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D&D 5E How do you DM Mage Hand Legerdemain and oil/acid/holy water

ECMO3

Hero
So I play a lot of Arcane Tricksters and I have played with a lot of DMs and I have found a wide variance on how much they allow with Mage Hand Legerdemain in combat.

For example - the mage hand is out/active and the rogue is in combat. He wants to use a bonus action to pull a flask of oil (or holy water or acid) out of his pack and dump in on BBEG. Dumping oil is clearly allowed as it is in the description of mage hand.

Ranking the DMs I have played with 1-6 easiest to hardest.

1. The Santa Clause DM - It is one bonus action and it automatically gets on the BBEG.
2. It is one bonus action and you need to roll a slight of hand contested by acrobatics to see if you successfully dump it on him.
3. It is one bonus action and you need to roll a dexterity-based improvised weapon attack
4. It is one bonus action and you need to roll Arcana against his AC (thematically I really like this)
5. It is one bonus action to take it out of your pack and a 2nd bonus action to dump it on an enemy, so it takes 2 turns. It is a strength-based improvised weapon attack to hit with it.
6. The Grinch DM - Even though it says in the spell description you can dump out oil, you are not allowed to dump it on an enemy.

I have seen all of these examples with DMs and because the rules are ambiguous, all of these are defendable. I played with DMs that did all of these and 1 to 6 it DRAMATICALLY changes the power level of an Arcane Trickster Rogue in tier 2.

How do you play it? Which is best?
 

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RAW it's definitely 2 separate actions to retrieve and pour each vial. But if the rogue has a free hand I'd let him use his Object Interaction for that turn to retrieve the vial and pass it to the mage hand.

Not sure how to resolve the actual pouring, but an improvised ranged attack as described in both the Holy Water, Acid and Oil entries seems appropriate.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
and because the rules are ambiguous, all of these are defendable.
They're not really that ambiguous.
Which is best?
No such thing. But 6 is RAW.
How do you play it?
Mage Hand, PHB p256.

"You can use your action to control the hand. You can use the hand to manipulate an object, open an unlocked door or container, stow or retrieve an item from an open container, or pour the contents out of a vial. You can move the hand up to 30 feet each time you use it.

The hand can't attack, activate magic items, or carry more than 10 pounds."

Now read the section on oil, PHB p152.

"As an action, you can splash the oil in this flask onto a creature within 5 feet of you or throw it up to 20 feet, shattering it on impact. Make a ranged attack against a target creature or object, treating the oil as an improvised weapon."

Okay, so what roll are you going to make to pour oil onto a target? An attack roll. What can't you do with mage hand? Make an attack.

"But it clearly states I can 'pour the contents out of a vial'."

Yep. But it also clearly says you can 'manipulate an object'. A sword is an object. So why can't you use mage hand to attack? Because you're specifically not allowed to attack with the mage hand. Specific rules beat general rules. You're generally permitted to manipulate an object, except you specifically cannot use the mage hand to attack. You're generally permitted to pour the contents out of a vial, except you specifically cannot use the mage hand to attack.
 

ECMO3

Hero
They're not really that ambiguous.

No such thing. But 6 is RAW.

Mage Hand, PHB p256.

"You can use your action to control the hand. You can use the hand to manipulate an object, open an unlocked door or container, stow or retrieve an item from an open container, or pour the contents out of a vial. You can move the hand up to 30 feet each time you use it.

The hand can't attack, activate magic items, or carry more than 10 pounds."

Now read the section on oil, PHB p152.

"As an action, you can splash the oil in this flask onto a creature within 5 feet of you or throw it up to 20 feet, shattering it on impact. Make a ranged attack against a target creature or object, treating the oil as an improvised weapon."

Okay, so what roll are you going to make to pour oil onto a target? An attack roll. What can't you do with mage hand? Make an attack.

"But it clearly states I can 'pour the contents out of a vial'."

Yep. But it also clearly says you can 'manipulate an object'. A sword is an object. So why can't you use mage hand to attack? Because you're specifically not allowed to attack with the mage hand. Specific rules beat general rules. You're generally permitted to manipulate an object, except you specifically cannot use the mage hand to attack. You're generally permitted to pour the contents out of a vial, except you specifically cannot use the mage hand to attack.

Ok so can you pour it on the floor under the target's feet, which does not require an attack roll .... and additionally does damage for 2 turns if lit on fire? Is that ok? Of course it only applies to oil specifically and not any of those other liquids. Do you let it automatically land in the right place in that case.

