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I'm playing a wizard who has come across two magical spellbooks. Both spellbooks have abilities/effects that I may choose to activate if I hold them, as well as functioning as spell foci. In the PHB/Spellcasting/Components, it states that I need a free hand for somatic components, but also states the following:

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.

Apparently I can hold both spellbooks and cast normally.
What is the interaction here?
May I still use both spellbooks to their fullest potential, or, do I have to find a system of stowing the books to cast?

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    \$\begingroup\$ @PurpleMonkey Actually, there are: take for example the Alchemical Compendium from Tasha's. \$\endgroup\$ – Eddymage May 18 at 9:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Eddymage hmm, well there you go, so there is. Thank you for pointing that out :) \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey May 18 at 10:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PurpleMonkey And the Awaken Spellbook feature of the Scribe. \$\endgroup\$ – TheKhileyan May 18 at 11:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think you meant 'dual wield' rather than 'duel wield' in your title. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 18 at 13:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Both spellbooks have abilities/effects that I may choose to activate if I hold them" — could you please describe what these magic items are? Are they homebrewed? If they are from a particular source, what the source is? This matters because 5e rules are based on exceptions — what works for material components in general might not work for these particular spellbooks. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor May 19 at 11:11
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This works for spells with no-cost material components.

You have quoted the relevant rule:

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.

In each hand, we hold an arcane focus - our material components. The rules say that the hand that handles the material components can be the same hand that performs the somatic components. So either hand is able to meet spells with (S,M) components.

If the spell does not have material components and does have somatic components, you must have a free hand; you will have to put one of the books away:

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.

Additionally, if the spell has a costly material component, you will need to free up a hand to handle that component.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, isn't it possible to attach for example a Pearl for 100gp to your staff to cast Identify? We always did that at our tables, but tbh we never thought about that... now reading these sentences out loud, I realize that we actually house ruled that. Dang... all these years :) \$\endgroup\$ – TheKhileyan May 18 at 11:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TheKhileyan Whatever works for your table. I’ve played at tables that were really loose with spell components rules and tables that were really strict. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov May 18 at 15:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Am I reading this right, that the particular arrangement of dual-wielding these spellbooks results in a case where what should normally make the spell easier to cast (removing one of its components) instead makes it harder? \$\endgroup\$ – Stop Being Evil May 18 at 16:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @StopBeingEvil The idea is that for (S,M) spells, the somatic component is the act of handling the material component. For a (S) spell with no material component, the somatic component is some kind of specific hand gesturing that wouldn’t be possible while holding an arcane focus. So not harder, just different. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov May 18 at 16:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Citation needed. \$\endgroup\$ – Stop Being Evil May 18 at 16:51

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