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Magical Home Improvement


I'm starting a new campaign (yay!) with Ghosts of Saltmarsh.

As I was going over the characters for the game, I was hit by an odd thought. Could players use spells in place of carpentry and other skills to fix up an abandoned house (anyone DMing this campaign probably knows which house I'm talking about...) for their own use? As a DM, would this be something that would bother you?

There was a bit of a realization, that with a few low-level spells, characters could renovate an old/abandoned house for little or no cost:

Prestidigitation/Thaumatury: This is the big one, useful for a wide variety of things. According to the spell description, it affects a 1' cube per casting, and you can have up to three effects active at one time, and some of the effects seem permanent
-- Sweep away cobwebs and dust
-- Restore the luster to faded wallpaper, paint or scratched hardwood
-- Restore the glue (non-magical trinket) to peeling wallpaper to stick it back in place
-- Silence creaking floorboards (possibly level uneven sections of floor?)
-- Remove musty smells/common mold (odd odor) for an hour
-- Remove stains, tub rings or otherwise clean fixtures or furniture
-- Light candelabras or other interior light fixtures (or candles), or even fireplaces
-- (temporarily) Remove cold/hot spots
-- Unjam stuck or sticky doors

-- Create a small herb garden, vegetable garden or simple landscaping

Mending: Another helpful spell
-- Restore chipped paint, torn wallpaper or broken plaster
-- Repair broken masonry or stone floor tiles
-- Repair doorknobs, cabinetry pulls or other handles
-- Fix weakened or broken floor joists, wall studs, cabinetry or other furniture
-- Reconstitute broken windows

Arcane Lock
-- Not only locking room doors, but also trunks, closets or larders (against halfling raiders with the munchies)

Light/Dancing Light/Faerie Fire:
-- Provide temporary illumination or mood lighting in one or more rooms

Continual Flame:
-- Permanent illumination, best if you can apply some sort of shade or covering (even as simple as a cloth to douse it when not in use)

Mage Hand:
-- A lazy handyman, though I assume it relies on the character's skill or concentration for repair work, toting items about and such. However, quite useful for those hard-to-reach areas and catching vermin hiding in the walls or attic. Also good for reshingling a roof or ceiling work so you don't need a ladder or risk sliding and falling

Magic Mouth:
-- The ultimate doorbell

Unseen Servant:
-- Assistant for cleaning/repair duties

Create Food and Water:
-- Great way to stock the larder (any way to make it permanent?)

-- Perfect burglar alarm, for use on doors, rooms or closable items that contain valuables

-- Top end of usefulness, basically turn raw materials into goods usable in construction or repair

Guards and Wards:
-- Another top end spell, to protect the house against intrusion

Major Image/Mirage Arcane
-- Holodeck, anyone?

Any other low-level spells that strike you as being good for this sort of thing?


How do you even clean such a house without prestidigitation and Mage hand? Yuck!

Mending certainly helps to as you suggest, and I have a hard time figuring out better uses for continual flame and such spells.

Anything that becomes permanent with multiple casting would also be great.

A few cantrips (e.g. light) might be possible to include in common magic items of you allow such item creation. Maybe an uncommon item to get a permanent alarm?

In all, great idea to add magic to the whole thing.
The short answer is, "Yes."

The longer answer is since D&D traditionally has only ever balanced spells based on their utility in dungeon crawling, the economic impact of spells based on their level and accessibility is not balanced. Depending on the sort of group you have, allowing them to fix up a house using their magic can be a fun exercise in creativity or a mentally jarring and perhaps campaign breaking excursion into the implications of the act of replacing mundane labor with magical labor on the imagined setting.

In general, I tend to not allow a magic user to perform skilled labor with magic unless they also have the skill in question. So can a skilled carpenter use magic to speed his work and increase his productivity? Sure. But a typical wizard without proficiency in carpentry will end up with results pretty much like you'd expect of an unskilled carpenter - nothing will quite be level, walls won't meet at right angles, everything will be leaning, there will be irregular gaps in the slats, wood won't be planed or sanded correctly, and so forth.

And if the party tries to economically break the game, then you are going to have to do a lot of world building work to try to figure out how a world with magic in it works and what limitations magic might have beyond the obvious.


Continual Flame has it's uses, but costs a bit in terms of Ruby dust. Consider Permanent Illusion to create a well lit ceiling. Saves you all of the trouble of scrubbing the real one and gives the effect of modern indirect lighting. Or, if you prefer, create the illusion of a stone channel that runs around the edge of the room, near the ceiling, and is full of flaming oil. We've all seen that image in old movies, so I think you know what I mean. You can include the faint smell of burning oil and the sensation of radiant heat without actually smoking anyone out or turning it into an oven.

The big one though? An item, Lyre of Building. 365 man-days of labor, as a minimum, once per week, just by meeting a minimum perform check. And you can get more if you can keep making that perform check. With that workforce available you could take the place apart, clean and number each rock (so you know where to put them), and rebuild the entire structure in a few hours. :)


Mold Earth (is that the correct name?) to landscape the premises. Or to dig out a basement / cellar (which need not appear on the blueprints).
If Bilbo Baggins' architecture is a thing in your world, the wizard/designer can do even more.


Stone shape and wall of stone are pretty great for building.

I have put waaaaay too much thought into base-building and utility spells to enchant a base, and you can read those thoughts here: Party Base


They aren't low-level spells, but Polymorph and Animate Objects are the best ways for a wizard to move heavy things.

On the surface, you'd think Telekinesis would be the better choice, but then you're limited to 1000 lbs. If you (or a friendly creature like your familiar) is Polymorphed into a Giant Ape, its size and strength give it 1380 lbs carrying capacity and 2760 lbs push/drag/lift.

With Animate Objects, anything too heavy for a Giant Ape suddenly gets a flying speed of 30 ft and can move itself wherever you want AND has a carrying capacity of 1080 lbs (2160 lbs push/drag/lift) while it's at it.