Making an attack with a sword or throwing/splashing a vial would be different I think. I think the difference is I am not splashing it on the target or throwing it at the target as you would with an attack, but pouring it on the target from above which would be using an object IAW the second part of the rules for oil on page 152, not making an attack IAW the first part of the oil description.

As far as the sword, I think RAW you could take a sword with mage hand and drop it on someone with use an object action. It would do no damage unless dropped from a great height though, because dropping a sword on someone is not going to do a lot of damage, or maybe just very minimal damage, 1 point. Again not the same as swinging it in an attack. I think thematically dropping a sword on someone is no different than using the mage hand to untie a chandalier so it drops on someone or to pull a lever and active a trap and both of these are clearly allowed (and probably would do a lot more damage).

I don't think the sword example is a good example because I think that is resolvable. The only actual weapon I can think of that would cause a quandry is a loaded hand crossbow. That is an object that can be "used" to fire a bolt. If you fired that bolt at someone it would be in the same exact fashion as you would attack with it. So that would present a problem if you did that with the mage hand action. I think I would argue you can still do this, just in a different fashion. When held by the mage hand it is being used as a trap and resolve it with a standard trap contest - probably intelligence in this case (using theives tools proficiency) to set a dexterity save DC and doing a flat 1d6 damage with no ability bonus if the enemy failed the save. The mage hand can't load a hand crossbow though, so it would be a 1-use item.
 
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overgeeked

B/X Known World
Ok so can you pour it on the floor under the target's feet, which does not require an attack roll .... and additionally does damage for 2 turns if lit on fire? Is that ok? Of course it only applies to oil specifically and not any of those other liquids. Do you let it automatically land in the right place in that case.

Making an attack with a sword or throwing/splashing a vial would be different I think. I think the difference is I am not splashing it on the target or throwing it at the target as you would with an attack, but pouring it on the target from above which would be using an object IAW the second part of the rules for oil on page 152, not making an attack IAW the first part of the oil description.

As far as the sword, I think RAW you could take a sword with mage hand and drop it on someone with use an object action. It would do no damage unless dropped from a great height though, because dropping a sword on someone is not going to do a lot of damage, or maybe just very minimal damage, 1 point. Again not the same as swinging it in an attack. I think thematically dropping a sword on someone is no different than using the mage hand to untie a chandalier so it drops on someone or to pull a lever and active a trap and both of these are clearly allowed (and probably would do a lot more damage).

I don't think the sword example is a good example because I think that is resolvable. The only actual weapon I can think of that would cause a quandry is a loaded hand crossbow. That is an object that can be "used" to fire a bolt. If you fired that bolt at someone it would be in the same exact fashion as you would attack with it. So that would present a problem if you did that with the mage hand action. I think I would argue you can still do this, just in a different fashion. When held by the mage hand it is being used as a trap and resolve it with a standard trap contest - probably intelligence in this case (using theives tools proficiency) to set a dexterity save DC and doing a flat 1d6 damage with no ability bonus if the enemy failed the save. The mage hand can't load a hand crossbow though, so it would be a 1-use item.
What do you roll to put the oil on a specific target, object, location? An attack roll, as quoted above. What do you roll to hit a target with a sword dropped from a great height? An attack roll, as quoted above. What are you specifically barred from doing with mage hand? Making attacks.

I get that it’s limiting and dumb, but it is the RAW. If individual DMs want to do it differently, that’s their call.
 

ECMO3

Hero
What do you roll to put the oil on a specific target, object, location? An attack roll, as quoted above. What do you roll to hit a target with a sword dropped from a great height? An attack roll, as quoted above. What are you specifically barred from doing with mage hand? Making attacks.

I get that it’s limiting and dumb, but it is the RAW. If individual DMs want to do it differently, that’s their call.
I gave 6 examples above of what different DMs I have played with have done, and only two of them use an attack roll to resolve it (and I would agree that is not RAW). A skill check or a contest are the most common ways DM I have played with resolve this.

The spell says you can pour out a liquid, so unless it is an automatic success you would certainly have to have some mechanic for arbitrating if it went where you intended. The PHB talks about pouring oil on the ground and says nothing about doing an attack roll when you do that. Attacks are only for splashing or throwing in the PHB. So it is pretty clear that an attack roll is not the only method of applying oil to something.

