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A subquestion of How does animated water work?

When a player conjures a creature formed of animated water, for example a Small horse, I find it works best to model that animated water as a CR0 creature with the Elemental type. How can I get appropriate stats for such a creature quickly? That is, when a player forms a 5' cube of water into a horse, I know from experience that it should be Medium or Small in size, and when they turn that cube into a duck, a rooster, and an eagle instead I know that they should be Tiny, Tiny, and Small respectively. I still need to give each creature an amount of hp, speed, and potentially traits and actions. Is there a way to do this quickly while ensuring my players can predict what the stats of a creature they make will be yet also the effect isn't going to make creatures of a power level greater than CR0 should justify? What can I do to speed up this process without unbalancing it?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you suggesting that you use Shape Water to create a creature? The spell doesn't do that, which is why you are having this issue. Can you tell the player "you can't do that" or have you already houseruled that you can create creatures using Shape Water? \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Nov 14 at 7:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Normally even if the player manages to shape the water into a "simple shape" (are ducks and roosters simple?) they can move it at 5ft per cast using Shape Water. If you are allowing your players to ignore repeat casts, then perhaps 5ft per turn would be ok. I really need more info. \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Nov 14 at 7:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jgn That's not what 'animate' means. That is something the spell does. This q is for where you read that the way our group typically reads it (i.e. the way 'animates at your direction' would ordinarily be interpreted in our group's 5e spells). You probably want to address rpg.stackexchange.com/q/159518/14848 instead. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 14 at 7:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ That isn't the way the spell works, but if you would like an answer with your houserules then that is totally find. I just need some more details about what you intend for this to accomplish. There are some crazy balance implications with your question that I guess you will have to deal with. \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Nov 14 at 7:58
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This cantrip only lets you direct water in an animation. It is not creating a animated construct—shape water is not animate object for water.

You can make a horse, but it’s just water you are holding in the crude shape of a horse, like in a bad horse-shaped Jello mold. It’s not a creature and has no stats, can’t be given orders, and can’t support anything that would not otherwise float on the surface of water.

You can make it do horsey motions, but this is like making a shadow puppet move by waggling your fingers, but using magic to waggle simple shapes of water instead. It can’t go anywhere, since it has no text allowing movement. A second casting can add some overall displacement, but only up to 5’ away from the original location.

Shape water isn’t a complex spell. It gets complex if assumptions from other spells are imported, but spells only do what they say, and shape water doesn’t anywhere say it creates a self-driven construct that has stats and obeys simple orders. Only reading “animate” in a specific way that the rest of the text does not support leads in that direction, and the rest of the text fails to provide the necessary support.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You may want to delete this and repost it here, where it could be an appropriate answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 14 at 7:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this is the answer to both, so long as they’re both posted. (I see there’s an equivalent answer there already, so I’ll just upvote that instead.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 14 at 7:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ The answer to 'what to do when doing X so that Y goes well?' is 'Some groups don't let you do X'? \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 14 at 7:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pleasestopbeingevil Your question was a bit unclear that you intended to play by houserules. It read like a misunderstanding of how the rules work. \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Nov 14 at 8:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ More like the answer to 'what to do when doing X so that Y goes well?' is 'X doesn’t actually work that way so how to do it well is moot'. If the question was “When house ruling that shape water creates a creature, how can I get stats quickly?”, this frame challenge would be inapplicable, but correcting a misapprehension that makes a question otherwise moot is one of the common approaches of frame challenges. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 14 at 8:04
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Your houserule seems to be that Shape Water can create creatures. This is already incredibly overpowered, but let's go with it.

The spell already specifies a 5ft per cast speed limit, so why not stick with that?

Animated water

No type

AC 0

Hitpoints 1

Speed 5ft

STR, DEX, CON, WIS, INT, CHA = 0

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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