If I am a dip of bard 1/Enchantment Wizard X can I use the give disadvantage of the instrument of the bards

When you use the instrument to cast a spell that causes targets to become charmed on a failed save, the targets have disadvantage on the saving throw.

on charm spells if I use it to cast wizard charm spells? Can wizards use instruments as a spellcasting focus if I have a bard dip?


2 Answers 2


In short: No

If you look at the Bard Class Description....

Spellcasting Focus

You can use a musical instrument as a spellcasting focus for your bard spells

Emphasis Mine, from PHB p89.

And on the Wizard Class Description

Spellcasting Focus

You can use an arcane focus as a spellcasting focus for your wizard spells.

Emphasis Mine from PHB p114

And from the Instrument of the Bards...

When you use the instrument to cast a spell that causes targets to become charmed on a failed save, the targets have disadvantage on the saving throw. This effect applies whether you are using the instrument as the source of the spell or as a spellcasting focus.

From DMG p176

By which we can see that in order for the Instrument of the Bards to apply to a spell you cast, it must be used as a spellcasting focus. Per the class descriptions, a bard can use a musical instrument as a focus only for their Bard spells. In the same way, a Wizard can use an arcane focus only for their wizard spells.

So, since you cannot use a musical instrument as a Focus for your Wizard Spells, you cannot use an Instrument of the Bards as a Wizard spell focus, and so the Disadvantage cannot be applied.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ As an aside comment....this is why it is generally more efficient for a caster who multiclasses between "types" of magic (arcane, divine, nature, bardic) to use a component pouch instead of any sort of focus. Component Pouches are universal, spellcasting foci are not. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 5, 2017 at 13:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is there a reason I'm missing for why you couldn't simply use the Instrument of the Bards as a Wizard arcane focus? The PHB (p.151) only states that a focus must be "designed to channel the power of arcane spells", which to me wouldn't exclude magic items or instruments. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 5, 2017 at 17:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pyritie The linked question addresses the issue of a player using one item as a spellcasting focus for two separate classes, which is not what I proposed. Maybe this is an instance of "specific trumps general", but my interpretation of the PHB's description of an arcane focus (p.151) doesn't exclude magic items or instruments and I was wondering if this is correct. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 5, 2017 at 17:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HardCoreFigBar You have to read the description as a whole unit. It says: "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" That's all one sentence. Therefore, an Arcane Focus must meet both requirements. Be one of the things described in the list, or something similar, AND be designed to channel arcane magic. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 5, 2017 at 18:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ And, fall back on the standard 5E RAW assumption: Things do precisely what they say they do. If an Instrument of the Bards could be used as an Arcane Focus, it would say so. If a Wizard could use a musical instrument as an arcane focus, it would say so (like it does for a Bard.) An Instrument of the Bards is a musical instrument that can cast spells. In addition, Bards can use musical instruments as a spellcasting focus, and the IotB has extra features when used this way. There is no 'specific' rule in play here that overrides the 'general' rule of the two classes' Spellcasting Foci rules. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 5, 2017 at 18:51

I actually agree that it makes sense that you could have a musical instrument that doubled as both a bard focus and an arcane focus, but it wouldn't work the way you seem to think it would.

When you picture a bard using their instrument to cast a charm spell, how do you envision it? More likely than not, you picture them playing the instrument and weaving the magic into their song.

Now picture a wizard casting a charm spell using a staff as their arcane focus. More likely than not, you picture them raising it aloft, or swirling their hand over he top of it as they mutter an incantation.

So, if you were going to use the same item as both your arcane focus, and your bardic instrument, it would be employed differently depending on how you were casting the spell and therefore you would not gain the bard's ability to impose disadvantage on charm resistance rolls for your wizard spells.

I also believe (and this is my personal opinion) that anything employed as more than one sort of focus ought to be ironically appropriate for both spellcasting types independently, which makes using an instrument as an arcane focus a tricky prospect. The first potential example that springs to mind is using a drum as your instrument, and having one of the sticks double as a wand. With that example can you see how each would be employed differently depending on what type of magic you were using?

Similarly, if a cleric/wizard had their holy symbol carved onto their staff to serve as spellcasting focus for both their divine and arcane spells, I would have no problem with it. However, when casting as a cleric, the important part of the focus would be presenting the holy symbol, whereas the important part for wizards would be the movement of the staff.

To clarify, I acknowledge that the rules never specifically say that the bard must play their instrument in order to impose disadvantage vs their charm spells, but when it says they use their instrument, I have a hard time picturing them doing anything else with it to justify the ability (although charming someone by smashing a guitar over their head does have a certain appeal).

Now, because I am a DM who always looks for a way to tell my players "yes", here is my suggestion to fix your problem. It seems to me that the only reason you want to dip bard is to get this ability, but there are a number of options that could grant you more or less the same benefit without a dip into bard. Maybe your DM would be willing to let you quest for a magic item or arcane secret that causes your charm spells to be hard to resist. If you are wanting a high charisma character, maybe your DM would allow you to roll a Charisma(Deception) skill check to disguise the fact that you are trying to cast a charm spell on your target, thereby allowing you to impose disadvantage on your target because they are less likely to realize what you are trying to do. There are lots of interesting ways to gain a similar advantage that could potentially be much more satisfying than dipping a level in bard, and you don't have to be a level behind in your main class in order to do it!

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    \$\begingroup\$ While it's not necessarily tagged as RAW, it seems like this question is more focused on the text of the rules and less on personal opinions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Icyfire
    Oct 7, 2017 at 1:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ It seems to me that the RAW leave this issue unaddressed. I have read and understood the counter-arguments, but I actually see no reason in the rules why you couldn't have an item that served as more than one sort of spellcasting focus. The thing that the rules do firmly imply is that whatever object you are using as a focus, you use it as was intended for the type of spellcasting you are doing. That was my main point. \$\endgroup\$
    – user39671
    Oct 7, 2017 at 2:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you are referring to the bit I put after the divider, I almost left that part out, but I decided to make it a part of my answer on the chance that the question was motivated by a player who wanted to develop their character concept, in which case, I wanted to help make that happen. \$\endgroup\$
    – user39671
    Oct 7, 2017 at 2:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's worth keeping in mind that bards do not, by RAW, need to play an instrument to use it as a focus. They just need to hold it in a hand, as with any other focus. (That is, no special rules govern bards' spellcasting foci as compared to those of any other class.) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Apr 26, 2018 at 6:43

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