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If the elven wizard had proficiency in a bow could he use that as his arcane focus?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Note: This is my second answer on this question. It uses much of the same information as my first answer but comes to a different conclusion. I wanted to make sure that votes for my other answer did not erroneously count against this answer. Both answers feel accurate to me, based on slightly different points of view.

It's not called out, but there's precedent: go for it

Relevant Excerpts

Spellcasting Focus
You can use an arcane focus (found in chapter 5) as a spellcasting focus for your wizard spells.

D&D Basic Rules V0.2, page 30

Arcane Focus. An arcane focus is a special item—an orb, a crystal, a rod, a specially constructed staff, a wand-like length of wood, or some similar item—designed to channel the power of arcane spells. A sorcerer, warlock, or wizard can use such an item as a spellcasting focus, as described in chapter 10.

D&D Basic Rules V0.2, page 47

Analysis

The Adventuring Gear table on page 48 lists 5 possibilities for an Arcane Focus (which mirrors the list on page 47): Crystal, Orb, Rod, Staff, Wand. None of these are bows. None of these even appear to be weapons: initially, I'd rule, "No, it's not possible per RAW."

However, while researching Can the arcane/druidic focus staff double as quarterstaff?, I asked Mike Mearls: "Can the arcane/druidic focus staff double as a quarterstaff?" And received the following response: "yes"

This means that there is precedent for allowing an Arcane Focus as a weapon. Notice, however, that the Arcane Focus Staff is 25 times more expensive than a plain Quarterstaff: make sure your Arcane Focus Bow is significantly more expensive than a regular bow.

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-1 for logic flaw. While an arcane focus staff is already a staff, and hence qualifies as a staff for hitting-people purposes, as confirmed by Mearls, it does not follow that an arcane focus is already a bow and qualifies for shooting-arrows purposes. Thus the precedent is inapplicable and the conclusion is not supported by the line of reasoning. (Outside of perfectly-OK house rules, of course.) –  SevenSidedDie Sep 11 at 17:22
    
Well, can the specially constructed staff be constructed to be bent and strung into a bow? –  Korack Nov 23 at 17:11

Not Per the RAW.

Relevant Excerpts

Spellcasting Focus
You can use an arcane focus (found in chapter 5) as a spellcasting focus for your wizard spells.

D&D Basic Rules V0.1, page 30

Arcane Focus. An arcane focus is a special item—an orb, a crystal, a rod, a specially constructed staff, a wand-like length of wood, or some similar item—designed to channel the power of arcane spells. A sorcerer, warlock, or wizard can use such an item as a spellcasting focus, as described in chapter 10.

D&D Basic Rules V0.1, page 48

Conclusion

The Adventuring Gear table on page 47 lists 5 possibilities for an Arcane Focus (which mirrors the list on page 48): Crystal, Orb, Rod, Staff, Wand. None of these are bows. None of these are even weapons.

Wait, the staff is a weapon, so there's precedent!
Just comparing the Arcane Focus Staff on page 47 to the Quarterstaff on page 45 shows that the Arcane Focus Staff is 25 times more expensive; additionally, the Arcane Focus Staff does not have weapon statistics listed anywhere. These are clearly not the same item. Presumably, the "specially constructed" Arcane Focus Staff is unsuitable for use as a weapon. I would rule that a "specially constructed" bow would have the same limitation.

I don't care about the RAW, what are my options?
You have a lot of options. Here are two:

  • First, as @ESR.MourningDove pointed out in her answer, you can embed one of the "defined" Arcane Foci into the weapon you want to use. I particularly like this option (I'm imagining a wizard with an orb or crystal embedded into the end of a staff -- awesome).
  • Second, you can simply rule that it's possible to pay to have any item "specially constructed" so it can be used as an Arcane Focus.
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It should be also noted that these items have (at least from an european view) symbolism which represents power. This can be used to construct several arguments, but none are RAW. –  PipperChip Jul 30 at 18:51
    
But a specially-constructed bow that fired bolts of magic would be pretty cool. :-) –  DawnPaladin Jul 30 at 18:51
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The only problem I see with the idea that wooden weapons don't count is the part that goes " a wand-like length of wood, or some similar item". Also there are improvised weapons rules. Which means a Arcane Focus Staff could be used as a weapons like any other random object. –  RS Conley Jul 31 at 13:29
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The staff of defense is a quarterstaff and has been consistently in every edition, that said, it is given stats as a weapon, not an arcane focus. I do think the book should be clearer, but every focus listed with the ambiguous exception of the staff is far to weak structurally to use as an AF. I would, however, argue that many old European religions used daggers and swords as foci in mystic rituals... some modern religions still do. (The modern ones don't allow the use of these items to draw blood.)They should at least be ornate. –  Aviose Aug 11 at 17:04
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"This means that there is precedent for allowing an Arcane Focus as a weapon." This is precedent for using a staff as a staff, not for allowing any weapon you want to be an arcane focus. –  Miniman Sep 9 at 23:08

I think, going along with what is in the rules for 5e, that if, for example, your bow had a crystal embedded in it's wood, you could use the crystal as your focus, and it would technically be the bow, but still follow rules. Just a suggestion.

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I think this the way to go without a debate over what is a wand like piece of wood or similar object. The only physical requirement is that the caster has to have his hands free to use the focus. So this means a bow (or other weapon) with a focus embedded can only be used as one or the other. –  RS Conley Jul 31 at 13:39
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This doesn't go into enough detail about the differences between foci and weapons. It appears to just be a quick opinion with no backing in rules. –  Aviose Aug 11 at 16:52

An Arcane Foci is an quasi magical object that has been specially tuned for spell casting. Such an item would be specifically and painstakingly attuned to the spell caster. If it is made for the character It would make sense then that any damage, or abnormality to the foci would render it inert. Much like a fighter must maintain his weapon through sharpening and oiling, a mage would have to repair damage (such as re-carving runes damaged in a battle) or purge impure or alien energy before the foci becomes useful again. While a Foci could be used for combat, it would likely be a last ditch effort as repair would take time and money.

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As far as the rules are concerned, none of this has any basis. Fighters don't have to maintain their weapons, there is no item damage and repair system, and foci aren't specific to a character. –  Miniman Sep 24 at 1:52

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