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The spell locate object states:

"Alternatively, the spell can locate the nearest object of a particular kind, such as a certain kind of apparel, jewelry, furniture, tool, or weapon."

I'm not sure if a magical portal would class as an "object" for this definition?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ One reason I ask is that with a duration of 10 minutes, if the answer to this is "yes", then someone could wander around a settlement like Waterdeep and for 10 minutes, they could find all the portals (or the first portal they detect depending on your interpretation) in the city within 1000 ft. That is something a DM should be aware of when writing an adventure. \$\endgroup\$
    – mb345345
    Sep 4 at 19:05

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You can locate magical portals only as a side effect from locating an object, not directly

Portals can be many things, and only some of them happen to be objects in the way the game defines object. So naming "portal" as your kind of object will not work, as portals are not a kind of object. "Kind of" implies a subset, and magical portal is not a subset of object.

What the spell allows you to look for is a kind of object. So you could try to find a portal if you happened to know what kind of object it was on. Let's take the wardrobe from the Chronicles of Narnia as an example: here you could look for a wardrobe.

How specific you can be in describing that object is left to the DM to adjudicate. For example, it is not clear whether you could name a "wardrobe that acts as a portal" or a "magical wardrobe". If your DM allows that, you you could find it if it is in range. If the DM does not allow it, you may be out of luck looking for that portal in a furniture store, but it may still work if the portal is on the only object of that kind in range. In neither case could you find the way to Narnia if you did not know the portal was a wardrobe by just asking for a "portal".

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does this mean that spells such as disintegrate couldn't target a portal? \$\endgroup\$
    – mb345345
    Sep 4 at 18:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mb345345 That is another question. In general, disintegrate can target "a creature, an object, or a creation of magical force, such as the wall created by wall of force". So, in case the portal was an object, you could target it. Wether it would work on a non-object portal probably needs more space than this comment offers. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 4 at 19:02
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Some may be

First we need to have an idea of what kinds of things spells can target, because in order to understand whether or not something counts as an object for the purposes of this spell, it will be helpful to be able to answer, 'if it is not an object, what else can it be?'

Spellcasting (Targets):

A spell's description tells you whether the spell targets creatures, objects, or a point of origin for an area of effect (described below).

Thus besides objects, we know that spells can also target creatures and points in space. Lest you think this is an exhaustive list, remember the rule of specific over general:

Dispel Magic:

Choose one creature, object, or magical effect within range.

Even though a "magical effect" is not a creature, object, or point in space, and thus not something a spell can target by the general rules of spell targeting, the specific rules of dispel magic say that it can target magical effects, so it can.

While not exhaustive, this is a pretty good list of candidate categories. Locate object targets only objects, so is a portal an object, a creature, a point in space, or a magical effect?

Planar Portals (DMG 45 - emphases mine):

"Portal" is a general term for a stationary interplanar connection that links a specific location on one plane to a specific location on another. Some portals function like doorways, appearing as a clear window or a fog-shrouded passage, and interplanar travel is as simple as stepping through the doorway. Other portals are locations - circles of standing stones, soaring towers, sailing ships, or even whole towns-that exist in multiple planes at once or flicker from one plane to anther. Some are vortices, joining an Elemental Plane to a very similar location on the Material Plane, such as the heart of a volcano (leading to the Plane of Fire) or the depths of the ocean (to the Plane of Water).

From this description it is clear that there are different kinds of portals. All (planar) portals are connections between different planes, but while some function like "doorways" (being an empty area in space), others are vortices, and still others are locations - locations as small as a sailing ship to as large as a town.

All portals seem to be 'magical effects', and the ones that "function as doorways" are perhaps that and no more. Some seemed tied to specific places but not physical structures, so something like a vortex might best be described as a 'point in space'. But the portals described by the DMG as "locations" are not so much locations in a spatial sense as in a dramatic sense - they are linked with physical structures, and some of them are even mobile (like a sailing ship).

For those portals that are tied to physical structures, "object" seems to be a pretty good description of what they are - at least it is better than the other candidates. You could split hairs and say, "the standing stones are just a physical structure around which the portal manifests, they are not the portal itself - the portal itself is a magical effect". That would be fair, but then it would be equally fair for the user of locate object to specify their "nearest object of a particular kind" as 'the standing stones around which the portal is manifesting'.

The DMG says that:

For the purpose of these rules, an object is a discrete, inanimate item like a window, door, sword, book, table, chair, or stone, not a building or a vehicle that is composed of many other objects.

This seems to place an arbitrary limit on the size or complexity of objects, such that rules like Ghosts of Saltmarsh say that sailing ships are not objects, they are collections of objects. Unfortunately, there is no consistency to these definitions, so (for example) a much larger Spelljamming ship is treated by the Spelljamming rules as an object! Personally, I think that objects exist at the scale of game interactions, and what is treated as an object can change in different situations. However, even in a game with a more literal interpretation of what an object is, careful wording of the locate object spell should be able to pick out such things. 'I try to locate the mast of the sailing ship that is serving as the location of the portal,' should do, for example.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ One issue here is that "the mast of the sailing ship that....:" is a definite description not a kind of object, and it seems Locate Object, when applied to an object you've never seen, can find merely "the nearest object of a particular kind," and not "the unique object that matches a definite description you provide". I can find the nearest hat, the nearest wand, the nearest door, etc. not "the hat that the mayor of Winterfell wore yesterday". \$\endgroup\$
    – Valley Lad
    Sep 4 at 9:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ValleyLad In their answer, Groody linked another question asking about what 'kind' means in relation to the locate object spell. 'Kind' is certainly not a game term, and it has many different meanings in English, so different tables will have different interpretations. The game rules clearly distinguish between magic and mundane items (magic items have resistance to damage, for example), so I am pretty comfortable saying they are a different 'kind'. YMMV. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Sep 4 at 17:01

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