Level Up (A5E) Do material spell components always require a free hand in A5E?

Tessarael

Explorer
If I understand correctly, A5E has omitted the 5E D&D techniques to get around material components requiring a free hand (to be clear, this is not a critique of A5E):
  • You must have a free hand for material components; or you must be hold your spellcasting focus or be able to touch your spellcasting focus instead, providing the material components have no cost nor part of the target is required.
    • You can have a tattoo as a focus, but it still requires a free hand to touch it.
    • You can have a staff as a focus if it is an arcane or nature focus, and that can be used as the two-handed quarterstaff weapon, but it is the only such option. However, you cannot use a quarterstaff as a one-handed weapon in A5E.
  • As a Cleric or Herald you do not have the option of having your holy symbol on your shield to use it as a divine focus.
  • There's no Bard archetype that permits them to use their weapon as a spellcasting focus.
  • There's no Warlock archetype that permits them to use their weapon as a spellcasting focus.
So to cast a spell with material components you must either:
  • Have one hand free, e.g., with a weapon in your main hand
  • Sheath one weapon if you have two weapons drawn, or are using weapon + shield, to have one hand free
  • Temporarily hold your two-handed weapon in one hand while spellcasting, to have one hand free
  • If you are using a quarterstaff as your arcane or nature focus, you can keep holding it two-handed while using it to spellcast.
This seems to penalize the weapon + shield option the most, as you won't be able to make an attack of opportunity until you draw your weapon again next turn, after you've sheathed your weapon to spellcast. In the other cases, you've still got a weapon drawn to whack someone with.

A5E still permits seen components to be cast with your hands full, if you are holding your spell focus. So if your DM permits a shield as a divine focus or a weapon as an arcane focus (e.g., with Ruby of the War Mage from Xanathar's Guide to Everything, which requires attunement; or the Improved Pact Weapon eldritch invocation from Warlock), then you can still do so without a free hand; or you can use a (quarter)staff as mentioned above. Otherwise, you still need that free hand for the material and seen components.

The Battle Caster feat permits you to perform seen components while use a weapon or shield with your hands. It does not negate the need for a free hand to touch or hold your spellcasting focus. The Battle Caster feat does help the weapon + shield wielder avoid the need to sheathe their weapon to cast a spell with V,S components. For the two-weapon fighter and the two-handed weapon user, that benefit from the Battle Caster feat is not necessary, given that you can sheathe one weapon or temporarily hold the two-handed weapon in one hand.

Am I missing anything here? Are there any class features or magic items in A5E core rules that permit a one-handed weapon or shield to be used as an arcane, divine, or nature focus?
 

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Tessarael

Explorer
I think I found one way around this in A5E core rules for two-weapon fighters with hand-mounted weapons:

Hand-mounted weapons in A5E, brass knuckles and punching dagger, would presumably permit you to briefly touch a focus tattoo to cast a spell. The hand-mounted property specifies, "You can do simple activities such as climbing a ladder while wielding this weapon [..] You cannot use a hand that is wielding a hand-mounted weapon to do complex tasks like picking a pocket, using thieves’ tools to bypass a lock, or casting spells with seen components." And the focus tattoo specifies, "Focus tattoos ... require an attunement slot [..] When you cast spells with a focus tattoo in this way, you must briefly touch your focus tattoo with your free hand." Arguable whether a hand holding a hand-mounted weapon is a free hand, but just touching a tattoo should be doable from the description of hand-mounted. So this would work for V,M components, but not S.

The benefit is that brass knuckles and punching dagger do d4 damage as an off-hand weapon, as they both have the dual-wielding property, so you can still two-weapon fight with say a bastard sword in the other hand.
 
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Tessarael

Explorer
And if you're a Bard using your voice as your spell focus, per the Adventurer's Guide page 123, then you cast cast spells with the V,M components without a free hand. The seen component still requires a free hand for Bard using voice as spell focus.
 
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Tessarael

Explorer
Looks like the emblem as a divine focus is intended so that a Cleric or Herald can have their holy symbol emblazoned on a shield. The Artificer can also use an infused weapon or shield as their spellcasting focus.

