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When it comes to the word "item" in D&D it can be quite confusing.

Foe example, for a vial of acid, there are 3 potential items to consider:

  • Is the 4 ounces of acid the item?

  • Is the vial the only item?

  • Does the sum of its parts make the "item"?

Hopefully, there is some answer, because if you look at the College of Creation Bard at level 14, you can make any item in a 15x15x15 square. Could that item be a vat of Purple worm poison?

I understand this could be a "up to DM interpretation" type of question, but are there any texts in RAW that define what an "item" is?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Somewhat related, but not a duplicate: What is considered an object? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 19, 2023 at 1:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sounds like an XY problem. Why not just ask “can you create a vat of acid as a creation bard”? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 19, 2023 at 11:14

2 Answers 2

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It's up to the DM, but there are examples for the DM to consider

There is not an explicit definition of "item" in the core source books, but we still know some things about what can be an "item." First of all, we know that all the items you can buy in the section on "Adventuring Gear" are items, because that section in the PHB begins with:

This section describes items that have special rules or require further explanation.

So, that means that:

  • a book is an item
  • a vial of acid is an item
  • a fishing tackle kit is an item
  • a climber's kit (with all the tools in it) is an item
  • and so on...

Additionally, we can look at ordinary language rules. "Item" is what is called a "countable noun" in English as opposed to a "mass noun" (like water, dirt, or wine).

This distinction suggests that mass nouns are not items, but they can be a part of items. Water is not an item, but a bottle of water is an item.

So, a puddle of purple worm poison is not an item, but a vial of purple worm poison is.

And that means, technically, a vat of purple worm poison is an item, in some sense.

But it is up to the DM to clarify this. It may be a case where the DM would distinguish between RAW (rules as written) vs RAI (rules as intended).

I would rule that "item" here is not intended to include containers with masses of material far beyond the ordinary unit of exchange (a bag of ball bearings, a vial of poison).

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Any object.

The dictionary definition is any object that is part of a collection of things, referring to a specific object in that collection. However that is not how the term is used in dungeons and dragons.

In D&D this term was presumably used due to most objects intended for use during the game appearing in lists. Equipment, magic equipment, and subcategories - trade goods, weapons, armour, etc.

Since the original uses, the term has taken on a life of its own and is used to refer to any object that might be of use to a character, and especially, to objects designed to be carried on one's person. 'Magic item' has become the preferred term for any enchanted object to the degree that most people would be surprised to find that terminology doesn't exist in the dictionary. This is partially due to computer games based on D&D, especially jrpgs, but also to just the repeated use of the term in many ttrpg rulebooks (including non-D&D ones) over years and years of time.

In this case the use of item is almost certainly referring to any object. It could be argued that it is referring to 'items from the list of equipment' but as that list is explicitly not intended to be exhaustive, it is unlikely that a Creation Bard could not create a goldfish bowl using their ability to place a goldfish in, or some other such object that is not explicitly listed in the PHB as long as it otherwise conformed to the size and price restrictions in the ability.

'An item' in the sense that it is used in D&D would refer to any discretely attached objects. Potion bottle with stopper and potion inside, sword with sheath and sword belt attached, shield with leather handles strapped to the back and paint on the shield face, a writing set with inkstone brush and paper, would likely all be considered just 1 'item' each by how most people seem to parse the term.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While your answer has some interesting points, the question asks specifically for rule text. Your answer could be improved by quoting such text that supports your arguments. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthieu
    Feb 20, 2023 at 7:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a lot of downvotes for a rules set where the designers admittedly strive for natural language and the post simply gives good information about the definition using natural language... \$\endgroup\$
    – Wyrmwood
    Feb 22, 2023 at 23:47

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