D&D 5E Rules Discussion: Somatic Components and Restrained

Thaumaturge

Wandering. Not lost. (He/they)
This came up in my game last night, and I'm wondering what people's thoughts are.

The party cleric fell from a great height. The party wizard, expecting the fall, readied web to catch the cleric. It worked, and the unconscious cleric didn't take damage from falling. Someone healed the cleric. He awoke in web, and I ruled he automatically failed his save, since he was unconscious when he entered web. Then he cast a spell with a somatic component. I ruled he couldn't cast spells with somatic components, because he was restrained.

restrained said:
  • A restrained creature’s speed becomes 0, and it can’t benefit from any bonus to its speed.
  • Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature’s attack rolls have disadvantage.
  • The creature has disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws.

somatic component said:
Spellcasting gestures might include a forceful gesticulation or an intricate set of gestures. If a spell requires a somatic component, the caster must have free use of at least one hand to perform these gestures.

He noted neither restrained nor somatic call this out specifically. I'm pretty comfortable with saying if a character has disadvantage on attacks and Dex saves and can be described as "restrained" that character doesn't have "free use of at least one hand".

From a balance/purely game perspective, if a caster can just hang out in web with no ill effects, that seems wrong.

Discuss.

Thaumaturge.
 

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Talath

Explorer
I agree. Webs are sticky and they adhere to whatever comes into them. So part of the "fiction" of the web is that you really have to pull hard (strength check) to free yourself, and until then you're bound and restrained.

Seems like common sense to me. The rules can't possibly cover every possible scenario. That's why there is a referee, or DM.
 

E. Tallitnics

Explorer
If it's any guidance Rodney Thompson, during the Lich-Queen videos, did allow a restrained character to cast a spell. The player was restrained by Evard's Black Tentacles.

For the circumstances you describe it seems like you made a fair ruling. Webs are ​sticky!
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I can see it go either way. Note that he has *disadvantage* on Dex, not auto failure. That suggests that the trapped character can move around at least some.
 

the Jester

Legend
I might require a Dex check, but generally, I think that if restrained was meant to interfere with spellcasting, it would say so.

There's also the longstanding precedent of "I'm caught in a web? Aargh, I cast burning hands!"
 


Agamon

Adventurer
Good ruling, T. Make sure the players know that the 5e rules don't spell out everything 100%, they're meant to be interpreted.
 

tuxgeo

Adventurer
Was the party wizard a drow? I always associate both the web spell and the darkness spell with the drow race ("spider, spider, spider!"), to such an extent that I normally expect wizards of other races to learn other spells instead. Now, if only the Basic set had included the feather fall spell. . . .

Yeah, I go for the silos: Necromancy is for necromancers, too, not for everybody.
 
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Nebulous

Legend
He noted neither restrained nor somatic call this out specifically. I'm pretty comfortable with saying if a character has disadvantage on attacks and Dex saves and can be described as "restrained" that character doesn't have "free use of at least one hand".

From a balance/purely game perspective, if a caster can just hang out in web with no ill effects, that seems wrong.

Discuss.

Thaumaturge.

First off, i think you are completely justified in your call. It is logical, you're the DM and it's a snap judgement decision. Personally, due to the way the restrained condition is worded, attacking and Dexterity checks ARE possible, just hampered. As such, i would have allowed the spellcasting but with a considerable chance of failure, maybe 50%.
 

Moorcrys

Explorer
I'd give the cleric some chance. A dex save or concentration check would be reasonable to me. But of course I'd also remind the players that NPCs and spellcasting monsters would have the same chances.
 

MrWildman

Explorer
Yeah, I go for the silos: Necromancy is for necromancers, too, not for everybody.[/QUOTE]

"Put. That Skullcase. Down."
"Necromancy for Necromancers only..." :cool:
 

Ruzak

First Post
This is an important question. We have a whole class of spells (restraining) and we don't know how they affect a whole class of actions (spells). I for one would like a official ruling, such as through an FAQ. Of course as others mentioned there will always be corner cases, and that's why we have DMs (& message boards).
 

Thaumaturge

Wandering. Not lost. (He/they)
Thanks for the feedback everyone. And the affirmation. That always helps. :)

I understand the "give casters a chance" crowd's reasoning. My main concern with that is I'd want to come up with a standard rule and apply it every time. It would need to be easy to remember, balanced, and simple (both "yes" and "no" best meet these criteria). A Dex check against the spell's DC as part of casting? And if the caster misses? He can't get his hands free enough to even start to cast? Those might be where I'm leaning now.

Silence is a 2nd level spell, like web and it says "Casting a spell that includes a verbal component is impossible [in the area of effect]." So it's not far off base to let web do something similar with somatic. (They both have other uses and drawbacks, of course.) Of course, that makes an even better case for "web doesn't say it has that effect".

Was the party wizard a drow? I always associate both the web spell and the darkness spell with the drow race ("spider, spider, spider!"), to such an extent that I normally expect wizards of other races to learn other spells instead.

The wizard was an elf, but not the spider-loving kind of elf. I'll make sure to mention to his player that he was messing with drow magicks. :)

Thaumaturge.
 

tuxgeo

Adventurer
"Put. That Skullcase. Down."
"Necromancy for Necromancers only..." :cool:

So, Glengarry Glen Ross? (The amount of coffee I go through . . . )
(I was originally thinking Ghostbusters, but I couldn't recall such a scene in that movie.)
 


FadedC

First Post
I would be inclined to rule the other way. A person in a web can still swing a weapon, shoot a bow, take items from their backpack, and do any number of other activities that require their hands. So they clearly still have use of their hands.

Ignoring logic and just thinking about balance, I also think that the effects of web are strong enough on their own without it also being a universal anti-caster spell. You can't really compare it to silence because silence has no other combat utility beyond stopping casters.

Anyway, just my 2 cents.
 

The Human Target

Adventurer
I completely disagree.

If a restrained character can make a weapon attack with disadvantage I see no reason to say someone couldn't cast a spell.

Though if it was an attack spell I would give the target advantage on its saving throw.
 

mach1.9pants

Adventurer
First off, i think you are completely justified in your call. It is logical, you're the DM and it's a snap judgement decision. Personally, due to the way the restrained condition is worded, attacking and Dexterity checks ARE possible, just hampered. As such, i would have allowed the spellcasting but with a considerable chance of failure, maybe 50%.
It is your right as a DM to make that call, especially if it helps your table's verisimilitude. But really if you can make an attack with a bow or sword, then you can cast spells. Heck you can use a sling!

But rulings not rules is how I like it, I would just rule differently
 

Blackbrrd

First Post
I would allow the spell, but give ad/dis on save or attack. He can move a little. You could argue that he is more stuck than usual since he fell into it and not allow it this time.
 

Sorry, Thaum, but I can't affirm you on this one. ;)

If the trapped creature can still make attacks, there's just no way, in my mind, it can't manage somatic components. Those sorts of gestures are certainly less broad than swinging a sword.

I'd give the same disadvantage to spell attacks as any others, and maybe, depending on circumstances, offer targets advantage on saves, but that'd absolutely be the limit of it.
 

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