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The spell Shape Water lets a caster animate some water. While the effect is limited to 'simple shapes', lasts an hour, and acts according to your direction, nearly nothing else about the effect is specified. I want to know how the animated water option of Shape Water works and what it is capable of, for example:

Anna the Wizard casts Shape Water animating the water in a 5' hole excavated via Mold Earth. She forms the water into the crude shape of a miniature horse, and attempts to put a miniature saddle on it. What happens? Her weasel familiar attempts to mount the water-horse. What happens? She casts Find Familiar and changes her weasel familiar into a fish, which attempts to swim in the 'horse'. What happens? The 'horse' gallops away. How fast can it go? Does the fish go with it?

Anna casts Shape Water a second time on a second hole, this time animating the water into a 20' radius hollow sphere a quarter-inch thick (the volume works out). What happens? Anna climbs to the top of a 20' tall A-frame ladder and mentally directs the sphere to roll over her so that she is at the center. What happens? Her buddy Bartholemew wants to throw an overripe tomato at her from outside of the sphere (Don't worry, Anna prepared featherfall today). Does she have cover? If so how much? If it is total cover, does that stop Bob from trying to throw the tomato?

Anna then tells the sphere to go knock on the door of Cardamon the Cultist, who lives next door to her in a town 2.5 miles away, and then to find and roll over the unprotected flames she expects Cardamon's kids will have left somewhere in their back yard, and then to track down a copy of the Book of Exalted Deeds and bring it back to her. How much of this can the sphere do?

Anna dismisses her familiar and then the galloping water-horse before casting Shape Water yet another time, on a third hole, this time forming the water into a comically large mallet. She has the mallet spin up into the air and then fall down on practice dummy. Does the practice dummy take any damage? Is it moved? Is it wet? Later, she has the mallet fly around bonking some enemies on the head. What happens?

In general, this spell (and to a lesser extent Control Flames) is often extremely problematic in games I run or play in, essentially requiring the GM to come up with mountains of rulings as to how the nearly endless uses of animated water constructs work, and what they can and can't do. The spell clearly lets you make stuff with the water and have it do stuff, but it feels like there must be a whole bunch of rules somewhere I'm missing or something.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you expect answerers to address each one of these specific scenarios? Is there any way you can reduce this down to a single, overarching question that sums up what you actually want to know? At the moment this is kind of all over the place with asking what shape water can do. \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey Nov 14 at 2:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PurpleMonkey I want to know how the animated water option of Shape Water works and what it is capable of. Is this better? \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 14 at 3:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ I personally still think this is all over the place and way too broad. You're essentially asking a seperate question about what shape water can do in each of these examples (eg.Can shape water be used to make weapons?) and they should probably be asked as seperate questions. You also may want to check out the various other questions about what shape water can do as well as Is there a rule for how to handle creative use of spells?. \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey Nov 14 at 3:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, if these types of spells are causing issues in you games, you would be better off asking about those issues rather than over-broadening your question (example meta: Should I use a narrow system tag, or use a broader tag?). You can either ask whether shape water can do the things that have come up in your games or simply ask how to solve the issues that they cause. \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey Nov 14 at 3:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PurpleMonkey Okay, I can split it up. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 14 at 4:51
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It's up to the DM.

  1. The spell follows all normal spell rules.
  2. The water is still water.
  3. You can pick one of the following effects (no more than 2 active at once time):
    • You can move the water 5ft in any direction at a speed that doesn't hurt.
    • You can shape and animate the water. This effect lasts for 1 hour.
    • You can change the color/opacity of the water. This effect lasts for 1 hour.
    • You can freeze the water. This effect lasts for 1 hour.

The DM must decide what "[not] enough force to cause damage", "simple shapes", mean exactly. However, the water is still normal water and behaves as such.

Anna the Wizard casts Shape Water animating the water in a 5' hole excavated via Mold Earth. She forms the water into the crude shape of a miniature horse, and attempts to put a miniature saddle on it. What happens? Her weasel familiar attempts to mount the water-horse. What happens? She casts Find Familiar and changes her weasel familiar into a fish, which attempts to swim in the 'horse'. What happens? The 'horse' gallops away. How fast can it go? Does the fish go with it?

Does your DM consider a 'horse' to be a simple shape? If so, then you can make it.

Does the saddle float on water? If so, then it floats.

Will the saddle float with the weasel on it on water? If so, the it floats.

Can a fish swim in water? I'll answer this one for you, yes it can, so yes it can swim in the water.

Does the DM think galloping is simple enough to be allowed? If so, then the horse gallops away with the fish inside. To make it gallop some distance, you will need to move it up to 5ft with each cast.

How fast can it go? Not fast enough to cause damage! 5ft per cast at most.

Anna casts Shape Water a second time on a second hole, this time animating the water into a 20' radius hollow sphere a quarter-inch thick (the volume works out). What happens? Anna climbs to the top of a 20' tall A-frame ladder and mentally directs the sphere to roll over her so that she is at the center. What happens? Her buddy Bartholemew wants to throw an overripe tomato at her from outside of the sphere (Don't worry, Anna prepared featherfall today). Does she have cover? If so how much? If it is total cover, does that stop Bob from trying to throw the tomato?

Is a hollow sphere a simple shape? If so, then Anna makes it.

What happens when she directs the sphere to roll over her? She is inside the sphere, and damp.

Does she have cover? The rules for cover are also up to the DM, but probably not.

How much cover? Again, it's up to the DM, but probably none, although perhaps lightly obscured.

Anna then tells the sphere to go knock on the door of Cardamon the Cultist, who lives next door to her in a town 2.5 miles away, and then to find and roll over the unprotected flames she expects Cardamon's kids will have left somewhere in their back yard, and then to track down a copy of the Book of Exalted Deeds and bring it back to her. How much of this can the sphere do?

Can it go 2.5 miles? No, you can only move the water 5 feet in any direction.

Can it "find" something? No, it is being manipulated by the caster, it doesn't become sentient.

Can it "track down" something or "bring it"? Again, no.

How much can it do? If you put a buoyant book into a water sphere and then moved it around, the book would move too. Although, it would be soggy. You could have water scoop up a book from the floor. You could have water splash from a bucket onto a nearby fire.

Anna dismisses her familiar and then the galloping water-horse before casting Shape Water yet another time, on a third hole, this time forming the water into a comically large mallet. She has the mallet spin up into the air and then fall down on practice dummy. Does the practice dummy take any damage? Is it moved? Is it wet? Later, she has the mallet fly around bonking some enemies on the head. What happens?

Does the dummy take damage? It cannot take damage directly from the water since it can't move with enough force to deal damage. However if you were on top of a cliff and dropped an ice block on someone it may deal some damage, at your DM's discretion.

Is it moved? When a 5ft cube of water hits you, you probably move at least a little.

Is it wet? Yeah, it's water.

And the enemies? Also wet, also moved a minor amount.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm going to be splitting up the question into a bajillion tiny questions. You may wish to post parts of this on those, but be aware that your answer is fundamentally flawed in that it's trying to apply limitations on the first bullet-pointed option to the second one. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 14 at 4:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pleasestopbeingevil I'm not sure about that. The limitations apply to the bullet point listed. Are you trying to ask if you can "animate" the water fast enough to cause damage? I believe I mentioned this with regard to moving the water horse. You cannot move something using the second bullet point. \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Nov 14 at 4:59

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