(My question is inspired by this one: How many ball bearings are used when you take an action to cover an area?)

If I use a bag of 1000 ball bearings before combat, can I recover them (or a number of them) after combat?

RAW answers are preferred.

  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ At least the very least, they probably fall under the same rule as nerf bullets. At some point, they are all gone... and you have no idea where to... \$\endgroup\$ Apr 22, 2020 at 21:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ may I ask why you would want to recover them? they're only worth 1gp after all, so it seems that it wouldn't be worth it. \$\endgroup\$
    – user60891
    Apr 23, 2020 at 14:05
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @waterlemon Maybe you can't easily resupply? or you don't like littering, low on gold, etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – goodguy5
    Apr 23, 2020 at 14:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @goodguy5 good point \$\endgroup\$
    – user60891
    Apr 23, 2020 at 15:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Did you bring a broom and a dustpan? \$\endgroup\$
    – aslum
    Apr 23, 2020 at 19:13

3 Answers 3


There is no rule in the book about how many ball bearings you can recover at the end of combat. It's up to your DM if you are able to do this at all, and if so, how effectively.

The two extremes are of course "You can't do that, they're gone" and "Sure, it'll take a few minutes but you can get them all back". In between the two, your DM might make up something to give you a "yes, but". For example, that you can collect them all, but you'll have to take a short rest to do it; that you can, but you have to make a skill check to see how many bearings you can gather up; or that you can, but you're going to apply the rule in the Ammunition weapon quality, and you can only find half them.

Of course, there's also no rule about how to handle half-a-bag of ball bearings in combat, so there are more questions to come if you can collect some, but not all, of the ball bearings.


Doubtful you'll find anything as RAW

Considering even the distribution of the 1,000 ball bearings is in question (See linked question), I also couldn't find anything on picking things up.

So let's see if we can reason out a good answer. You're essentially laying a trap (which if you look at the item "Hunting Trap" also doesn't mention anything about reuse). The purpose of the trap is to create a "readied action" attack. There is a trigger (someone steps on the ball bearings) and an attack (in the form of a saving throw vs being knocked prone).

Since it's an attack, as a DM, I put this under the heading of "ammunition".

Per the description of the ball bearings:

Ball Bearings. As an action, you can spill these tiny metal balls from their pouch to cover a level, square area that is 10 feet on a side. A creature moving across the covered area must succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw or fall prone. A creature moving through the area at half speed doesn't need to make this save.

And ammunition:

Ammunition. You can use a weapon that has the ammunition property to make a ranged attack only if you have ammunition to fire from the weapon. Each time you attack with the weapon, you expend one piece of ammunition. Drawing the ammunition from a quiver, case, or other container is part of the attack (you need a free hand to load a one-handed weapon). At the end of the battle, you can recover half your expended ammunition by taking a minute to search the battlefield.

So it's ranged (you're not likely to be standing in the middle of the ball bearings), each time you "expend one piece of ammunition" (in this case 1,000 balls equals one piece), and you draw the ammunition from a container (dump the bag).

So if your DM agrees that it's ammunition, then at some future date, you could collect half (500) of the ammo. At which point you could use it to cover a 10' x 5' area.

Disclosure: I haven't used this ruling for ball bearings but I did use it for caltrops in Sunless Citadel.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It's not an attack action done by the player, though. It's a readied trap and a static DC saving throw, not a saving throw against a dynamic save DC (like a saving throw to beat your spell DC). \$\endgroup\$
    – TylerH
    Apr 22, 2020 at 19:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Wait, you don't think hunting traps are re-useable? From personal experience, I can tell you that almost every hunting trap ever made can be used again with little to no effort in re-setting it. If the entry for an item does not say "this can't be reused" or something to that effect, then it absolutely can. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 22, 2020 at 20:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RevenantBacon No, I know they are reusable. I merely brought it up because RAW, there is no mention about reusing a hunting trap so it would be extremely unlikely that picking up ball bearing would have a RAW answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Apr 22, 2020 at 22:00
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH Or to put it another way--A player casts Glyph of Warding on the ground. It's not an attack, it's an action (Cast a spell) that lays a trap (just like ball bearings). They leave and go adventuring. Regardless of their current level, the DC for the Glyph (both to see it and to dodge its attack) is static based on the time of casting. The possibility of a changing DC does not factor in to a saving throw, ability check, or any other throw of the dice. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Apr 22, 2020 at 22:23
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I think this ruling (of treating it in the same way as ammunition) is reasonable, but ball bearing use does not involve an attack of any kind. That said, I don't think the logic of your ruling really relies on claiming it is one... \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Apr 23, 2020 at 9:31

There's no mechanism or rule in the rule books for retrieving deployed metal ball bearings, so the 'no secret rules' axiom applies: you can retrieve your metal ball bearings during downtime because there is no rule that says you can't. Otherwise, it's up to your DM whether to require any checks (e.g. Investigation or Perception) to determine your success in doing so.

Even if the DM allows an attempt, success can still depend on the combat scenario.

Normally, I'd say you would be able to spend some free/down time picking up deployed metal ball bearings just like an archer can retrieve spent arrows or bolts (easier, in fact, because an arrow may have splintered on a misfire or been snapped in half by a strong foe, and RAW only allow you to retrieve half of your ammo as an archer).

There are a few scenarios, however, where metal ball bearings could be considered 'consumed' and irretrievable:

  • If you are fighting inside a volcano or somewhere with lots of lava/magma/fire (the Fire plane for example), any ball bearings that was deployed into or near the lava/magma/fire may have melted or be so hot to the touch that they cannot be picked up or might burn a hole in a non-magical pouch).
  • If you are fighting near deep/rapidly moving water, any ball bearings may have fallen into the water and either sunk too deep for you to retrieve or been carried away by the currents.
  • If you are fighting somewhere with environmental barriers such as very thick brush or sewer grates/pipes, you may not be able to fit through or reach through these barriers to collect some or all of your deployed ball bearings without spending significant effort removing the barriers or going out of your way to get around them.

Any of these conditions could be handled by a DM rolling dice to determine how many are retrievable.


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