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I have a doubt about this. I have had various answers and they contradict each other so I would like some clarity on this.

I am a Cleric, I have a shield (which is also my focus), I want to wear my shield in battle to benefit from the +2 AC and I want to be able to cast spells. I'm not holding anything in my free hand.

Is a Cleric who is a) proficient in Shields and b) trying to cast a spell with a somatic component able to do so, if they only have one hand free?

That is, without having to doff the shield and suffering an AC penalty. I seem to remember there being a rule about needing to have at least one hand free to cast spells?

Thanks for your help with this.

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Yes

Spellcasting only requires the use of one hand.

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.

Source: 5e SRD

Note that you don’t necessarily need a free hand; The rules on material components imply you can use the hand holding your spellcasting focus (in your case, your shield) to perform somatic components:

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.

Answering the last bit of the question:

I seem to remember there being a rule about needing to have at least one hand free to cast spells?

Yes, but only for spells requiring (S) components. There is no general rule that all spells require a free hand, and there are plenty of rules without somatic components such as Wish

Note that the 5e SRD is official material published by WoTC, but the website I’ve linked to itself is not run by WoTC; Rather it is a more convenient display for this official WoTC document published under the OGL.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You may wish to clarify whether the focus interaction is only valid if the spell also has a material component \$\endgroup\$
    – Medix2
    Jan 30 '20 at 15:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I did link to the source PDF. I haven’t referenced the PHB directly because I don’t have it with me right now. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cubic
    Jan 30 '20 at 15:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Technically, the SRD isn't a rules resource anyway, but rather a document detailing what content can be legally distributed by others using the OGL. (It also hasn't been updated since 2016.) You might be better off linking to the basic rules, whether on D&D Beyond (an officially licensed distributor of official 5e content) or the original PDF from WotC. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jan 31 '20 at 10:56
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Directly from the PHB pg 203 (emphasis mine) when discussing somatic(S) spell components:

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

Therefore if your character is holding a shield, in one hand and their other hand was empty, they would be able to cast spells that included somatic components.

For your case, where your shield is your spell casting focus, you do not even need a free hand. Also stated on the same PHB page mentioned above (emphasis mine) under the Material (M) component section it states:

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.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If the shield is their focus, they can cast with no hands "free" as they can use the hand holding their focus to cast somatic components. "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." \$\endgroup\$ Jan 30 '20 at 16:06

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