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This question was inspired by "Can the Purify Food and Drink spell make ocean/sea water drinkable?".


Prestidigitation can do the following (among other things):

  • You instantaneously clean or soil an object no larger than 1 cubic foot.

  • You chill, warm, or flavor up to 1 cubic foot of nonliving material for 1 hour.

  • You create a nonmagical trinket or an illusory image that can fit in your hand and that lasts until the end of your next turn.

Let's say I cast Prestidigitation to make trinket, this trinket is a glass.

I use the glass and fill it was swamp water.

I cast Prestidigitation to instantaneously clean the object (water filled glass) and I have clean water.

I cast Prestidigitation to flavour the water, let's make it pina colada flavoured.

I cast Prestidigitation to chill the pina colada flavoured clean water.

Bam - One cool, delicious pina colada made from swamp water and magic.

Would the actions listed above work? Have I just invented the most profitable tavern ever?

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  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Does this answer your question: Can Prestidigitation "Clean" Salt Water?" \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Dec 24 '19 at 1:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Dec 24 '19 at 5:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wouldn't it turn back to..... swamp water, after your turn? (Even if the glass lasted that long.) i.e. in your stomach? ick!. \$\endgroup\$ – djsmiley2kStaysInside Dec 24 '19 at 20:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @djsmiley2kindarkness, it is always swamp water. It's "clean" swamp water, and still has salt, bacteria, and microorganisms... But at least there is no dirt in the water. \$\endgroup\$ – MivaScott Dec 25 '19 at 4:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does it change the nature of your question if the glass isn't made via prestidigitation? \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Dec 26 '19 at 17:53
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No, because timing is a harsh mistress

Round 1:

Action: I cast Prestidigitation to make trinket, this trinket is a glass.
Free action: I use the glass and fill it was swamp water.

Round 2:

Action: I cast Prestidigitation to instantaneously clean the object (water filled glass) and I have clean water.

And then... watch the glass disappear...

Why?

Because, as the rules state: You create a non-magical trinket or an illusory image that can fit in your hand and that lasts until the end of your next turn.

So your next turn is casting the second Prestidigitation to clear the water, at the end of which, the trinket disappears.

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    \$\begingroup\$ But a group of players working together could get around this? \$\endgroup\$ – aroth Dec 25 '19 at 4:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @aroth, as I pointed out as a comment to the question, it is always swamp water. It's "clean" swamp water, and still has salt, bacteria, and microorganisms... But at least there is no dirt in the water. So yes, a group of players can go through the motions, but it's still unpalatable flavored water. \$\endgroup\$ – MivaScott Dec 25 '19 at 4:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott Nope, it's swamp water with no dirt, that tastes like pina colada. (The prestidigitation alters the taste) \$\endgroup\$ – Taemyr Dec 25 '19 at 19:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Taemyr Miva is right that it is "clean" (read: Dirt-free) swamp water. You are right that it tastes like pina colada. The two aren't in contrast. \$\endgroup\$ – Sora Tamashii Dec 26 '19 at 15:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ unpalatable - not pleasant to taste. \$\endgroup\$ – Taemyr Dec 26 '19 at 17:41
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Let's say I cast Prestidigitation to make trinket, this trinket is a glass.

All good so far.

I use the glass and fill it was swamp water.

This is, indeed, a function a glass can perform.

I cast Prestidigitation to instantaneously clean the object (water filled glass) and I have clean water.

No. You have an object (glass) that can be cleaned and a non-object (swamp water) that is not a valid target. The rules are consistent that an object is something solid; not fluid.

I cast Prestidigitation to flavour the water, let's make it pina colada flavoured.

No problem - Pina Colada swamp water is de rigueur in Florida night clubs. It is, however, still swamp water.

I cast Prestidigitation to chill the pina colada flavoured clean water.

