From this question I understand that when I cast Burning Hands, the touching of thumbs and then the spreading of fingers in order to cast the spell is non-negotiable.

This brings into question how doable the spell is while holding, say, a staff in one hand. I imagine that as long as I can describe a 'grip' that meets all of the following conditions, I can both cast the spell and hold onto my staff:

  1. Thumbs are touching

  2. Fingers can outstretch away from the caster

  3. The staff is held (presumably by hooking the thumbs underneath)

From what I can gather it seems this is perfectly reasonable, but I want to make sure there isn't something explicit with the text/intention of Burning Hands that would disallow this. To clarify, I'm asking if I would have to take an action to drop or stow the weapon before casting (then requiring me to retrieve it somehow later).

So back to the exact question: Can I hold a staff while casting Burning Hands?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Just confirming that your DM is being a stickler for the thumbs touching bit. I'm guessing you have, but just confirming :) \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 14:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ A point on #2, the spell says that the flames emit from the caster's finger tips so outstretched fingers is as much a requirement as having the thumbs touching. If the DM is being that much of a stickler, of course. \$\endgroup\$
    – krb
    Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 14:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you consider tucking it under your armpit "holding" or do you mean specifically "hold it in one of my hands" as holding? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 14:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I mean, mechanically, would I need to drop or stow the weapon, cast the spell, and then take some sort of action to either retrieve or redraw the weapon. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 14:50

3 Answers 3


You're going to have to ask your DM

This is tricky for us to answer conclusively because of the looseness in wording of the requirement.

If your DM feels that an explanation here isn't valid, then it's simply not valid at your table. Whether or not we say it is will be irrelevant.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ And if you're DM don't allow it, you can always ask to throw your staff like a cheerleader when you cast this particular spell and catch it immediately after. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 15:04

It should be possible to cast Burning Hands in this manner

The rules for Somatic Components of Spells stipulate that at least one hand must be free to successfully perform the spell.

Somatic (S)

Spellcasting gestures might include a forceful gesticulation or an intricate set of gestures. If a spell requires a somatic component, the caster must have free use of at least one hand to perform these gestures.

Components, Player's Handbook, pg. 203

Strictly speaking, you don't need to use two hands to hold a staff; you might need to use two hands if you attempt to make a melee attack with one*, but because you're only required to hold the staff in one hand, you satisfy the somatic components.

* The only staff in the PHB weapon list is a Quarterstaff, a one-handed weapon with the Versatile property; so such a "two-handed staff as a melee weapon" weapon would have to be some kind of homebrew.

Which brings us to the question of satisfying the particular requirements of Burning Hands. As the top listed answer in the question you linked indicates, Flavor Text isn't a real thing in 5th Edition D&D: everything is mechanics, everything has mechanical consequences. So because Burning Hands has a strict requirement to "hold your hands with thumbs touching and fingers spread", we need to adjudicate two issues:

Physically holding the staff in this manner

I'm dubious about the claim that you're going to hold the staff by hooking your thumbs under the staff: certainly, it's possible, but I suspect that as a matter of practicality, a five-fingered humanoid would probably prefer to use their pinkies to hold up the staff—and at that point, what do you need the thumbs for?

Sitting at my desk, writing this answer out while testing with two pencils I've taped together, it's more comfortable to hold them up with my pinkies than with my thumbs or using my thumbs and pinkies together. Both of the latter examples are possible—although in the former case I had some issues balancing the pencils—but neither is preferable, to me, as simply holding them with my pinkies. So maybe this answer is something of a frame challenge: don't use the thumbs to hold the staff up.

Either way though: the requirement of the spell is to "hold your hands with thumbs touching and fingers spread", and I can at least verify that it's possible to make these kinds of gestures while holding onto an object in this manner. And since we've satisfied the strict Somatic Components requirements (being able to have a hand free), I think it is appropriate to rule that casting the spell in this manner does not constitute the Somatic components being "disrupted" with mechanical consequences.

Does the staff block Line of Sight to the targets?

Just so our bases are covered: there's a risk that casting Burning Hands in this manner would occlude some of the flames as they erupt from your hands.

Your DM will have to make a ruling, but if there were to be a mechanical impact from casting the spell like this, I would personally not rule the impact is greater than providing Half-Cover to your targets, which would give them +2 to their Dexterity Saving Throws—and in practice I'd be unlikely to even apply this, since depending on what you consider to be the "origin" of the cone of effect (the thumbs, maybe?) it's certainly possible to orient the staff such that it doesn't intersect the volume of the cone.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Taping two pencils together may not be the best comparison because a staff is probably quite bigger and heavier than two pencils. On the other hand, you taped two pencils together just for this answer -> +1 \$\endgroup\$
    – Sdjz
    Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 15:12
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ No. Pinkies will not support a heavier staff and you would waste time and risk dropping the staff while adjusting your grip to this. Grab a broomstick and try it. Grasp with both fists. Slide the fists together so the thumbs are touching. Extend all fingers so they are pointing forward and the "staff" is gripped by the C formed by your thumbs and palms. The thumbs do not need to extend, they only need to touch. The spell specifies that the point of origin for the effect is the outstretched finger tips as I mentioned in my comment to the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – krb
    Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 15:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @krb The origin of the spell needs to be handwaved somewhat: the origin of a cone is a single point, but the tips of the caster's fingertips is a plane; or at least the surface area of a circle; or 8 (or more, or less) discrete individual points. So there's clearly some adjudication that needs to be done on that part of the spell. \$\endgroup\$
    – Xirema
    Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 16:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ The rules for Somatic Components of Spells stipulate that at least one hand must be free to successfully perform the spell. — this is the generic rule, and specific beats generic in 5e. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 16:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor What's trickier is if your hands are occupied doing this...do you even have a free hand? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 16:50

Stick the staff under your arm

You get one free object interaction to do this. Your hands are now free. On your next turn you get one free object interaction to grab the staff again.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ So...no, but? :) \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 23:36
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ +1; These were the same lines I was thinking along; although I'd say that, if you simply drop the staff, since a PC can typically be assumed to be holding the staff upright, the staff will probably fall into you upright, meaning it's effectively propped up again you. As you put your hands together for Burning Hands, the staff would also be "in your arms", meaning it's not going to fall away from you either. In which case you could probably say that this doesn't count as an object interaction, meaning it could then be grabbed again (as a free object interaction) before the end of the same turn. \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 9:12

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .