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When casting a spell with a material component, does one have to spend an object interaction taking the component pouch/focus out of wherever it's kept, or can it just be "handled" by touching it and not taking it out?

An example where this matters: Ellen the Eldritch Knight is holding a longsword and wants to cast fireball. If she pulls out her component pouch to cast the spell, then (according to this question), she won't have time during the rest of the action to put it away, so if she gets to make an opportunity attack before her next turn, she won't be able to use her weapon's versatile feature. Could this tragedy be avoided by keeping the component pouch in her pocket the whole time and only interacting with it by sticking her hand in her pocket, rather than taking the pouch out of her pocket? Does the answer change if an arcane focus is used instead of a component pouch?

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Using a component pouch

A component pouch is not something you pull out and hold in your hand; it's attached to your belt:

A component pouch is a small, watertight leather belt pouch [...]

When you want to cast a spell, you flip it open and grab the component, all one-handed, but the pouch stays put on your belt. If you're wearing the pouch on your belt, it doesn't occupy your hand before or after casting, and it doesn't require an object interaction to access.

If your pouch is inside a pocket or another bag or something, you may need an object interaction to use it, and potentially more because you haven't secured it to your hip the way it's intended to be. A DM might rule that you need both hands, one to hold the pouch and the other to extract a component and do the casting. (I would personally tend to be more flexible about this and rule that just having the component pouch on you is enough to justify casting freely, but I don't like micromanaging the exact position and usage of each of your hands at all times, as long as you aren't telling me you're holding five things all at once. Some DMs are more hard-nosed about the details of what you're doing with your hands.)

So if you have a two-handed or versatile weapon and the War Magic class feature, in one turn, you could:

  • Remove one hand from the weapon (free)
  • Reach into your component pouch (part of casting)
  • Remove the necessary component (part of casting)
  • Cast the spell (an action)
  • Drop the component you just used, if it wasn't consumed by the casting (free)
  • Place your hand back on the weapon (free)
  • Make a weapon attack with both hands using War Magic (bonus action)

Using a focus

The situation with the focus is less obviously clear. Readying a focus seems similar to drawing a sword or knife, but that isn't directly mentioned anywhere. Based on the errata'd spellcasting component rules under "Material", it sounds like you need to draw/ready a focus prior to casting:

A character can use a component pouch or a spellcasting focus in place of the components specified for a spell. [...] 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.

It seems likely that readying a focus counts as an object interaction and precludes a second one -- so you can't put the focus away immediately. The pouch leaves your hand free afterward, but a focus does not, and pulling your focus is probably an object interaction, so if you want to use your hand for something else later in the same round, you should go with a component pouch.

Can you even use a focus?

But a focus may not even be an option in your particular case. The Eldritch Knight does not have a class feature that makes them proficient with any kind of focus, which makes a component pouch your only option (or, y'know, the actual components themselves). You'd have to multiclass into Wizard get focus proficiency for wizard spells, and I'm not sure that would even count; it's somewhat ambiguous whether or not Eldritch Knight spells count as "wizard spells" as required by the wizard's Spellcasting Focus feature. (The spells come from the wizard list, but were not gained through the wizard class.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While the question in the body admittedly only speaks of a component pouch, the question in the title also mentions foci, which I am also interested in. Would it be too much trouble to address what happens if a focus is used instead of a pouch? \$\endgroup\$ – jwodder Oct 1 at 14:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ FYI, the text you've quoted for material components has been changed as of the latest errata. It now reads "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." That seems to imply that a focus does occupy the hand used to hold it in the same way a one-handed weapon would. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Oct 1 at 15:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanThompson I was actually just now looking at that. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Oct 1 at 15:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ On the very last note, this question may be relevant. link \$\endgroup\$ – Benjamin Olson Oct 1 at 15:27
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A spellcaster must have a hand free to access these components, but it can be the same hand that he or she uses to perform somatic components.

So if the weapon is one-handed and the other hand is free, no problem. However, the question you link is off-base: the asker’s problem is that they try to sheathe the weapon. If you don’t do that—if you just let go of it with one hand, holding it in the other, while you cast the spell, you are able to free up your hand with no problems.

The question then is, do you need to use an item interaction to take out your focus or pouch, leaving it stuck in your hand when you go to grab your weapon again. I would say no. The rule says “you must have a free hand to access these components,” but it does not say you need to use an item-interaction. Any “actions” you might need to perform are part of the action you spend casting the spell, not any additional actions. Additional necessary actions should be noted explicitly. However, since the lack of those actions is also not noted explicitly, you’ll have to double-check with your DM, or decide for yourself if you are the DM.

Note that this only helps two-handed weapons, however, and casting with two weapons or with weapon and shield is difficult. The War Caster feat solves the problem, however.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is an interesting mechanical edge that a component pouch provides over a spellcasting focus, which I feel gets glossed over a lot: the component pouch doesn't occupy the caster's hand except during the casting of a spell, in much the same way that a 2-handed weapon only requires the second hand while attacking and leaves that second hand free the rest of the time. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Oct 1 at 5:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ By the way, you might also want to quote the description of the component pouch, which describes it as a "belt pouch", i.e. not handheld. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Oct 1 at 5:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ This would be like archers fiering their bow: drawing an arrow is not an interaction, but is included in the act of shooting. Grabbing material components from a pouch is the same situation. Now, the pouch must be "in easy reach", but there is no need for it to be "In hand", you can simply cast a spell with a material component, and still make 2-handed attacks of opportunity in the same turn \$\endgroup\$ – ThisIsMe Oct 1 at 9:57

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