Spell Archive: Shape Water

Today we welcome our first cantrip into the Spell Archive! Make a splash with Shape Water!

Welcome everybody to another Spell Archive! Today we’ll be talking about our first cantrip, Shape Water! Get ready for some iced tea and hijinks, let’s get right into it!


Shape Water

Transmutation Cantrip

Casting Time: 1 Action

Range: 30 feet (5 ft. cube)

Duration: Instantaneous

You choose an area of water that you can see within range and that fits within a 5-foot cube. You manipulate it in one of the following ways:

  • You instantaneously move or otherwise change the flow of the water as you direct, up to 5 feet in any direction. This movement doesn’t have enough force to cause damage.
  • You cause the water to form into simple shapes and animate at your direction. This change lasts for 1 hour.
  • You change the water’s color or opacity. The water must be changed in the same way throughout. This change lasts for 1 hour.
  • You freeze the water, provided that there are no creatures in it. The water unfreezes in 1 hour.

If you cast this spell multiple times, you can have no more than two of its non-instantaneous effects active at a time, and you can dismiss such an effect as an action.

Spell Talk

Shape Water is one of those strange transmutation cantrips that came out of the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion (we’ve been looking at that quite a bit lately, huh?). However, in my opinion Shape Water has many more uses than its brothers that came out in the same book. We’ll look at the four effects and talk about them a bit, then get into some more creative uses over in the Tips and Tricks section.

The first effect lets you move or change the flow of water, up to 5 feet in any direction. This movement does not have enough force to cause damage. If you ever wanted to be Moses from the bible and part the river for your friends, you can definitely do that. If you find your boat careening down some rapids, you can use this spell to reverse the direction and do your best to slow you down! This part of the spell is consistent with the other cantrips, so it’s not gamebreaking or anything, but it is a very nice ability to be able to do at will.

The second effect lets you change the water to form into simple shapes and animate at your direction, with this change lasts for 1 hour. Create the wettest puppet show your party has even seen, or impress a kid while you make a deer out of water. Realistically, this spell can be very useful because you can actually build things with the water. If you want, you can build a stationary wall of water, or even a moving wall of water since it can animate! Use this to block a hallway, snuffing out torches and light sources that enemies that are following you may have out.

The third effect lets you change the water’s color or opacity. It must be changed the same way throughout, and this lasts for an hour. The aforementioned idea of putting a wall of water in a hallway, try making it a little green and translucent to simulate the look of a gelatinous cube! Spill some water on the ground real quick and make it a deep red to look like blood! It won’t smell or feel like it, but sometimes just seeing that blood splattered across the ground can be enough to scare some people off!

The fourth and final effect you can invoke is freezing the water for an hour, provided there are no creatures inside of it. Honestly this alone is probably enough to make a solid living since you’ll be serving up ice cold martinis at the bar. You could also freeze a section of a river to create an ice bridge. A little difficult to cross of course, but beats swimming!

Tips and Tricks

Alright, so we’re gonna start this section off by talking about just how much water you can manipulate with this spell. 5 cubic feet of water amounts to about 935 gallons and about 7800 lbs of water. Now, this is enough water to quench a small village of people, so very rarely will you ever actually be using this much water. To grasp everything you could do with this spell, you’d probably need an advanced degree in math and physics. I have neither of those, so we’ll just look at some of my favorite applications.

The first one of my favorites comes when you’re fortunate enough to not have a rogue in your party, or your rogue is sleeping on the job. Since ice expands as it freezes, you can easily put enough water into a keyhole to fill it up then instantly freeze it. Doing so will bust the lock, and while it’s not quite as clean as thieves tools, this will do the trick to make it into any mundane lock.

Another awesome use of Shape Water comes from your ability to move and shape the water. You could easily create an air pocket/bubble for yourself while you’re underwater. Though this would only have a limited amount of oxygen, it still grants you the ability to temporarily “breathe” underwater and sure beats having to hold your breath while swimming. If your DM is kind, this would even let you preform the verbal components of the spell while you’re underwater!

Finally, just the usefulness of being able to shape the water and color it and determine its opacity. You could easily connect two pillars or a pillar and a wall with an opaque wall of water, breaking line of sight for your enemies and allowing your rogue to sneak around. You could freeze an amount of ice to cover up crawlspaces that smaller creatures would use. You can freeze doors closed, you can create a smaller localized fog cloud by making the water extremely muddy and difficult to see through. Honestly, the amount of use you can get out of this spell is amazing, but I’d be sure to talk with your DM about the extent to which you can use the spell. If you keep springing up unexpected ways to deal with every situation with one cantrip, your DM may eventually come to dislike it. Talk with them, figure out the parameters, and then go wild!

Also, this is one of the spells that I can’t really think of a way to reflavor. I imagine most of the uses of Shape Water is kind of like water bending, so it’s hard to really imagine that there’s other ways to be doing the spell. Of course, if you’re creative it’s entirely possible to find a new way of making it look!


There we go folks, we have now added our very first cantrip into the Spell Archive! I’m personally a big fan of this spell and tend to take it on my characters if I find myself having an extra cantrip slot. Thank you all for reading through the article, and if you have any questions or comments feel free to contact us on our social media or in our forums!

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