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If a character needs two hands to hold a weapon (e.g. Heavy Crossbow), can they cast the Mage Hand cantrip to carry a torch for them since the torch weighs less than 10 pounds? I'm specifically concerned about the ability to "renew" Mage Hand every minute out of combat to insure the torch isn't dropped. While exploring dark places, would they be able to act normally and interact with the environment while moving the Mage Hand so it keeps the torch at their side? The assumption during combat is that the Mage Hand would remain stationary while the character is fighting, therefore not consuming any actions.

To summarize, can Mage Hand be maintained and moved continuously to carry a torch out of combat without dropping it and without preventing the character from moving & interacting with the environment normally?

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RAW, no

Mage hand specifies (PHB 256):

The hand vanishes if [...] you cast this spell again.

Additionally,

You can use your action to control the hand.

Given that the casting of the spell is an action, it would take 6 seconds after the first hand disappeared for you to be able to grab the torch again. In any normal circumstance, the torch would fall to the ground.

However, many DMs (myself included) rule that it can do what you're asking, even though that's not the strict reading.

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RAW, no. Also, too cumbersome

As Blake Steel pointed out, it takes 1 action to cast the spell. 1 action is roughly 6 seconds, and in the 6 seconds it takes to cast Mage Hand the torch would drop.

Even if allowed back to back, your basic timeline would be:

  • Cast Mage Hand
  • 9 rounds (So you can finish the next casting before the previous one ends)
  • Cast Mage Hand again

But it takes an 1 action/round to move the hand. So now you need to track every single round to know when you'll have to spend 1 action to recast.

  • Walk 30 feet? That's a round.
  • Inspect a room. That's a round. Maybe more.
  • Stand around while the thief checks for traps. That's a round.

And what happens when that round you need to use to re-cast the spell is mid-fight.

Do you let the torch fall and hope it doesn't go out (or light the rug you're standing on on fire) or do you waste the round re-casting?

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