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I, as a Proper Villain, have acquired minions. These minions are known as Noodle Bugs, tiny, stealthy creatures that look like rotini noodles. The possibilities are endless! They can use my magic items! They can throw oil! They can wake me when I am put to sleep by magic! They can bite for 1 damage to help kill dying people before they are healed! But I need more. My hated enemy has just found the Sword of Holy Wrathness, a powerful artifact that requires attunement. Can my Noodle Bugs sneak into his camp, attune to his weapon, and so prevent him from using it against me?

Basically, can an arbitrary creature with enough Intelligence attune to someone else's weapon (already attuned by the enemy) to disable it? What if it's being held by someone else? Assume that meditation is a legal way to attune to any magic item, and my noodle bugs don't have to practice with the sword to attune. Or just assume it's a Silver Orb of Zappyness instead of a sword. Additionally, don't worry about spaces and positioning and house rules about holding onto a sword.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Probably not a fun experience for the player with said item, but an awesome thing to happen! \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 16:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Phoenices Did you end up doing this? Would you consider a self-answer telling us about it? \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Commented May 24 at 22:47

2 Answers 2

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It's up to your DM

The rules say:

Attuning to an item requires a creature to spend a Short Rest focused on only that item while being in physical contact with it (this can’t be the same short rest used to learn the item’s properties). This focus can take the form of weapon practice (for a weapon), meditation (for a wondrous item), or some other appropriate activity.

  • Most DMs would expect your bug to pass a stealth check when sneaking into an enemy camp.
  • Most DMs would probably rule that attuning to a weapon required weapon practice.
  • If the weapon is an artifact, a DM might rule that the artifact has preferences about what wielder it will tolerate.
  • If someone is carrying the object in question, a DM might rule that it was difficult or impossible for your bug to stay in contact with it, or that it was difficult or impossible for your bug to avoid detection.
  • If someone abruptly became un-attuned to an item, a DM might rule that they would notice this right away.
  • If they didn't notice it right away, a DM might rule that they'd notice upon interacting with the item.

But, if your DM chooses to rule favorably to you in all of these cases, then yes, your plan can totally work.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for pointing out these possible problems! Some of them sound much more house-ruley than others, but I could still imagine a DM ruling on that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phoenices
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 17:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ The (in-)ability to attune by merely touching a weapon is probably going to be the limiting factor here. A tiny bug can't meaningfully use a longsword so it seems unlikely they can attune to it. That said, even if they could, what would prevent the paladin from brushing the noodle-bugs off his sword and taking an hour to re-attune to it? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 14:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DarthPseudonym These bugs are quite sneaky - there's a risk he notices, but if he doesn't, he won't figure out what happened until one of its powers doesn't work. Even then, he might not realize for a while. Yes, I know that the weapon attunement rules will ruin this - I wanted to know about a general case, not specifically a holy sword. I guess I shouldn't have used a sword as my example, then. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phoenices
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 16:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ I recommend considering the case of a cat familiar and a magical cloak -- nobody will think twice about a cat making biscuits on something soft! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 16:11
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Yes, but it is situational

The attunement rules (p. 137 DMG) state:

A creature's attunement to an item ends if the creature no longer satisfies the prerequisites for attunement, if the item has been more than 100 feet away for at least 24 hours, if the creature dies, or if another creature attunes to the item. A creature can also voluntarily end attunement by spending another short rest focused on the item, unless the item is cursed.

So, you absolutely can end the attunement of another creature to an item, by attuning to it yourself, wethere you are a noodle bug or a sneaky bugbear.

Can you remain undetected?

So, the only question is if you can attune stealthily so the victim does not realize it. That depends on the items, the situation (is it held, observed etc.), and your skill in stealth. If we assume you are stealthy and careful enough to beat the victim's security precautions and perception check (maybe you also are invisible if the item is in plain sight), you might be able to attune to an item that someone else is holding:

Attuning to an item requires a creature to spend a short rest focused on only that item while being in physical contact with it (this can't be the same short rest used to learn the item's properties). This focus can take the form of weapon practice (for a weapon), meditation (for a wondrous item), or some other appropriate activity

If all the item needs is touching it and meditating, you you can do that, even if another creature is sleeping with it in arm, or holding it in their hand while standing watch. Or, if the Sword of Holy Wrathness states you do not need to practice with it to attune, that would work too.

If you however are dealing with a normal magical weapon that requires weapon practice to attune, it may be very difficult to obtain the item without the holder realizing it. So, in that case, you might not be able to.

Of course, if your minions are so stealthy as to nab the item undetected so they can practice for a full hour, you might be able to do better and just have your minions steal it outright.

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