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The animate objects spell description states:

Choose up to ten nonmagical objects within range that are not being worn or carried. Medium targets count as two objects, Large targets count as four objects, Huge targets count as eight objects. You can't animate any object larger than Huge. Each target animates and becomes a creature under your control until the spell ends or until reduced to 0 hit points.

The spell description doesn't mention the objects needing to be solid, so I was wondering if there are limitations with regards to animating gases or liquids. Could you choose to animate a cloud of fog or smoke? A puddle? A small pond? Perhaps the contents of a vial of acid?

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Nope.

From the DMG at "Objects" (p.246):

For the purpose of these rules, an object is a discrete, inanimate item like a window, door, sword, book, table, chair, or stone....

Your gases and liquids aren't "discrete items" in any natural-language sense of the word, so they're not (game) objects and aren't valid targets for animate objects.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; I've gone ahead and moved this conversation about whether a puddle's an object to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Nov 7 '18 at 1:19
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Yes, this is (kind of) possible.

The Objects section cited on p. 246 by @nitsua60 says:

For the purpose of these rules, an object is a discrete, inanimate item like a window, door, sword, book, table, chair, or stone...

But discrete, according to Dictionary.com, means:

Discrete:

adjective

apart or detached from others; separate; distinct:

...

consisting of or characterized by distinct or individual parts; discontinuous.

Clearly, a puddle or cloud of vapor or gas can be considered 'discrete' by the dictionary definition (D&D does not provide a special definition of a 'discrete' object, however a quantity of water from a larger pond or lake, or a part of a cloud or a fog bank could not be considered discrete. Nor could one cobblestone in the road, unless you dug it out.

So sure, you could Animate any of these things, but nothing about the spell gives them solidity. Your gas cloud couldn't hold itself together, your puddle wouldn't have any integrity to keep it from drying out or being splashed apart. Your DM might rule that such a creature would have 0 hit points from the outset, and the spell would fail immediately. However, animating a nifty water or cloud creature could be a Rule of Cool thing, so give it a try.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I must disagree slightly - 'nothing about the spell gives them solidity. ' A 'tiny' object, regardless of construction, gets 20 HP. That means that a paper doll ends up with more HP than many first level player characters. Quite clearly, the animating magic is granting durability. \$\endgroup\$ – Iron Gremlin Nov 3 '18 at 0:34
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Discrete, meaning singular and distinct.

So, there must clearly be edges to the object, and it needs to be 'one' of something.

Gasses are pretty much not discrete objects by definition, they diffuse inside any atmosphere.

A cloud of gas in a vaccum might be, but that's stretching it a bit.

A cloud of vapor is discrete, but it's made up of droplets, so, it's not singular.

So clouds are out.

A contiguous body of fluid that is small enough to be within the maximum size for a Huge object can be considered a singular, discrete object. So, no lakes, no water -from- a lake. Maybe some ponds might be small enough. Puddles would be in.

It's sort of ambiguous as to whether or not you could animate the acid inside of a vial independently from the vial itself. It seems that there are two possible definitions of 'discrete object' that apply to that scenario.

The spell itself is kind of hard to 'game' in a way that breaks balance, so I don't see any mechanical motivation for the DM to be especially limiting about these kinds of choices. It's a fifth level spell, it should be fairly powerful, and animating both a vial and it's contents for a grand total of 2 Tiny creatures hardly seems like the sort of thing to be arguing with your players about.

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