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Xanathar's Guide to Everything includes the spell shadow blade, which seems intended to be used only by the caster. It creates an actual weapon (XGtE, p. 164):

You weave together threads of shadow to create a sword of solidified gloom in your hand.

However, the spell also says:

If you drop the weapon or throw it, it dissipates at the end of the turn.

Instead of dropping or throwing the sword, what happens if the caster hands it to an ally? Can that ally attack with the sword on subsequent turns (in particular, without either party using Ready to act on the same turn)? Would the sword dissipate if an ally was the one who dropped or threw it?

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It Would Dissipate

The Rules as Intended, and official ruling in Sage Advice is that it would dissipate.

The intent is the blade vanishes when you let go of it (that’s one of the meanings of the word “drop”).

If it Didn't

If you ignore Sage Advice and read "drop" differently than Rules Designer Jeremy Crawford, all you have is what is in the shadow blade spell:

If you drop the weapon or throw it, it dissipates at the end of the turn. Thereafter, while the spell persists, you can use a bonus action to cause the sword to reappear in your hand.

Note, this literal reading has drawbacks and a few problems. The drawback is that you wouldn't be able to summon it back unless you drop or throw it, and the other character couldn't gain the proficiency benefit from the spell, nor the advantage from dim light or darkness.

It counts as a simple melee weapon with which you are proficient. ... attack a target that is in dim light or darkness, you make the attack roll with advantage.

The issues with this literal reading are that a player you passed it would be able to drop or throw it, and it wouldn't be able to be called back to you. These issues are likely an artifact of the intent of the designers not matching the words they wrote. So, ask your DM before you try it, or try it in game before a fight so you're not caught off guard.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Of note: the advantage and Proficiency bonus would only apply to the caster as the spell description uses the word "you" when describing them. Also the ally dropping the blade would not make it disappear and you cannot resummon the blade until it has disappeared \$\endgroup\$
    – Medix2
    Aug 17 '19 at 22:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ I just caught the latter, I missed the prof bonus. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 17 '19 at 22:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @chrisstarnes oh wow, I believe that is correct \$\endgroup\$
    – Medix2
    Aug 17 '19 at 23:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Other characters could not gain the advantage from being in dim light as well \$\endgroup\$
    – Medix2
    Aug 17 '19 at 23:12
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No

As per Sage Advice Compendium 2020, p.19:

Can I hand a shadow blade to another PC? It only says the blade dissipates as I throw or drop it. No. The intent is the blade vanishes when you let go of it (that’s one of the meanings of the word “drop”).

This recent addition to the SA-Compendium removes any lack of clarity in the spell's description.

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    \$\begingroup\$ “(that’s one of the meanings of the word “drop”),” ugh. No, it isn’t, not like this. There are plenty of ways to hand something over without “dropping” it, and this is just the kind of BS weaseling out of responsibility that I despise. WotC, you made a mistake, you didn’t consider your words carefully enough: just own up! \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 18 '20 at 16:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @kryan it is dropped into another creature's hand? maybe? Hard to defend haha. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 18 '20 at 20:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Strictly this doesn't say you can't. It says the intent is that you can't, but it's written in a way which lets you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nick
    Nov 12 '20 at 16:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ The “no” from sage advise seems pretty clear to me. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 13 '20 at 3:27
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Sage Advice now says No

With the release of the 2020 Sage Advice Compendium, this question now has a RAI (rules as intended) answer. According to Jeremy Crawford:

Can I hand a shadow blade to another PC? It only says the blade dissipates as I throw or drop it. No. The intent is the blade vanishes when you let go of it (that’s one of the meanings of the word “drop”).

Beyond Sage Advice

As a GM, I would probably disallow this tactic even without Sage Advice saying it won’t work, though. Anothe spell that is similar to shadow blade is another second level spell, flame blade. Flame blade says that “If you let go of the blade, it disappears”, which supports the idea that blades conjured with a spell are meant to be used by the caster, and only by the caster.

Compare this to the warlock’s Pact Boon option, the Pact of the Blade, which says that “Your pact weapon disappears if it is more than 5 feet away from you for 1 minute or more”. This allows another creature to use the pact weapon, and the SAC supports that by saying “ If you’re a Pact of the Blade warlock, can someone else wield your pact weapon? Yes. Someone other than the warlock can use a pact weapon before the weapon disappears”.

The fact that other blades conjured by spells disappear when the caster isn’t touching them, while not-conjured-by-a-spell blades can be separate from the creator, suggests that this spell should follow similar rules, even if it can be thrown (unlike flame blade). So as a GM, I would likely disallow this tactic even without the SAC ruling.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The comparison method is a nice approach to this question. +1 Well presented. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 18 '20 at 14:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ “Official rulings on how to interpret rules are made here in the Sage Advice Compendium.” —SAC p. 1 \$\endgroup\$ Oct 18 '20 at 16:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ChumpNicholson fixed. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 18 '20 at 19:43
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No, an ally can't use it

Giving the shadow blade to a different character would be the same as throwing or dropping it. Changing the words you describe the action with doesn't change the fact that you are either throwing the weapon to them or dropping it into their hands. You could give it to them, but it would vanish as soon as your turn ends.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Finding another example of text that uses "drop" but more clearly includes passing it would help your answer \$\endgroup\$
    – Medix2
    Aug 17 '19 at 22:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 I know, but I can't find one. Dropped does seem to be primarily used to refer to items which have been released from being held as opposed to handed which means giving it to someone else. I'm pretty sure RAI is that the blade is meant to dissipate at the end of your turn if you are no longer holding it specifically to stop someone else from using it. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 18 '19 at 0:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ I certainly agree on the intent. Just the RAW seems particularly odd. flame blade uses the phrasing "if you let go". I'm unsure what other spells summon things into your hand like these... \$\endgroup\$
    – Medix2
    Aug 18 '19 at 0:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 Flame blade is different since it is a melee only weapon. You can't throw it so the phrase "if you let it go" works fine. For shadow blade you can throw it so they had to come up with a different phrasing. Presumably they didn't consider the possibility that the caster might contemplate handing it off to someone. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 18 '19 at 6:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is worth noting that this answer is correct per the recent Sage Advice update. (Whether it is correct for the right semantic reason I'll leave to others). \$\endgroup\$ Oct 18 '20 at 14:18

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