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If there is a wizard that, by some means, has acquired proficiency in the use of shields, can said wizard use his shield in one hand and his arcane focus quarterstaff in the other and still cast somatic component spells?

Since the quarterstaff has been crafted to also be an arcane focus, and the Sage Advice Compendium states that you can provide the somatic components of spells with the same hand wielding the arcane focus, in this case an arcane focus quarterstaff, could that wizard still be able to perform somatic component spells while using a shield in the other?

I understand War Caster is the feat that allows you to cast somatic component spells even while using a shield and weapon or two weapons in each hand, but is this a simple way around those rules seeing as this "weapon" is your arcane focus? I would like to believe it is not, but I'm not fully fluent in the ways of spellcasting.

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The rules on somatic and material components say:

If a spell requires a somatic component, the caster must have free use of at least one hand to perform these gestures.

[...]

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.

So yes, the hand holding your focus can also perform the somatic components. It doesn't matter what the other hand is doing.

But, this only works if the spell has Material components. If it has Somatic but not Material, you will need a free hand to cast it (unless you have the Warcaster feat).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Does your last paragraph really follow from the rules? It seems a little weird that you can't cast a spell with less stringent requirements (vis. no materials needed) while holding the focus. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chowlett
    Aug 16, 2017 at 8:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ The rules says "Every time you use your free hand to perform somatic components, you can use the same hand to access a spellcasting focus". That is not the same as "Every time your hand is occupied with a focus, you can use this hand to perform somatic components". The classic example is the holy focus, engraved on the shield - rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/46201 \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Aug 16, 2017 at 12:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ But the rules don't say "Every time you use your free hand to perform somatic components, you can use the same hand to access a spellcasting focus". They say "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." It doesn't say you have to be holding the focus for the purpose of avoiding materials. And I can't see anything relevant in the linked question. I might ask this as a new question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chowlett
    Aug 16, 2017 at 15:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ The description of Somatic components says you need a free hand. The description of Material components says that the Material components can use the same hand as Somatic components. It wouldn't be game-breaking to allow it, but by a strict reading, you don't refer to the Material components paragraph unless the spell has Material components. \$\endgroup\$
    – Adeptus
    Aug 17, 2017 at 1:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @StackLloyd War Caster says: "You can perform the somatic components of spells even when you have weapons or a shield in one or both hands." So if you're holding a shield and a focus, or a weapon and a lantern, War Caster counts the shield/weapon hand as free for somatics. \$\endgroup\$
    – Adeptus
    Aug 13, 2019 at 1:10
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The Sage Advice Compendium covers both scenarios

There are two situations we need to deal with : spells with both material and somatic components, and spells with a somatic component but no material component.

The Sage Advice Compendium states the following (Section "Spellcasting", Subsection "Components", emphasis mine) :

What’s the amount of interaction needed to use a spellcasting focus? Does it have to be included in the somatic component? If a spell has a somatic component, you can use the hand that performs the somatic component to also handle the material component.

[...]

Another example: a cleric’s holy symbol is emblazoned on her shield. She likes to wade into melee combat with a mace in one hand and a shield in the other. She uses the holy symbol as her spellcasting focus, so she needs to have the shield in hand when she casts a cleric spell that has a material component. If the spell, such as aid, also has a somatic component, she can perform that component with the shield hand and keep holding the mace in the other.

This first part clears up our first scenario : if the shield is used as a spellcasting focus to replace the material component, it can also be used for the somatic component.

However the other case is also treated in the following part (again, emphasis mine) :

If the same cleric casts cure wounds, she needs to put the mace or the shield away, because that spell doesn’t have a material component but does have a somatic component. She’s going to need a free hand to make the spell’s gestures. If she had the War Caster feat, she could ignore this restriction.

This also explicitely covers our second scenario : if the spell has a somatic component but no material component, the shield cannot be used for the somatic component, and the caster needs to free one of their hands.

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Probably yes

The rules for somatic components are:

Somatic (S)

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.

Note that it doesn't say "free hand" but "free use of one hand", which seems less restrictive. Therefore, the question is:

If a caster is holding a spellcasting focus in one hand, does he have free use with this hand to perform somatic components?

I think the answer is yes, and here's my evidence:

  1. If the spell also has a material component, then it's allowed by the description of these components:

    Material (M)

    [...]

    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.

    So, you can perform the somatic components with your spellcasting focus even in a more demanding situation.

  2. As sadaqah noted: In a tweet exchange on 21-23 November 2014, @Sword_of_Spirit asked:

    @JeremyECrawford Holy symbol engraved shield counts as material component, but does holding the shield replace somatic component also?

    Crawford replied:

    @Sword_of_Spirit The intent is that the shield hand can be used for a somatic component if the holy shield is used to cast the spell.

    And further clarified that the shield arm cannot be restrained:

    @Sword_of_Spirit You still need use of the shield arm to move it while performing the somatic component.

However, I don't wanna neglect contradicting evidence:

  1. The War Caster feat states that

    You can perform the somatic components of spells even when you have weapons or a shield in one or both hands.

    The typical use for this feature is a paladin or cleric holding a shield and a weapon in their hands. But usually, their shield holds a holy symbol, making it a divine focus, so you wouldn't even need War Caster in this case if you'd argue as above, so it would be unnecessary to even have this feature in the first place - a mild contradiction. Nevertheless, the fact that JC considered exactly this situation in the tweets linked above allows me to neglect this contradicting evidence with good faith.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It seems to me like the tweet you quoted actually works against your argument, in favor of the currently accepted answer. The quote says "the shield hand can be used for a somatic component if the shield is used to cast the spell" (emphasis mine). In the case of a spell without material components, you don't use the shield to cast the spell, which would mean you cannot use the shield for somatic components. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthieu
    Jul 11, 2023 at 9:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I see your point that using a focus to cast a spell is typically associated with material components, but I'd argue that if you perform only the somatic components with the shield-hand, you definitely use the shield to cast the spell, too. Why would JC otherwise state that it only works if you can move the shield arm? However, it's a question of interpretation I think since JC doesn't state whether the spell is required to have material components, too, and the fact that he doesn't adress that is clearly only a small evidence for my point of view. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pumpkinjo
    Jul 11, 2023 at 9:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's not about it being "typically associated with material components", it's actually what the rules state. The rule explicitely state that the focus can be used instead of material components, but it's never stated that they can be used instead of the somatic components themselves, except in the case where you also use it to replace material components. And that's what Crawford repeats here : it works, if the shield is used for casting the spell. Which, RAW, can only be done by using it as a focus, replacing material components. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthieu
    Jul 11, 2023 at 9:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ No he doesn't refer to material components, he just refers to using the shield for casting the spell and it's unclear by which means you use the shield to cast the spell. There is the possibility to use it as replacement for material components to cast the spell, yes. But, as I pointed out, it's also possible to use it to cast somatic components - if you accept that a shield allows for free use of this hand with regards to cast somatic components. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pumpkinjo
    Jul 11, 2023 at 10:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Honestly, I think your first point is strong, and I would probably give an upvote if it was just that. The JC tweet just muddles things because 1) a tweet is just a tweet and should not be considered RAI, and 2) the tweet doesn't even seem to support your argument, as Matthieu points out. \$\endgroup\$
    – smbailey
    Jul 11, 2023 at 20:01

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