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So interesting question... creatures vs. items. What are the differences?

The Player Handbook (pg. 157) lists some mounts as "items." This includes a pony, elephant, camel, etc.

A College of Creation bard can create items.

Does this mean some living things are considered items? This makes sense to me ONLY if an "item" can be living but an "object" cannot. If you die, your corpse becomes an object.

I ask because as a DM and an avid bard player, this will certainly come up eventually. Making an elephant in a courtroom to allow for an escape, for example.

I would allow it, but they can't "code" the living creature. They need to pass an animal handling check for example.

But at level 14, they can also forget about that GP cost. So does this allow the creation of a slave/servant that vanishes after the time is up? I would need to be persuaded, but I think it could be fun for a bard to make a living being capable of thought, and watch the existential crisis happen. Maybe the bard will grow attached and seek to make someone permanent at great expense to themselves?

Anyway, food for thought, and I need help. Please?

Edit: I'm aware of what an object is. Thank you for the recommended post though:)

And yes, I'm aware of the recommendations and the fact the DM ultimately has the final say. There are certainly some things that leave room for interpretation and I both love and hate that. Means more room for shenanigans but... also leaves more room for shenanigans.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I feel as though you're asking a lot of question fragments, even the title. I'm voting to close for now and recommending you clarify your intent and strive to keep things to 1 question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 11 at 21:09

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Item is not a defined game term, so the DM must adjudicate

In 5e, only object is something that you could call a defined term (see this question), not even creature (see this question about what counts as a creature), and also not item.

For things that have no defined game term, we look at the dictionary definition, here from the Cambridge dictionary for "item":

something that is part of a list or group of things

Because item is such a generic term, it is not used consistently throughout the rules but can refer to different things in different contexts (for example, the DMG has a typo that refers to the Use an Object action as "Use an Item" on page 141, there it would be equivalent with object).

Item in the context of Performance of Creation

The Performance of Creation ability of the College of Creation bard gives us some more clarity what "item" refers to in this context. It states:

create one nonmagical item of your choice in an unoccupied space within 10 feet of you. The item must appear on a surface or in a liquid that can support it. The gp value of the item can't be more than 20 times your bard level, and the item must be Medium or smaller. For examples of items you can create, see the equipment chapter of the Player's Handbook. (...)
The size of the item you can create with this feature increases by one size category when you reach 6th level (Large) and 14th level (Huge).

The additional feature Creative Crescendo at 14th level further modifies this:

At 14th level, when you use your Performance of Creation feature, you can create more than one item at once. The number of items equals your Charisma modifier (...)
You are no longer limited by gp value when creating items with Performance of Creation.

So items for the ability are things like those listed in the Equipment chapter. The equipment chapter does include predominantly objects, and also several creatures, under the Mounts and Vehicles heading on page 157. Items thus can include both objects, and at least some animals. I think this is intentional, as it would have been very easy to use the word object instead of item for the ability, if you wanted to limit it to objects. I believe the kinds of shenanigans you allude to are exactly what the authors enabled with this wording.

Some of the tables even use the word item as the column heading for the things in the table, for example the tables for adventuring gear (p 150), tools (p 154), and the ones for mounts and vehicles (p 157), which lists the animals, lending further support that these animals are "items" in the Equipment chapter. (Although the tables for Armor and Weapons use those terms as headers so I think it is more due to no overarching better term being available for the table; I would certainly consider armor and weapons items to be created, too).

Note that there are also services listed in the Equipment chapter (page 159). For services, you are not acquiring the creature (hirelings and such) performing the service, just work they do for you. This does not fit to the description of items in the ability, which is about physical things ("appear on a surface"). So these could not be created.

Items require a gp value, which indicates they need to be something you could purchase. Slaves are not listed in the equipment chapter, so they would be off limits.

Balance considerations

Power-wise, creating a temporary animal is not out of bounds: there are many effects that conjure creatures, like the various spells to conjure animals, conjure woodland beings or conjure elementals. These spells tend to give you more control, as the conjured creatures are friendly to you or even controlled by you, while there is no such provision for an animal you would create with this feature. As you suggest, the animal would require some additional means by you like an Animal Handling skill check to influence its behavior.

Opposing views

In the comments to this answer two users of this site that in my opinion have a very good understanding of the rules expressed discomfort with the idea that anything should be possible to create but objects, on the grounds that creating creatures would be confusing, and or that the use of the term item in the Equipment chapter is “just a generic description of the chapter’s layout”.

While they have not put forward alternative answers to elaborate their point, I think this shows that some DMs can view this differently.

The DM decides which items can be created

Which creatures you could create as items, if any, in the end will be the decision of the DM, as the rules do not further elaborate. I would likely keep it close to the recommendation and allow the things listed in the equipment chapter, but these are given as examples, so other animals or even other creatures might be possible.

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything explains this nicely on page 4:

The rules of D&D cover many of the twists and turns that come up in play, but the possibilities are so vast that the rules can't cover everything. When you encounter something that the rules don't cover or if you're unsure how to interpret a rule, the DM decides how to proceed, aiming for a course that brings the most enjoyment to your whole group.


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    \$\begingroup\$ I just can’t get behind the assertion that an elephant is an item. Seems abundantly obvious that it’s just a generic description of the chapters layout, not a statement that everything therein is an “item” for the purposes of features referencing “items”. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 17:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, the table even says item right at the top of the column \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 18:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ If they intended “item” to be read as anything but a synonym for object, they’re terrible at their jobs, because that would be misunderstood vastly more often than it would be understood. (I don’t think they’re terrible at their jobs, for the record.) \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 5:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also . . . "item" can refer to an "item" in a table. I "line item", for instance. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Commented Apr 11 at 11:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ I feel like you're really stretching things to try and force a definition where one was not intended. You're resorting to a very select dictionary citation to support a reading of the rules that doesn't really make intuitive sense, and could readily be countered by another dictionary definition or even citations from the rules regarding Objects and Monsters as included in the citation you linked. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 11 at 21:34

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