Absolutely not! Pina Colada swamp water must be served heated to slightly above body temperature for the perfect regurgitory effect.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You are missing the fact that by the time the glass is cleaned and the character turn is over, the glass vanishes and the swamp water will be reclaimed by gravity. \$\endgroup\$ – Mindwin Dec 24 '19 at 11:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mindwin your guests have to drink fast! \$\endgroup\$ – John Dvorak Dec 24 '19 at 13:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also missing the fact that adding flavoring doesn't actually make the drink alcoholic \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Dec 24 '19 at 17:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ No @ZeissIkon, it doesn't. It says the trinket lasts until the end of your next turn. Previous editions of D&D had different timers such as in 3.5e. Additionally, the text of Prestidigitation says the item has to "fit in your hand", so technically you are also limited to the size and style of the glass as well. You get, at best, a whiskey glass, and that's pushing it depending on interpretation of if that means your hand must enclose the object or if it just needs to be able to loosely wrap around the object. \$\endgroup\$ – Sora Tamashii Dec 26 '19 at 15:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SoraTamashii All of this makes me feel better about mostly using prestigitation to light torches for the party and clean up blood stains after a bar fight. \$\endgroup\$ – Zeiss Ikon Dec 26 '19 at 16:52
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Prestidigitation cannot make food or water safe to consume.

Ruling that salt is a poison in these cases, and that purify food and drink is required is a reasonable course of action that avoids stepping on the toes of other classes abilities and twisting the wording of a cantrip to elicit more powerful effects.

Parity of Player Classes

Allowing a cantrip to perform the effects of a 1st level spell from a different class would, at the least, be stepping on the toes of other classes.

Prestidigitation cleaning does not include purifying nor making safe.

Making food and water safe to consume falls under the purview of purify food and drink . Prestidigitation does not state that it makes objects safe to consume.

Salt as a poison

Salt in water at a significant concentration to cause a problem is a poison so far as it's effects go. Debates as to the inherent "poison-ness" of salt is a red herring.

It appears scarcely possible to give any definition of a poison which will bear a critical examination; insomuch that some have preferred to deal with the evil effects of any substance, that is poisoning, rather than with the substance itself, the so-called poison. Most medicines are poisonous in improper doses; and even common salt (chloride of sodium) has caused death. Dr. Guy defines a poison to be any substance which, when applied to the body externally, or in any way introduced into the system, without acting mechanically, but by its own inherent qualities, is capable of destroying life.

Flavoring

The spell does not replace the existing flavor with a new one. I states that it can flavor non-living material. One could flavor swamp water... which would result in flavored swamp water. This would be akin to mixing Kool-Aid with swamp water.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm going to nitpick. Salt is not a poison. This is a game. In real life, anything is a poison. The stat block for salt specifies no save or damage. \$\endgroup\$ – Mindwin Dec 24 '19 at 11:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mindwin Salt has a stat block? \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Dec 24 '19 at 13:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @T.J.L. According to Heward's Handy Spice Pouch, salt is a nonmagical food seasoning. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Dec 24 '19 at 13:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron So in the context of something that provides food seasonings, salt is a food seasoning. That's very different from it having a stat block. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Dec 24 '19 at 17:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SoraTamashii Nothing is "inherently" a poison; it always depends on dose and route of exposure. Nonetheless, we expect purify food and drink to do something useful--and it can, because it's a miracle and not subject to mundane limits. If my character is allergic to peanuts, I absolutely expect purify food and drink to remove trace amounts of peanut from their food. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Dec 26 '19 at 15:52
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No, you can't.

Zeroth: If this worked, everyone would do it and it would replace food production of any kind. Since food and drink items are listed in the PHB as having a price greater than zero, we clearly aren't in Star-Trek-replicator post-scarcity heaven.

First, let's be clear on what you're proposing: this is a fake cocktail. A real pina colada contains alcohol and fruit juice, which both have perceptible physiological effects. What you're offering is a diet soft drink with artificial flavoring. If you try to sell it for eight bucks a glass, you're going to get chased out of town with pitchforks.

Second, you can't "clean" water with prestidigitation. Since purify food and drink exists and is a first-level spell, there's a clear difference between the superficial "cleaning" that can be achieved with prestidigitation and the more powerful magic of decontaminating stuff to make it safe to consume.

