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I'd like to know if I can use the Heat Metal spell in the Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus module and target an Infernal War Machine.

And more specifically, what happens about this part of the spell:

If a creature is holding or wearing the object and takes the damage from it, the creature must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or drop the object if it can.

What happens to the passengers?

Can the pilot continue to pilot?

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  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Related on What is considered an object? \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Mar 20, 2020 at 11:12
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Related: Do Infernal War Machines count as objects? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kuerten
    Mar 20, 2020 at 11:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Could we perhaps get the spoiler edited out of the title? (The spoiler being the presence of war machines). I'm trying to not be spoiled myself so I'd rather not read the question to get a better title :) \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Aug 9, 2021 at 16:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ESCE You'd have better luck marking the adventure tag itself as ignored. That'll hide the question from your feed entirely. Removing the detail here doesn't seem possible to do without completely gutting the question. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 9, 2021 at 19:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ahhh didn't know I could do that, thanks @StopBeingEvil! \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Aug 9, 2021 at 21:08

5 Answers 5

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I'd say no

There are three reasons why this shouldn't work:

  • restrictions from the spell text, although they are pretty ambiguous
  • the intention behind the spell (what is it meant to be)
  • possible balance issues if a DM allows it

The Heat Metal spell description says:

Choose a manufactured metal object, such as a metal weapon or a suit of heavy or medium metal armor

If a creature is holding or wearing the object...

So it is not "any" object, but specifically an object "such as a metal weapon or a suit of heavy or medium metal armor", a thing that it supposed to or at least can be held or carried.

When adjudicating corner cases game designers suggest taking a couple of things in consideration: the description text itself, the common sense, the intention behind the spell:

"An illusory object made by minor illusion is meant to be like a stool or a rock, not an atmospheric effect."Sage Advice Compendium, page 16.

The intention behind the Heat Metal spell is heating relatively small objects like weapons and armor, not ships, infernal war machines, giant metal fortresses, etc. If a DM allows heating vehicles, a mere 2 level spell becomes an effective anti-materiel weapon, which probably makes this spell a no-brainer (and no-brainers are bad design).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd say you say you are reading to much into the examples, is says a manufactured metal object, A door or a wagon is also objects. Otherwise you could argue I can't cast it on a pocket watch nor a length of chain becasue they are not weapons nor armor. \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Mar 25, 2020 at 22:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to downvote this answer for citing JC, but this one time I upvoted it instead because outside of that glaring flaw, it goes exactly into the issue, I'd still just much rather see you cite SAC p. 12 (control+f search for "door") or something similar. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Mar 25, 2020 at 23:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu JC is the author of the SAC, isn't he? dnd.wizards.com/articles/sage-advice/sage-advice-compendium \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Mar 26, 2020 at 9:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor: Indeed he is. Crawford's tweets are no longer considered official rulings, but the SAC remains the one source of official rulings now. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Mar 26, 2020 at 9:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast how is it relevant? I was asking Akixkisu why (s)he would downvote for "citing JC", but suggests to cite SAC despite the author is the same. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Mar 26, 2020 at 11:51
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This shouldn't work

The spell reads:

Choose a manufactured metal object, such as a metal weapon or a suit of heavy or medium metal armor. If a creature is holding or wearing the object, etc.

Is the Infernal War Machine a manufactured metal object? Possibly, it depends on your definition. I'd go with 'no'. but even if you decide yes, read on.

Is somebody holding or wearing it? No.

A DM is free to change the spell to make 'being inside something' count as 'holding something', but this is opening the floodgates for weird gimmicky uses of the spell that weren't intended, like "I'll cast Heat Metal on the cage to damage everybody inside it".

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By raw Yes or No

By the description on page 216 of BG-DiA, An infernal war-machine is "manufactured" and "made of iron". Thus it is a manufactured metal object, thus a valid target.

However it also states that "An infernal war machines statistics function like those of a creature", meaning you could argue they count as creatures. So there is some DM discretion on whether or not to treat it like a creature. So ask your DM if they are treating it like a creature it is a valid target for creature targeting spells If they are not then it can be targeted by heat metal.

This could be argued both ways. It says, "like those of a creature", which would imply treat like a creature. But at the same time, function like a creature, would imply it is not a creature and it should be treated more like a wielded magic item.

Personally I would lean toward treating them as creatures, there is a balance aspect, many spells cannot target objects, limiting how you can fight one.

If treating it as a creature it cannot be a target for heat metal.

Now assuming your DM says they are treating it as an object, then some of your other questions can be answered.

Note that nowhere in the spell does it say the object takes damage so the vehicle itself will not be damaged if it is a object.

Can they continue to pilot it:

Well you can continue to holding a sword it has been cast on if you succeed your save, so you should be able to keep piloting if you make your save, you will just take damage every round. I would also argue that much like armor you keep taking damage is you stay inside it, so internal passengers would flee or take damage. External passengers can simply let go like a weapon of shield. But this gets into the gray area of what happen when you cast it on an iron ladder someone is climbing or on an iron cage with a prisoner? The spell leaves a lot up to the DM.

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Yes, BUT Selectively

If you can target someones weapon in their hand, you could probably target a steering wheel on a War Engine.

Some war engines have a few weapons on then, each requiring a operator, so treating each weapon as a separate target for the purpose of the spell would make sense.

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I don't think there is a "right" answer to this question as far as RAW goes because the wording is ambiguous, which usually means the real question is "is it right for my campaign?".

What you should ask yourself when answering this;
-Is it fun / would you be rewarding a cool idea?
-Is it balanced, would doing it to your players feel fair?

IMO, the answer to the first is yes, and to the second is no. But since the answer to the first is yes, is there a way to make it balanced? I've thought about this particular case because as the DM I wanted to do it to my players. I decided that it would take a tremendous amount of magical power to do this to so large a metal object in a way that actually injured players, so I decided to get even the base damage of Heat Metal it would need to be case at say, 6th level. ie; I'm not going to do this to a fledgling party, but if it's reasonable they're going to come up against Disintegrate and Chain lightning, giving them a flaming hot vehicle doing 2d8 a turn they have to contend with is totally reasonable and vice versa. The alternative would be to choose something like just the steering wheel/column, which will still mess them up pretty good. I think the mishap table is one of the most fun parts of the infernal war machine schtick.

Anyway, just my two cents. It's a fun idea, I'd let it happen, but I would make very clear that to make it balanced (and reasonable) it's going to work like x (where x makes sense for your campaign.

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