Few magic items in Dungeons and Dragons have inspired the creativity, the laughter, and the outright silliness of the immovable rod. Back in the days of old-school DnD, an immovable rod was just that – immovable. There was no DC 30 strength check or weight limit. It simply Did. Not. Move.
But you know how gamers are; we have to test the limits and push everything to its most silly degree, so now, because we can’t have nice things, there is a limit to just how immovable an immovable rod is – which defeats the point! It’s a misnomer, now. The rod is, in fact, movable. But the marketing department doesn’t want to say that, so now it is called the Immovable* Rod. Damn insurance companies protecting us from being sued. Freedom isn’t free! It has a deductible, terms of service, and court-appropriate language.
The Immovable* Rod is movable! This is worse than the Peasant Pole-Rail Gun idea someone had, thus ruining adventurer-peasant relationships for generations. This post is your guide to how to use the Immovable* Rod in your game, both as a player and as a DM, and make it realistic because that’s what we want in Dungeons and Dragons. Realism.
What Is an Immovable Rod?
An Immovable Rod is an Uncommon Magic Item that takes an action to activate. Once activated, the rod can not be moved except by a DC 30 Strength check (move 10 feet in one direction) or 8,000 lbs. of pressure.
This flat iron rod has a button on one end. You can use an action to press the button, which causes the rod to become magically fixed in place. Until you or another creature uses an action to push the button again, the rod doesn’t move, even if it is defying gravity. The rod can hold up to 8,000 pounds of weight. More weight causes the rod to deactivate and fall. A creature can use an action to make a DC 30 Strength check, moving the fixed rod up to 10 feet on a success.
Item Tags: Utility
Basic Rules, pg. 175
Limitations of the Immovable Rod
The Immovable Rod has two distinct limitations. It can be moved 10 feet by a DC30 Strength Check, or it will deactivate after facing 8,000 pounds. of pressure.
Granted, anyone who can make a DC 30 Strength check could conceivably also make a DC 10 Intelligence check to push the button that deactivates the rod, so this limits your tactical use to inanimate objects and creatures that don’t understand buttons – which is a thing. Not everyone has thumbs, appendages, or developed prefrontal cortexes.
That being said, do not use the rod against anyone smart enough to deactivate it. But how would you use the rod against a creature at all? That’s the fun bit, and we will get to that later.
Your best bet is to use the rod against inanimate objects, or use it as a means to change the battlefield somehow, or to use the rod on an inanimate object that is between a creature and whatever you need, like a door, a bag, or a sense of purpose and accomplishment that will allow them to discontinue their adventurous or villainous way of life.
Who Can Move the Rod Consistently?
A creature with a Strength score of 30 will get a +10 to any Strength check, meaning that the strongest monsters in the game will still need to get a natural 20 to move this rod. However, the Aid Another action grants a +2 to any skill or ability check; so, provided everyone can get a hand on it or on a rope tied to it, 15 peasants are guaranteed to move the rod 10 feet in one direction if they work together. That makes sense because it took a few more than 15 “peasants” to build the pyramids.
Honestly, with enough rope and leverage, you and a few friends can move anything, with enough peasants, at least. Alternatively, the rod can be deactivated when it experiences 8,000 lbs. of pressure, which is equivalent to one Chuck Norris kick.
The Immovable Rod vs. Math
No one can beat math. Here is the formula for the amount of force a person can wield with a sledgehammer:
If the mass of the sledgehammer is m and it is moving with velocity v at the time of impact, it has kinetic energy of:
KE = ½mv^2
This energy will be transferred to the object struck by the hammer. Now we use one of the kinematic equations of motion: v = v0 + at where u is initial velocity, v is final velocity, a is acceleration, and t is time. If the object stops the hammer in t sec, then from F = m•a we get:
F = m•(v/t) = mv/t
Say that the sledgehammer has a mass of 5kg and a velocity of 100m/s at impact, then the force is
F = 5•100/0.1 = 5,000kg-m/s^2 or 5,000N
This translates to about 1,000 pounds of pressure from one swing of a sledgehammer. This is not enough to move an Immovable Rod, but if you drop the sledgehammer from 10 feet at the end of such a swing, you might be approaching what you need to move the rod. The point is that you can exert 8,000 lbs. of pressure with enough mechanical advantage and the proper tools. Just ask yourself: am I exerting 8 times the amount of force as a good, strong swing with a sledgehammer?
