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D&D 3E
Transmute Rock to Mud 
1st-Feb-2005 09:01 am
Here's a dilemma we faced last night: I'm playing a wizard, and Transmute Rock to Mud is becoming my signature spell. We faced two iron golems on a beach, and my fellow players contended that sand was just many tiny rocks and thus could be converted to mud. I pointed out that the most common element in most rock (if not all) is silicon, which is also the primary element in sand. We ended up trapping one golem in a passage through a beach-facing cliff, and I led the other out to sea, having drunk an Alter Self potion and changing to a Kuo-Toa.

So my question is this: does sand count as rock? The DM's ruling was it had to be something commonly recognized as rock, otherwise one could use the spell against glass or just about anything with silicon. (Does silicone contain silicon?)
1st-Feb-2005 02:02 pm (UTC)
I think it would need to be rock, not just something with rock-like qualities. Magic isn't chemistry.

Sandstone would work, but I would agree with your DM in not letting sand count as rock.
1st-Feb-2005 02:20 pm (UTC)
I agree with your DM. Sand is not rock, though it can be compressed into rock (sandstone). Like wmute said, magic isn't chemistry, and I doubt very seriously that the game was designed with chemical compounds in mind when they wrote that spell. I'm pretty sure that rock, silt, granule, and sand are also geologic terms based on the size of the matter particles, which would further erode your argument anyway.

Besides, if you start applying too much modern science to D&D you end up using Energy Resistance as unbeatable DR because matter is just a standing wave front of energy, right? :)
1st-Feb-2005 02:26 pm (UTC)
Seconded. Remember: this is a setting in which "cold energy" exists as an opposite to heat energy (consider: cone of cold).

Characters trying to discover the fundamental laws of the universe: cool.

Players using modern scientific thinking to manipulate the rules: not cool.

Nice job with the alter self potion, though.
1st-Feb-2005 02:47 pm (UTC)
Yeah, until the halfling rogue I was trying to rescue stabbed me!

But I wasn't trying to manipulate the rules, I just wanted a ruling on what constituted rock. An other player asked "at what point does a piece of sandstone become just sand?" rhetorically, of course. I think we were all just interested in what the limits of the spell were.
1st-Feb-2005 02:57 pm (UTC)
Sadn, Rock, and grasnule are all terms used to describe ROCK sizes in any basic earth studies class. I belive that the sand should count, if you want to be fair
1st-Feb-2005 02:59 pm (UTC)
i go with your DM. it doesn't matter if it's silicon or magical glow rocks from planet Froz. it's magic, not physics. if you want to do that then you have to make or find a new spell: transmute sand to mud. i think thee even used to be a spell called "quicksand".
1st-Feb-2005 02:59 pm (UTC)
Sand should be treated no differently than soil, as far as the spell is consider. So it wouldn't work.

It's always cool to have a signature spell, but one that's useless unless you're underground may be a poor choice.
2nd-Feb-2005 03:36 pm (UTC)
I tend to agree. The DM's ruling was that the spell sort of replaces what binds the molecules together with water, turning them to mud. Nothing binds sand together, so it wouldn't work on regular sand, but it would work on sandstone.
1st-Feb-2005 03:08 pm (UTC)
It depends on how the DM plans to deal with this situation.

Suppose I want you to fight the monsters. I'd have to say that sand is a rock. A very very small rock. I'd also say that Rock to Mud only converts the volume of the spell of one rock into mud. If your single rock isn't big enough to fill the possible volume, you just lose it. Problem solved.

On the other hand, if this is just an attrition monster, then having you waste a spell on it is perfect. It saves me the time of rolling all those dice and keeping track of hits points. I can jump straight to noting down your XP, plus a bonus for making my life easier.

Back when I have never DMed, in the 1980's, my DM often took the first approach. He had worked hard to make these encounters, and didn't like me casting spells that so trivially "solved" the problem. My position was that I had been playing my magic-user at least once a week for 6 years of real time, and I really deserved the perks of being a 13th level caster because I had earned it.

