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I've recently started playing 5e (as my and most of the players' first DnD game) and at one point my Transmutation specialist Wizard used the Minor Alchemy class ability (PHB, p. 119) to turn some stone into wood.

While thinking about this ability and its implications, we started wondering if the default "wood" that gets created is from a particular type of tree, and for that matter, whether the caster can decide what kind of wood it's going to be. For example, could you intentionally create some cedar, or rich mahogany?

Presumably copper or iron are pure samples of their respective elements, but the idea of "pure wood" seems non-obvious, as does stone (which stone?). Have any rules for determining the types of materials created by transmutation been established, either in the fifth or previous editions?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Because the amount of detail and crunch and extra rules will vary from one edition to the next, I suggest that you separate out the 5e question from "previous edition" question and ask a separate question about a previous edition. One of the things 5e did was reduce the number of rules and the amount of detail like what you are referring to, leaving it up to the DMs and players to come up with some of those details. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 20, 2016 at 20:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ My question is, why does it matter? What are you hoping to achieve by bringing in this level of detail? As far as the rules seem to be concerned, wood is wood is wood so what "problem" are you trying to overcome here? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 22, 2016 at 6:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PurpleMonkey Mostly just curious--like I said, I'm new to roleplaying, so I'm trying to get a sense of what's allowed for vague cases like this. It could have some practical effects in game, like if some type of wood is extremely valuable or has medicinal properties (that you don't mind being reversed in an hour). \$\endgroup\$
    – Milo P
    Jan 22, 2016 at 17:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am currently toying with possibilities and something you could turn something else into and it would be useful is balsa wood. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yeshe
    Jul 14, 2016 at 11:49

2 Answers 2

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I have discovered nowhere that specifies the specific type/variant of material that must be created. I even looked at 3.5 and pathfinder flesh to stone (for previous editions).

Given the fact that the effect only lasts an hour, as long as the PC is familiar with the material (has he ever seen or held rich mahogany?) I would rule that he would be allowed to imitate woods that he has previously seen or held.

Also, and somewhat unrelated, you might consider what effect this ability might have on the economy at large. Is it a common ability? If so, is it common to try and sell alchemically altered materials only to have them change to something else an hour later? What do the authorities do when those materials are sold and they change back? I think there are some interesting implications that come with the ability that might be worth exploring further in your game.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Ah, the ol' forgery-through-magic question. I really liked the way Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Second Edition approached it: There was a second-level wizard spell that disguised copper coins as gold - but there was a relatively mundane trick that uncovered the illusion, so using the spell too frequently would result in the trick becoming common knowledge and practice... \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Jan 20, 2016 at 23:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually that might be a cool way to sculpt some precious stone by transmuting it to wood first, carving it, then letting it revert back to its natural form. Ouila, instant masterpiece. \$\endgroup\$
    – Escoce
    Jan 21, 2016 at 16:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Escoce (Stage whisper: it's “voilà”.) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 22, 2016 at 7:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Whisper back: yeah but I say wahla not vwahla \$\endgroup\$
    – Escoce
    Jan 22, 2016 at 22:12
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The spell does not say which wood, so this is up to the DM

In cases where the rules are ambiguous, the game relies on the DM to interpret the rules. Xanathar's Guide to Everything explains this idea on page 5:

Many unexpected events can occur in a D&D campaign, and no set of rules could reasonably account for every contingency. If the rules tried to do so, the game would become a s log. An alternative would be for the rules to severely limit what characters can do, which would be contrary to the open-endedness of D&D.
Here's the path the game takes: it lays a foundation of rules that a DM can build on, and it embraces the DM's role as the bridge between the things the rules address and the things they don't.

So, your DM will need to decide if you can just pick any kind of stone or wood, if you can pick any stone or wood you have seen before, or if it is a "standard" kind of stone or wood of average weight, density, and hardness.

There can be quite large differences, for example in density. Balsa wood can weigh as little as 8 lb. per cubic foot, while Hickory can weigh 50 lb. per cubic foot. Pumice is the lightest rock, with a weight of 40 lb. per cubic foot, while gabbro weighs over 200 lb per cubic foot. A factor of five might well make a difference in some scenarios. For example, pumice is so light it can float on water.

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