Since mage hand cannot attack, would I be able to will it to pull a string tied to a trigger mechanism such as crossbow?

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4 Answers 4


In order to do what you are talking about, the crossbow needs to:

  • be mounted in a fixed location
  • be pre-aimed at a spot where you hope the target will be when the crossbow fires
  • have a string attached to the trigger mechanism in a manner that will fire the crossbow when the string is pulled.

What is being described here is not a weapon, it is a trap.

It is a trap that is triggered manually instead of automatically (such as by attaching the string to a tripwire), but it is still a trap.

If your DM allows you to use Mage Hand to remotely trigger traps that you find while exploring then there is no reason for them to disallow triggering your own trap the same way.

You should take a look at What are the options for player characters to create traps? for some rules and ideas about constructing traps.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What if the crossbow would be mounted on a turntable platform? The magehand could be used to turn the crossbow first (manipulate object) and then trigger the firing next round. \$\endgroup\$
    – findusl
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 10:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @findusl good luck with all the actions that would require. The fact that the crossbow shot would be treated as a trap remains. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 12:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @findusl: The Mage Hand cannot aim, though, the Wizard does. And aiming (properly) requires rotating with the crossbow, which requires an action too. At this point, it'd be easier to just handle the crossbow yourself. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 14:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MatthieuM. I assume that is not possible, maybe the crossbow is behind a portcullis or similar. \$\endgroup\$
    – findusl
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 16:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MatthieuM.: yup, trying to aim a crossbow without sighting down it is going to be low accuracy. Like maybe hitting a huge target, but not a humanoid unless they're standing still and very close. And you're not trying to do it at all quickly. (e.g. combat hasn't started yet. crossbow hidden from the target in something too small for a humanoid, so they aren't expecting to be shot from there. Then maybe, and easy to miss, or hit their armor / non-vital spot. i.e. some penalty on the attack roll even though it takes multiple rounds aiming.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 23:26

Yes, assuming the crossbow is being held and aimed by someone or something else

The stat block for Mage Hand says:

You can use the hand to manipulate an object, open an unlocked door or container, stow or retrieve an item from an open container, or pour the contents out of a vial.

If you can open a door, grab an item from a bag, pour out a vial, or do any other object manipulation task, you can pull a string, even if it's connected to a crossbow trigger. So, what about the ban on attacking:

The hand can't Attack, activate magical items, or carry more than 10 pounds

By "Attack", this paragraph is referring to a specific concept in the rules. So, what is an attack? This question (What counts as an attack?) covers it in more detail, but the basic rule is this:

... the rule is simple: if you're making an attack roll, you're making an attack

So, you can certainly hold a sword or pull the trigger of a crossbow with mage hand, but you can never make a real attack that involves an attack roll against a target's AC. You can move and manipulate objects, including weapons, and, if the target is totally defenseless, for example cutting a sandwich with a knife or firing an aimed crossbow at a target, you might (with DM approval) even damage it, but if the attempt isn't an automatic success, then it would be an automatic failure (since you can't roll for the attack).


The mage hand cannot make an Attack (capital A, i.e. an attack roll).

  • It could pull a pin that's holding the roof up.
  • It could pull a lever that releases a trap door.
  • It could trigger a crossbow by pulling a string.

They are all manually activating traps and get treated as such.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Can you support your answer by citing relevant evidence (e.g. the rules, or designer statements)? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 21:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, related to your first line: What does upper-case-A-Attack action vs. lower-case-a-attack mean? "Attack", capitalized, is used for the attack action; an attack roll is just what defines an "attack", no capital necessary. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 21:30

I think it's allowed

One interpretation is that the hand itself cannot hit a creature. Full stop.

This would allow for all sorts of things ranging from "I use the hand to drop Alchemist's Fire on such and such monster" to "I use the hand to hold a spear and then hit a monster with the spear".

Pulling the trigger of a crossbow seems fine under this interpretation.

...However, you might not want to

Mage hand isn't a sentient hand. It's an extension of your hand. How good would your aim be if you were firing a crossbow without being able to line up the sights on your target?

If I was the DM, I would impose a pretty large penalty to hit with a weapon via Mage Hand. And, don't forget, manipulating an object with Mage Hand costs your action.

Saying that Mage Hand can't attack at all is valid

All that said, your DM could rule that the spell can't be used for attacks at all. This would be a fair reading of the rules.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would treat the crossbow as a trap and give the target a dex save attempt with a set DC for the trap rather than require a to hit roll. Having to roll to hit in this case makes it more like the Mage Hand is making an attack, which is prohibited by the spell description. If an added layer of difficulty is desired, perhaps a str check for the mage hand is more appropriate since the spell description specifically says it can only carry up to 10 pounds. It would then be up to the DM to determine how many pounds of pressure the trigger on a crossbow is under to determine the DC for the check. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 11:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ The spell description doesn't specify if it's the Attack action (and the 'A' isn't capitalized) so I think it's still valid to argue that the hand cannot hit something, but could hold/use an object capable of inflicting damage. \$\endgroup\$
    – Max F
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 21:49

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