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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\$ Nov 14, 2019 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\$ Nov 14, 2019 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\$ Nov 14, 2019 at 7:56
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    \$\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\$ Nov 14, 2019 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\$ Nov 14, 2019 at 7:53
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    \$\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\$ Nov 14, 2019 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\$ Nov 14, 2019 at 7:57
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    \$\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\$ Nov 14, 2019 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\$ Nov 14, 2019 at 8:04
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Shape Water creates shapes, not creatures

Let me challenge the frame of your question: you state you find it works best to run the animated shapes as creatures. But then, your entire question is about how it is not practical at all to run the animated shapes as creatures and how this creates problems for you and how that can be helped.

Don't try to work out how you can treat shapes as creatures. Do not treat them as creatures.

The shape is not a creature

The spell does not create a creature. It creates a shaped, moving volume of water. A few of the properties of that shape, such as that it can be moved and be shaped like a creature, are shared with a creature, but most are not: it has no hp, has no AC, has no speed, has no actions, it has no race or type, it has no ability scores. All of these lacking means you need to come up with them if you want to treat it as a creature.

Treating it as a creature creates more problems than it solves

Not only can your players easily create shapes in forms that have nothing to do with other creatures, like a cube, sphere, cylinder or whatever, in which case your approach to come up with equivalent creature statistics based on comparable creatures will fail. Also, even if they chose the shape of an existing creature, for most of the creatures you outline the game does not provide game statistics as they are harmless. This would force you to come up with them on your own as homebrew in a wide variety. It is just a lot of needless work and not practical for keeping the flow of the game going.

Treating it as a shape is easy

The problems all stem from trying to treat them as a creature. It is much simpler to accept that a shape of water does not interact with game elements that require a creature or game statistics: spells that target creatures will not affect it, damage will not harm it, conditions do not apply to it, it can perform no ability checks, it cannot attack.

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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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