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(inspired by this question.)

This is a question about the Arcane Trickster using Mage Hand Legerdemain to steal weapons.

It looks like there's a pretty solid answer there that Mage Hand Legerdemain can be used to steal a weapon off of someone as long as it's in a container (carried or worn). Given the way a crossbow works, it seems like a crossbow bolt in a wielded (and even aimed) crossbow might qualify as "in a container". Could Mage Hand Legerdemain be used to steal one of those? Admittedly, it wouldn't slow you down for long (unless they'd also stolen all of the other bolts out of your quiver....)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is this crossbow being wielded currently or just hanging on a belt or something? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose May 10 '18 at 19:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose Crossbow is being wielded. That's what I'd meant for "readied". Edited for that bit of clarity. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden May 10 '18 at 20:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ben, are you asking if this is done with an action or a bonus action during a turn in combat? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 10 '18 at 22:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I'm more imagining this during the face-off period before the fight breaks out, rather than during combat time when explicit actions spent matter. This is more of a "can you use this ability to perform this action?" rather than anything about specific action costs. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden May 11 '18 at 13:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ben, I am asking since there is an answer that would address an opposed ability check but that would take an action, or a bonus action. Is this taking place before Roll Initiative? of after? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 11 '18 at 13:24
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Yes

According to the text of mage hand legerdemain:

You can retrieve an object in a container worn or carried by another creature

Also according to the PHB Pg. 150 the crossbow bolt is listed under adventuring gear as ammunition. Thus it is not a weapon and could only be considered such if it is being wielded as an improvised weapon.

According to mage hand the limits of of the spell are:

The hand can't attack, activate magic items, or carry more than 10 pounds.

Retrieving a crossbow bolt does not fall into any of these categories, so the spell doesn't limit it's use for this explicitly.

Is a crossbow a container? According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary:

Container: one that contains: such as

a: a receptacle (such as a box or jar) for holding goods.

Contains: restrain, control.

When a crossbow is loaded the string is pulled back and locked into place. Then the bolt is lowered into a groove on the crossbow and slid back until the nock is firmly against the string. The bolt is usually held in place by a metal clip until it is fired. The clip is restraining the bolt and keeping it from falling off before it is fired. It does not lock the bolt in place since this would prevent the firing of the crossbow.

Thus, By the standard English definition a crossbow is both a weapon and a container.

Finally, if the crossbow is not a container then the bolt is just laying out unattended on top of the crossbow and the rules of mage hand do not limit the manipulation of the crossbow bolt.

Therefore, the spell does not restrict this use explicitly, the crossbow bolt is an object not a weapon, and the crossbow is a container being carried by a creature and the bolt is being contained by the crossbow not held by the creature. This use is fully supported by the text and the standard English definitions of the objects in question.

Also, something to note, if the enemy didn't notice the missing bolt before attempting to fire, dry firing a crossbow is generally a bad thing to do and can result in damage to the crossbow.

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No.

By a common English reading of the phrase, a loaded arrow or bolt is not "in a container." The verb "to contain" is by definition "to have or to keep within," and this does not reasonably describe how an arrow or bolt is nocked without use of the qualifiers "technically" or "it could be argued" or verbal gymnastics around the use of the word "receptacle."

But, just to be sure, the Player's Handbook seems to be pretty clear about what constitutes a container. In the Container Capacity table in the Equipment section (p. 153), the following are explicitly listed as containers: backpacks, barrels, baskets, bottles, buckets, chests, flasks, tankards, jugs, pitchers, pots, irons, pouches, sacks, skins, and vials. It's unlikely this is meant to be an exhaustive list; however, all items listed are receptacles that are not weapons.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If you have down-voted, please let me know why so I can improve my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Bloodcinder Mar 22 at 16:29
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Probably not.

In general, features (like spells) do what they say they do. 5e generally phrases things using natural language, so you should interpret them accordingly.

The relevant portion of the Mage Hand Legerdemain feature states:

  • You can retrieve an object in a container worn or carried by another creature.

A common definition of "container" is:

a receptacle (such as a box or jar) for holding goods

Crossbows do not generally "contain" their bolts within them; even if they did, that certainly is not their primary purpose. As such, I would not rule that Mage Hand Legerdemain allows you to steal the bolt from a crossbow. You'd only be able to do this if the crossbow itself was in some other container.

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