The darkness spell description says, in part (emphasis mine):

If the point you choose is on an object you are holding or one that isn't worn or carried, the darkness emanates from the object and moves with it. Completely covering the source of the darkness with an opaque object, such as a bowl or a helm, blocks the darkness.

Do you need to be carrying the item only the moment you cast the spell, or for the whole duration of it? Would the spell end if you're no longer carrying it?


4 Answers 4


At the moment you cast the spell

Magical darkness spreads from a point you choose within range ...

If the point you choose is on an object you are holding or one that isn't being worn or carried ...

If the criteria for the point is met when the spell is cast then the darkness moves with the object, irrespective of how the objects is moved. If the criteria isn’t met then the darkness is immobile.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ So it would be possible for me to cast it on an object and have my familiar pick it up so that the spell travels with it? \$\endgroup\$
    – beduel
    Apr 2, 2018 at 11:58

You don't need to be carrying the item at all, and indeed are not allowed to be carrying it unless you are actually holding it (e.g. you may not cast it on your hat, or belt buckle, or a dagger in a sheath).

You may cast it on an item you are holding in your hand, or you may cast it on an item that is not being worn or carried. In either of those cases, the spell is on that item and the Darkness persists thereafter.

The DM would have to rule on whether you may cast it on an item you are holding, and then wear or carry it. It would seem strange to me that you cannot cast it on your hat on your head, but could cast it on your hat in your hand and then put the hat on your head and it works. I would, accordingly, rule as a DM that the spell no longer moves with the item if the item is subsequently worn, or carried without being held.

So, to answer your question directly:

You may cast it on an item and leave it somewhere (or throw it, or kick it somewhere) and the Darkness will move with the object and stay where the object stays (as long as concentration is maintained on the spell, of course).

And indeed, I would say that you may cast it on an item and give it to another person, and the Darkness will persist, and travel with the item, as long as the item is held by the other person, and not worn or carried other than held in hand, and concentration is maintained by the original caster. That however, is not explicitly defined, and would be a DM ruling to decide.

If you cast it on an eligible item, and that item becomes no longer eligible (i.e. someone puts it on to wear, or hangs it from his belt, then the DM must decide what happens. He could (a) rule to let the spell persist on the now worn or carried item, (b) rule that the act decouples the item from the spell, and the spell persists, unmoving, at that location, or (c) rule that the act ends the spell on the no-longer-valid target. I would go with (b).

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    \$\begingroup\$ It makes sense to me that the restriction on worn or carried is intended to prevent the casting of the spell on opponents' gear more than a restriction on the caster's stuff. Though obviously that distinction is not made in the actual text \$\endgroup\$ Apr 1, 2018 at 16:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ It makes sense to me that the restriction is intended to mean that you have to use a hand to move the Darkness with you or turn it on or off, and may not, say, cast it on a pebble in a box with a lid, mounted on your chest, have both hands free, and be able to turn it on and off at will using the box lid. As I noted, "the DM would have to rule" on that, and I noted how I would rule. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 1, 2018 at 16:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ if it wasn't clear I was agreeing with the thrust if your argument and saying why I thought it made sense. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 1, 2018 at 16:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ It wasn't clear. You said that you thought the restriction was more about other people's stuff than the caster's, and I said I thought it was also intended to be about the caster's stuff. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 1, 2018 at 16:57

If the point you choose is on an object you are holding or one that isn't worn or carried, the darkness emanates from the object and moves with it.

Rules in 5e are worded very intentionally. The key operator here is OR. To be able to move with the objects it must satisfy as least one condition, i.e it must not be worn or carried OR it must be held (by you). Because of the OR operator if only one condition is met it still fills the criteria for moving with the object.

If the operator was AND both criteria would have to be met.

So what does this mean? Say your character is wearing an amulet it would be perfectly valid to hold the amulet whilst you cast the spell and fulfil the criteria for the darkness moving with the object. Similarly if you were to be holding onto you hat. Same would apply for an object you are holding that is worn by an enemy (seems a bit situational but could be part of a strategy).

Casting through a familiar is invalid as the spell is still a ranged spell and familiars may only cast your spells with a range of touch.

Lastly the criteria needs to be met at the time of casting. Whether it breaks if the criteria is no longer met is unclear but from a "realism" standpoint it wouldn't make sense for it to move with an object, then when it is worn the darkness just freezes in the space it was put on. A way to constantly satisfy the condition whilst in combat and still be able to fight would be to cast it on a held weapon but from my interpretation it should be able to move with the object once cast.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Note that the spell description says "an object you are holding", not "an object that is held". Also, the last paragraph of your answer doesn't seem to be well-justified; lots of things in D&D don't make sense, but they work because "magic". \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Mar 14, 2019 at 1:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Edited to fix wording error and add suggestions rather than confirmation in last paragraph :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Ease Up
    Mar 14, 2019 at 4:48

You don't need to hold it when you cast or during the duration

The spell says

or one that isn't worn or carried

This would include objects that you leave somewhere. You don't even have to touch the objects as long as they are in range. You just can't target an object someone else is carrying and you can't target any worn objects.

No one else can pick it up and no one can wear It

The darkness will only emanate from the object as long as the condition is met. Once someone puts it on or someone else carries it the spell will stop being tethered to the object.

In this case the point in space will stay stationary.

This is a consequence of the placement of the darkness emanation clause

If the point you choose [satisfies these conditions] the darkness emanates from the object and moves with it.

The point that serves as the center of the darkness must meet the criteria of the spell or the effect does not have that qualifier. It is a simple "if, then" statement.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I thought you needed to comply with those conditions only when you cast it. Is there any reference to your interpretation? \$\endgroup\$
    – beduel
    Apr 1, 2018 at 16:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @beduel the darkness will still exist, it just won't cling to the object since the emanation is tied to the status as an unworn object not held by another creature. I added a bit more to clarify my interpretation \$\endgroup\$ Apr 1, 2018 at 20:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ I still read it as that you only need to comply with the conditions when you choose the point, not while the spell is active. You can't cast darkness on a sword and put it in the hands of a bunch of statues to check if they are creatures or objects. If that was the intend it would probably be phrased "If you choose a point, darkness emanates from the object and moves with it while [satisfies conditions]". It's the difference between "If, then" and "while" or "as long as". \$\endgroup\$
    – nwp
    Apr 2, 2018 at 8:22

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