In a session of the Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure, our characters were sitting down to a campsite meal provided by the chuck wagon. Being aware that they were being hunted/stalked, the cleric of the party (a dwarf for what it's worth) cast Purify Food and Drink on their meal. They were getting ready to chow down when an NPC approached and advised them not to eat. This NPC then proceeded to fish or filter (I can't recall which now) several sharp bone that would have (we were informed) been quite deleterious to our health.

The DM ruled that since bone is not poisonous, it would not be affected by the spell. I say that, RAW, by the very definition of "purify", any harmful substance would be removed.

I researched the site and found a similar sort of question in: How great is the purifying power of Purify Food and Drink?, but it didn't precisely speak to the question at hand. Our DM requested that I post the question here seeking disinterested third-party opinions.

The description of the Purify Food and Drink spell says:

All nonmagical food and drink within a 5-foot-radius sphere centered on a point of your choice within range is purified and rendered free of poison and disease.

From the definition of "purified" on OxfordDictionaries.com:

  1. having had contaminants removed; cleansed.

The definition of "purify" on Dictionary.com:

  1. to make pure; free from anything that debases, pollutes, adulterates, or contaminates: to purify metals.
  2. to free from foreign, extraneous, or objectionable elements

The Merriam-Webster definition of purify:

: to make pure: such as

a : to clear from material defilement or imperfection

And of "pure":

1 a (1) : unmixed with any other matter
(2) : free from dust, dirt, or taint

"Purify" in the Cambridge English Dictionary:

(NOT MIXED) ​ to remove bad substances from something to make it pure:


(MAKE NOT MIXED) ​ to rid something of dirty or harmful substances

Whose interpretation, RAW, holds more water? Or, more to the point, would the spell Purify Food and Drink remove physical hazards like bone shards from otherwise normal food?

Please note the school of transmutation. To transmute is to change in form, nature, or substance.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Was this the Hoard of the Dragon Queen campaign? \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 2:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ It happens to have been, yes. May I ask why you ask? \$\endgroup\$
    – Shadows
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 2:57
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ We just completed the campaign if that matters. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shadows
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 4:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can anyone tell me why the question is receiving "down votes" I tried to be as concise as possible and not only research but also show my research. I'm not butt-hurt about it but I AM curious. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shadows
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 4:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think it should be downvoted for this, but you should definitely clear up the extended quote of numerous dictionary definitions and the formatting thereof. Only quote what you need to quote, and remove any extraneous information. In particular, things that are not part of the question, but rather attempts at your own answer, should be removed from the question and left as a self-answer to your question instead. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 8:23

3 Answers 3


Possibly yes, but in this case, no.

It's pretty reasonable to assert that purify food and drink would remove hazards like bone slivers from food. Personally, I'd rule that is does, since a spell designed to make food safe to eat should, you know, make food safe to eat. However, it's a reasonable ruling to make that the spell only affects "poison and disease", since those are the only effects mentioned in the spell.

However, since you're playing Hoard of the Dragon Queen, this is all immaterial. Spoilers ahead.

On page 38, in the Who's Your Friend section, Jamna Gleamsilver approaches the players and tells them that they have bone slivers in their gruel. There are no bone slivers in the gruel, but there's one stuck to her knife, which she dislodges into the player's gruel in order to get the players to trust her. There aren't any bone slivers to purify, and since the sliver wasn't in the gruel until Jamna stuck her knife in it, there was none to purify beforehand either.

To give a non-spoilery summary: in this case, purify food and drink would not have prevented the NPC from finding bone slivers in your food.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ The spell states that food is purified AND rendered free of poison and disease. It specifically mentions poison, disease, and the act of purification (the definition of which I have taken pains to make extremely clear). It doesn't state purified from poison and disease or purified to be free of poison and disease. It seems to me that the language makes a difference. Also I have not read the spoilers yet. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shadows
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 4:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ And now I have and I'm more sure than ever that my interpretation of the rules is correct. I'd gladly take this to chat now. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shadows
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 4:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the spoiler was quite valuable. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 6:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with Dan. The spoiler is necessary to substantiate the claim that, even though (in this answer's interpretation) PF&D would remove bone shards, the bone shards would still be found in the food in the specific case which prompted the question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 10:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for this very important summary to @Shadows: "To give a non-spoilery summary: in this case, purify food and drink would not have prevented the NPC from finding bone slivers in your food." \$\endgroup\$
    – Ian Miller
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 15:06

No, purify food and drink would not remove sharp bone shards from food. The spell says that food is "purified and rendered free of poison and disease"; it's not totally clear what "purified" means, but "rendered free of poison and disease" definitely wouldn't help you here.

One might feel skeptical that having sharpened bone shards in one's food would really be that dangerous. Like, presumably you're chewing your food before you swallow it? So you'd notice the bone shards, get a minor mouth injury, and then spit them out?

But purify food and drink still won't prevent that.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I clarified by adding the definition of the word "purify". How would sharpened bone shards that would cause damage if the food was consumed not count as a contaminant/bad or harmful substance or a foreign, extraneous or objectionable element? \$\endgroup\$
    – Shadows
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 3:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ it says "purified and rendered free of poison and disease", not "purified by rendering free of poison and disease" \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 6:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Shadows I can anderstand why some say Yes, but I agree with No answers. Even if you take adavantage of the statetement that it could remove a foreign, bones are not foreign as they're naturally here. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zoma
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 10:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ I also agree with the no answers for the same reason Zoma sites. Bones, shards or otherwise are not “foriegn objects” or “contaminants”. They are part of the food itself. Rational interpretation of the spell has to stop at containants that came from elsewhere. Is fat and cholesterol harmful? Is gluten harmful or “hazardous” enough to fall under the spell’s effect. No one wants to get into those kinds of debates at a game table. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lumenbeing
    Commented Jun 22, 2019 at 9:11

It depends on their consequences

Whether or not bone shards are an impurity or a valuable source of protein and minerals depends on the perspective of the person eating them*. Like much magic in 5e (eg, a necklace of fireballs sensing our intent to throw it), we are left wondering how the spell can detect our feelings and perspective and react accordingly.

In this case, we can consider the overall effects of the spell. It rids the food of poison. Poison is a substance that has harmful effects within the rules of the game. It also rids the food of disease. Disease is a state that has harmful effects within the rules of the game. It rids the food of impurities. Impurities are...not defined by the game. However, by considering them analogous to disease and poison, we can reason that they must have some potentially harmful effect on those who ingest them.

This suggests a clear and consistent ruling; the spell will remove any bone shards the DM considers harmful enough to have a deleterious mechanical effect on a PC, but will leave any that are merely cosmetically unpleasant to some.

*I grew up in a traditional US household, at least dietarily. The dogs were fed table scraps and leftovers with impunity, except for one admonition - under no circumstances were we to feed the dogs chicken bones, as we were told that they would splinter and pierce the sensitive tissue of the digestive system. Fast forward to undergraduate, when I was sharing a rented house with fellow students. At one chicken dinner, a housemate from Nigeria produced a "crunch" so loud that the rest of us stopped eating and stared at her. Seeing our stares, she said, "Oh, that's right, you Americans don't eat the bones, do you?"


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