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If someone covers his metal armor with cloth, can the armor be the target of heat metal?

Does the interpretation of the rules that disallows using heat metal to target armor covered by a garment undermine a positive development of the combat?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you explain what you mean by the last line? What does "undermine a positive development of the combat" mean? \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Jan 13 at 16:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already and see the help center or ask us here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jan 13 at 16:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ D&D 5e is very much intended to have its rules interpreted - for a potted history this question might be of use. Of course, that's not to say that you should be inconsistent or capricious with how the rules are interpreted. Everyone should know what the rules you are playing under are, but those rules can't cover every case, so then you have to make your own rulings. \$\endgroup\$ – Pilchard123 Jan 13 at 17:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rafa Completely disagree. The rules are entirely meant to be interpreted. This is often referred to as Rule Zero: The DM can ignore the rules at any time. The implied corollary is "and they should when it's necessary to keep the game running and keep the game fun." You should feel free to make whatever rulings you need to in the moment to make the game keep going. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Jan 13 at 17:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rafa Here on the SE boards, we generally stick to Rules As Written (RAW) because we can't know what's happening at any given moment in your game, and because the same wisdom applies to this as everything else: knowing the rules is important so you know where and why you're breaking them. But the most important thing is that you and your players are all having fun. If some detail or edge-case in the rules is going to stop a player from doing something fun and cool, you should usually err on the side of fun and cool. That's why DMs run the game instead of computers! \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Jan 13 at 17:37
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Rules-as-written, you must be able to see the target of heat metal.

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.

If you cannot see the metal object, you cannot cast heat metal on it.

A word to DMs: don't nerf your players' spell choices

Say you have a player at your table who picks heat metal and is excited to use it. Don't nerf their choice for no reason. What I mean is, if I chose heat metal, and all of a sudden every armor wearing enemy covered all of their metal armor with XXXXL shirts, and then the DM said I couldn't use heat metal on their armor, I would be very upset - it would undermine a positive development of the combat, so to speak.

Now, suppose I was known throughout the land for using heat metal on my enemies to boil them in their boots, it would be interesting and fun to have one encounter, or even one story arc, where the party deals with a group of enemies that has specifically outfitted themselves to counter my heat metal (perhaps by wearing only leather armor). This would be a neat and interesting encounter that forces me to think outside the box. But it would not be fun if it were all the time.

Don't nerf your players' spell choices, unless there is a temporary, narrative driven reason behind it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Many, many, thank you very much for your responses. Exactly, that's what I meant by undermining the positive development of combat. \$\endgroup\$ – Rafa Jan 13 at 16:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rafa Happy to help, and welcome to rpg.se! Hope you stick around. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jan 13 at 17:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ The point about not nerfing the spell without reason is the best part of this answer. I might add that if you want to have enemies take precautions against heat metal, a more fair way to do that would be to replace their metal armor with leather. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Jan 13 at 17:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarkWells That's a good point, Ill add some more to the answer in a bit. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jan 13 at 18:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ My only problem with this is that in a world where the Heat Metal spell exists as a relatively low-level spell, if a completely effective countermeasure exists that is as cheap as some pieces of cloth, everyone should use it. All armor should come with a cloth layer on top, just to make it basic armor. \$\endgroup\$ – tbrookside Jan 14 at 12:46
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The target of heat metal must be visible

The spell states (emphasis mine):

[...] 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. [...]

Therefore, you must be able to actually see the metal you wish to cast this spell on when you cast the spell; however, the metal does not have to remain in view after the spell has been cast.

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