As an example, one of my DMs let me use my Mage Hand Legerdemain to dump an entire waterskin full of holy water on to a vampire (equivalent to 4 vials). She had me do an intelligence (slight of hand) check contested by his dexterity (acrobatics). I succeeded and did 8d6 radiant. If I remember correctly I had Hex running against the Vampire at the time and he had disadvantage on the acrobatics check.
 
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not-so-newguy

Adventurer
What I would do:
For all other spellcasters, no they cannot make an attack.

For the arcane trickster, I would allow an attack roll based on Spell Attack.

I imagine that the non-trickster's mage hand a bit clumsy and easily avoided. The trickster, OTOH, can pick locks with it. They are far more skilled than anybody else and the spell is central to the subclass
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
It is limiting, because the spell is a cantrip - its power is supposed to be limited. Having limits on cantrips is not dumb.
No. That it makes no logical, in-world sense is dumb. So I have this magic hand that can manipulate objects up to 10 lbs, including dropping and pouring, but it’s somehow prevented from pouring liquid onto someone or dropping an object onto someone. It has no logic or consistency. Wanting to use it in these ways is a normal consequence of what else it can do. It’s only a quirk of the game rules that prevents it.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
No. That it makes no logical, in-world sense is dumb.

What? It makes no logical, in-world sense that the most minor of telekinetic magics isn't easy, quick, and accurate enough to make attacks on 6-second timescales? That makes decent sense to me, in roughly the same way that a cantrip that can light a candle isn't a fireball.

So I have this magic hand that can manipulate objects up to 10 lbs, including dropping and pouring, but it’s somehow prevented from pouring liquid onto someone or dropping an object onto someone.

It cannot attack, which would dropping or pouring quickly and accurately, on a target that is actively avoiding having crud dropped or poured upon it.

It has no logic or consistency.

It has logic and consistency, in context. You seem to have left out the context. To wit: not all dropping and pouring is combat-effective.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
What? It makes no logical, in-world sense that the most minor of telekinetic magics isn't easy, quick, and accurate enough to make attacks on 6-second timescales? That makes decent sense to me, in roughly the same way that a cantrip that can light a candle isn't a fireball.
But even the small flame of a candle, correctly applied, would hurt. And in short order cause damage.
It cannot attack, which would dropping or pouring quickly and accurately, on a target that is actively avoiding having crud dropped or poured upon it.
The majority of people don’t bother looking above them.
It has logic and consistency, in context. You seem to have left out the context. To wit: not all dropping and pouring is combat-effective.
How many feet up would a 10 lbs object need to drop before it had enough momentum to cause damage? A penny dropped from a skyscraper can still kill. There’s nothing quick or accurate about it. Someone emptying a 10 lbs bag of coins from a great beight doesn’t need to be quick or accurate. Seige warfare is a thing. Boiling oil poured onto a spot and killing people standing there.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
But even the small flame of a candle, correctly applied, would hurt. And in short order cause damage.

Sure. But it also goes out very easy - like when flailing it around like a weapon.

The majority of people don’t bother looking above them.

The majority of people are not in the business of fighting things for their lives, either.

Given that there's no rules that reflect your assertion, I don't see how it is a solid argument for giving the cantrip any notable greater ability. I suggest you go have the argument that the rules should support various forms of benefits for attacking from above, and then when that's generally agreed upon, come back to this discussion and press the case.

How many feet up would a 10 lbs object need to drop before it had enough momentum to cause damage? A penny dropped from a skyscraper can still kill.

Oh, that latter is a myth. Pennies have relatively low terminal velocities - only about 25 mph.



There’s nothing quick or accurate about it. Someone emptying a 10 lbs bag of coins from a great beight doesn’t need to be quick or accurate.

Sorry, there's very little similarity between dropping one 10 pound hunk of metal, and dropping 1800 objects that are 2.5 grams each.
 

aco175

Legend
I would likely allow it it be a bonus action to take it out and make him use an action to attack with it, maybe allow the cunning action as well.

Some depends on what is trying to be done. It seems the player wants extra attacks and is trying to game things. I would be more lenient on other cool things or game things like opening locks in combat and such.
 


I'd be on the liberal end of the spectrum if I thought it was just some one-off hijinks by the character. If I had a player who considered this such a go to strategy that "it DRAMATICALLY changes the power level of an Arcane Trickster Rogue in tier 2" then I'd probably lean towards deeming it an attack and not allowing it at all. I'm inclined to give the Arcane Trickster a wide latitude to make the most of one of their core abilities, but 5e is fairly stingy about where it gives out additional attacks (and the places where it isn't careful tend to be some of the examples of more unbalanced abilities, feats, etc.).
 

