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Disclaimer: I am not a scientist - just someone with an overactive imagination, a crash course in physics, and access to Google. Any claims made in the following post are dubious at best and are subject to DM Fiat and Rule of Fun. Literally nothing here is RAW. ~~~~~~
So I was thinking, recently, about Princes of the Apocalypse and theorycrafting ways to break Abjuration Wizard when I stumbled upon a neat lil' magic item in Basic Rules, p. 161. I'll read out the text that matters.
You can use an action to remove the stopper and speak one of three command words, whereupon fresh or salt water (your choice) pours out of the flask. The water stops pouring out at the start of your next turn.
"Geyser" produces 30 gallons of water that gushes forth in a geyser 30 feet long and 1 foot wide*...* Instead of a creature, you can target an object that isn't being worn or carried and that weighs no more than 200 pounds. The object is either knocked over or pushed up to 15 feet away from you.
Cool. It's pretty nifty, can produce endless water for those 5e survival campaigns that presumably exist somewhere, and has a neat, but not super broken, magical effect. Good uncommon magical item for a water-themed character.
So how do we break it?
Part 1: Unstopping the Decanter
We make two assumptions: one small and one absolutely massive
If you were to use the decanter for multiple rounds in a row, it wouldn't really make sense to take the stopper on and off every time you wanted to use the damn thing. So, we assume the line in the description about the stopper is just flavor text and that you don't need to have the stopper to use the decanter - it just needs to be off.
That just leaves the speaking of the command word as part of the action used to activate the decanter. This is where things get... thorny.
Both 3.5e and Pathfinder explicitly state that the Magic Mouth spell cannot utter command words for magic items
. Notably, the 5e version of Magic Mouth lacks this caveat.
For our antics, we want the decanter to be permanently "on", that is for it to be activated with the "Geyser" command word at the top of the round. We could just have our wielder ready an action to say the command word as soon as the water starts to ebb, so we can just say the thing is on six seconds at a time. We don't technically need
Magic Mouth for that.
But my lord, would it be useful.
This is where the element of choice comes in. The decanter lets you choose
between fresh and salt water. So would the caster of Magic Mouth get to choose? We know magic items with command words can't be activated in Silence, so it obviously has a vocal element, but what exactly is going on?
This one's an optional assumption, but it's pretty damn big. Optional Assumption: Magic Mouth can activate magic items with command words, such as the Decanter of Endless Water.
So now we have a perpetually "on" Decanter of Endless Water, whether by spamming the command word manually or just Magic Mouthing it onto the cap or something. Now what?
Well, obviously, we figure out how strong the thing is.
2. Force and Pressure
We're going to ignore questions of "flow rate" and "pressure" (namely because this thing is an impossibility of physics and I can't decide which parts of it I want to keep constant) and instead get right to how far this thing can push. At the "Geyser" setting, any object 200 pounds or less that comes in contact with the stream is pushed fifteen feet over the course of six seconds. With rounding, this becomes 900N of weight over five meters over six seconds. At minimum friction , ice-on-ice, mu = 0.03, this is 27N*5m = 135J of energy or 22.5W
of power. At the maximum "reasonable" friction, rubber-on-wood, mu = 0.95, this is 855N*5m = 4275J of energy or 712.5W
of power. We'll use the last measurement as a baseline for how much power the Decanter can produce and assume any outputs not aligning to this standard are due to poor aim on the part of the wielder.
To put this into perspective, 700W is about the power usage of a low-level toaster. It also happens to be around the max energy output of an Olympic Cyclist
, and slightly less than one horsepower.
According to the EIW, the average U.S. household uses 10972 kwh per year, or 10972 kwh / 31622400 seconds ~= 1250W. If we could efficiently capture the power of the Decanter of Endless Water and convert it into electrical energy for storage, just two
of these uncommon magical items could generate enough power for an entire household. Assumption: We can create a Decanter of Endless Water based generator that supplies an electrical output equal to that of two Decanters of Endless Water at a price and time-scale equal to that of creating two Decanters of Endless Water
Because why not? We're permanently hampering its functionality by building it into an engine, which probably works by pumping the water back into wherever the decanter gets its water from. So (hopefully) no bamboozle.