Can I Use the Immovable Rod To…
Everyone wants to do vicious and wicked things with an Immovable Rod. That’s cool — that’s how we play.
Here is a list of common uses for an Immovable Rod with a breakdown of how they would actually work.
…Stop a Vehicle?
You could anchor a water-born vessel to an Immovable Rod. The weight distribution of the water would displace enough gravity that, provided the ship is moving slowly enough, you could stop a ship’s movement or at least prevent it from moving after the anchor is engaged.
Should you attempt to stop a large ship at full speed, don’t expect the ship to stop, especially if it is an airship or a land vehicle. More than likely, you will tear the mooring from the hull of the vehicle, and your vehicle will keep moving, albeit with a giant hole. The thing to remember here is inertia. Newton doesn’t play.
Now, if you could somehow take multiple rods and connect them to multiple moorings or even a giant chain net, then you may be able to distribute the moving force of the vehicle enough to stop it from being destroyed and to not put more than 8,000 lbs. of pressure on any one rod.
But consider, for a moment. Maybe you don’t want to stop a vehicle. Maybe it would be better to put a hole in a moving vehicle? Especially one that is chasing you. In that case, inertia is your friend. Look at our homebrew magic items below for emergency use items.
…Tear a Hole in a Dragon, Giant, or Other Large Monster?
One thing you can find online is players asking if they can be swallowed by a monster and then activate the rod. Personally, I think if your plan involves being swallowed by a monster, you’ve already made a critical error. But, assuming you have the Immovable Rod in hand so that you aren’t trying to dig it out of your bag while in situ, and assuming you retain control of your limbs, and assuming those limbs don’t get chewed off, then, yes, you could activate the rod inside the monster.
When the monster moves, they would need to exert a DC 30 Strength check in order to move 10 feet without doing serious internal damage. Ulcers and hernias are no joke, y’all. But as far as tearing a hole in the monster? Not really. They would hang there. Dying, perhaps, but hung all the same, unless they continued pushing the rod through their body. You will have to wait until they rot enough to create a hole, and, unless you don’t need to eat or breathe, this will be an unhelpful course of action.
…Climb Like a Ladder?
Yes! Yes, you can! This is a very simple and actionable course to take. This is easier with two rods, as you can switch between the two while you climb. Remember, it takes an action to use the item, so you almost have to have two rods for this, unless you can hold yourself in place via a rope or belay.
This movement works even better if you can cast levitation. You could use the rod to move yourself along a line while your gravitational pull is negated, like a water-borne vessel. You can just float along in your imaginary canoe.
…Stop a Fall?
No. After 6 seconds of falling, the sudden stop will put all of that falling damage on whatever limb you are using to hold the rod. This will more than likely strip the rod from your grasp or dislocate your shoulder or tail.
Immovable Rod Attachments
The following is a list of homebrew magic items that take the idea of an Immovable Rod and make it more usable in specific situations.
Immovable Rod Net
Rare, Cost is equal to number of rods included.
This is a 10- to 40-foot series of chains that can link immovable rods, which can then be activated in part or whole as an action. The chains can be arranged in a 10-foot by 10-foot net or a 40-foot line and can hold up to one Immovable Rod per 5 feet. Use this to spread out the force of a large moving object or to swing a creature or object through a space.
Immovable Rod Spear
Anchor the rod into this spear-tipped housing. Any creature or object pressing into it will instead take piercing damage as if it were falling onto the rod instead of applying any of the 8,000 lbs. of force required to deactivate it.
Immovable Rod Harness
When properly attached to this harness, the Immovable Rod will arrest a fall as an action without tearing out of a creature’s grasp or clothing. Using the rod this way still requires an action and a free hand to activate, but the creature may hang indefinitely.