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I see that, for example:

A cleric or paladin can use a holy symbol as a spellcasting focus, as described in chapter 10. To use the symbol in this way, the caster must hold it in hand, wear it visibly, or bear it on a shield.

Further, I see that the standard arcane focuses -- orbs, crystals, rods, etc. -- all have to be held in the hand. That makes sense to me.

What I'm not sure about is, for example, the Hat of Wizardry or the Dark Shard Amulet from XGTE. Both specify they can be used as a spellcasting focus (for wizards and warlocks respectively), but it does not make sense to me that e.g. a wizard would be required to hold their Hat of Wizardry in their hand to use it as a spellcasting focus, instead of wearing it. I can imagine a warlock having to grip their Dark Shard Amulet with a free hand, but that still seems like a bit of a stretch, especially when combined with somatic components.

Can these specific foci be used without holding them in hand?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe you have to tip the Hat of Wizardry like a fedora to use its power ;) \$\endgroup\$ Mar 15 '19 at 20:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BlakeSteel I believe you're thinking of the Mask of M'lady. \$\endgroup\$
    – AAlig
    Mar 18 '19 at 15:35
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The Hat of Wizardry says:

This antiquated, cone-shaped hat is adorned with gold crescent moons and stars. While you are wearing it, you gain the following benefits:

  • You can use the hat as a spellcasting focus for your wizard spells.

  • You can try to cast a cantrip that you don’t know. [...]

The text seems pretty clear to me - while you're wearing it, you can use it as a focus. Holy symbols for clerics and paladins work the same way (they only need to be worn, not held), so it is not unprecedented. It has a specific verbiage that overrides the general rules.

Furthermore, it seems relatively well balanced: It consumes a precious attunement slot and only works for wizard spells. If the character is multi-classed, they'll still need a different focus, even for classes that can use a more general arcane focus. Sure, it has a second property, but it's only once per long rest.

The Dark Shard Amulet has functionally similar text, except aimed at warlocks.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you saying you don't need a free hand to touch the focus? \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Mar 15 '19 at 21:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that the shield holy symbol for cleric and Paladin are "wielded" more than "worn" but maybe that's getting too far in to the weeds. To use the symbol in this way, the caster must hold it in hand, wear it visibly, or bear it on a shield. Your description likely covers it. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 18 '19 at 13:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ The general rule says a spell focus must be held in hand. The Holy Symbol is an exception, and its description specifically says it can be used as a focus while been displayed or borne on a shield. No such exception is state in the Hat of Wizardry description. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 29 '21 at 10:46
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They don't need to be held in the hand to be used as a focus.

The magical items Hat of Wizardry and Dark Shard Amulet are templated differently than the nonmagical Holy Symbol because of the additional ability they have. Instead of a single statement, they use a bulleted list. The list could be expanded into statements to match the templating on Holy Symbol:

A wizard can use a Hat of Wizardry as a spellcasting focus for wizard spells. To use the hat in this way, the caster must wear it visibly.

While you are wearing the hat you can try to cast a cantrip that you don't know. The cantrip must be on the Wizard spell list, and you must make a DC 10 Intelligence (Arcana) check. If the check succeeds, you cast the spell. If the check fails, so does the spell, and the action used to cast the spell is wasted. In either case, you can't use this property again until you finish a long rest.

And we could change the Holy Symbol templating to be worded with the (single item) bulleted list of effects:

A holy symbol is a representation of a god or pantheon. While holding the symbol, wearing it visibly or wielding a shield with the symbol emblazoned upon it you gain the following benefits:

  • You may use the symbol as a spellcasting focus for your cleric or paladin spells.

These are both awkward - the first combines multiple abilities into blocks of text and references the wearing condition twice, the second has a list with only one item in it. These are simply two ways of saying the same thing, written differently based on the other circumstances of the item.

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Yes, the Hat of Wizardry and the Dark Shard Amulet must be held in hand to be used as focus.

The rule for material components is found in the Player Handbook's errata:

Material (M) A spellcaster must have a hand free to access a spell’s material components—or to hold a spellcasting focus — but it can be the same hand that he or she uses to perform somatic components.

This makes it clear that a free hand is required to hold the spellcasting focus.

For the Holy Symbol, its description (p. 151) specifically states that it can be used as a spellcasting focus under broader conditions than normally allowed by the rules:

Holy Symbol. A cleric or paladin can use a holy symbol as a spellcasting focus, as described in chapter 10. To use the symbol in this way, the caster must hold it in hand, wear it visibly, or bear it on a shield.

However, there is no such mention in the description of the Hat of Wizardry and the Dark Shard Amulet. The text only states that they can be used a a focus:

Hat of Wizardry. You can use the hat as a spellcasting focus for your wizard spells.

Dark Shard Amulet. You can use the amulet as a spellcasting focus for your warlock spells.

This is not different than the description for other foci, such as the Arcane Focus:

Arcane Focus. A sorcerer, warlock, or w izard can use such an item as a spellcasting focus, as described in chapter 10.

The only difference is that the hat and amulet have the additional requirement that they be worn before they can be used a focus.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "This is not different than the description for other foci". False. The item specifically states that you can use it as a focus while wearing it not while holding it \$\endgroup\$ Sep 29 '21 at 11:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 Using the item as a focus still follows the spellcasting rules, which require a free hand. Wearing the item is an additional requirement, and not a replacement for the usual rules. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 29 '21 at 11:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Seems a bit disingenuous to leave out the "while you are wearing it" portion of the item description. You're just taking part of the description out of context to make your point because leaving it in context makes your argument significantly weaker. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 29 '21 at 13:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ "However, there is no such mention in the description of the Hat of Wizardry", well, there is, it says "while you are wearing". You go on to say "The text only states that they can be used a a focus", which is patently false, as it also says "while you are wearing". \$\endgroup\$ Sep 29 '21 at 13:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hat of wizardry says "While you are wearing it[...]You can use the hat as a spellcasting focus for your wizard spells." just like the holy symbol it specifies how you use the hat (worn) to use it as a focus Dark Shard Amulet has the same text "While you are wearing it[...]You can use the amulet as a spellcasting focus for your warlock spells." \$\endgroup\$
    – Andrew
    Sep 29 '21 at 14:54

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