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The description of the prestidigitation cantrip says the following:

You create a nonmagical trinket or an illusory image that can fit in your hand and that lasts until the end of your next turn.

In the list of Feywild Trinkets in the introduction to The Wild Beyond The Witchlight (p. 7), we see the following items, among others:

Pumpkin cupcake that magically regenerates itself in its paper cup each day at dawn

Tiny bottle filled with rainwater collected from the Feywild

Pouch of seeds that smell like home

Meanwhile, the Elemental Evil Trinket Table in the article Elemental Evil: Trinkets includes the following entry:

A one-eyed little fish inside a spherical vial, much bigger than the vial's neck. He has a cunning look.

As long as you consume the food or drink before it vanishes after six seconds, could prestidigitation be used to produce an "infinite" supply of food and drink, consisting of pumpkin cupcakes, seeds, rainwater, and suspicious fish water?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowRanger: See this FAQ: Should users refrain from answers (or partial answers) in comments? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Feb 12, 2022 at 1:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Definition of "Trinket" might help or at least what you think it is if different than the dictionary... "a small ornament or item of jewelry that is of little value." What do you think a "Trinket" is? \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Feb 12, 2022 at 3:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: using Prestidigitation to make water drinkable \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Feb 12, 2022 at 3:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth It's one of the items on the tables labelled "Trinkets". \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Feb 12, 2022 at 5:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000 Gotcha... another instance where the writers just crap on English and their own previous rules... in any case option one is out completely because it is magical. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Feb 12, 2022 at 19:15

4 Answers 4

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Food and drink that disappears after six seconds?

Prestidigitation stipulates that whatever you create disappears at the end of your next turn. So... what’s the point? That’s not very “infinite”.

Even if you can recreate trinkets from adventure-specific lists that the spell description is definitely not referring to, anything you create this way disappears after six seconds, so could never meet your needs for food and water.

Create food and water is a 3rd-level spell.

If you think your pub-trick cantrip is better at creating food and water than the 3rd-level spell create food and water, you've misunderstood the cantrip – it’s as simple as that. No, a cantrip cannot create an infinite supply of food and water, when a 3rd-level spell only creates a finite amount.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't understand your reasoning. "A cantrip cannot create an infinite supply of food and water, when a 3rd-level spell only creates a finite amount." Can a cantrip (Gust) not create an infinite supply of wind, even though a second level spell (Gust of wind) creates a finite amount? Can a cantrip (firebolt) not create an infinite supply of fire, even though a third level spell (fireball) creates a finite amount? Surely the OP means infinite in the sense of 'generating without end' - that's kind of the point of cantrips, that they may be cast at will without limitations on number. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Feb 12, 2022 at 7:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ I had the same thought as @Kirt reading the food and water comparison. I think it is a common approach to compare cantrips with higher level spells to gauge how powerful an effect they could have, but should that comparsion not be made on a single casting basis? In a combat situation, the action economy carries a real cost of the smaller per casting damage output for fire bolt vs fireball, but repeat castings of fire bolt can outperform the total damage output of any single spell, even Meteor Storm. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 12, 2022 at 7:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes I think the OP means arbitrarily large, not infinite. (Would also be limited by the life span of the caster, so not really even arbitrarily large) \$\endgroup\$ Feb 12, 2022 at 7:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the cantrip/3rd level spell comparison is fair. Fireball vs firebolt is finite vs infinite fire, but the main point of those spells isn't replacement tinderboxes, it's combat. Being able to do 8d6 damage to multiple targets per action vs Xd10 to a single target per action is a big enough difference to justify fireball being a 3rd level spell vs the cantrip firebolt. However, food and water aren't typically relevant to a combat encounter, so being able to create a larger amount of food per action is almost never going to be relevant - hence the "proof" that this couldn't work. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sirv
    Feb 14, 2022 at 23:59
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You would not have time to digest them, and some of the trinkets you list would not work either

I agree with Thomas Markov's answer, that even if they would work, and technically could create food and water, they would be of no use to anyone as nourishmnent, as they would vanish after six seconds, long before any of them could be metabolized.

Metabolizing water takes 10-20 minutes, food several hours, other sources for food cite digestion times of up to 6-8 hours. Without the food and water having been metabolized, it will not help your organism survive. (So, if you want to be safe to partake usefully in the food and water created from the eponymous spell, you should eat it at least eight hours before it expires).

