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I am playing an Arcane Trickster, and my group is having a discussion about Ranged Legerdemain. According to the one of the other members of the group, because Mage Hand is a prerequisite for the class, Ranged Legerdemain works as an "upgrade" to it. Therefore, it cannot be used to steal magic items or disable magic traps at a distance.

The DM has not made an official ruling yet, but seems to be strongly leaning in that direction, so I was looking for advice. Is this correct? Here is the wording for Ranged Legerdemain:

Ranged Legerdemain (Su)

An arcane trickster can use Disable Device and Sleight of Hand at a range of 30 feet. Working at a distance increases the normal skill check DC by 5, and an arcane trickster cannot take 10 on this check. Any object to be manipulated must weigh 5 pounds or less. She can only use this ability if she has at least 1 rank in the skill being used.

And here is the relevant wording from Mage Hand:

Target one non-magical, unattended object weighing up to 5 lbs.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It's not really an answer, but...I'd always seen Ranged Legerdemain as not manipulating the trap or lock itself, but instead manipulating the thieves tools (since nothing says you don't need those tools for the checks). \$\endgroup\$
    – YogoZuno
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 4:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @YogoZuno I think that actually is a possible answer: “you’re both wrong” is a fair answer. That said, I’d be much more inclined to agree with you if Sleight of Hand wasn’t on the list. That skill doesn’t usually involve thieves tools. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 13:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Of course, you would only need the Tools for Disabling, and not Sleighting. \$\endgroup\$
    – YogoZuno
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 3:14

2 Answers 2

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Your fellow player is wrong. There is absolutely nothing in ranged legerdemain that connects it to mage hand under the rules, and there needs to be to have the effect that they are claiming.

There is clearly a thematic linkage between the mage hand you use to enter the class, and the ranged legerdemain feature that the class grants. Equally clearly, ranged legerdemain represents a significantly superior ability with telekinesis than mage hand does: by taking levels in the class, you have gotten better at doing these kinds of things. But mechanically, the two are separate, and anything they wanted it to inherit from mage hand, they would have pointed out. For example, ranged legerdemain states a weight limit of 5 pounds—the fact that mage hand has that limit didn’t count and it had to be restated for ranged legerdemain.

They could have also chosen to make ranged legerdemain directly “inherit” from mage hand, and start with all of mage hand’s properties as a default and then listed exceptions. The wording they typically use is something like “as mage hand except...” This is extremely common, for example, with dimension door, which has a lot of limitations and interactions to inherit: see the boots of escape, the feathered headdress, the mirror transport spell, a ring of transportation, etc. For example:

The wearer is instantly transported to that location, as dimension door, except the user can continue taking actions normally.

(Feathered headdress magic item description, emphasis mine)

The very fact that the system has a standard wording, and they didn't use it, is telling here.

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I have only ever considered Ranged Legerdemain for Disabling Devices(as my own Rogues rarely use Sleight of Hand, and even more rarely at a distance). As such, although it's never directly stated in the ability, I'd always pictured it as manipulating the Thieves Tools required for an Open Locks attempt from a distance, rather than manipulating the lock or trap directly via telekinesis. Since you are manipulating the tools, the question of weight never arises, although it might be possible for the tools to be enchanted.

However, I do agree that if Ranged Legerdemain had been intended to inherit more of Mage Hands limitations, then the ability would either have said to treat it as Mage Hand, or would have explicitly listed the limitation. This means I would not rule the same as your GM, and allow the ability to interact with magical traps (and locks), and steal magical items.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The question specifies that the DM hasn’t ruled. The claim that ranged legerdemain has the same limitations as mage hand is coming from another player. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 13:57

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