But we're not planning the Faerunian Industrial Revolution here. Or maybe we are. Whatever. What can we do with this sort of power?
3a. The Faerunian Industrial Revolution Nobody expects the Faerunian Industrial Revolution!
Sure, we could
just make magical weapons operated by flowing water. Or, we could build some power plants.
Or maybe not. After all, just two decanters can cost upwards of a thousand gold. Even if we craft it, just one of these water-based generators will cost 400gp, four workweeks (or 160 work-hours), and some sort of water-based exotic materials.
Let's start cutting that cost down.
XGtE states that "a vial of water taken from a whirlpool on the Elemental Plane of Water" is a viable ingredient for magic item crafting. We'll just attach a spiral funnel to one of these (presumably infinite) whirlpools, and presto, infinite magical water. Just be sure to have something guarding it from the inevitable water elemental incursions.
A skilled hireling (say, a glassblower) costs 2gp per day to hire. This means creating one of these dual-decanter engines will cost 40gp in labor costs. If we want to get the time-frame down to, say, one per hour, we can hire 160 skilled hirelings (say, 120 glassblowers and 40 tinkerers) to craft engines for us, which is probably the entire glassblowing population of a large city. So, if we make these in bulk (8 per day, since costs are per day rather than per work-hour), we can take a 10% price hike for a drastically reduced production time. Honestly, I'd say the usage of elemental water covers that cost pretty well.
So, now all we need is 400gp per engine made. If we want to power, say, the population of one-million Waterdhavians - at a reasonable estimate of 2 people for household, that's still about 200 million pieces of gold, not to mention the infrastructure and wiring costs. Where the ever-living fuck are we going to get that much money?
Go slay a dragon.
3b. To Show You The Power of Sovereign Glue...
So you've successfully snuck into
Generic Fantasy Dragon with Huge Treasure Horde's lair, but there's a foot-thick wall of dimensionally-locked adamantine in the way, which, by the way, is a fantastic treasure in itself. What do you do?
Rig up a water jet cutter, obviously.
There's a couple engineering issues we have to accomplish first. We probably don't need to worry about how much water we're using - most industrial waterjet cutters use only about a gallon of water per minute, and we have a magic item that can output about 300 times that amount. The issue is that we need about 60,000 PSI of pressure, supplied by about 50HP of power. Which, when you think about it, really isn't that much of an issue. I mean, we, in the real world, have solved this problem without
magic, and we're not galaxy brain wizards with access to literally infinite free energy courtesy of Mystra/Mystryl/Mystra. But, using our water engines, that's still going to be 10000gp plus the cost of the pumps and machinery (which we'll also call about 10000gp), which is a perfectly reasonable way to spend your Dragon Heist earnings, Hunter
. But hey! Now you have a waterjet cutter.
Or maybe not.
I don't know if you've heard, but adamantine is, like, really flipping hard. Like, weapon-breaking, auto-critting hard. But, as it turns out, we can probably still cut it. Most waterjet cutters use garnet sand as an abrasive, and it can cut through harder materials.
If we replace that with, say, an adamant abrasive (a very hard, very brittle substance used to alloy adamantine), we can theoretically cleave through anything
in record time, at the cost of about 250gp per minute (one pound of adamant).
So you cut through the adamantine wall, get the gold, Reduce
the wall on the way out and have your barbarian carry it, patent your technology, and bring the full might of your water-powered industrial revolution onto the world of Toril. Now what?
3c. Salty as the Sea
So the Decanter of Endless Water can produce saltwater at a rate of 30 gallons per minute. Let's assume we have an infinite heat source that can flash-boil the saltwater (like some sort of infernal hell-furnace), some sort of steam vent, and some sort of mechanical mechanism to harvest the salt. Apparently, seawater contains about 4.5 ounces of salt per gallon, so we'll round and say we're producing eight pounds of salt per six seconds or eighty pounds of salt per minute. At the SRD rate of 5cp per one pound of salt, that's 4gp per minute
without us doing anything. In an hour, that'll pay off the cost of an entire Decanter of Endless Water, and we might even be able to use the steam for more power generation.
