3
\$\begingroup\$

At my table there's this guy who always plays wizard/mage in every game we try and is always searching for ways to break the system / find loopholes. In our most recent campaign in Pathfinder, he wanted to use Mage Hand to either fight or assassinate people: his plan was to buy some kind of small dagger / razor blade, and then move it around, a bit like Yondu in Guardians of the galaxy. It seems strange at first because that spell is clearly not intended to work like that, but when the GM re-read the spell, nothing goes against this use:

As a move action, you can propel the object as far as 15 feet in any direction, though the spell ends if the distance between you and the object ever exceeds the spell's range.

Hence my question: would using this cantrip that way be possible, and how to balance it against normal damage cantrips if it is the case?

\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ By Magic Handle do you mean Mage Hand? (I'm imagining yes, and autocorrect struck.) \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 9 '18 at 17:27
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener the title references Mage Hand specifically, so a safe bet. \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Jun 9 '18 at 17:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour. A great first question that this longtime player had honestly never considered. Thank you for participating and have fun! \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 9 '18 at 17:30
9
\$\begingroup\$

A typical caster can't use mage hand to make attacks

The 0-level Sor/Wiz spell mage hand [trans] (Player's Handbook 249 and also for Pathfinder here) has the entry Duration: Concentration. So, after the caster takes a standard action to cast the spell, each turn the caster must take a standard action to maintain the spell, and that leaves the typical caster without the standard action necessary to make attacks with whatever the mage hand spell effect is toting: the caster essentially spends his standard action solely to move around the affected object (just as the spell indicates) rather than spending his standard action to use the affected object violently like he could naturally with an effect like, for example, the spell telekinesis.

Thus, in the same way a typical creature can't take a move action to make an attack, a caster can't just move an item that's affected by the mage hand spell so that the affected object makes an attack. Like this fine answer suggests, dropping an affected object on a foe and using an object to trigger a trap are likely the best ways for a typical caster to use the mage hand spell in combat.

"But what if he can?"

This DM would rule that a caster that employs the spell mage hand to affect a less-than-5-lb. mundane weapon, keeps that weapon within the mage hand spell's close range, and somehow acquires on his turn a second standard action (or somehow manages to concentrate on a spell using an action other than the caster's standard action) could, in fact, make with that weapon one attack… or, if the caster's actions allowed, even make multiple attacks with that weapon.

In such a case, this DM would have the caster make the attack roll using the caster's base attack bonus and, instead of the caster's Strength or Dexterity modifier, the mage hand spell's caster's spellcasting key ability (much like the using the violent thrust version of the aforementioned telekinesis spell). However, the mage hand spell can only carry 5 lbs., and, according to carrying capacity, that puts its Strength score between 1 and 2. Because of this, this DM would rule a weapon the mage hand spell effect employs suffers a −4 penalty on damage rolls.

Further, as the weapon isn't being wielded by a creature, the weapon doesn't threaten an area, therefore it can't, for example, help an ally flank a foe or make attacks of opportunity. (This DM would likely look to the spell spiritual weapon for guidance, that spell also seeing a weapon attacking on its own accord at a distance yet at the caster's behest.)

Seriously, though, in this case, this reader believes that a caster who has available on his turn two or more standard actions should be able to find something better to do with those standard actions than to use the first to concentrate on the mage hand spell and the second to make an attack with whatever that mage hand effect's carrying! I mean, c'mon: You're a wizard with two standard actions per turn: Stop toying with your foes and end this already!

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Really good answer. This in-depth reasoning on the "what-if?" will definitely prove useful in explaing why it would not work (helps prevent the "Ha! the GM nerfed me!" tantrum that could arise) \$\endgroup\$ – Lymakk Jun 11 '18 at 17:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Lymakk Thank you. Happy to've helped. By the way, if your player's ingenious he may have his mage handy PC try what Ling mentions in the comments on the other answer: dropping stuff on foes using the mage hand effect. It may be worth preemptively posing such question as to the rules for doing so so that you're ready when the player tries. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 11 '18 at 17:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ He already thought about it but discarded the idea : best damage scenario, a 5lb rock falling from 15ft high doesn't do anything a regular cantrip doesn't, and for that you have to be in melee. While the potions could be (very) effective, the guy is also such a Scrooge he already tried to convince the GM he could fly across a whole lake just to avoid paying 1 silver to the ferryman (in the end the paladin paid for him) so it's very unlikely he'll ever make such a resource consuming strategy \$\endgroup\$ – Lymakk Jun 12 '18 at 20:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan You're overlooking your own proposed option of getting around the need to expend a standard action for concentration rather than gaining a second standard action. Extraordinary Concentration feat, Poltergeist Hand feat (for an Eidoloncer mage from Ghostwalk), Swift Concentration skill trick, and a researched permanency for mage hand are all options to accomplish this. \$\endgroup\$ – Cadrac Jun 14 '18 at 15:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ If they do find a way to do so, though, I would say that the -4 Str modifier would apply to the attack roll as well as the damage. \$\endgroup\$ – Cadrac Jun 14 '18 at 15:53
1
\$\begingroup\$

The wording from Mage Hand is clear; reproduced here in its entirety:

You point your finger at an object and can lift it and move it at will from a distance. As a move action, you can propel the object as far as 15 feet in any direction, though the spell ends if the distance between you and the object ever exceeds the spell’s range.

That is it.

There is no mention, at any time, of a way to use the spell to wield weapons or otherwise inflict damage.

The only 2 ways to inflict damage I can think of are Dropping and Traps.

Dropping an object from above is possible. According to this article from WOTC, a falling object of 1 lb. to 5 lb. inflicts 1d6 damage per 70 ft. of fall. This requires a high ceiling, and the Close range of the spell will be rather limiting.

Another solution would be to prepare a Trap, and activate it, via a pressure plate or similar, via Mage Hand. This requires a rather elaborate setup.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ But what prevents the caster to say to the knife "go right in the throat of that guy" ? \$\endgroup\$ – Lymakk Jun 9 '18 at 17:49
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ @Lymakk There is no indication that mage hand can apply any particular pressure in that manner. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 9 '18 at 17:49
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ What was bugging me was the wording "propel" as if it was almost some king of throw. But seen that way, i guess we can go with the classic "a spell only does what it says it does" and consider the moving force of Mage Hand isn't enough to attack someone. Thanks \$\endgroup\$ – Lymakk Jun 9 '18 at 17:54
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Lymakk: Note that as an Intimidation technique, holding a dagger "psychically" to someone's throat while a good Bluffer threaten to slice it if they move is already tremendously powerful. You could take the guards' chief hostage, etc... with such a strategy, since while nothing actually allows you to inflict damage with Mage Hand, only someone recognizing the spell and knowing its limitations would be able to know for sure this is the case, to a mundane character, a knife held to the throat is threat enough to become docile. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. Jun 9 '18 at 18:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Any thoughts on how you aim a dropped object? Can you tie together five acid flasks and (easily?) do 5d6 damage? \$\endgroup\$ – Ling Jun 9 '18 at 19:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.