(I started this question with the title "How do you manipulate material components when using Somatic Weaponry?" but I realized the current title is more appropriate)

This is along the lines of this great but with no accepted answer question Does Casting a Spell with Somatic and Material Components Require 2 Hands?

Me and my friends always ruled that in order to cast spells with material components you need a free hand in order to manipulate them, but it can be the same hand used for the somatic component. Or better, we've always been confident it explicitly stated that on the rulebooks
Now we are wondering what happens if you have somatic weaponry and, for example, wielding 2 rods (or 2 of most one handed stuff actually). We are actually divided into 2 groups:

  • One group says that without being able to manipulate material components Somatic Weaponry would be useless (because you'd still need a free hand) and since a material components are not that big usually they can be manipulated with a busy hand (like a hand wielding a rod or a weapon or something else) so if you have somatic weaponry you can cast material components spells even if both hands are wielding something (of course not including 2h weapons which you can detach your hand from in order to cast).

  • The other group says that if this was true not only eschew materials would be rendered useless (well, more useless according to some people) but somatic weaponry would've actually given the benefit of one and a half feats: Somatic Weaponry itself and partly Eschew materials (since you'd be able to cast spells with both hands busy), on top of that since it's a gameplay (it affects the casting of spells) issue and not a plausibility issue (it's plausible to hold most material components with 2 fingers even though some manipulations descripted in some spells are really not doable with a busy hand) we can't be the ones drawing the line between what's too big to be manipulated with a busy hand and what not

In the end the discussion shifted into wheter you need a truly free hand (that is, a hand that is gameplay-wise considered free) to manipulate material components or not (that is, you can manipulate a material component even with a hand wielding something else)

And that's how my "search for the truth" starts Since I like things to be as RAW as possible whenever reasonable, I started doing some research on the subject.

First I discovered that it's not actually true the rulebooks explicitly say you need a free hand for material components nor that the free hand can be the same of the somatic components.

Then I found this http://archive.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/rg/20040810a which states (I tend to consider "rules of the game" and "FAQs" articles not "official" but claryfing when needed):

Your hand is free when you aren't carrying a weapon, a piece of equipment, or (usually) a shield. You can strap a buckler to your arm and use your hand to wield a weapon (albeit at a penalty), so there's no reason you couldn't use your buckler hand for a somatic component. The buckler might interfere a little bit, but that's what the arcane spell failure chance for the buckler is for. You also can strap a light shield to your forearm and still carry items in that hand, but you can't use the hand for anything else (such as wielding a weapon), so there's no good reason you should be able to use that hand to complete a somatic component. Since manipulating a material component (including a focus) is part of casting the spell, it's best to consider the hand that holds the material component or focus as "free" for purposes of completing a somatic component

This paragraph actually says 2 important things:

1) When a hand is considered free (particularly when a hand is considere free for somatic components)

2) A hand holding a material component is free for completing a somatic component

Point #2 is similar but at the same time the opposite of what stated by the 2nd group (a hand used for somatic components can be used for material components), for this reason it doesn't answer my question wheter or not you need a free hand for material components

Then I found this very similar text on the FAQs and the Rules Compendium.

Rules Compendium:

Spell casting creatures
Sometimes a creature can cast arcane or divine spells just as a member of a spellcasting class can. Such a creature can activate magic items accordingly. It’s subject to the same spellcasting rules that characters are, except as follows. A spellcasting creature that lacks hands or arms can provide any somatic component a spell might require by moving its body. Such a creature still needs material components for its spells. The creature can cast the spell either by touching a required component that isn’t in another creature’s possession or by having the required component on its body. Spellcasting creatures sometimes utilize the Eschew Materials feat to avoid having to use some material components. A spellcasting creature isn’t actually a member of a class and doesn’t gain any class features unless its description says otherwise


Chapter 10 in the PH says a spellcaster must have one hand free to cast a spell with a somatic component, and the caster must have any material components in hand already if he doesn’t have a free hand. So, how does a creature like a naga cast spells at all? Nagas don’t have hands!

Creatures that have hands need at least one free hand to cast spells with somatic or material components (or both). Creatures, that don’t have hands don’t need hands to cast spells (see page 315 in the MM). They use body movements to complete somatic components and use material components either by touching them (but not if they’re in another creature’s possession) or by having them somewhere on their bodies. A naga might carry material components stuck to its scales or even temporarily swallow them.

Does this apply only to spellcasting creatures? This paragraph/FAQ seems to assume that as long as there's contact with the material component and your body (or the insides of your body apparently) then you can cast the spell. And this, at least for me, brings more questions than answers

And so finally I'm here, asking you if there's a answer to my questions:

1) Do you need a truly free hand in order to manipulate material components?

