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This has occurred to me due to conflict between Fabricate and Blight. Fabricate says it can not target creatures and lists trees as example targets. Blight on the other hand can only target creatures and lists mundane normal plants as example targets.

Which of these conflicting spell descriptions is correct?

Note: It also occurred to me that plants might also be whichever one is convenient, unlikely but possible.

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3 Answers 3

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Which spell description is correct?

Both

Fabricate

The description of Fabricate states that:

You convert raw materials into products of the same material. For example, you can fabricate a wooden bridge from a clump of trees, [...]

(Emphasis Mine)

The spell converts raw materials into products and as stated in the description you can make a bridge from trees. That is 100% correct. Trees are considered objects and their wood is a raw material.

Blight

The description of Blight states that:

If you target a plant creature or a magical plant, it makes the saving throw with disadvantage, and the spell deals maximum damage to it. [...] If you target a nonmagical plant that isn't a creature [...]

(Emphasis Mine)

There are two different plants in DnD as I have written below. There are the "creature" or/and "magical" plants and the "object" or "non-sentient" plants.

The creature/magical plants are, as you may have already guessed, creatures. They have stats and abilities just like any other creature in the DnD universe.

The object/non-sentient plants are, again, non-sentient. For example, the flower inside a flowerpot is not a creature. Anything that cannot do at least one of the following shouldn't be considered a creature:

Move, eat, speak, breathe, see, hear


What are plants: creatures or objects?

Both

Let me explain...

Plant "creatures"

There are plant creatures such as Myconids or Treants who breathe, walk, eat just like any other creature. These are considered creatures. You can find a list of them here.

They have stats and abilities like any other monster in D&D 5e. As stated in the description of the "plant" creature type (Monster Manual, p. 7):

Plants in this context are vegetable creatures, not ordinary flora. Most of them are ambulatory, and some are carnivorous.

(Credit: MikeQ)

Plant "objects"

There are also 'normal' plants, what we call non-sentient plants such as Trees (Ash, Birch, Oak) or flowers such as Orchids. These are considered 'objects' or non-sentient beings. You can find a list here.

Generally, any plant that doesn't come with a stat block should not be considered a creature.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that mundane plants, while still not creatures, may totally be sentient. c.f. Speak with Plants. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 24, 2019 at 23:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ I’ll note that there’s a difference between plant creatures and magical plants: the former are creatures and aren’t inherently magical, while the latter are objects that are (for instance, a +1 Quarterstaff made from living wood). \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Jul 25, 2019 at 2:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ I know I'm 3 years late, but an edit to the author backing up "Anything that cannot do at least one of the following shouldn't be considered a creature: Move, eat, speak, breathe, see, hear" or explaining that it's interpretation of creatures as a non-game term? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 16, 2023 at 9:42
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The spell descriptions don't conflict.

Plants with creature statistics are creatures. The Monster Manual defines the "plant" creature type as follows (p. 7):

Plants in this context are vegetable creatures, not ordinary flora. Most of them are ambulatory, and some are carnivorous.

This definition includes all creatures of the "plant" type. If the PCs encounter a plant that does not have creature statistics, then it's an object instead.

The Blight spell indicates that there is a distinction between plants as objects versus plants as creatures, as it allows you to target a creature or a plant. The spell specifically doesn't affect undead or constructs, which are other creature types.

If you target a plant creature or a magical plant...

If you target a nonmagical plant that isn't a creature...

Meanwhile, Fabricate provides examples of transmuting plants into new objects.

For example, you can fabricate a wooden bridge from a clump of trees, a rope from a patch of hemp, and clothes from flax or wool...

Creatures or magic items can't be created or transmuted by this spell.

However, if the plant has a creature's stat block, then it counts as a creature and thus cannot be transmuted by this spell. Thus Fabricate only applies to non-creature plants.

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It is unclear what plants are, but it does not matter here

The spellcasting rules let you only target an object, creature, or a point of origin for an area of effect.

Non-magical, ordinary flora plants by the game's rules are neither objects nor creatures (see below). Blight does not have an area of effect, so that leaves no way to target ordinary flora, but Blight says it can. This is a contradiction. Thankfully, there is a rule to address such contradictions:

Specific Beats General (page 7, PHB)

This book contains rules, especially in parts 2 and 3, that govern how the game plays. That said, many racial traits, class features, spells, magic items, monster abili­ ties, and other game elements break the general rules in some way, creating an exception to how the rest of the game works. Remember this: If a specific rule contra­ dicts a general rule, the specific rule wins.

In this case, the specific spell Blight tells you it can target normal plants, and therefore it beats the general object, creature, or spellcasting rules. It does not really matter what you consider them as, the spell tells you it works.


Objects

The definition of object that the game uses explicitly it limited to inanimate matter:

For the purpose of these rules, an object is a discrete, inanimate item like a window, door, sword, book, table, chair, or stone, not a building or a vehicle that is composed of many other objects.

Living plants according to this defintion cannot be objects, because animate is defined as "alive, possessing life", and living plants are alive.

Creatures

What exactly counts as a creature is not sharply defined. There are bona fide plant creatures in the game, but they come with a creature stat block. They are defined as creatures with the plant [creature type][3 (Monster Manual, p. 7), which states:

Plants in this context are vegetable creatures, not ordinary flora. Most of them are ambulatory, and some are carnivorous.

Ordinary flora thus does not count as a creature with the plant subtpye.

In addition, there is the evidence from Fabricate, which says:

you can fabricate a wooden bridge from a clump of trees (...). Creatures or magic items can't be (...) transmuted by this spell.

If trees were creatures, you could not use them for fabricate, but you can, so they cannot be creatures. Trees are a kind of non-magical plants, so non-magical plants in general cannot not count as creatures, if we believe Fabricate.

Points of origin

The spellcasting rules say (PHB, p.204):

A spell's description tells you whether the spell targets creatures, objects, or a point of origin for an area of effect (described below).

The areas of effect "described below" are cone, cube, cylinder, line and sphere. While you can target a point, you can only do so for spells that create one of these areas of effect.

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