While trinkets are not limited to those on the trinket lists, using trinkets from published trinket lists does have the advantage that nobody can argue against them being a trinket. However, the spell clearly says:

You create a nonmagical trinket

(Emphasis added).

  • The cupcake that magically regenerates itself could not even be created with this spell.

  • The water bottle or fish in a spherical vial consumed as a whole are non-digestible. Trying to open them uses up your object interaction for the round, so you could not eat or drink the contents before they vanish. You'd need help to even get the water into your mouth. Not that that matters.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Where are the 5e rules for food metabolization rates to be found? If, in order to be useful as food, the prestidigitated seeds need to be first metabolized, is that also true of the food created with Create food and water? Simply eating it is not enough? If the food created by Create food and water spoils 24 hours after casting, for how long after casting (how much time before the 24 hours are up) may I safely eat it in order to ensure that it is fully metabolized before it spoils? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Feb 12, 2022 at 6:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi @Kirt, the basic assumtion for the game is that everyday things behave as you would expect them to, if there are no specific rules given. You certainly could not metabolize food in 6 secs, and without doing so it will give you no nourishment. See also this (inoffical) tweet by JC. I'll add citations on metabolize rates to the answer \$\endgroup\$ Feb 12, 2022 at 7:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for confirming that you are indeed saying that to benefit from create food and water, a spell that says the food is good for 24 hours, you actually have to eat it by 16 hours after casting. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Feb 12, 2022 at 7:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt No, I believe there is a significant difference between food that spoils 24 hours after being conjured, and food that disappears after six seconds. For ordinary, nonmagical food, eating it any time before it spoils should be fine. Food doesn't spoil once eaten - that's a nonmagical, real world process that the rules don't interfere with - but it can totally disappear once eaten. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tack
    Feb 12, 2022 at 19:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt "Only magically created food has rules for spoilage" and "Only magical food spoils" are completely different statements. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark Wells
    Feb 13, 2022 at 3:07
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It was, perhaps, a poor choice of words for Prestidigitation to use the term 'trinket', which is used in the equipment chapter to describe "a simple item lightly touched by mystery."

Prestidigitation trinkets are not the same thing as the items on the table of Trinkets. They're the small objects we associate with close-up magic tricks -- a string of handkerchiefs, a paper flower, a ball, a coin. It's not necessarily things like a vial of dragon's blood, an earring made from a teardrop, or the hilt of a broken sword.

I mean you could generate some of those things momentarily, but that isn't the point of prestidigitation. So let's dispose of specific Trinket lists, and just talk about random small objects that would fit in your hand.

Even if you created a cookie or a small flask of water, it wouldn't do any good. The items last only until the end of your next turn, so even if you crammed it in your mouth immediately, it would be gone almost before it even hit your stomach. Food and water that vanishes into nothing after less than ten seconds isn't useful nutrition.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ IIRC there was a Sage's Advice clarification that explicitly mentions the Trinket table as being viable for Prestidigitation. \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Feb 14, 2022 at 2:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ It mentions that those are examples of things you could possibly make, but only examples. Trinkets in the prestidigitation sense are "small baubles". Still, food that disappears in six seconds isn't useful nutrition \$\endgroup\$ Feb 14, 2022 at 14:15
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Cantrips are powerful, in their own way

As the PHB says, cantrips are "simple but powerful spells that characters can cast almost by rote", and:

A cantrip is a spell that can be cast at will, without using a spell slot and without being prepared in advance. Repeated practice has fixed the spell in the caster's mind and infused the caster with the magic needed to produce the effect over and over.

Already we can see that cantrips can have more profound effects on the game than other, leveled, spells by virtue of their being cast at will and repeated ad infinitum (if not truly infinitely). It is incorrect to claim that a cantrip cannot duplicate some of the effects of a higher-level spell or even that it cannot be more powerful in some ways. The Gust cantrip, for example, is less potent than the second level Gust of Wind in that it has a shorter duration and can affect fewer creatures. And yet it has a similar effect - it creates a wind that blows things away. In some senses it is actually more powerful - the cantrip can move objects, while the second level spell cannot! Thus we can reject out of hand the argument that "prestidigitation cannot create nourishing food because create food and water does."

