "strike" are two different things. "Hit" is a special term in D&D 5e, hitting a target implies succeeding with the attack roll. See PHB page 194 "Making an Attack":

Resolve the attack. You make the attack roll. On a hit, you roll damage, unless the particular attack has rules that specify otherwise.

Simple striking a target with a net does not restrain the target, since the Net description explicitly says you need to hit:

A Large or smaller creature hit by a net is restrained until it is freed.

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This would not work, for a few reasons

Weapons/Ammo don't do anything special - they are just considered objects for the catapult

This Q&A on the interaction between catapult and ammunition/weapons handles the general interaction very well.

The fluff doesn't make a ton of sense either

Throwing the Net is an attack roll to successfully throw and entrap someone while the Catapult is a Dex save to avoid being hit by an object.

That object flung by a catapult isn't being moved with the intent of entrapment, it's being moved with the intent to strike.

Vastly extended range

This also would effectively extend the range of the net immensely - converting a 10' range weapon to a 60' range.

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I want to offer a different perspective. The rules say no (as other answers suggest), but this is also a pretty cool idea that I would consider allowing (if it is not abused). The concept is clever, sounds somewhat feasible if this was reality, and it not significantly imbalanced if not abused.

Perhaps it could be allowed for flavour, or maybe allowed repeatedly with some caveats (e.g., a roll is needed to setup net successfully on the catapult, distance is halved).

I also want to add a great comment by the user Perkins: "by RAW throwing a burning flask of alchemist's fire with it [catapult spell] would just be a waste as well, and that seems kind of silly too"

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd probably make it either a random chance or based on an attack-like roll from the caster for whether the net unfolds correctly to actually capture what it strikes. RAW it doesn't work, but by RAW throwing a burning flask of alchemist's fire with it would just be a waste as well, and that seems kind of silly too. \$\endgroup\$ – Perkins Oct 3 '18 at 22:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Exactly! And I think it's important to allow this sort of creativity, as long as PCs aren't walking around with a posse of net-bearing catapults. \$\endgroup\$ – Behacad Oct 3 '18 at 23:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is about the catapult spell. Using an actual catapult would require an attack roll and so would probably work by a literal interpretation of the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Perkins Oct 3 '18 at 23:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Which makes it even sillier. I'd personally rule that with some downtime (to modify the net to have weights around the edges, or somehow be self sealing), that the net could be adapted for use with a catapult spell, or an actual catapult. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan The Leach Oct 4 '18 at 7:48
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No, you can't use a net's restraining effect with catapult.

There is no general rule stating that effects which force saving throws result in hits like attacks do, and the catapult spell doesn't mention that it counts as a hit if the object contacts the target creature.

The text seems to go out of its way to use the "strike" verbiage to avoid that conflation, probably because the term "hit" is reserved generally for the result of an attack roll or specifically for a non-attack effect that explicitly mentions hitting (such as magic missile).

Therefore, since the net's restraining effect only applies on a "hit," it would not apply when it merely "strikes" using the catapult spell.

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