The Axe And The Rope

Alright people, I was dancing gracefully through the forum and saw more than a few people talking about how the rope shouldn’t be going through Kore, so let’s have a look, shall we?

Over the years, I’ve had a few intangible items show up in my D&D games. These items often get dirty. So what happens when a magic sword that’s supposed to pass harmlessly through, say, the dude standing next to you (and his clothes, etc) is covered in mud? Does the mud refuse to pass through that guy because it’s not part of the sword and therefore stop the item from passing ghost-like through the guy? What if it’s not mud, but a thin layer of dust? Can this powerfully intangible item be rendered impotent simply because it was left on a shelf for a couple days? What if that dust isn’t on the item itself, but instead on Mr. Dude? Would the sword pass through the dust on his shirt without any problems but be stopped by dust that had been on the blade? What if the dust or mud was on the blade, which cannot pass through Mr. Example-dude, so the sword wielder wipes the dust/mud onto dude-guy’s shirt, which technically makes it dirt ‘on the guy’, but not on the blade and therefore the sword passes through the mud-dust AND the guy? And does this mean that someone could destroy the item’s power simply by painting it? After all, the paint wouldn’t pass through the confused dude, right? It all gets very specific and believe me, players will delve head-first into these specifications.

My ruling was usually as follows…

The item in question will pass through its target(s) like a ghost. If it is dirty, dusty, muddy, painted, dyed, wet or on fire, then the item still passes through its target and carries with it the added material. That means that the dirt, droplets of water, etc. will also pass through the target in a ghost-like fashion. While this added material is piggy-backing on the item’s intangible state, it clings to it’s host and will not easily fall off. That means that the weilder of the ghost-sword cannot coat it in mud, ‘phase’ it into Mr. Dude and shake it to make the mud fall off while inside the poor guy therefore becoming solid within him (certain players have tried this. You know who you are).

As any seasoned dungeon master knows, players have tried to add ropes to everything their character’s do. Seriously. Everything. Most of us have seen the scenario in which someone drinks a potion or something that allows them to walk ghost-like through a stone wall. This of course, is done with a rope tied around his waist while a buddy holds the other end and promises that “this’ll totally work“. The rope, along with the adventurer’s equipment passes magically through the wall as long as it is in contact with our hero. However, most potions, spells, magic rings, etc. will not allow the magical trait to be shared with other people. Clothing and small objects only.

So if we look at the rules established in many text books as well as my own, personal methods of handling the specifics of incorporeal magics, it seems logical that the rope, while attached to the axe, would pass through Kore. Cutting the rope and separating it from the axe caused it to instantly become solid and suddenly occupy the same space as Kore’s hunky body which fused the rope to Kore and his armour. Yes, this is possible. Yes it is. Shut up, yes it is. Think of light passing through glass. Sure, that’s not two molecules occupying the same space, but the atoms do interact to the point where someone could point at a beam of sunlight shining through a window and say “hey look, that light and that glass are occupying the same space”. In this case, Kore is the window and the axe and rope are the beam of sunlight.

Hello, my name is Tarol Hunt and I have 24 years of near-constant practice arguing the physics of magic with hundreds of D&D players.

As always, thanks for reading.

~Thunt