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Would the Arcane trickster casting the spell need to be unseen in order for an invisible Mage Hand Legerdemain to go unnoticed?

Say for an example in a conversation a rogue wishes to pickpocket whoever it is they are talking to - would they need to cast the spell before the conversation starts? Could the spell be very slyly cast without the 3rd party noticing in any way?

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The hand is sneaky. The process of casting is not

The Mage Hand Legerdemain feature description says:

Starting at 3rd level, when you cast mage hand, you can make the spectral hand invisible. and you can perform the following additional tasks with it

So you need to cast the Mage Hand normally. The spell description says:

Components: V, S

That means the spell has Verbal ("the chanting of mystic words") and Somatic ("a forceful gesticulation or an intricate set of gestures") components. You can't perform them unnoticed during a conversation. If the other person identifies the spell itself, depends on the person.

Related questions:

  1. How loud/obvious is a wizard casting a spell?
  2. Is Charm Person obvious?

It remains unclear though, how obvious is a process of controlling the hand. The spell description only says that

You can use your action to control the hand.

So when you control it, you must expend an action (or bonus action, for the Legerdemain version). Probably you have to perform special gestures, sort of. The exact details depend on the DM.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This sounds about right. Is there any specification to what is required to move the hand once it has been cast? Say for example a distraction occurs - giving the rogue enough time to cast the spell unnoticed, could he then direct the hand without it being too obvious? \$\endgroup\$ – Javent Dec 1 '17 at 15:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Javent the character definitely can try to do that. But will they succeed or fail? It's the DM's job to choose a game mechanic and resolve the situation. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Dec 1 '17 at 16:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Regarding the last part of this answer, Mage Hand Legerdemain makes it so that only a bonus action, not an action, is needed to control the hand. \$\endgroup\$ – mdrichey Mar 12 at 5:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mdrichey fair point, added \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Mar 12 at 8:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ I’ll point out that this answer is only true if you’re not playing a Gith, since they don’t need to use components to cast it as a result of their Githyanki/Githzerai Psionics ability. \$\endgroup\$ – nick012000 Mar 12 at 9:06
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Quoting a similar response for Charm Person:

"Under Spellcasting…Targets, the PHB states that spells with subtle effects can be cast without being noticed:

Unless a spell has a perceptible effect, a creature might not know it was targeted by a spell at all. An effect like crackling lightning is obvious, but a more subtle effect, such as an attempt to read a creature's thoughts, typically goes unnoticed, unless the spell says otherwise.

(PH, p 204, emphasis added)

Even the target typically doesn't know

The casting of charm person is subtle enough that even the target doesn't know about the spell until it expires.

When the spell ends,the creature knows it was charmed by you (Charm Person, PH 221)

If even the target of the spell is unlikely perceive it was cast, other observers would have less of a chance. (A court magician, trained in Arcana and watching for such things, would be a different "

That being established, (thank you for the foot work Tim Grant) I would look at what could be considered a "subtle" spell.

It would be up to your DM to decide how subtly Mage Hand can be cast, assuming that a low level spell would be easier to cast/require less movements than a higher level spell with more obvious effects such as fireball.

Personally i would argue that a Sleight of Hand vs Passive/Active Perception based on the scenario would be the way to play it. I feel that Mage Hand, as a cantrip, and using those cited references, would qualify as being a much more subtle spell. Without being able to cast it undetected it greatly limits the usage of Mage Hand Legerdemain to the point of "why even take it".

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to rpg.se! Take the tour and visit the help center when you get a chance. It looks like you may have copy pasted another answer, you could improve it by linking to the original answer, it might be from a question on subtle spell which would affect the context. You should also use formatting to better indicate what is copied and what is original. Thanks for participating and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Mar 12 at 4:00

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