Short Version:

  1. The 5e rules state that a player can substitute material components with a focus. Could the player provide the actual material instead?

  2. If so, could a Divine Soul Sorcerer/Paladin use the holy symbol engraved on his shield to cast Spirit Guardians (that counts as a sorcerer spell) without having to drop/sheathe his weapon and pulling out his focus that explicitly names a holy symbol as the material component?

  3. If so, would that be so strong since in my understanding the necessity of different foci slows down some of the rather strong multiclass options.

A player of my group came up with a rough levelup-plan for his character in our upcoming campaign. He will be a Sorcerer/Paladin. All his paladin spells' somatic and material components will be dumped into the shield, because of other discussions on this site, this seems to be the way it is.

Now, his Divine Soul uses Cleric spells as a Sorcerer spells and hence their material component should be covered by a focus or a pouch, but he argues that the DND5e Basic rules state:

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

So he argues that he can use his holy symbol engraved on his shield to cast "Spirit Guardians" as the Divine Soul and I am very inclined to let him do it, because I like it when players come up with smart character ideas that have an instantly comprehendable role playing aspect. (yeah, sure, there are some very well played barbarian wizards out there, but everyone gets the Aasimar Divine Soul Paladin instantly).

The Divine Soul Conquest Paladin seems to be strong as it is and now letting him cast holy symbol cleric spells with his weapon drawn could become a tad strong. Well, I like that it's not a Sorlock engulfing everything in darkness and sniping away while everyone else can't do anything useful and besides the damage potential from the Scourge Aasimar trait and Spirit Guardians it seems more like a robust support but still.

Is this holy symbol material a way around the slowing down of the multiclassing impact? I think about the oftentimes talked about cleric druid who is a beast of a healer but has to take into account the changing of weapons/foci.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It's hard to read what your main question is. Can you rephrase or clarify what is your question? Are you asking "does allowing holy symbol to be used as arcane focus is overpowered?" \$\endgroup\$
    – Vylix
    Apr 10, 2020 at 6:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Or are you asking "Is it possible to use a holy symbol to cast a Divine Soul Sorcerer's cleric spells?" \$\endgroup\$
    – BBeast
    Apr 10, 2020 at 6:18
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I edited it. I don't want to use the "wrong focus" since the cleric spells count as sorc spells and therefore need a sorc material substitute, but if the material component is explicitly stated as "holy symbol", can i then use the holy symbol that exists on the character instead of having to pull out the wand. \$\endgroup\$
    – woosar
    Apr 10, 2020 at 6:21
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Ah, I see, spirit guardians is a special case. \$\endgroup\$
    – BBeast
    Apr 10, 2020 at 6:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Although, in the short version, you should probably just narrow it down to the case of spirit guardians unless you can find other specific examples of spells with the same material component. Things work better here when each question contains just a single question. \$\endgroup\$
    – BBeast
    Apr 10, 2020 at 6:25

1 Answer 1


Yes, you can cast spirit guardians using the holy symbol on your shield as a material component.

As your player has rightly pointed out, the use of a spellcasting focus is optional, by use of the word "can". Being a sorcerer does not deny you the ability to use normal material components.

Spirit guardians specifies that its material component is "a holy symbol". You have a holy symbol on your shield. Therefore, that holy symbol on your shield can be used to satisfy the material component of spirit guardians.

I comment that the Divine Soul sorcerer cannot use a holy symbol as a spellcasting focus for his cleric spells (unless he also multiclasses into cleric), because from the paladin spellcasting feature the holy symbol can only be used as a component substitute for paladin spells. This holy symbol is being used directly as a material component for this particular spell.

The only ambiguity is whether a holy symbol on the shield can be used as a material component. You could argue that when it is affixed to the shield you are not holding it correctly to use as a material component. However, I argue that handling which works for a spellcasting focus should work for an equivalent material component.

The rules on Material components (PHB 203, chapter 10) state:

Casting a spell requires particular objects, specified in parentheses in the component entry. A character can use 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.

This indicates that you need a hand to handle or hold the material component. But it also suggests an equivalence between material components and spellcasting foci, in terms of how they are handled, and also in substituting materials components.

The rules for the holy symbol (PHB 151, Equipment) state:

A cleric or paladin can use a holy symbol as a spellcasting focus, as described in chapter 10. To use the symbol in this way, the caster must hold it in hand, wear it visibly, or bear it on a shield.

Now this is slightly different to the wording in chapter 10, as a holy symbol can be used as a focus even without using hands (by wearing it visibly). However, a shield is held in the hand, so a shield bearing a holy symbol could also count as holding the holy symbol in your hand.

Additionally, I noted the equivalence between how spellcasting foci and material components are used. It would be very strange if, for this one spell which used your holy symbol for a material component, you had to do something completely different to all the other spells which used your holy symbol for their material component. Therefore, I believe that the holy symbol on your sorcerer's shield can be used to cast spirit guardians.

You have concerns about balance. However, this combination does not strike me as unbalanced. Only one spell is affected. I do not know of any other spells which specify a holy symbol as their material component. Because it is only one spell the possibility of abuse is small.


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