The description of the telekinesis spell in the PHB states, under the "Object" section of the spell:

You can try to move an object that weighs up to 1,000 pounds.


You can exert fine control on objects with your telekinetic grip, such as manipulating a simple tool, opening a door or a container, stowing or retrieving an item from an open container, or pouring the contents from a vial.

For reference, the definition of "object" is:

  1. a material thing that can be seen and touched.

The answers to the question What is considered an object? seem to imply that any material that is inanimate is an object. However, the use of 'object' does not jibe well with what I typically consider to be an object, as I would say that an object needs to be discernible from its surroundings, something you can pick up and manipulate.

Is uncontained liquid (like a puddle of water) considered an object? Can it be controlled with telekinesis?


6 Answers 6


I would say that liquids are not supposed to be objects in the context of this spell. Let me give my explanation:

The DMG's description of objects defines them as follows (p. 246):

For the purpose of these rules, an object is a discrete, inanimate item like a window, door, sword, book, table, chair, or stone, not a building or a vehicle that is composed of many other objects.

The spell affects objects so you need to see if a liquid fits into the above category. All the examples above are all solids, no liquid examples are given and the differentiation of discrete (single piece) is made; it is hard to describe a liquid as being a discrete single piece entity. DMG then goes on to describe assigning AC and HP to objects, this is not something I would assign to a liquid. There is no definition of liquids in the DMG that I can find (magical potions being liquids but no liquids as such).

Bearing in mind that if you hand-wavium said "yes" to telekinesis then you will have to justify mage hand (which can also manipulate objects) and since that is a cantrip I wish you the best of luck!

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Mage hand creates a visible spectral hand. Regardless of what telekinesis can do, mage hand can only do things that a disembodied hand could do, like turn keys and pick things up. \$\endgroup\$
    – user22917
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 17:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MasterArcanist it says "I would say that liquids are not supposed to be objects in the context of this spell.". Isn't that an answer? \$\endgroup\$
    – user30848
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 21:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair enough. I missed that. What I think I meant was that the question is never clearly answered one way or another \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 4, 2017 at 22:02
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ i'll move it about a bit for you. @user22917 - there is nothing in the rules that says the magical hand has to behave like a real one. The spells states it can manipulate objects - I have already 'objects' justified above. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 5, 2017 at 18:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ DMG seems to be inconsistent. A door would usually consist of at least several planks, hinges, doorknob and maybe a lock. A book would consist of multiple pages, cover, binding. a sword would have hilt, blade, crossguard, etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gnudiff
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 19:09

5E differentiates only between creature and object.

In terms of raw numbers, 1,000 lbs is about 120 US gallons, or about 16 cubic feet. That's not a huge amount of liquid, certainly much less than Watery Sphere, which is a lower-level spell and can conjure a 10-foot-radius sphere. So from a balance perspective, it seems fine.

So in the absence of a specific rule forbidding such a thing, I would rule yes, sit back, and enjoy the shenanigans.


I would suggest that the key part of the rules you quote is not object, but rather grip, as in "...with your telekinetic grip". Can you grip a sword, or grip a flask and pour out its contents? Yes. Can you grip water and, say, pick it up? Not so much.

Not saying it's exactly like a hand or Mage Hand, but I think grip clarifies the issue.

Personally, I'd House Rules it so that you could affect water as if you struck it with up to as much force as would be necessary to life a 1000-lb object. So you could splash your puddle of water, or attempt to sweep it out of your way, but you couldn't grip it, pick it up, and move it into a nearby bucket.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This depends on whether "telekinetic grip" is the only effect of the spell, or a clarification that the power can manifest as a "grip" that allows fine motor control. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dave
    Commented May 27, 2022 at 15:09

Yes, Telekinesis can manipulate liquids

The spell enables you to manipulate objects, and liquids are objects. So it enables you to manipulate liquids.

But how does it work?

You can try to move an object that weighs up to 1000 pounds

The reason it's easy to envision manipulating solids with Telekinesis is because it's one solid thing that intuitively moves together. But there is a limit of one object you may manipulate at a time. You can't move around two or three swords, even if all of them weighed less than 1,000 lbs. But as soon as someone welds all three together by the handle, then they become one object you can manipulate. Weird, right?

