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Damaging Spells and Objects

jgsugden

Explorer
As a starting Caveat: This is primarily a discussion of Rules as Written, not Rules as Intended, Rules as Fun or house rules. I'm hoping to discuss what is allowed by the RAW rather than discuss why the RAW doesn't make sense.

If a medium or low level spellcaster wishes to damage objects with spells, what are the best ways to go about it in 5E?

Many damage spells specify that they work on creatures, but not objects. Fireball and Lightning Bolt are good examples, here. They may ignite flamable objects that will then be burned, but the fireball/lightning bolt itself does not damage the objects.

Certain spells, like Shatter, Firebolt, Firestorm, Delayed Blast Fireall and Storm of Vengeance specify that they damage unattended objects. The two that are lower level that I see are the cantrip Firebolt and the 2nd level spell Shatter. However, you need to be pretty high level to have a shot of destroying a huge object with one of these spells - It takes a 6th level slot to have a 50-50 chance to destroy a huge resilient object with shatter, for example, and a 17th level wizard using firebolt to attack a resilient huge cart will find that - unless they can add to their damage - it will take multiple rounds of firebolts to take out the cart.

However, that is the ... shall we say ... direct method. If you're a spellcaster level 10 or below that wants to destroy a street full of wagons (huge resilient objects with 15 AC, but 27 hps) in a round, what spells would you use and how would you do it?
 

Uller

Explorer
Well...I would say rules as written, any spell that targets a creature and not an object can't be used to target an object. Xanthar's Guide says that if you have an invalid target the spell simply fails. So Firebolt could be used to damage an object. Ray of Frost or Magic Missile could not (Rules as intended or rules as fun...well...at my table if a wizard wants to target an object with a magic missile or ray of frost, I'm going to allow it).

There is a section in the DMG and the Basic Rules about damaging objects. I would say those rules apply for AoE spells and ones that can target objects. I would probably have objects automatically fail dex saves. Con and Str I might give them an sensible score. Spells that call for Int, Wis or Cha saves probably would have no effect on objects anyway.

So to destroy a street full of wagons: Fireball, Lightning bolt, Wall of Fire, Vitriolic Sphere all should have a chance of taking out some wagons. If the contain flammable material, scorching ray, flaming sphere and the like should do the trick.
 

jgsugden

Explorer
Fireball and Lightningbolt, as I mention, do no damage to objects outside lighting them on fire if they are flamable. The spell text is explicit. The rules you mention are the mechanics I disucss in the original post.

What else do people use? I thought of summoning something to damage the objects, but that is slow and requires higher levels...
 

Uller

Explorer
Don't you think that igniting unattended objects counts as damaging them? I do. If you need to know how much damage they take, the rules in the DMG apply, IMO.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
It depends on the situation really. If a player wanted toncast heat metal and then something frost related to help smash the hinges on big friggin door I'd probably allow it. On the other hand if a player wants to be sniping stuff out of peoples hands, or other overly ambitious stuff I would probably say no. But the wizard wants to nuke a basket of apples with Magic Missile to create a distraction? Sure. I guess I'd mostly say no in cases where I thought the player was looking for an unfair advantage and adding too much to the spell effect through creative in the moment editorializing.
 

Riley37

Villager
"If you're a spellcaster level 10 or below that wants to destroy a street full of wagons (huge resilient objects with 15 AC, but 27 hps) in a round, what spells would you use and how would you do it?"Answer: You don't. You are not powerful enough, at level 10, to accomplish that much wagon-destroying damage, across that much area, in a single round. Ask again when you can cast Meteor Swarm. In the meantime, you can spend an hour or two relentlessly smashing them, one by one, with Fire Bolt or Shillelagh.
 
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jgsugden

Explorer
Again, saying, "I'd allow" isn't really the idea here. We're looking for RAW answers to the question of how to be a massive vandal.

Also, saying, "You can't" is not a great answer either as there are a few ways to do massive property damage that have not been mentioned yet here, but that people have suggested to me. One easy example is a 5th level empowered shatter spell (available to a 9th level sorcerer) which should deal roughly 32 damage. Another is the catapult spell that deals up to 6d8 (27 avg) at 4th level. Summon Lesser Demons. Polymorph into a T-Rex and walk on the wagons. Etc...

Igniting things can do it over time, if the bjects are not extinguished, but I'm more focused on (as the original post stated) - how do you take out a bunch of carts in a round at medium or low levels (10 or less).
 

Azzy

Explorer
Polymorph into a T-Rex and walk on the wagons.
Well, then. I don't think you'll get a better answer than that. Sure, there may be ways of inflinting more damage over an area, but they all pale in in comparision to turning into a T-rex and imitating Godzilla.
 

Riley37

Villager
"One easy example is a 5th level empowered shatter spell (available to a 9th level sorcerer) which should deal roughly 32 damage."
Shatter will destroy all the wagons in the area of effect. When you said "a street full of wagons", did you mean a street that's 40' long?

Catapult can destroy a single wagon. Twinned Catapult can destroy two wagons (barring low damage roll). Did this 10'x40' street hit its maximum Wagon Capacity and become "full" at two wagons?

Polymorph takes an action to cast, and at the end of that turn, zero wagons are destroyed; or one, if you did a Quickened Polymorph and then used an Action in beast form to smash one wagon. Same for Summon. Those might be faster than sustained Firebolt, but they're not single-round solutions.

You repeated the one-round requirement in your reply: "how do you take out a bunch of carts in a round at medium or low levels (10 or less)."

Perhaps the spell you seek is Xagyg's Moving Goalpost?
 

jgsugden

Explorer
Forest for the trees. Don't get caught up in th size of the alley, what is in the wagons, the wheel configuration of the wagons, the weather, etc...

Some DMs might not let a T-Rex destroy a wagon by walking on it in the turn it was cast. In a prior game, where my wizard polymorphed into a T-rex and walked on something similar, the DM said it was difficult terrain but said the stuff was smashed beneath my bulk.... 9 Tons.

The goal has not moved - discuss how you'd use magic to destroy a bunch of objects, like large wagons in an alley, with a spellcaster using RAW. Saying, "You can't", or "I'd allow X that the rules doesn't" is not what I was hoping to elicit in this conversation.
 

Draegn

Explorer
Why target the entire wagon? Why not target the axle or pin that holds the wheels in place and let gravity work for you?
 

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