The warlock I DM for is considering Blade of Disaster (from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything) for his 9th level Arcanum, and I have just now read its description. The blade may be directed at:

a creature, loose object, or structure within 5 feet of the blade.

This is the first time I recall reading the phrase "loose object", and a quick word search of the PHB netted me only seven uses of "loose", with only two fitting the context: "loose coins" in the table of Sailor Flaws, and "loose, lightweight materials" in the description of wind wall. The standard English usage of 'loose' might be 'free, not attached'. However, that does not appear to be the use intended for the blade of disaster. Given a prisoner manacled to a wall, I would find it strange to rule that the blade could attack the prisoner or the wall, but not the manacle, since the manacle is not a loose object in the sense that it is attached to both the wall and the prisoner.

Rather, I think what the description of the blade is trying to convey is what the PHB called 'objects that are not worn or carried', and cf. the descriptions of the spells burning hands, firebolt, and true polymorph. In this sense, since the manacle is neither worn nor carried it is a legitimate target for the blade.

Are there other non-PHB uses of the phrase 'loose object', and can we tell from them what is meant by the words?


1 Answer 1


The dictionary definition applies

As you already researched, there is no defintion in the PHB. The DMG likewise does not refer to loose objects (it mostly uses the term in the context of pantheons and has a mention of the term in the hilarious colophon), and in the Monster Manual the only loose objects mentioned are coins and gems scattered in a white dragon's lair, otherwise the term is mostly used for loose war bands, loosing demons etc.

Tasha's has the Telekinetic Movement trait of the Psi Warrior, which also works on a loose object, but does not further specify what is meant by loose, in addition to the Blade of Disaster you mention. Xanathar's has loose dirt in the Dust Devil spell, loose earth in the Earth Tremor and Mold Earth spells, loose rock int the Wrath of Nature spell and no loose objects otherwise. Fizban's only has loose sheet music and some talk about a loose federation. So there is no defintion to be found, anywhere.

Using the principle that we use the normal dictionary definition, for terms that are not defined by the game, we fall back to:

not firmly or tightly fixed in place; detached or able to be detached

This would exclude worn or carried items, which are attached in some form to the person carrying them, and also would exclude manacles that are attached to the wall (and maybe a prisoner).

The text says "loose", it does not say "not worn or carried", so unless you consider manacles to be part of the structure of the building, as written you would not be able to attack them.

This is certainly an area where you as DM can adopt the meaning of "not worn or carried" instead -- the fringe situations where the difference matters will be pretty rare, so it would not be unbalancing, and as a DM your are explicitly empowered to adjust the rules (DMG, p. 4):

The D&D rules help you and the other players have a good time, but the rules aren't in charge. You're the DM, and you are in charge of the game.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a good start - but by "non-PHB" I was thinking of the spell descriptions in Tasha's, Xanathar's, etc. - for which I don't have the option of an automatic word search. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Nov 17, 2022 at 18:04
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt, Updated, no luck with definitions there either. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 17, 2022 at 18:14

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