Huh. Turns out we didn't need to kill a dragon. Oops.
But what's this? Your infinite salt shenanigans haven't gone unnoticed, and now the Fantasy IRS are knocking on your warehouse doors, demanding the tax money from your undeclared income! What do you do?
Pay your taxes, obviously. This is just a misunderstanding, and by now you're making enough money to live lavishly ten times over. Go pay your taxes and help vote in the people you believe will do the most good in your city. Making your voice heard is the most important part of democracy and an integral part of getting the right people into office.
But, in opening your door to the taxmen, you've accidentally invited in several vampire lords, who want you as their thrall so they can control the Faerunian salt trade! What do you do?
3d. Thrust, Lift, Drag, Weight
Let's be honest - you probably have Fly.
If you managed to do all of this
as a level 4 character or, god forbid, a martial
, then damn. Good for you. Either your DM hates levelling up or just really likes magic items. But in the case you don't have fly, or every vampire lord just happens to be an alternate universe version of Barovia's own Baron Strahd von Zarovich (with Counterspell), how about a Decanter of Endless Water jetpack?
Now, we could
try to finagle a value for the Decanter of Endless Water's acceleration and velocity and apply vectors and forces but oh my Starbane the Strahds are getting closer
so we're going to just wing it, figuratively and literally.
Say you, plus gear and armor, weigh 250 pounds. Now we can intuit that if you can push something of equal mass down,
it should push you up an equal amount. Now, conveniently, 250 pounds of water is just under 30 gallons, so we should
just be able to strap a Decanter or two to our backs and lift off, right?
Decanters of Endless Water are weird in the way they interact with objects. You could be standing on a literally frictionless surface and point the Decanter at a huge block of rubber on a rubber floor and if the thing is less than 200 pounds and isn't being worn or carried, the Decanter will push it and you wouldn't move an inch
. It would appear that the Decanters are somewhat immune to momentum - since they're essentially creating the water that's pushing out, there is no equal and opposite reaction to add recoil.
But, they can still push things. Spring traps, anyone?
I'd say that if you're standing on something, you're not wearing or carrying it. Say, for instance, a 5x5 sheet of iron thick enough to support a person, with metal rods embedded into the floor to keep it stable and in position for the thirty feet it'll be pushed through. Step on, say the command word, and you'll be off the ground at a stunning
rate of about two and a half feet per second - about half a person's walking speed.
We can improve this.
A Decanter of Endless Water attached to a metal pole counts as an object, letting us push it forward with another Decanter. If stack Decanters atop one another, we can accelerate the upward motion by having them all trigger at once, pushing up at that same additive rate of 2.5 feet per second per decanter
(or just below that
). In the Salt Baron Strahd example, we can have a platform supported by ten Decanters of Water stacked atop each other, providing a total upwards movement of 150 feet in one round - comparable in speed to the swiftest of aarakocra rogues and certainly enough to escape the clutches of the Strahd brigade.
As an added bonus, if we add more Decanters, we can increase the lifting strength of the elevator to ludicrous levels - I'd suggest having ten such systems, so the total should be able to lift around a ton, minimum. In this situation specifically, it'll also have the added benefit of suddenly producing 3000
gallons of water, comparable to a swimming pool every minute or so. If not drained away, or if the drains are damaged by a stray spell (purely hypothetically, of course), such a deluge will surely deal with the Strahds, who, after all, cannot cross running water without risk of a very messy death.
Seriously, why the hell did they attack you, anyway? Your entire thing
is abusing a magic item that makes running water.
4. Useful Notes for DM
As I stated in the disclaimer, literally none of this is RAW
. Everything in this post is up to DM Fiat, and if you don't want it in your games, just tell your players it won't work up front. But I think that one of the great joys of D&D, and one of the primary benefits it has over other forms of media, is that you get to do crazy stuff like this. So if one of your players goes out of their way to repurpose an Uncommon magic item outside of just pushing blocks around and quenching thirst, let them. To a degree, of course. Follow the fun.