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The spell Water Walk:

grants the ability to move across any liquid surface--such as water, acid, mud, snow, quicksand, or lava--as if it were harmless solid ground (creatures crossing molten lava can still take damage from the heat). Up to ten willing creatures you can see within range gain this ability for the duration.

If you target a creature submerged in a liquid, the spell carries the target to the surface of the liquid at a rate of 60 feet per round.

Water Elementals, thanks to their Water Form, 'can enter a hostile creature's space and stop there' then use their ability 'Whelm' which states:

Each creature in the elemental's space must make a DC 15 Strength saving throw. On a failure, a target takes 13 (2d8 + 4) bludgeoning damage. If it is Large or smaller, it is also grappled (escape DC 14). Until this grapple ends, the target is restrained and unable to breathe unless it can breathe water. If the saving throw is successful, the target is pushed out of the elemental's space.

The elemental can grapple one Large creature or up to two Medium or smaller creatures at one time. At the start of each of the elemental's turns, each target grappled by it takes 13 (2d8 + 4) bludgeoning damage. A creature within 5 feet of the elemental can pull a creature or object out of it by taking an action to make a DC 14 Strength check and succeeding.

Could Water Walk, by RAW, assist my PCs in their fight against a Water Elemantal?

Specifically:

  1. Could the benefits of Water Walk help prevent a target from being whelmed?
  2. Once already whelmed, could the benefits of Water Walk help a target escape from within the confines of a Water Elemental's grapple?
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Probably not, by RAW

There are a couple of reasons I think this is correct:

1. A Water Elemental is not simply water, nor a liquid

Whether or not you consider water to be an object, a Water Elemental is a distinctly different thing. By that logic, you can't use Water Walk to deal with a Water Elemental any more than you can drive a carrot to the store (the word car is right in there!).

Some tables are looser with rules for Elementals, such as allowing water to help effectively douse a Fire Elemental and immediately destroy it (ignoring the limitations described in the Water Susceptibility feature in the stat block). But there are no allowances for treating a Water Elemental like water in the manner listed in the question (that I'm aware of, at any rate).

2. Submerged and grappled aren't the same

The text of the spell is clear that its second-listed effect applies to a creature submerged in a liquid, and makes no mention of the grappled condition at all. Even if your ruling is that a Water Elemental is inherently a liquid, and being subject to Whelm causes submersion in that liquid, the grappled condition still applies and limits movement. The description of Whelm seems (to me) to be clear that the thing keeping the target inside the Water Elemental is the grappling.


All that said, I might rule that there is some intermediate benefit: the spell doesn't render the PCs immune to Whelm, but might give Advantage on the Strength check needed to pull a Whelm-ed target out, or allow the Whelm-ed creature to break the grapple. Reasonable, maybe, but definitely not RAW.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Notably, the fire elemental has a feature that reads: "For every 5 feet the elemental moves in water, or for every gallon of water splashed on it, it takes 1 cold damage." \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Oct 28 '20 at 20:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Thanks, that's a good catch. I've expanded on the house rule I was referring to. I think that mentioning the feature which makes Fire Elementals similar to ordinary fire (well, the most commonly encountered fires for most people) strengthens the argument with respect to the Water Elemental, making it a very valuable addition. \$\endgroup\$ – Upper_Case Oct 28 '20 at 20:52

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