2) Can you have your material components strapped around your body so that you don't have to hold them in your hands? Seems pretty weird (and gross) to me and defies not only the logic of some spells (Tasha's Hideous Laughter and its tarts come to mind) but the fact that rulebooks say you need to manipulate the components...and yet the rules (the rules compendium nonetheless) seem to say so. Does this apply only to creatures with spellcasting powers or can limbs provided creatures do that too?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't see how this is different than the other question you mention. Other than the other not yet having an accepted answer, what is the difference here that supports a separate question? (Note that whether a question has an accepted answer doesn't affect how questions are determined to be duplicates.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 20:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Actually, this one kind of assumes an answer to that question, and then effectively asks a follow-up question: “Me and my friends always ruled that in order to cast spells with material components you need a free hand in order to manipulate them, but it can be the same hand used for the somatic component,” would be the answer they’re using to the linked question, and then “Now we are wondering what happens if you have somatic weaponry and, for example, wielding 2 rods (or 2 of most one handed stuff actually)” is this follow-up question. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 21:01

1 Answer 1


The text of Somatic Weaponry makes no mention of material components, so you definitely still need to provide them as normal.

What does “as normal” mean? As you have discovered, that’s shockingly unclear.

The definition of material components is just

Material (M)

A material component is one or more physical substances or objects that are annihilated by the spell energies in the casting process. Unless a cost is given for a material component, the cost is negligible. Don’t bother to keep track of material components with negligible cost. Assume you have all you need as long as you have your spell component pouch.

No mention of a hand at all—it literally just says you have to have your spell component pouch. And the definition of the spell component pouch itself makes no mention of actually pulling things out of it.

The actions in combat section repeats this, again offering no further clarity:

To cast a spell with a material (M), focus (F), or divine focus (DF) component, you have to have the proper materials, as described by the spell. Unless these materials are elaborate preparing these materials is a free action. For material components and focuses whose costs are not listed, you can assume that you have them if you have your spell component pouch.

Again, you just have to “have” the spell component pouch. Nothing about actually having to take a particular material out of it or manipulate it with your hands.

In fact, the closest we ever get in Player’s Handbook to actually requiring a hand free for a material component is in the choosing a spell rules, which say

To cast a spell, you must be able to [...] manipulate the material components or focus (if any).

The word “manipulate” comes from the Latin manus meaning “hand,” so... I guess this means you have to do something to it with your hand?

Except that I would consider everything directly about material components and spell component pouches to be both primary and more specific here: whatever the basic “choosing a spell” rules are trying to say, the actual material component rules say that if you’ve got the pouch—at all, nothing about having it in hand or anything like that—you’re good.

And I think that’s the closest to RAW that we can get on the matter. The Rules of the Game article, the various notes about the “normal” case in discussions about unusual cases in the grappling rules,1 Rules Compendium, or the FAQ, those might give credence to the idea that the intent was for you to use a hand to “manipulate” material components, but rules-as-written those don’t even begin to apply (an offhand mention of some other rule while discussing something else is never primary, nor is anything in the Rules of the Game articles or FAQ).

So I would say that someone with Somatic Weaponry just needs to have a spell component pouch on their person, no need to actually do anything with it. Eschew Materials would remain useful for not having to have the spell component pouch/be able to cast even if it’s taken away, and also I guess for grappling (see 1 below). Is that worth a feat? Probably not, unless your DM is really over-fond of stealing players’ stuff. But then the overwhelming majority of feats in 3.5e aren’t worth a feat either, so :shrug:

And bear in mind that Somatic Weaponry isn’t really relevant here either. If you used Still Spell, or just found a spell with material but no somatic components, then that’s another situation where just having the pouch is sufficient, and you can still cast it with your hands full. Or even if you ruled that holding a material component isn’t “free enough” for somatic components, you could then just leave your hand empty for the somatic component, and let the spell component pouch that you “have” somewhere on your person cover the material component (unless you’re grappling).

  1. You do need to have material components in hand, and not in a spell component pouch, while grappling; that much is RAW. Any implication that might make about what you do with material components when not grappling, though, is not RAW.
  • \$\begingroup\$ I just wonder then why they suggested (not just in the FAQs but in the Rules Compendium aswell, that's Unarguably RAW as far as i know) that spellcasting creatures have the material components on their body or to touch unattended items while they could just own a components pouch \$\endgroup\$
    – valepu
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 21:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @valepu Actually, Rules Compendium’s RAW-legality is controversial for some, though I’m not generally an adherent of that viewpoint. More importantly, though, that would go under the category of “an offhand mention of some other rule while discussing something else,” and therefore not primary (and thus superseded by the core definition of material components, per the errata rules). Like I said, that statement could be used to make a case for their apparent intent, but RAW the core statement stands and that statement is ignored. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 21:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @valepu Also the Monster Manual in its Glossary on the entry spells says, "The creature [that naturally lacks arms or hands] can cast the spell by either touching the required component (but not if the component is in another creature’s possession) or having the required component on its person" (315). Anyway, I think it's because a naga would look silly (even sillier?) wearing a spell component pouch. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 0:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan what about that "preparing these materials is a free action"? It doesn't make sense to me that it's the time needed to arrange them in the component's pouch. So you need to prepare them somehow and using your hands to do so, while not RAW, seems the most sensible thing to do. How do you prepare something with your hand if that hand is not only busy, but it's holding something? \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 10:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel This question, and thus this answer, is about RAW, so luckily I don’t have to even begin to guess what they meant—RAW, you just need to use a free action, nothing about hands. I am not interested in speculating what they meant, because material component are nothing more than a bad joke and shouldn’t be taken seriously anyway. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 11:13

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