Now that I'm a DM, I hate casters. I especially hate the casters who gear themselves towards never taking any risk by teleporting the party in, having one fight, and teleporting everyone back out to rest until tomorrow so that they will be at full strength for the next encounter. Those kinds of players get very upset if an encounter is tough enough to make them sweat during the fight. You should see how pissed off they get when when the monsters do that to them, then plane shift and hunt the slain party members down again to slay them irrevocably.

When DnD turns into that kind of arms race, it isn't fun anymore. I know I got pretty upset when, back when I was a player, my DM notified me that I had just died while sitting around doing nothing. His story was that a high level caster had cast all of his spells except two teleports and an invisibility as magic missle. He had all those missils, a couple hundred as I remember, in a holding pattern over his shoulder. He teleported in invisibly, dupmed the wad into me, and teleported out. He said that the damage done from those magic missiles was so great that I couldn't be ressurected or wished back into existance. He allowed me to be reincarnated though, and I came back as a badger. An ordinary, everyday badger. It has been a very long time since I played DnD with him. When I do see that GM, he does still gloat about the fact that he killed my character.

The problems from then are even worse in 3 and 3.5, and I still don't have a good solution to them.

1st-Feb-2005 03:25 pm (UTC)
I agree and in fact was my thinking:

Sand is not /A/ rock, it is many tiny ones. If I were the DM, I would rule that the spell can not affect multiple rocks at a time (though I could be wrong, I'm too lazy to look up the spell this morning). So, your spell WOULD work, but only on a single grain of sand.
2nd-Feb-2005 05:24 am (UTC)
I think a good solution is probably to make sure to play with people whose goal in playing D&D is to have fun not to somehow "beat" the DM (or the players, if they are the DM), i.e., people who are not total bastards.

Which is partly why I haven't played D&D since I left high school- I don't have enough close friends that I know would be good to play with...
1st-Feb-2005 05:26 pm (UTC)
I have to go with the "is rock" camp, mostly because it is a creative use of the spell and/or environment. As a DM, I both love and hate it when my players circumvent what I have planned. I usually let them have it because I want to encourage creativity. Many times I bend the rules too. So sand isn't exactly *a* rock. Maybe instead of it turning into regular mud it turns into a thick, soupy water, or some other odd side-effect.

A related aside, did the old rules give the spell a duration? I seem to remember it would turn it to mud and then magically harden (not just drying).
1st-Feb-2005 09:03 pm (UTC)
I'd argue that the DM's choice was right, honestly. Sand may be a silicate, and it may be created by the erosion of rocks, but it isn't really rock, from the standpoint of a medieval-era mindset.

As for the point when it becomes Sand rather than Rock, I'd answer that with 'when you can grab a handful and let it flow between your fingers' as opposed to grabbing them and dropping chunks off.

However, for the spell's standpoint, I'd say that it has to be a largely solid surface for the spell to work, as opposed to a granular surface or a sea of small rocks.
1st-Feb-2005 09:19 pm (UTC)
Or, to rephrase it:

If you throw a rock at someone, it'll fly through the air and hit them. Even a pebble can sting, and you can fire it off from a slingshot.

Sand is when it can no longer be thrown and expected to do much of anything at all. Firing a grain of sand from a slingshot won't do much of anything, and trying to throw it is just as likely to have it cling to your hand as actually go the way you wanted.
1st-Feb-2005 10:27 pm (UTC)
I fall into the "sand is many tiny rocks" group, and if the spell can effect more than one rock, it should work... if it can't.... you just made a VERY small ammount of mud hehe.
2nd-Feb-2005 01:57 am (UTC)
Forget Rock to Mud, I'd cast Create Water to goop up the sand. Unless they nerfed Create Water, Moradin's beard!
2nd-Feb-2005 03:30 am (UTC)
Well, I guess if I were to be technical (which I'm about to be :))...

The term "rock" definitely applies to sand, which are just very fine rocks, I guess they're like sediments.

Anyway, the fact that sand is mostly made up of silicon (silica, really), just means it is a certain type of rock that falls under the gorup called silicates.
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