The description of the Ready action states, in part:

When you ready a spell, you cast it as normal but hold its energy

Does this mean you could cast a fire bolt spell, hold its energy indefinitely (as long as it doesn't break concentration), and light up like in Skyrim?

That doesn't seem right to me; am I mistaken?


4 Answers 4



Two reasons. First of all, RAW doesn't mention any effects of the spell being effective while it is being held. There's no fire before the spell is actually released.

The more significant reason is that you can't hold a spell indefinitely; any readied action will be lost at the beginning of the character's next turn. See the Player's Handbook Errata:

Ready (p. 193). You have until the start of your next turn to use a readied action

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    \$\begingroup\$ Firebolt also does not state that it casts any illumination or affects local light levels when it is cast (perhaps it's too small a flame to be a significant source of light) so that's another strike from the RAW reading. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    May 31, 2018 at 12:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Produce Flame sheds light while held \$\endgroup\$ May 31, 2018 at 14:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MattVincent but Produce Flame sheds light after being cast, not while casting. The question is asking about holding a readied (i.e. not yet cast) spell. When you ready a spell, you've done all of the casting except releasing the spell; in the case of Produce Flame, since you haven't released the energy, there is no flame to hold in your hand. \$\endgroup\$
    – Doktor J
    May 31, 2018 at 15:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Correct: but the original poster might find the information about Produce Flame valuable for his purposes. \$\endgroup\$ May 31, 2018 at 15:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ The inability to hold a spell indefinitely does not preclude the proposed abuse. If the held cantrip produced light, they character would just have to hold it every round. The light would only go away between the start of their turn and the next casting. So a momentary flicker ever 6 seconds. \$\endgroup\$
    – GcL
    May 31, 2018 at 16:18

By RAW, No.

There is no description of a held spell that indicates the caster is illuminated. They've done everything to cast the spell except for releasing it. The effects of the spell come into play when the spell is cast, and not before.

The vocal, somatic, and material components of a spell are what give it away during casting. There are no visual effects that mechanically affect gameplay.

Light-Emitting Cantrips

There are cantrips that produce light effects that provide illumination.

Examples include: light, dancing lights, and produce flame. They all have effects that explicitly produce illumination that a character can use to see. If a character wants magical illumination, they should use one of these.

Produce Flame

The closest in both intent and effect for the player is probably produce flame. It has the added benefit of not requiring concentration, and can be hurled once. It is the most similar to a firebolt you held in the hand.

Narrative Flavor

If the description of glowing hands or whatnot is desirable, one could be explicit that it doesn't provide sufficient illumination to enable a PC to see any farther than normal.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You might want to emphasize Produce Flame. It seems to me that this spell is exactly what OP is looking for. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1, 2018 at 0:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ In one of my games, I used fire bolt as a signal flare; since it has a 120 foot range and it's a 'mote of fire', I casted it straight up into the air. Is there a spell that has similar effects? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1, 2018 at 19:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @generalcrispy dancing lights or cast light on a bolt or arrow. firebolt doesn't shed significant light enough to be noted as illuminating an area. \$\endgroup\$
    – GcL
    Jun 1, 2018 at 19:25

An intermediate flavour-solution

By RAW, Firebolt doesn't produce light by which you could see something. I DM'd for a group whose wizard had a sneaking suspicion (and he wasn't wrong) that there was something lurking in the high up, dark ceiling of a big cave. He didn't really have anything to shed light on it, so his reasoning was "I shoot a firebolt up, and the trailing light will reveal what's up there." I told him it doesn't work like that and that his firebolt flashed into the ceiling, harmlessly. Then he said: "I can pretty much cast a cantrip at will. So I could just fire one after another indefinitely, surely all these "fires" will reveal some form huddled against the ceiling if there was one?"

I allowed him to do it, and made him roll perception (the chances of anyone in the party being able to see the creature was astronomically small). I told him he didn't see anything, after which he entered and promptly got jumped by a giant spider (oh, he's an arachnophobe).

After the session, he protested, saying that he should have seen it and that I was bending the game to force him to be jumped by a spider. I explained that, sure... fire may create some source of light. But it should be seen as the sparks when you try and fail to use a lighter, there was no way he was going to see 100+ feet up in the air in the darkness on a massive ceiling, with a few sparks as his help.

Sure, "flavour" it up with the idea that it creates some momentary source of light, but if you allow it to simply count as a torch or other type of light, you kind of negate "light" spells that are specifically tailored to it. It's also a way for a wizard or sorcerer to simply gear up spells for elemental armageddon, and not having to worry about any utility spells... which is kind of a big deal in non-combat encounters. And the intermissions between combat and non-combat encounters are at the heart of D&D in my opinion.

So if it's in a small dark room and the caster wants to create some sparks to reveal a silhouette, sure, allow it for atmospheric reasons, but don't let it give him any leeway on the proceedings, because that's what "light" spells are for.



D&D5e was designed so that everything does what it says, no more no less. If holding onto the energy of a spell did anything other than allowing you to use the spell then it would say so.

In general there shouldn't be any hidden meaning to look for in the rules.

What is the source of the “spells do only what they say they do” rules interpretation principle?. This link provided by V2Blast has more information.


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