Third, the glass will stop existing after a few seconds. Maybe not a problem if you're serving shots, but for anything that takes longer than that to drink, your customer will be very disappointed. Of course, it's fake liquor made out of sewage, so maybe it's for the best that they don't get to drink the whole thing.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like the differentiation between "cleaning" and "decontamination". \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Dec 24 '19 at 22:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nitpicks: Star Trek replicators require a specific fuel source, so it's more like alchemy than post-scarcity. Purify food and drink only gets rid of disease and poisons, but it doesn't make the swamp water good to drink. (Safe? Sure. Good? No.) There are still other facets that make it a problem like the plant life still in it, dead insects, etc. None of which constitutes as being dirt inherently. (If you get cider from some places, there are bugs in it and people, weirdos imo, call that a benefit, for example. Plus, as you said, the lack of alcohol. \$\endgroup\$ – Sora Tamashii Dec 26 '19 at 15:31
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Unfortunately, it appears you misunderstand the function of Prestidigitation.

  1. The trinket lasts approximately 6 seconds. If we assume a turn is 6 seconds, as is standard, and that you finish the turn after using Prestidigitation, you have through your next turn to use the glass. Basically, you have to fill and drink from the glass in the next 6 seconds. Possible? Yes, but not for what you're doing unless you get the assistance of other casters.

  2. Liquids aren't really objects, according to DMG-246:

For the purpose of these rules, an object is a discrete, inanimate item like a window, door, sword, book, table, chair, or stone, not a building or a vehicle that is composed of many other objects.

While this could be considered nitpicky, water isn't discrete. It's a collection of detached units that work together. In a way, water is no different from a building or a vehicle as per RAW.

  1. Let's say the trinket didn't have a timer and that the water could be cleaned by Prestidigitation, though. Would this work? Kind of. While you certainly meet RAW for the number of non-Instantaneous effects that can be in-play at a time, your series of Prestidigitations has a specific drawback: the pina colada is still contaminated swamp water.

Prestidigitation only cleans the object; that is to say it only gets rid of that which makes it dirty, not diseased. Swamp water is full of chemical compounds that don't fall under the purview of that which is "dirty", or in the literal sense "dirt". While we could certainly try to rationalize it as such, it's best to imagine the spell as the most basic of water filters in this case. You're getting rid of the dirt from the water, but anything like plants, bacteria, etc. that are in the water would remain. It's still swamp water, but it's "clean" swamp water, still unfit for human consumption.

In order to purify it to be water again, you need the spell Purify Food and Drink which will get rid of the bacteria, but not any plant-life that is in it. To get rid of the plant life, you'd have to run it through an actual filter of some kind, which can be done by putting the water in a container, strapping fabric over the opening, then putting fabric over the opening of an empty container, all before pouring the water from container a to container b. There. Now you finally have drinkable water, but even if you flavor and chill it, you don't have a pina colada. All you have is water that tastes like it, but without any of the fun effects.

  1. "Have I just invented the most profitable tavern ever?" No, you haven't. If you tried to use your method, you'd be making patrons sick left and right, assuming you didn't scare them off by constantly spilling swamp water all over them thanks to your glass trinkets disappearing as soon as you set it in front of them. Not only that, but using your method as written, the most you can make is one glass's worth of alcohol at a time due to the limitations of Prestidigitation.

If you cast this spell multiple times, you can have up to three of its non-instantaneous Effects active at a time, and you can dismiss such an effect as an action.

Alternatively, if you did this on a cubic foot of water and poured it into actual cups not made of Prestidigitation, it would get you 119 cups of 8 fl. oz. of pina co-swamp water, which would be far more profitable until Health and Safety shut you down for food code violations. Finally, let's say you did get customers... They wouldn't be happy that all your drinks are virgin (no alcohol). You may be able to make it taste like booze, but they'd realize that they aren't getting drunk and then blame you for ripping them off.

In short, your plan doesn't work, at least not in the way you intended and not with the method you described... but feel free to try.

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