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I'm a rookie DM with an even more rookie group of players. I have some questions about Heat Metal (2nd level transmutation).

It says you need a piece of iron and a flame. It also says the target of the spell is a manufactured metal object.

  • The piece of iron and the manufactured metal object are two separate objects, right? The caster needs to be in possession of the piece of iron, and the enemy would optimally be touching the manufactured metal (any metal - not just iron) object. Is that right?
  • Does the flame need to be close enough to the caster to touch (for example, if the caster would need to hold the piece of iron into the flame), or simply in the range of the spell? Intuitively I would have opted for the latter, as I'd imagine the caster would be drawing energy from nearby flames.
  • If there is no environmental fire nearby, would they have to use one action to light a fire with their tinderbox first? A google search says "Don’t bother to keep track of material components with negligible cost. Assume you have all you need as long as you have your spell component pouch." Does that apply here? Obviously the flame doesn't have a cost, so can I just assume the caster.. uhm.. has a flame in their pouch? Or can we say lighting a small piece of tinder is part of the spell action?

I guess some/all of these could be answered with "DM-fiat", but in that case I'd be interested in how seasoned DMs rule it :-)

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    \$\begingroup\$ @PurpleMonkey This seems fine as one question, it is about confusion over the components of the spell. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jan 11 at 10:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ This seems to be one question about the mechanics of components, compartmentalised. There is no issue here. I voted to leave open - from review. \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Jan 11 at 10:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Seasoned DMs ban the spell cook enemies alive in their armour no save - sorry, I mean heat metal :P \$\endgroup\$ – DM_with_secrets Jan 12 at 0:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've been thinking about nerfing it a little by saying a plate or split armor is not a single metal object, and allowing NPCs to take off the heated part of the armor in their next turn (at a slight reduction of AC). \$\endgroup\$ – DerManiac Jan 13 at 11:11
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The manufactured metal object is the target of the spell.

Heat metal says:

Choose a manufactured metal object, such as a metal weapon or a suit of heavy or medium metal armor, that you can see within range. You cause the object to glow red-hot.

So we are choosing a piece of manufactured metal we can see, and we are targeting it with the spell.

The iron and flame can be replaced by a component pouch or spellcasting focus.

A piece of iron and a flame are the components of the spell (and separate from the metal target of the spell). You need these two things to cast it. But they can be provided by a component pouch or spellcasting focus. The component pouch description says:

A component pouch is a small, watertight leather belt pouch that has compartments to hold all the material components and other special items you need to cast your spells, except for those components that have a specific cost (as indicated in a spell's description).

So whatever you need to produce the flame required for heat metal is in there, and it’s probable a piece of flint to strike on the iron.

The rules also permit a focus to be used instead:

Casting some spells requires particular objects, specified in parentheses in the component entry. A character can use a component pouch or a spellcasting focus (found in “Equipment”) in place of the components specified for a spell.

If you don’t have a focus or component pouch, the rules aren't crystal clear, but the rules for material components require a free hand, so "within reach" seems like the most reasonable ruling.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks a lot! That was very helpful and answered almost all my questions. One more thing: On the off chance that the caster doesn't have their component pouch (e.g. they are held captive and have been stripped of their equipment), how close would the flame need to be? For example, they are in a prison cell. They can touch the iron bars of the cell, and see a torch outside of the cell.. Is that enough to fry the prison guard? Or would the flame need to be in touch distance? \$\endgroup\$ – DerManiac Jan 11 at 10:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's not exactly within the scope of the question, but the general rule is that you must "have a hand free to access the material components", which implies that they need to be within reach. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Jan 11 at 15:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a good answer that addresses most of the OP. It still lacks an answer to their question about timing and action economy, though. In the absence of a component pouch but assuming materials are at hand to produce flame, is producing the flame part of the spellcasting that takes place the same round, or does it require an action and / or time spent on a previous round before the spell itself may be cast? \$\endgroup\$ – Kirt Jan 11 at 20:06
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Material (M)

Casting some spells requires particular objects, specified in parentheses in the component entry. A character can use a component pouch or a spellcasting focus (found in “Equipment”) in place of the components specified for a spell. But if a cost is indicated for a component, a character must have that specific component before he or she can cast the spell.

If a spell states that a material component is consumed by the spell, the caster must provide this component for each casting of the spell. A spellcaster must have a hand free to access a spell's material components -- or to hold a spellcasting focus -- but it can be the same hand that he or she uses to perform somatic components.

Them’s the rules.

So, for Heat Metal, you can use:

  • a piece of metal and a flame,
  • a component pouch, or
  • a spellcasting focus.

You have to have one hand free to manipulate any of these and they have to be on your person when you cast the spell.

If you use the flame, then it must be a flame before you cast the spell. If you use either of the others, you don’t need the flame.

The “manufactured metal object” is the target of the spell; the thing you want to get hot - it isn’t one of the components but it is still necessary. A good choice is the metal armour of someone you don’t like because, usually, they die if you do this.

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