Summarizing options to spellcast with hands full in combat:
  • Artificers using their infused weapon/shield as their focus, with their hands full, can cast spells with: V; V,M; V,S,M; but not V,S.
  • Bards using their voice as a focus, need a free hand to gesture Seen components. Can cast spells with: V; V,M; but not V,S or V,S,M.
  • Clerics/Heralds using shield emblazoned with their holy symbol as divine focus can cast spells with: V; V,M; V,S,M; but not V,S.
  • Battle Caster feat to gesture Seen components when holding weapon+shield or 2-weapon fighting, can cast V,S spells.
  • Two-handed weapons can temporarily be held in one hand to free a hand to cast spells with V; V,M; V,S,M; and V,S components.
    • Staves are arcane/nature focuses and also can be a two-handed quarterstaff.
  • Otherwise, if you're two-weapon fighting or using weapon-and-shield, you need to sheathe or drop a weapon to cast a spell with V,M; V,S,M; or V,S components.
V is Vocalized; S is Seen; and M stands for material components.
 

Looks like the emblem as a divine focus is intended so that a Cleric or Herald can have their holy symbol emblazoned on a shield. The Artificer can also use an infused weapon or shield as their spellcasting focus.

Summarizing options to spellcast with hands full in combat:
  • Artificers using their infused weapon/shield as their focus, with their hands full, can cast spells with: V; V,M; V,S,M; but not V,S.
  • Bards using their voice as a focus, need a free hand to gesture Seen components. Can cast spells with: V; V,M; but not V,S or V,S,M.
  • Clerics/Heralds using shield emblazoned with their holy symbol as divine focus can cast spells with: V; V,M; V,S,M; but not V,S.
  • Battle Caster feat to gesture Seen components when holding weapon+shield or 2-weapon fighting, can cast V,S spells.
  • Two-handed weapons can temporarily be held in one hand to free a hand to cast spells with V; V,M; V,S,M; and V,S components.
    • Staves are arcane/nature focuses and also can be a two-handed quarterstaff.
  • Otherwise, if you're two-weapon fighting or using weapon-and-shield, you need to sheathe or drop a weapon to cast a spell with V,M; V,S,M; or V,S components.
V is Vocalized; S is Seen; and M stands for material components.
Thanks for the summary, it shows there's contradicting stuff like being able to cast V,S,M but not V,S.
For me, I'll replace M with S and call it a day.
 

Tessarael

Explorer
Thanks for the summary, it shows there's contradicting stuff like being able to cast V,S,M but not V,S.
For me, I'll replace M with S and call it a day.
This is standard from 5E D&D, for better or worse, but yes, it is confusing. From the 5E D&D Player's Handbook errata: "A spellcaster must have a hand free to access a spell’s material components—or to hold a spellcasting focus—but it can be the same hand that he or she uses to perform somatic components."

Similarly, the A5E Adventurer's Guide states on page 495, "A spell cast with a seen component can’t be cast by an incapacitated creature or a creature that has its hands full with weapons (or a shield) that are not being used as a spell focus."
 


Tessarael

Explorer
It's the other way round: if you're holding a material component, you can perform seen components. That said, it's not that big an impact on game balance between character classes if you ignore the component free hand rules, or treat seen and material components in the same manner.
 

It's the other way round: if you're holding a material component, you can perform seen components. That said, it's not that big an impact on game balance between character classes if you ignore the component free hand rules, or treat seen and material components in the same manner.
The letter says that if you're holding a spell focus you can perform seen components. It doesn't mention material components in general. Since a spell focus only replaces mundane components (without a gp price), you may not cast spells with an expensive material component this way. In this sense the wording of o5e creates less contradictions and is simpler: if you can do one you can do the other too.
 

Tessarael

Explorer
The letter says that if you're holding a spell focus you can perform seen components. It doesn't mention material components in general. Since a spell focus only replaces mundane components (without a gp price), you may not cast spells with an expensive material component this way. In this sense the wording of o5e creates less contradictions and is simpler: if you can do one you can do the other too.
Correct. Expensive components still require a free hand, or that you are holding the expensive component already.
 

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