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When designing a Battle Smith artificer's Steel Defender (E:RftLW, p. 61), the feature description states:

You determine the creature's appearance and whether it has two legs or four; your choice has no effect on its game statistics.

If I were to create it to resemble a Medium-sized Ape, could it throw the pebbles imbued with magic that I create using the magic stone spell?

I can imbue 3 stones as a bonus action, and then drop them beside the Ape before attacking. The next turn, the Steel Defender could pick them up and throw.

Obviously, this is a level 3 mid-game question. 1d6+5 just seeing do much at higher levels.

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2 Answers 2

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Yes, it can take any action (as the feature description now clearly states)

E:RftLW received an errata in 2020 that updated the description of the Steel Defender feature, which now reads (emphasis mine):

[...] but the only action it takes on its turn is the Dodge action, unless you take a bonus action on your turn to command it to take another action. That action can be one in its stat block or some other action.

The new wording is intended to be generic and flexible, the errata was precisely to fix the old restrictions. Rules designer Jeremy Crawford states in an unofficial tweet that this even can allow the defender to use magic items:

A D&D creature can use magic items, unless its anatomy or a rule precludes such use. For example, the steel defender is a creature that can reasonably use many different magic items.

As well as using more permanent magic items, per this unofficial tweet:

The magic item attunement of your companions has no effect on the number of items you can attune to.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that the second tweet doesn't say anything about whether steel defenders can attune to magic items. (It's not even a response to a question about the artificer, but rather about familiars.) It's just stating the general point that how many items other creatures are attuned to (including, in general, creatures you summon or create) doesn't affect how many items you can attune to. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Dec 20, 2021 at 18:13
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No, it can only use the actions in its statblock

The text for the Steel Defender feature reads:

It can move and use its reaction on its own, but the only action it takes on its turn is the Dodge action, unless you take a bonus action on your turn to command it to take one of the actions in its stat block or the Dash, Disengage, or Help action.

The feature specifies that the action must be from its statblock.

The description of the Magic Stone spell reads:

You or someone else can make a ranged spell attack with one of the pebbles [...]

It allows someone other than the caster to use the stone, but it still requires you to take the Attack action to do so. The rule that allows someone else to use the stone is general because it refers to everyone who is not the caster. The rule regarding the Steel Defender is specific because it only applies to the Artificer's use of a feature as a bonus action. A general rule allowing other creatures to use the stone cannot overrule the specific rule defining the Artificer's use of a feature.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Why is the rule for the steel defender more specific than the rule on magic stone? \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    May 8, 2020 at 9:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ As a PC, I too am given Actions. My Attack action initially consists of just my starting equipment weapons. It is then an Attack action where I can choose which attack to use. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wartowel
    May 8, 2020 at 10:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Wartowel The Attack action always lets you choose whether to use any weapon you are wielding, make an unarmed strike, shove, or grapple. However, the steel defender does not have access to the Attack action. \$\endgroup\$ May 8, 2020 at 13:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not sure if it'll be helpful, but the fact that it doesn't actuallhy have "arms". Yes, it can take the shape of a creature with 'arms', but it's statistics and abilities don't actually change by form. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    May 8, 2020 at 13:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Szega Note that what sort of action magic stone requires is a bit unclear, you might be able to throw multiple with Extra Attack, you might not. Here's a question discussing that: Does Magic Stone require an action or a bonus action for attacking with it? \$\endgroup\$ May 8, 2020 at 14:40

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