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There is a lot of information missing from the second bullet point of the Shape Water spell that it seems to me is essential to running the spell as a DM, and consequently essential to understanding how the spell will work as a player.

Is there any information, e.g. rules text, in any 1st-party source beyond that found in the spell's entry itself that would help clarify what such effects are capable of doing? If so, where is it?

I'm looking for text that applies to Shape Water and/or spells with similar effects specifically, not text that talks about rules that apply to all spells.

For example, rules about whether or not you need line of effect to an ongoing spell after it is cast would be helpful (not all spells have ongoing effects after they are cast), but rules about needing line of effect to cast a spell wouldn't be (that's true for all spells).

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2 Answers 2

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The guiding principal that will help you is "the spell only does what it says".

  1. You do not need line of effect
  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.

You cannot, for example, have the water travel 2.5 miles, do chores for you, then return. That is a clearly not allowed by the rules.

If you have any specific situations or questions, go ahead. Just remember that it is still water, and that the spell doesn't allow you to do things that are in direct contradiction to what it states.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is the link for point 1 a mistake? If not, then I don't understand the connection between that link (about when spells end if you die) and lines of effect. \$\endgroup\$
    – nben
    Commented May 6, 2022 at 18:32
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Not really

A search for "water" on D&D Beyond yields only other spells, monsters and magic items, no general rules sections related to spellcasting.

That means rules that apply are just the general rules from the Spellcasting chapter of the PHB, for the parameters this spell has, and rules about water.

The second bullet that shape water you ask about states, in context:

You choose an area of water that you can see within range and that fits within a 5-foot cube. You manipulate it in one of the following ways: (...) You cause the water to form into simple shapes and animate at your direction. This change lasts for 1 hour.

There are general rules about being underwater. Potentially, as the animated water is not a creature, you have it animate into a simple cube shape, and using the first bullet, move it into the same space as another creature, and impose the effects of Underwater Combat (PHB p. 198) on that space.

The area of the spell is a 5 foot cube, so it is an Area of Effect spell.

The duration of Shape Water is instantaneous, even though the effect of bullet 2 persists for one hour. An instantaneous spell

harms, heals, creates, or alters a creature or an object in a way that can’t be dispelled, because its magic exists only for an instant.

The water is neither a creature, nor is an object (although the latter may be debated), so this spell can specifically animate something not covered by this rule.

Your DM will need to decide if they treat the animated water as an ongoing magical effect, even though the spell is instantaneous, or if they rule that, like an undead creature, once created the animated water is a normal thing in their fantasy world.

If it is a normal thing, then it neither can be dispelled, nor can it be interrupted or split by intersecting the line of effect from its point of origin.

If it is an ongoing magical effect, it can be dispelled (at least, if you cast dispel magic on fourth level, it's worded ambigously, too). An ongoing effect emanating from the point of origin, needs ongoing line of effect, and so it also could be dirupted by intersecting it by closing a door or similar.

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