ECMO3

Hero
That makes decent sense to me, in roughly the same way that a cantrip that can light a candle isn't a fireball.

Except it says in the description of a spell that you CAN dump out a vial of liquid.

It cannot attack, which would dropping or pouring quickly and accurately, on a target that is actively avoiding having crud dropped or poured upon it.

The hand is invisible, so I don't necessarily think the target would be doing that and most likely would not know it was there.

Also the rules on pouring oil do NOT use an attack roll. It only cites an attack when you splash it or throw it.
 

ECMO3

Hero
But even the small flame of a candle, correctly applied, would hurt. And in short order cause damage.

The majority of people don’t bother looking above them.

How many feet up would a 10 lbs object need to drop before it had enough momentum to cause damage? A penny dropped from a skyscraper can still kill. There’s nothing quick or accurate about it. Someone emptying a 10 lbs bag of coins from a great beight doesn’t need to be quick or accurate. Seige warfare is a thing. Boiling oil poured onto a spot and killing people standing there.
A penny dropped from a skyscraper inside the atmosphere would reach about 40 miles an hour, less than half the speed at which a MLB pitcher can throw a fast ball and about 70% of the speed an NFL QB can throw a football. If a football weighing a pound and going 60mph does not cause damage a penny weighing about a tenth of an ounce and going 40 wouldn't either.

If you are comparing momentum here is how those things compare:

100 mph baseball - 1.43 lb-s

60 mph football - 2.75 lb-s

40 mph penny - 0.0115 lb-s

Certainly something like a sword or club dropped will cause damage, but not a lot of damage. If being actually stabbed with a dagger causes 1d4, I would say either of these dropped from 30 feet would be pushing it to do 1.
 

RAW - the hand cannot attack.

It's really only useful in combat for an Arcane Trickster, as it allow them to disarm traps or administer a potion (neither are attacks) as a bonus action. Rogues are not a multi-attack class, but AT Rogues get a little extra allowing them to do something else and still attack. It's one of the many things that makes them so appealing. The Arcane Trickster is built for these stunts, and even they are limited.
 

ECMO3

Hero
I'd be on the liberal end of the spectrum if I thought it was just some one-off hijinks by the character. If I had a player who considered this such a go to strategy that "it DRAMATICALLY changes the power level of an Arcane Trickster Rogue in tier 2" then I'd probably lean towards deeming it an attack and not allowing it at all. I'm inclined to give the Arcane Trickster a wide latitude to make the most of one of their core abilities, but 5e is fairly stingy about where it gives out additional attacks (and the places where it isn't careful tend to be some of the examples of more unbalanced abilities, feats, etc.).

Well a Rogue is not a very powerful class in terms of raw damage.

Also to be clear "dramatically" refers to the span of examples I gave, from being able to automatically able to dump on an enemy without a check or roll (which is OP IMO) as compared to not being allowed to try it at all (which is underpowered).

FWIW Mage Hand features prominently in combat I do with a Rogue, even if my DM does not allow this trick. Aside from the example here, I also use it to control the battle field with caltrops, ball bearings, hunting traps, steal enemy weapons before their 1st turn or their ammunition cases, steal their spell focuses/component pouches etc. That is really a defining trait of an Arcane Trickster. The knick is having the mage hand out though, because although you can use it with a BA, it takes an action to cast. So if it is not already out it when combat starts, it can be difficult to get it out.
 

Except it says in the description of a spell that you CAN dump out a vial of liquid.
No one is claiming you can't. They're just pointing out that you can't dump it rapidly and accurately on someone as an attack, because the spell specifically prohibits making attacks.

You can still pour out the oil onto the ground and then light it for example.

The hand is invisible, so I don't necessarily think the target would be doing that and most likely would not know it was there.
The jug of oil is not invisible.

Also the rules on pouring oil do NOT use an attack roll. It only cites an attack when you splash it or throw it.
If you are trying to get the oil on a creature or object, that is an attack roll, whether you are upending the container and trying to splash them with the oil directly, or throwing the container at them.

As stated, the rules on pouring the oil allow you to cover an area, which can then be lit. However the original poster was talking about hitting a creature with the oil, not creating a pool on the ground.
 

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