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Purify Water (spell): how flexible?

 
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Lanthorn
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Joined: Sep 09, 2009
Posts: 2399
Location: SW WA state (Highvale)

PostPosted: Sat Mar 23, 2019 7:10 am    Post subject: Purify Water (spell): how flexible? Reply with quote

Colleagues of Oerth,

Came up with an interesting notion to use Purify Water (1st level priest spell) to cleanse salt (ocean) water into drinkable water. We were involved in a coastal campaign along the Woolly Bay.

This generated interesting discussion, of course, and in reading the description of the spell, "this spell makes spoiled, rotten, poisonous, or otherwise contaminated food and water pure..." I interpret this latitude into including salt water.

Why? Because if you drink salt water, as many of you know, you die. The excess salt is, in effect, toxic (poison) to the body by dehydrating the cells. Wondering how many of you agree.

This then generated further intriguing discussion about what water-based solutions could be 'purified,' and I proposed that, if you permit salt water to become purified in this manner than you should be able to cast this spell upon:

-alcoholic beverages (alcohol IS metabolic poison, people)
-urine (yes, you read that correctly...and it clearly is a toxic solution)

I am sure other solutions, water-based, could be added. Those were just two that popped into my head at the time of the discussion.

In the end, I guess it comes down to your interpretation of what is "spoiled, rotten, poisonous, and contaminated" but I contest that salt water, alcohol, and urine apply.

It also begs the question, "Does it unbalance the game?" I don't think so. It merely opens up the door to new applications, the clever use of magic, and you still need a container! Happy

Suggestions, comments, lively discussion welcome.

-Lanthorn
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ragnar
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Joined: Aug 09, 2001
Posts: 635

PostPosted: Sat Mar 23, 2019 1:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lanthorn, it's interesting that you bring this up. I've been toying with changing the spell to a higher level, along with Create Water and Create Food and Drink. More on both of those later.

First, to your point, I would disagree. The reason is simple, the spell specifies food and drink.

"When cast, this spell makes spoiled, rotten, poisonous, or otherwise contaminated food and water pure and suitable for eating and drinking. Up to 1 cubic foot of food and drink per level can be thus made suitable for consumption. This spell does not prevent subsequent natural decay or spoilage. Unholy water and similar food and drink of significance is spoiled by purify food and drink, but the spell has no effect on creatures of any type nor upon magical potions."

Being that it specifies food and drink, and that this is magic, not science, I would say that the fact that salt water is NOT a drink for humans (and by extension other demi-humans and such) that it is not affected. I think the "spirit" of the language is more important than the "letter." The same goes for alcohol (I assume you mean beer, wine, and such); that is not contaminated at all. It is a drink designed to be drank as is. God help the cleric who goes in my kitchen and casts Purify Food and Drink on my liquor cabinet!

I can totally see where you were going with that, but it does seem to edge into one of those areas where we twist our fantasy play to conform with modern understanding of things. Like when players do something like cast continual light in a tube to make a flashlight. I hate that stuff!

Anyway, DMs can obviously follow the other reasoning, but I think it's not really what the spell was designed for. If you follow a less scientifc bent, other interesting results can happen. What about the use of the spell by a Suhuagin? Would that turn fresh water into Salt Water?

I also just realized another interesting use. A necromancer could use it to spoil a party's holy water!

Anyway, I've actually been considering raising the levels to make these spells much more rare. It just gets really irritating that parties in my campaign never have to worry about food and water. Many an outdoor adventure had the dangers of the environment minimized by those spells, and I must admit I'm tired of it. Since I use specialty priests, if I raise them to at least 4th level, then none of the priests with only minor access to Creation will even have them. That will solve most the problems, and for the parties under about 7th level, it won't matter at all anyway.

Yeah, you better start worrying about water in that desert!
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Wolfling
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Joined: Sep 20, 2004
Posts: 469
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 24, 2019 5:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting question and I would tend to agree with Ragnar's appraisal of the spell.

