D&D 5E Toll the Chest

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The adventurers enter a chamber, about 30 feet square, with a single chest in the middle of the room. There is nothing in the chamber that suggests anything weird is going on - it's pretty nondescript. The cleric's player, suspicious the chest might be a mimic, decides to cast toll the dead on the chest.

The DM knows the chest is, in fact, a mimic. Toll the dead only targets creatures.

Do you have any issues with the player's decision?

How would you resolve this as DM?
 

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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The adventurers enter a chamber, about 30 feet square, with a single chest in the middle of the room. There is nothing in the chamber that suggests anything weird is going on - it's pretty nondescript. The cleric's player, suspicious the chest might be a mimic, decides to cast toll the dead on the chest.

The DM knows the chest is, in fact, a mimic. Toll the dead only targets creatures.

Do you have any issues with the player's decision?

How would you resolve this as DM?
I would allow it. The targeting rules in Xanathar's on pages 85-86 allow for spells to target invalid targets. If it's valid, it works. If it's invalid, it fails and the slot is spent.

I would have allowed it anyway, but Xanathar's codified what I already did.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Hmm… Maybe it’s the M:tG player in me, but I want to say no; if you don’t know whether or not the “chest” is a creature, you don’t (know if you) have a valid target, and therefore can’t cast the spell. But that’s definitely contrary to the targeting rules in Xanathar’s Guide. On the other hand, if I try to imagine this actually occurring at the table, I don’t see myself telling the player “you can’t cast that because you don’t know if it’s a creature or not” in the moment. So I guess my real answer is I’d allow it, even if it doesn’t fit with how I feel like it “should” work in theory.
 


Quickleaf

Legend
The adventurers enter a chamber, about 30 feet square, with a single chest in the middle of the room. There is nothing in the chamber that suggests anything weird is going on - it's pretty nondescript. The cleric's player, suspicious the chest might be a mimic, decides to cast toll the dead on the chest.

The DM knows the chest is, in fact, a mimic. Toll the dead only targets creatures.

Do you have any issues with the player's decision?

How would you resolve this as DM?
First, I would ask: "Are you sure you want to cast toll the dead on the chest-you-suspect-is-a-mimic? Remember, if it is a creature, the sound of dolorous bells might attract unwanted attention." This may not be directly related to your line of inquiry, but it's really important to emphasize that there is a potential cost to the course of action.

Then, if they decided to proceed and the mimic is able to observe this hostile spell being cast, I would determine initiative. It's possible the mimic might even act first, attacking prematurely as it realizes its cover is blown. How that initiative is resolved is very much a matter to be tailored to each group - my way may not be your way - but I would say some manner of resolving initiative would be in order. (NOTE: there may be exceptions, for example a high level party encountering a single mimic doesn't really need to slow down to the micromanagement scale of initiative rolling)

And then, once toll the dead is cast on that player's turn, it would affect the mimic just as it would any other creature.
 




You can cast Toll the Dead on anything. it just does nothing if it is an invalid target.

This is how I would deal with it:

Casts Toll the Dead on a chest. [fake roll] "Your spell has no effect on the chest."
Casts Toll the Dead on a Mimic. [hidden save succeeds] "Your spell has no effect on the chest."
Casts Toll the Dead on a Mimic. [hidden save fails] "the chest squeals in pain, roll for initiative."
Shoots an arrow at a mimic. [attack roll hits] "the chest squeals in pain, roll for initiative."
 




DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I look at it narratively.

Is there anything to suggest a caster becomes incapable of using their magic and casting a spell if they target something "invalid"? Like all of a sudden they can't get the words out, their hand motions go all squiggly and they can't seem to grab the requisite components? I suspect very few people would say they agree with that interpretation.

Instead, what is more likely is that the caster goes through the whole process of casting the spell, but there is just no result from it because the spell doesn't affect the target. "You can't charm a doorknob" as was said. This is what it probably looks like if we take the whole scene from a narrative point of view.

So you can cast a spell onto most anything or out into the ether... but it only has a perceptible effect if the spell has a target to interactive with. And if it just so happens that the target can actually be a valid target (even if you weren't aware it was when you started), then lucky you!
 
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Divination by Necromancy

Also: Divination by Evocation - a player could have done the same thing with Magic Missile.

This 'only targets 'creatures' rule is silly to me but, if you use it, then it should be allowed to be used creatively. For the record, I just say the spell fails but the slot gets used. It goes off with no effect. The missile hits the object does no damage. Or for toll the dead, there is a sound but nothing else happens.
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
I have no problem with the roleplaying.

This is how I would resolve it;
As the necromantic energy of your spell begins to channel through you, you are all surprised as the chest suddenly opens, revealing rows of sharp teeth and a huge tonguelike pseudopod as it moves to attack you. Roll initiative!
 
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aco175

Legend
You can always change the indistinguishable trait for your game. Make mimics and animated objects a normal whatever until they come to life. It's a work around but should not be needed.

Another idea is to change the chest being a mimic to the door the PCs are opening, or a table in the room, or a rug or something if they have been trained to suspect something. Of course, this leads them to be more paranoid of other objects.
 


Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
tumblr_inline_oiz21bFVGF1r9wm7d_540.jpg
 

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