If a spell has verbal and/or somatic components, are they absolutely vital for its casting?

Let me give a clear example: suppose a wizard is trying to cast Detect Magic on a creature they are speaking to, but they don't want the creature to notice the spell is being cast. Detect Magic has both verbal and somatic components, so the wizard might comply with the somatic portion by just forcefully gesticulating as one would in an energetic conversation. But they might not be able to actually speak out the proper incantations.

Another situation: a sorcerer has both her hands tied behind her back and is trying to cast Acid Splash. She can't perform the somatic portion of the spell, but she can easily speak out the incantations.

In these situations, can the spells simply not be cast? Or can the spells still be cast, but with some kind of penalties added? And if the answer is the latter, which penalties should I consider?

Thank you!!!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for editing the title, @V2Blast! Much clearer. \$\endgroup\$ – Felipe D. Oct 19 '18 at 3:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is the question getting downvoted because it's too obvious or something? Sorry, I'm just asking so I can avoid getting downvoted with future questions I may have. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – Felipe D. Oct 19 '18 at 3:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I suspect it's because you're asking a question that's easily answered by the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 19 '18 at 3:58

You must be able to provide all components.

This is the rule from the Spellcasting > Casting a Spell > Components section of the Basic Rules or Player's Handbook, emphasis mine:

A spell's components are the physical requirements you must meet in order to cast it. Each spell's description indicates whether it requires verbal (V), somatic (S), or material (M) components. If you can't provide one or more of a spell's components, you are unable to cast the spell.

You explicitly must be able to provide all components to be able to cast a spell. (The exception would be if you have a feature that allows you to ignore a component. In your example, the tied-up sorcerer might be able to use Subtle Spell metamagic to ignore the components they can't provide due to the bindings, but that's not the general rule.)


The VSM components are vital to casting a spell

If a spell requires a somatic component, the caster must have free use of at least one hand to perform these gestures.

A character who is unable to meet the V or S or M component of a spell, can't cast that spell.


Yes, they're required, but they're also much easier to perform than you'd think.

Well, lets get this straight.

Verbal components must be spoken to use the spell, even if they are whispered or muttered (perhaps when your wizard in the first scenario lets a different character speak). If it's an offensive spell that really doesn't require secrecy, then just say it.

Somatic components are the real issue. If your sorcerer cannot move her hands at all, then she may not cast the spell. Unless the gestures are specified, if she can move her hands in the direction of the target, they can cast the spell. This may also depend on the generosity of your DM, as the rules aren't really specified. Look at page 27 on rituals in the DMG and at the more specific rituals in the Player's Handbook.

Material components must be used, if needed. There shouldn't be any dispute over that.

I hope that helped! :)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your Verbal paragraph seems incomplete. Did you forget to finish it or accidentally delete part of it? Also, relevant Sage Advice tweet about how audible verbal components have to be. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 18 '18 at 23:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I apologize profusely. I forgot to finish it in my hurry to grab my books. Sorry, I hope this did not affect your opinion of my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – TheCentaur Oct 19 '18 at 0:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Material components are not always required. For material requirements without a cost an arcane/divine/druidic focus can be used instead \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Oct 19 '18 at 0:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you take a close look, my post says if needed. I also put on the part about the DM's generosity. \$\endgroup\$ – TheCentaur Oct 19 '18 at 0:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, the rules about somatic components aren't that vague; the rules say: "If a spell requires a somatic component, the caster must have free use of at least one hand to perform these gestures." ..I suppose what constitutes a "free hand" might be seen as ambiguous when it comes to restraints. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 19 '18 at 1:22

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