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Telekinesis enables you to move an object up to 30ft in any direction, including upward. Once I have lifted the object up, on subsequent rounds do I need to use my action to keep it in the air?

I can see the argument for both sides, which I set out in 1. and 2. below.

  1. No, you only need to use your action on subsequent rounds if you want to move the object further.

    With regard to creatures, the spell (PHB, pp. 280-281) states that:

    A creature lifted upward is suspended in mid-air.

    Presumably an object lifted upward is also thus suspended. The spell states that:

    When you cast the spell, and as your action each round for the duration, you can exert your will on one creature or object that you can see within range, causing the appropriate effect below.

    The 'appropriate effect' it specifies below for objects is that you can move them up to 30ft in any direction. So you ought only to need to use your action on subsequent rounds to move the object, not to keep it in the same place. As long as you maintain concentration, you still have a telekinetic grip on the object, keeping it in the air.

  2. Yes, you need to use your action on subsequent rounds to keep it in the air.

    The spell does not state that when you move an object with Telekinesis, it will remain in the same place even if other forces are exerted on it. Telekinetically moving an object that is worn or carried requires me to make a contested roll against the creature's strength check:

    If the object is worn or carried by a creature, you must make an ability check with your spellcasting ability contested by that creature's Strength check.

    This assumes that my telekinetic grip is competing with other physical forces acting on the object. So if I telekinetically move an object somewhere where a physical force is exerted on it, then I would need to use my action if I wanted to prevent it being moved by that force on subsequent rounds. For example, if I telekinetically place an object inside a moving vehicle, it will move with that vehicle unless I use my action to exert my will over it to keep it still or move it somewhere else. Gravity is a physical force like any other, and in the absence of any countervailing force it will move an object downwards. So if I want to lift an object into the air, and then keep it there on subsequent rounds, I need to take my action on each of those rounds to manipulate the object to stay in the air.

I am not sure which of these interpretations is correct. Any help would be appreciated.

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2 Answers 2

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Your action is required each round.

The first section of the spell description sates:

When you cast the spell, and as your action each round for the duration, you can exert your will on one creature or object that you can see within range, causing the appropriate effect below.

The first section of the spell tells us that it requires our action each round for the duration to "cause the appropriate effect below". Ergo, if we do not use our action, we do not affect the target in the way the spell describes.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This point is discussed in the question, under point 1 (putting the case for 'No'): "The 'appropriate effect' it specifies below for objects is that you can move them up to 30ft in any direction. So you ought only to need to use your action on subsequent rounds to move the object, not to keep it in the same place." \$\endgroup\$
    – Daelen
    Sep 19 at 17:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Daelen You have to use your action to affect the target at all. If you do not use your action to maintain the effect, you are no longer affecting the target. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 19 at 17:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ The spell does not say that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Daelen
    Sep 19 at 17:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Daelen Sure seems like it to me. The spell says you use your action to cause the effect, and it is this effect that holds the target aloft. If you do not use your action, the effect ends, and the target is now not held aloft because the effect holding it aloft has ended. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 19 at 17:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ The spell says you must use your action to cause the effect of moving the object, but it doesn't say you need to use the action to maintain your telekinetic grip. There doesn't seem to be anything in the spell that says you need to take an action on subsequent turns to maintain your telekinetic grip on the object, only to move the object. \$\endgroup\$
    – Daelen
    Sep 19 at 18:07
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I love these RAW questions, I never spot these loopholes myself as I interpret while reading.

When you cast the spell, and as your action each round for the duration, you can exert your will on one creature or object that you can see within range, causing the appropriate effect below. You can affect the same target round after round, or choose a new one at any time. If you switch targets, the prior target is no longer affected by the spell.

Creature. You can try to move a Huge or smaller creature. Make an ability check with your spellcasting ability contested by the creature’s Strength check. If you win the contest, you move the creature up to 30 feet in any direction, including upward but not beyond the range of this spell. Until the end of your next turn, the creature is restrained in your telekinetic grip. A creature lifted upward is suspended in mid-air.

RAW, in regards to creatures, your first interpretation seems to be absolutely correct. As long as the spell and your Concentration lasts, and you don't switch targets, you are free to use your actions on other things while the creature (Arnold voice) hangs around.

Objects, on the other hand, doesn't explicitly state that they remain suspended in mid-air. These fit your second interpretation better, but a case could be made either way.

Let's not speculate on RAI. At the table, though, you'd probably need a pretty lenient DM to allow you to put a struggling foe on hold, so to speak:

Until the end of your next turn, the creature is restrained in your telekinetic grip.

This indicates, to me at least, that the creature is free to struggle at the end of your next turn - at that point, I would judge you need to spend an action on an ability check against Strength, again.

Using Telekinesis as a replacement Floating Disk for objects and allies, though? Sure.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You left out the part for creatures that says "On subsequent rounds, you can use your action to attempt to maintain your telekinetic grip on the creature by repeating the contest." Which implies that they don't stay held in the air (in your telekinetic grip) if you don't keep using your action to maintain that grip. I can see the interpretation where they stay Levitated but aren't Restrained if you use your action for something else, but I don't think that's intended. It seems OP (you can try every round to crowd-control them, and when you succeed you can just maintain concentration.) \$\endgroup\$ Sep 20 at 5:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes Yeah, that part was about the grip, so I left it out. The "Levitated but not Restrained" interpretation is my understanding on RAW, but not one I would advocate for. As I stated above (probably not that clearly, though), I'd house rule a Levitated creature can struggle their way back down to the ground, unless you repeat (and win) the contest. \$\endgroup\$
    – From
    Sep 20 at 9:19

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