If cantrips in general can be powerful, Prestidigitation (and its lesser cousins Thaumaturgy and Druidcraft) can be particularly powerful because of their flexibility and the range of effects they can produce. Prestidigitation can be a solution to many potential problems. It is a spell for creative players. When a player selects Prestidigitation as a cantrip, it is time for a mini-Session 0, a conference between the player and DM about what particular effects will be permissible, and which not, in their game. If a DM does not want to let Prestidigitation have a particular effect in their game, it is their table and their decision - but they should be up front with the player so that the player can make an informed choice about the value of the spell to them.

What can you make with Prestidigitation?

As Groody the Hobgoblin points out in their answer, the trinkets made by Prestidigitation are, by definition, non-magical, so forget your magical regenerating cupcake. Let's focus instead on your bag of seeds. "Seeds" provides me with all the leeway I need as a DM without inventing rules or rulings or nitpicking spell description language. If I don't want you to be able to feed yourself with Prestidigitation, I can simply declare that your seeds are avocado pits. If I am okay with you using the spell as a food source, your seeds can be cashews - heck, they can be roasted and salted cashews. Both of these are possible following the RAW description of Prestidigitation creating a trinket temporarily.

Can disappearing seeds be used to feed you?

Yes, the trinket made by Prestidigitation disappears at the end of your next turn - meaning you have all of your current turn and all of your next turn to interact with it. If I hand you a bag of cashews and give you twelve seconds to eat them (or even six seconds if for some reason you are not permitted to use your free object interaction on the turn you made the bag appear) a substantial number of them won't be cashews any more, they will have been changed into something else. They won't be seeds; they will be food that you have eaten. The uneaten seeds disappear, of course - that's in the spell description. The seeds that have already been eaten, however, that have already been changed into something else and have interacted with your body - why should their new form disappear down to the molecular level? That is not in the spell description. I can use Prestidigitation to make a vial of water, and use the water to snuff out a candle - does the candle re-light itself after six seconds? Do I have to remove any trace of its chemical interaction with the flame as if it had never been there? I can use Prestidigitation to make "an ancient arrow of elven design" (PHB trinket 91). If you shoot that arrow at a foe, does the damage disappear along with the arrow at the end of my next turn? Not at my table. Yes, the trinket disappears, but before it does so it is permitted to make permanent changes in the world. When you eat the seeds, they are no longer seeds - they have become food, and you have still eaten a mouthful of food even after the uneaten seeds disappear.

You might be tempted to think that "because digestion takes time, even the seeds that were eaten must have their nutritional value removed." This seems like an appeal to a modern understanding of metabolism - so we should immediately be suspicious of the claim. Remember, this is a game in which a mortal wound will either kill you or no longer affect you after 30 seconds at most, in which wounds that are anything short of killing you will be completely healed through rest alone after 12 hours at most, but in which a person of average Constitution running as fast as they can for 36 seconds can kill themselves with exhaustion. Modern understandings of metabolism must be set aside when the more important goal is what we are trying to accomplish with the rule.

What is the point of this 'realism'?

D&D is a game of heroic fantasy, not a game of biochemical simulation. Does your DM insist on rules for how quickly food passes through you and whether you have to defecate when you are encased in plate mail? Do they worry about whether rainwater spoils your bowstrings? Do they break all your potion vials and oil flasks when you fall down a twenty-foot pit shaft? Do they burn the scroll that was in your hand when you were engulfed in the breath of a red dragon? If the answer to all of these is No, but the same DM suddenly looks up real world biochemical rates of nutrient absorption when you try to feed yourself with the Prestidigitation spell, it is not because they are being realistic. Rather, it is because they do not want the spell to work like that. As DM, it is their game, their world, and it is fair for them to have the spell not work like that. But pretending to you, or to themselves, that it doesn't work like that 'because realism' is a poor excuse, a cop-out to owning up to what they want at their table.

In my traditional combat-heavy campaigns, having a wizard that was barely able to feed herself in occasional but dire circumstances through use of one of her three cantrip slots would be considered clever play. Good on her. If I were running a survival-based campaign, where finding enough food was one of the central challenges, using a cantrip to 'solve' one of the core problems would be game-breaking. I simply would disallow that at the outset. But I would explain the actual reasoning to the player, rather than inventing an excuse about how the powerful magic spell 'can't work like that'.

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