The Enlarge/Reduce spell indicates that when you enlarge a creature and there is not enough space available, it just grows to the maximum possible size given the space available. This effect seems to maybe temporarily trap a creature but will not cause damage to it.

For the opposing effect, if you tie a creature's limbs to trees in a 'star'-shaped fashion, then reduce it, would the limbs effectively pop out as the creature shrinks? Or would the spell just fail to shrink the creature because the rope's resistance prevents the creature from shrinking more without tearing it apart?

EDIT: Added as many people wronlgy focused on the rope example I am looking for the 'general' rule about reduce if something is effectively prevented from going smaller or breaking apart in the process...either TIED/NAILED/SCREWED to something else.
A better example : REDUCING A DOOR, would it just fall off its hinges and then lay flat on the floor so the players can just do that on any locked doors to bypass them easily ?

To me, this is one of the worst written spells in history... Can anyone bring some clarification? Is there something I am missing here?


3 Answers 3


If you tied a creature’s limbs with rope and the rope was sufficiently tight to hold the limb, when the limb shrinks it will slip out of the binding (since it shrinks in all dimensions). The rope was originally tied around a girth double the size of the reduced limb; the new girth of the reduced limb could easily slip out.

The reduce spell would successfully reduce the creature and free them from the rope.

Reduce. The target's size is halved in all dimensions [...]

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    \$\begingroup\$ So what if they used special slip knots under tension or put the target's elbows/knees bent around trees and tied so they couldn't slip out? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 6:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ That will have required for-thought by the captor, i will have to think about it, then update to include this case. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 6:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Amethyst Wizard I think it would be a good idea to include, I think the case where the hands/feet aren't freed automatically by the spell are the tricky ones! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 6:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @J.Wagner If the ropes are already taut then even shrinking a small amount is a big problem. Your wrist is significantly smaller in circumference than your hand, but there may not be a lot of stretch in the rope. For example imagine a 10% shrinking, that's a 6" reduction in armspan for a normal man, but it wouldn't be enough to slip a knot around the wrist. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 22:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ last comment is exact. would the hands pop out of the wrists or the spell would stop from reducing further like it says for enlarge ? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 2:32

The rules say nothing about this

Nothing in the rules mandates anything about:

  • what happens if a rope you are caught in is pulled really hard

  • what happens if you shrink or grow while grappled or restrained

  • what happens if you lose a limb or your head or whatever

  • what happens if you want to tie someone to something with a rope

In fact, the rules hardly even provide any explicit options or commentary for DMs looking for answers to these questions. What little exists is reproduced below:

  • rope has 2 hp and can be burst with a DC 17 strength check. That's not necessarily relevant, but it might inform a GM ruling on the matter

  • An optional rule on page 78 of XGE suggests that if one wants to add more rules to ropes and knots one might, if one is using a specific other optional rule disconnecting skills and abilities in a particular manner, allow either a Dexterity(Acrobatics) or Intelligence(Sleight of Hand) check to escape from a rope binding (contesting the knot tiers Intelligence(Sleight of Hand) check the optional rule optional subrule assumes has been made).

  • Page 272 of the DMG has optional rules for lingering injuries that aren't particularly complete or coherent. These rules can not apply in this circumstance at all because no one is being dealt a critical hit nor dropping to 0 hp nor failing a death save by 5 or more. Nevertheless, the included table has rules for losing limbs. This table would have the typical humanoid having lost both arms and both legs reduced to 1/4 speed unless using prosthetics and requiring a crutch or cane to move without said prosthetics, as well as only being able to hold a single item at a time, and not in two hands. This is mostly because these rules do not seem to expect you to ever have any of the lingering injuries when you roll on the table; the rules are not actually expected to be used.

  • Page 273 of the DMG has an optional sub-rule to the lingering injuries optional rule, where you just tell the player to roleplay it, don't apply any mechanical effects, and let them figure it out. It suggests you might give inspiration to a player who decides to roleplay their character as being hampered in some way by the injuries on the lingering injury table. For example, if a rogue who had all their limbs ripped off decided not to outrun a fleeing equal-speed opponent using their cunning action but instead to flop around helplessly wailing in pain and you as the DM felt like it, you might award them inspiration for that, or suggest that you might have been/be willing to do so if the rogue's player instead has them run/flop after the fleeing opponent at their usual 90 ft per round.

  • The DMG on page 284 pretends a 2nd-level single-target save-negates spell (like Enlarge/Reduce) should deal 1.25x(3d10) damage if it's an attack spell with no side effects, and the rules on page 283 indicate the damage done should be proportionately less if the spell does do stuff other than damage to make up for that. Do note, however, that the rules on page 284 for this purpose are wildly inaccurate and inconsistent with pretty much every published attack spell at every level. For example, rather than 3d10, scorching ray deals 6d6.


The spell doesn't reduce them further.

You aren't missing anything, there are no rules for what to do in this situation. The spell could have been better worded.

However, I think it's logical to assume that if Enlarge cannot make them bigger if something stops it, then Reduce can't make them smaller if something stops it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you explain how something is stopping them from becoming smaller? It might help your answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 17:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott The ropes in the OP's question, tearing the target's body apart isn't a valid option in my opinion. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 23, 2019 at 1:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ I was hoping this answer would be here, using the counterpoint example of enlarging stopping when some kind of limit is imposed. As examples of shrinking being restricted are hard to come up, the existence of the enlargement limitation is enough provide an answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Steve
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 1:49

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