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The Circle of Stars druid's Star Map feature grants the following benefits (TCoE, p. 38):

You've created a star chart as part of your heavenly studies. It is a Tiny object and can serve as a spellcasting focus for your druid spells. You determine its form by rolling on the Star Map table or by choosing one.

While holding this map, you have these benefits:

  • You know the guidance cantrip.
  • You have the guiding bolt spell prepared. It counts as a druid spell for you, and it doesn't count against the number of spells you can have prepared.
  • You can cast guiding bolt without expending a spell slot. You can do so a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

Neither guiding bolt nor guidance have a material component. It would seem from the language that RAW one must hold the chart in one hand and cast these spells with the other, unless one has the War Caster feat.

Is my interpretation of the rules correct? And what is actually intended?

Is the star chart a material component for guidance and guiding bolt?

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No, it does not add material components to the spells it grants, but it must be held in the hand for the character to have access to these spells.

There are no hidden rules.

The star chart gives you the following benefits:

  • you can use it as an arcane focus
  • while holding it you can cast additional spells

Notably it does not say it is a material component.

D&D 5e works on the principle of

Specific Beats General

(PHB, XGtE, TC)

That principle requires that, in order for an exception to be created in the rules, a specific effect must contradict a general rule.

In this case, the general rule is, spells have material components if they say they do in their spell block. Neither of these spells have material components specified, so they don't have material components.

The rule for the star chart does not create an exception saying that they have material components. Ergo, they still don't have material components.

Now, regarding your related question, which (to paraphrase) is:

do you have to have another hand free to cast these spells because of the holding requirement?

No. Because the star chart can be used as a spellcasting focus, this exception applies:

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.

As a result, they can use the same hand that is holding the star chart to perform any somatic components required.


Additionally, War Caster does not apply in this situation because the exception it gives to the spellcasting rules is:

You can perform the somatic components of spells even when you have weapons or a shield in one or both hands.

So, if the star chart were not a spellcasting focus (which it is) then the War Caster feat would not allow you to use the hand holding the star chart to perform somatic components.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This seems to go against the RAI that a VS spell with no M component cannot be cast without a free hand. \$\endgroup\$
    – kent
    Mar 27, 2021 at 15:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Warcaster is mentioned because you could hold a shield in one hand and the chart in the other and use the shield hand to make s components. \$\endgroup\$
    – kent
    Mar 27, 2021 at 15:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ The argument I'm presenting is using RAW. Where is that RAI you are referring to expressed? (Because the M exception I referenced explicitly allows you to use a hand holding a spellcasting focus to also perform the somatic components) \$\endgroup\$
    – illustro
    Mar 27, 2021 at 15:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ In the sage advice compendium we are told the m exception only applies to m spells. Guiding Bolt is vs only. \$\endgroup\$
    – kent
    Mar 27, 2021 at 15:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @kent The SAC provides RAI (rules as intended) as opposed to RAW (rules as written). In order to change RAW wizards would need to issue an errata to the PHB. \$\endgroup\$
    – illustro
    Apr 10, 2021 at 9:44

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