Assuming a player has War Caster to cover Somatic components and is holding both a weapon and shield, can they still use spells with a Touch range, such as Shocking Grasp, or do Touch spells imply a free hand is required?

  • \$\begingroup\$ If your character has a familiar then they don't need a free hand. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 20, 2017 at 21:29

2 Answers 2


For Shocking Grasp, yes

Shocking Grasp description says explicitly you use your hand to touch the target:

Lightning springs from your hand to deliver a shock to a creature you try to touch.

For other spells, it depends

For instance, the Cure Wounds spell simply states that

A creature you touch regains a number of hit points equal to 1d8 + your spellcasting ability modifier.

The general spell range rule doesn't clarify "touch" (PHB page 202):

Some spells can target only a creature (including you) that you touch.

Therefore, the outcome is up to the DM - if they tend to read the rules literally, they probably said you can touch the target with your chest or elbow. If they stick to the "healing hand" trope, they can require you to touch the target with your hand. Spell descriptions are loose by design in 5e, allowing various DMing styles. Many DMs allow inventive spell use, others insist that spells do only what they say they do, regardless of conditions (for instance, Produce Flame doesn't become "Produce Steam" undewater).

Presumably, "touch" means touch with your hand

The Paladin's Lay On Hands feature mention no hands in its description:

As an action, you can touch a creature and draw power from the pool to restore a number of hit points to that creature, up to the maximum amount remaining in your pool

It says only that a Paladin "touches a creature", but is assumes they does it with their hands, hence the name. That allows us to conclude that "touch" means touch with your hand, unless stated otherwise.

But nothing in the rules says you must have a free hand

In 5e there is no special rule like "when you cast a spell with a touch range, you must have a free hand to deliver the spell". That means, even if your hands are occupied, as a player, you definitely can announce "I cast spell X", even when this spell has the "touch" range. As Dale M said, you can touch things with the back of your hand as well. But your DM might say "no, you can't perform this spell, because both your hands are occupied". In this case, the DM would be right, because only they knows the details how does magic work in the game world.

  • \$\begingroup\$ How about Shocking Grasping an opponent you touch with your (metal) weapon? \$\endgroup\$
    – nwp
    Aug 19, 2017 at 10:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nwp more interesting question - what if you have a metal spear with 10ft reach? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Aug 19, 2017 at 10:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nwp even more interesting question, what if the other person is on the other side of a 60' long metal chain that is not touching anything else conductive.... \$\endgroup\$ Aug 19, 2017 at 15:49
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ One could conclude that Shocking Grasp doesn't require touch at all. If I 'try to touch' a creature (and miss, because I'm 40ft away), then I've met the requirement and lightning springs from my hand. Obviously, that would be silly, but it certainly fits the rules written. \$\endgroup\$
    – Luke
    Aug 21, 2017 at 6:59

Spells do what they say they do: if it says you must touch them then any part of your body will do, if it says you must touch them with your hand then you must use your hand.

However, you can still touch someone with the back of your hand even if you are grasping something.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Why only "any part of your body will do"? Can't I touch something with a stick? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Aug 20, 2017 at 11:02
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor no, you can touch a stick and the stick can touch them but you aren't touching them \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Aug 20, 2017 at 11:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ What a twist - monsters with tremorsense cannot detect me if I wear boots, since I don't touch the ground in this case - I touch boots, and boots touch the ground. I mean, literal reading of the rules isn't always a good approach, especially when common words (like "touch") were used. For example, literal reading can lead us to a conclusion that a Paladin can "lay on hands" with their feet (because the ability description doesn't specify, what body part to use). \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Aug 20, 2017 at 11:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor "A creature with tremorsense is sensitive to vibrations in the ground and can automatically pinpoint the location of anything that is in contact with the ground and within range." They sense 'something' on the ground. In your example, it is your boots creating vibrations. They don't know (or care) that it's your boots, simply that something there is moving. \$\endgroup\$
    – Luke
    Aug 21, 2017 at 6:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Luke it still can target the creature, not the boots. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Aug 21, 2017 at 9:22

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