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The popular interpretation of Nolzur's Marvelous Pigments is that a pot can be opened and only a portion of the paint can be used with the remainder being saved for later use. Often discussions of the item specifically mention tracking the amount of paint used. This gave rise to the idea that you could bypass the 25 gold value limitation per painting by painting a single coin worth less than 25g multiple times.

An alternative explanation is that since the pots of pigments are consumable it should be treated as a consumable magic item. A pot of paint is activated and applied to a surface (like oil). The area a pot can cover acts as limitation on the maximum size and is treated similar to over healing on a potion (you cant drink half a potion if you don't need the full amount).

The relevant text from the DMG says:

Some items are used up when they are activated. A potion or an elixir must be swallowed, or an oil applied to the body. The writing vanishes from a scroll when it is read. Once used, a consumable item loses its magic.

The magic item says:

The paint flows from the brush to form the desired object as you concentrate on its image.

Each pot of paint is sufficient to cover 1,000 square feet of a surface, which lets you create inanimate objects or terrain features--such as a door, a pit, flowers, trees, cells, rooms, or weapons-- that are up to 10,000 cubic feet. It takes 10 minutes to cover 100 square feet.

When you complete the painting, the object or terrain feature depicted becomes a real, nonmagical object. Thus, painting a door on a wall creates an actual door that can be opened to whatever is beyond. Painting a pit on a floor creates a real pit, and its depth counts against the total area of objects you create.

Nothing created by the pigments can have a value greater than 25 gp. If you paint an object of greater value (such as a diamond or a pile of gold), the object looks authentic, but close inspection reveals it is made from paste, bone, or some other worthless material.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Historical note: In earlier editions of the game, the description of Nolzur's Marvellous Pigments specified the total value of items that could be created by a pot of pigments (2,000 gold pieces), rather than the maximum value of any individual item. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Oct 5, 2023 at 21:40

1 Answer 1

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You wrote:

A pot of paint is activated…

The magic item description doesn’t say anything about activating a pot, so nothing about the rules for activating an item apply to the pot. You don’t activate and consume the pot, paint just flows out of the brush:

The paint flows from the brush to form the desired object as you concentrate on its image.

There’s just nothing to support the interpretation that the entire pot is single use.

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    \$\begingroup\$ So is the assumption that everything is reusable unless it says otherwise? It doesn't specify that you can close the pot again, or activate it multiple times. I think this is right, but I am not 100% sure on the reasoning. For example wands talk about charges, so they are not reusable without that line even though they aren't actually consumables (is consumable a specific tag anyway?). \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Oct 5, 2023 at 22:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri “it can be activated” Where? Where does it say this? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 6, 2023 at 11:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri Exactly, it can do Y area. If I have done less than Y area, then I still have paint left. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 6, 2023 at 11:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ On lots of questions can is taken as optional, so you 'can' do X area, but if you choose not to it doesn't necessarily mean you can come back later. I see a good case for open pot, magic happens, end. I don't agree with that case, but I do see it and can't see any actual rules which really sell me one way or another. I can't even write a contradictory answer because it's so unclear to me \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Oct 6, 2023 at 12:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri: Critical Role's campaign 2 is a good example of just how far you can stretch the paint if you only mark off total area painted: a door here and there, or painting out just the hinges on other doors, gives you a near-unlimited resource for getting through stuff, costing only time. And/or for conjuring small items. (It was a great fit for the character in that case, so it worked well as part of her ongoing toolkit, rather than as a consumable that would be gone in a few uses, and would be a stressful decision to ever use.) \$\endgroup\$ Oct 6, 2023 at 19:43

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