There is no intuitive way to say the same for liquids. You can manipulate a sword, but can you manipulate a water? Does it even make sense to ask that question? There is no way to think of liquid-manipulation in the same way you imagine solid-manipulation.

If you consider liquid manipulation by units, you start setting arbitrary limits of power to the spell. While one longsword weighs 3 lbs and is considered one object, "one water" cannot be quantified. You instead say "one gallon of water" or "one pound of water", which is categorizing the spell into units of volume or weight -- which doesn't apply for solids. You can't manipulate "three pounds of longsword" but simply "one longsword," which just so happens to weigh 3 lbs.

So saying that Telekinesis allows you to manipulate one sphere of water weighing 1,000 lbs is problematic because you can't define "one water" -- much less "one sphere of water" -- as an object in the same way you can define "one longsword." The boundaries on mass per object is not present in liquids the way it is for solids.

It depends on the DM how much they will let you get away with, but there are pitfalls

If you had a half-full cask of ale and chose to manipulate the ale itself (not the cask), it depends on the DM if they will let you do that. This is tenuous because you could take the ale from that cask via TK, put it in another half-full cask (so now you have a full cask), and now you have twice as much ale under your control as when you started. Meanwhile, you can't take a broken sword, unite it with its broken half, and have a full sword. In both cases, the idea is the same: take two halves of a whole and unite them. But for the solid case, you can distinguish the two halves of a broken sword as two objects, while you can't distinguish one full cask of ale as two distinct half-casks of ale.

If you then say, "but we can just have the original half-cask of ale under the Telekinesis spell, and that distinguishes it from the other half-cask of ale," that still has a few problems:

  1. This is the same as claiming that whatever liquid Telekinesis controls initially becomes a distinct object by virtue of being controlled by Telekinesis -- but the prerequisite of Telekinesis is that you are already controlling one object. In other words, this creates circular logic: you are making the object you control into an object by the fact you are controlling it (that is hard to read -- but circular logic is hard to read because it is nonsensical).

  2. You can just stop exerting control on the original half-cask of ale volume after transferring it, and then exert control of the full cask volume on the next turn. Meanwhile, you can't take a broken half of a sword, unite it with the other half, and exert full control of the entire sword on your next turn.

  3. You can only exert fine control over simple objects. However, it can be argued that any volume of liquid is a complex object already. Take a door: you can close it by pushing the far side of it, without having to control each and every molecule of that door. Take a vial: you can pour its contents by controlling the bottom and turning it over, again without needing to control each molecule of that vial. The manipulation in both cases is simple, but the same cannot be said about manipulating a volume of water. There is no force holding them together, so you would have to manipulate each molecule independently -- which is not simple manipulation of an object and is out of the scope of Telekinesis.

    • If you say you are containing the water inside a telekinetic shell instead to give it shape, then you run into problems of permeability. As soon as the liquid makes contact with other creatures, it cannot absorb them or else the shell will break, causing the liquid to spill out. Also, you can't actually form telekinetic shells with this spell. Otherwise, you would be able to form a shell in a vacuum and use that to hit creatures, or form telekinetic cages like Wall of Force.

    • This point is a bit more involved and probably unnecessarily nitpicky. That's why I put it after points 1 and 2.