A neutralise poison spell should work on those substances however, making them potable.
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xo42
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Joined: Jan 11, 2009
Posts: 190
Location: Montgomery, Alabama

PostPosted: Sun Mar 24, 2019 6:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think in this case the spell would "purify" the salt water and turn it into regular water. In many cases spell descriptions as written are slightly vague and in others the descriptions have specific restrictions or limits. However, in almost every case of casting a spell there are things about the spell that the caster has to control, decide on, or plan right before or as he/she is casting the spell (where the spell is centered on, size, type, etc.). I think this is important because it allows the caster to decide certain things about the particular spell as it is cast. It seems reasonable to me that in the case of this spell salt water could be turned pure or as was mentioned alcohol could be turned into pure water if the caster decided to do that and worked it into the incantation at the time the spell is cast.
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Cebrion
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2019 5:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't give 1st level spells too much latitude. Allowing salt water to be purified, because it is basically fresh water that is contaminated with various minerals, is giving perhaps too much latitude. We have always played it that a purify food and drink spell makes consumable food and *a variety of common drinks* that might be rancid, diseased, or otherwise harmful for a reason other than its very nature. Alcoholic beverages are not inherently impure, and so purifying wine doesn't de-ferment it and turn it into grape juice; it just removes any contaminants that would make it unhealthy to drink. Besides, if one considers alcohol to be a literal poison, well, there is already a spell to deal with that, and it isn't 1st level.

Bonus thought: No, one cannot purify the blood (which is mostly water) in an enemy's body to be pure water. Razz
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Mystic-Scholar
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 30, 2019 8:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"When cast, this spell makes spoiled, rotten, poisonous, or otherwise contaminated food and water pure and suitable for eating and drinking."

Really? Says . . . who? Confused

I can assure you that the Orcs, Goblins and Bugbears do not consider the drink "poisonous," nor do they consider the food rancid. Shocked

In short, the spell makes food and drink "pure" . . . for humans.

Salt water is perfectly "suitable" for some thousands of species, but not for humans.

Thus, the spell is designed for making food and drink suitable for humans and their cousins, the demi-humans. Salt water is not "suitable" for these species and so the spell that they created would work on salt water, making it potable.

As for alcohol being "poisonous," no. The human body metabolizes alcohol just fine. Drink yourself to death? You can do that with water too. That's a scientific fact. (There was even a recent case about it in the news.) You might also consider the 'scientific fact' that you can also eat yourself to death. Neither of these scientific facts make the food or water involved suddenly "poisonous" somehow. So the spell wouldn't work on alcoholic beverages.

That's how I've always played it.
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Pan
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 31, 2019 12:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As DM, I play this spell from the perspective of the caster (and/or his/her deity). A human caster would turn rancid meat into fresh meat while a creature who cannot tolerate fresh meat might turn it rancid. I look at it as similar to the ability for Clerics of Procran, Xerbo, or whichever deity it is that I'm thinking of (I cannot remember right now, but could even be a completely different god) which can create salt water from the "create food and water" spell. I apologize if I'm mixing my deities and spells as it has been awhile since I've looked at that, but the gist of my point is that it is dependent on intent of the caster.

With that said, I would not allow someone to "purify" a potable drink such as alcohol. Neither would I allow it to turn urine into water. The spell says it turns unsafe water into pure water. Alcohol and urine are not food or water. They don't meet the definition.
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Cebrion
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 02, 2019 2:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some good follow-up points. Much simpler is probably better. I think a good rule of thumb would be to ask, "Is this something that one would normally eat/drink?" If the answer is "yes," then it can be affected by the spell purify food & drink. As for the "drink" part, I would allow water, milk, juices, beer, and wine (especially sacramental wine) to be purified, meaning "be made safe to drink", but not meaning "rendered free of alcohol, such that one cannot become inebriated" for any of those things that are fermented (the spells slow poison and neutralize poison actually do alleviate the effects of alcohol). The spells create water and create food & water do exist for a reason too, so not giving purify food & drink too much latitude seems reasonable.
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Mystic-Scholar
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 02, 2019 12:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's my thinking.
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Lanthorn
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2019 7:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I got some good responses on this thread. Thanks to all of you for adding your advice and perspectives!

-Lanthorn, "Purified"

Laughing
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