This question might seem kind of stupid (and it might be), but let me explain. In real life, a shield isn't specifically held, but rather strapped to someone's arm, and although it renders the arm (and with it the hand) of the wielder mostly useless, but you could still touch something with it, hence my question. Can you touch something with a hand that is holding a shield?

To hopefully clarify this a bit, lets say we have a Paladin, his name is Brian. Brian is holding a Shield and a Longsword, and he wants to use lay on hands on his buddy Bob the Fighter. However, Lay on Hands requires Brian to touch Bob, but Brian doesn't want to have to put either his sword or his shield away (for any of various reasons, but let's ignore that), would Brian be able to touch Bob with his shield-hand?

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    \$\begingroup\$ "In real life, a shield isn't specifically held, but rather strapped to someone's arm ..." is wrong. Forearm straps are a late medieval development of the 'sport' of jousting. Combat shields have a single handle or strap grasped by one hand. Larger shields had an additional strap that went around the neck. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Mar 27, 2019 at 2:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok, interesting. Though even with that, you could still touch something. Thank you though, I didn't know that \$\endgroup\$
    – Smart_TJ
    Mar 27, 2019 at 10:02

1 Answer 1


You don't need a free hand for a spell or ability with a range of "touch" (unless it says otherwise)

The paladin's Lay on Hands feature says:

Your blessed touch can heal wounds. [...] As an action, you can touch a creature and draw power from the pool to restore a number of hit points to that creature, up to the maximum amount remaining in your pool.

It doesn't state any restrictions on how you must touch them, or whether you need a free hand to do so. The feature's name does not necessary impose a restriction on how it works.

Similarly, the spellcasting rules say about touch-range spells:

Most spells have ranges expressed in feet. Some spells can target only a creature (including you) that you touch. Other spells, such as the shield spell, affect only you. These spells have a range of self.

That's all it says about touch-range spells there. The only relevant restrictions would be those in the description of a spell or feature itself, as there are no general rules for it. It can simply be understood that any form of touch is sufficient for a touch-range spell.

5e rules designer Jeremy Crawford unofficially confirms this interpretation on Twitter:

Does a paladin's Lay On Hands feature require 'a free hand' - or can they use it as long as they are close enough to touch?

Lay on Hands requires you to touch the target. The feature isn't concerned with how you execute the touch.

Good to know I can ignore the title of the [feature] in determining how it works.

You are welcome to play the feature's name literally. In which case, I recommend laying both of your hands on the target.

He adds:

Most groups play a feature like Lay on Hands with the name in mind—laying on a hand. Yet the rules don't say what the touch entails

Because "touch" doesn't have a special definition in the game, we rely on the general English definition of the word:

To make physical contact with; to bring the hand, finger or other part of the body into contact with.

This definition does not require specifically using one's hand to do so. As a result, any physical contact with one's body is sufficient. (As always, the DM is free to house-rule otherwise.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you mean to imply that one can touch with a weapon? How about a reach weapon? \$\endgroup\$
    – Davo
    Mar 27, 2019 at 11:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ A weapon is not part of your body. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 27, 2019 at 11:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ A foot, however, is... I can now see a Paladin kicking people and shouting, "Get up you maggot! It doesn't hurt that bad!" \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Mar 27, 2019 at 14:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Davo: What Rubiksmoose said (and TJL too). It has to be a part of your body, but it need not be your hands. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Mar 28, 2019 at 0:31

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