If you plan to do this in your game, just ask the DM and go with their ruling

To avoid the complex overthinking that this question invites to your table, just ask the DM how much you can get away with this usage. You can do it -- that much is clear. It's just not clear to what extent you can do it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Regarding point 3, where is the point of contact with a solid object? What's to say that when you pick up a vial, you aren't manipulating every molecule in the vial? If you aren't manipulating every molecule, do you have to decide where you 'grip' the object? It seems to me that the nature of the spell requires that you are manipulating all the molecules of the object. If there were points of contact and application of force the limitation of size/speed makes no sense. I.E. you would be able to move smaller objects faster than larger ones. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 4, 2017 at 10:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you are able to manipulate all the molecules in an object at once, but all of them at the same rate of acceleration, the limits on speed (30ft/round) make sense. In this case too, the limit on weight is not based on the actual weight of the object, but on the number of molecules the spell can affect. This would also simplify the nature of the spells ability to effect liquids: it doesn't matter whether the liquid started in one barrel or another, it's just that you can control a given number of atoms (1000lbs worth) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 4, 2017 at 10:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MasterArcanist The issue is you are still violating 1 and 2. Also, 3 disregards that that level of manipulation is complex, whereas TK can only handle simple object manipulation. Also, there is no stipulation about 'molecules' in DnD. They may not even exist in DnD. Finally, even if they existed, you can't control a number of molecules, but you can control an object. 1000 lbs worth of molecules could violate that rule. \$\endgroup\$
    – user27327
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 12:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Re: "The spell enables you to manipulate objects, and liquids are objects." Where do the rules say that liquids are objects? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Apr 22, 2023 at 6:27

No, liquids cannot be manipulated with telekinesis.

The DMG's definition of an object states (p. 246):

For the purpose of these rules, an object is a discrete, inanimate item like a window, door, sword, book, table, chair, or stone, not a building or a vehicle that is composed of many other objects.

In all of these examples, the objects are one single piece, bound together by some form of bond (a rivet, pin, or just being a contiguous piece). With a liquid (or gas) the individual molecules are not linked together, so they are themselves objects. Thus, you could use telekinesis to manipulate a molecule of water, but not a puddle. On a larger scale, a grain of sand is an object, but a pile of sand is not.

In a large object, say a sword, the entire object is one piece. If you were to break off a part of it you would need to fundamentally change the nature of the object. In other words, if you split a sword in two, you get a blade and a pommel. If you split a pile of swords in two you get two smaller piles of swords.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ If you go down the path of arguing about molecules at what point do you stop? Can you only pick up one molecule of a sword then? Regarding your statement about a pile of sand, I would say that's something that could be defined as perhaps a 2'x2'x3' rectangular prism of sand. The rules regarding objects seem to imply to me that they're seeking manipulation of a uniform 'item'. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 4, 2017 at 13:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Exactly my point. If you were to pick up one molecule of a sword, the rest of the molecules would come along with it, because they're all connected. If you were to pick up a molecule of sand, you would only get that grain of sand. I would argue that a pile of sand, no matter how compacted, still violates the stipulation from the DMG stating that an object be something "not [...] composed of many other objects." \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 4, 2017 at 19:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, a "real" sword is typically made of several pieces, often held together with pins (such as pommel being pinned in place to hold the grip onto the handle, which in turn may be pinned or riveted to the blade (depending on the design) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 4, 2017 at 21:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sure. Point still stands though. Move one part, the other parts move. Remove a part and the nature of the object changes \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 4, 2017 at 21:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ I had already posted the DMG passage as an answer previously. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 5, 2017 at 18:48

No, telekinesis cannot manipulate liquids.

The in-game term object is loosely defined on p. 246 of the DMG (emphasis mine):

For the purpose of these rules, an object is a discrete, inanimate item like a window, door, sword, book, table, chair, or stone, not a building or a vehicle that is composed of many other objects.

However, this definition clearly requires the entity to be discrete - that is, distinct and clearly a single entity.

The description of telekinesis requires an object as a target (emphasis mine):

You can try to move an object that weighs up to 1000 pounds.

Liquids are both continuous (as opposed to discrete) and not interconnected (a liquid would 'fall apart' if not placed in a container), which seem to both be requirements for the classification of an object in game terms, particularly looking at the examples given. As mentioned in another answer, liquid is usually referred to by quantity in contrast to a discrete number of swords or flasks, which shows semantic issues with classifying liquids this way. One could compare this to a 'continuous' solid, such as rice or sand - each grain of sand should be treated as its own object, at which point it stops being useful to consider it as an object at all.

However, it may be possible depending on the DM's classification.

If you were to attempt to manipulate a pool of water, then the DM might consider this to be discrete and therefore classified as an (albeit unconventional) object; the collection of water would be moved together as one object.


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