A subquestion of How does animated water work?

Often players, encouraged by Shape Water's statement that they can give water any combination of simple shapes and cause it to animate as they wish, seek to form water into the rough semblances of tiny creatures.

What should I do as the GM when a player wants to form water into e.g. the rough shape of a horse or raven and have it move about appropriately? It seems like I should stat the effects as CR 0 creatures and have the player control them, just because that is by far the simplest and most satisfying solution I've figured out so far that ties most of the rest of the things my players tend to try and do with said water back into the system. Is there a better way of handling this?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Function is more important than form here, I think. What are your players wanting to do with these vaguely creature-like blobs of water? It's a different story if they want an intriguing decoration versus a minion that can do chores, for example. \$\endgroup\$ – Upper_Case Nov 14 '19 at 16:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Upper_Case All manner of different things. Usually, they start with stuff like having tiny water-butterflies flutter about them or a horse prance around them in a circle while they do a Disney princess routine, but they will later have something try to distract or block an opponent, or try to mount something, or have something fetch stuff. It depends on the player, but generally they expect to be able to have the water act like whatever they are having it imitate unless being made of water or tiny obviously means it can't. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 14 '19 at 16:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Some players try to abuse the lack of limitations instead, attempting to animate water into e.g. a supersonic jet or 1000' long whip. That's not a problem because I just tell them that, while that appears to be within the spell's mandate, we aren't going to be playing that way because I don't want to deal with the balance and power level implications. People have been fine with that so far. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 14 '19 at 16:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hm, that takes us well past what the spell offers RAW. I guess the main operational question is: how versatile do you want the homebrew version of the cantrip to be? Can NPCs and enemies achieve similar results with Shape Water? Do you want water shaping to be a major element of daily adventuring in the setting? \$\endgroup\$ – Upper_Case Nov 14 '19 at 16:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe I'll think of something, but I don't think I have a great answer for this now. If the cantrip is already overpowered, and too much DM work, in your game but you want to continue being expansive in how you interpret it... it sounds like an Iron Triangle problem to me. Three goals (not overpowered, reasonable work for DM, permissive for players), of which you can have any two at once but never all three. \$\endgroup\$ – Upper_Case Nov 14 '19 at 17:40

You cannot make a creature using Shape Water

The relevant effect of Shape Water says:

You cause the water to form into simple shapes and animate at your direction. This change lasts for 1 hour.

Even if your DM rules that an animal is a "simple shape" it is not actually alive. You are just reforming the water into the form of an animal. It is still inanimate water.

You can animate it, meaning move it around, but it does not become animate. It is not living. It is still just water magically formed into the shape of a creature.

You have created, with the approval of the DM, water shaped like a bunny that perhaps hops in place at most.

But if you want to modify the skill to allow it to create creatures:

As for hp, traits, actions. I would rule that the creature will perform the (simple) task set to it when it is created. It cannot be ordered to do anything else.

Animated water

No type

AC 0

Hitpoints 1

Speed 5ft


no skills, no perception, no senses, no language, CR0, 0xp, no traits, no actions.

Automatically fails any save it attempts to make and is hit automatically when attacked.

I feel even that is incredibly overpowered, but you know your table and players.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Right, you have created animate water shaped like a bunny that hops around as you direct. That's the problem. I mean, if the DM decides, contrary to the text of the spell, that it hops in place that's one thing, but, like, what if you are trying to build off of the rules? \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 14 '19 at 8:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pleasestopbeingevil It is not animate, it can be animated. It cannot hop around as you direct. It hops. To move it you have to use the move part of Shape Water. If you want to build off the rules and do your own thing, go nuts. I already posted a suggestion about stats on your question about the move speed, hp, etc for a creature created with shape water houserules. \$\endgroup\$ – gszavae Nov 14 '19 at 8:05

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