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The text from Somatic reads that the caster must have a hand free to gesture with when they cast a spell with a somatic component.

None of the conditions such as restrained or grappled seem to restrict hand motion.

Am I missing something or are these conditions useless for preventing the casting of somatic component spells?

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Conditions that stop a character from casting a spell that requires somatic components include any situation where the character's hands are otherwise occupied or unable to use his hands. For example:

  • Wielding a weapon or a shield. If the caster has a weapon in hand, he is unable to use his hands to also cast a spell. This limitation is removed by the War Caster feat.
  • Not having hands. This applies to druids, as they can still cast spells in their Wild Shape at high enough level. If the Wild Shape has no hands however (i.e. an eagle), casting spells with somatic components is impossible unless the druid is at least 18th level.
  • Completely immobilized. This relates more to roleplaying a situation than it does to being restrained, for example if your character has been captured and is tied down completely. There is no way he would be able to use his hands, even thought the restrained condition applies no limit on this usually.

Overall, this is mostly a common sense rule. If the caster is in a situation where he clearly wouldn't be able to use his hands to cast a spell, he shouldn't have access to spells requiring somatic components unless he possesses a feat or a class feature specifying otherwise (aka the War Caster feat or the Druid's casting while in Wild Shape class feature).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Druids cannot cast spells in Wild shape at all until they are level 18 \$\endgroup\$ – illustro May 17 at 10:06
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Basically the rule requires you don't wield a weapon or shield without a feat that allows you to.

Page 79 under material component.

A spell caster must have a hand free to access these components , but it can be the same hand used for the somatic components.

So yes those conditions are not useful for distracting a wizard. The best thing you can do is be adjacent to the wizard, or hurt them so they need to make a concentration check.

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Very few conditions (PHB 290) prevent spellcasting by RAW. It mostly comes down to whether the spellcaster is Incapacitated.

  • Blinded

    most spells require the caster to see their target

  • Incapacitated

    the creature cannot take any actions

  • Paralyzed

    the creature is Incapacitated and cannot move or speak

  • Petrified

    the creature is Incapacitated and cannot move or speak and is unaware

  • Stunned

    the creature is Incapacitated and cannot move and can barely speak

  • Unconscious

    the creature is Incapacitated and cannot move or speak and is unaware

These aren't conditions, per se, but:

  • Dead

  • Surprised

    You can't take any actions during your first turn

  • Silenced

    while in the AoE of a Silence spell, you cannot cast spells with a Verbal component

Obviously, if a spellcasters hands are bound or manacled the DM may decide this is sufficient to prevent spellcasting with somatic components, especially if done by someone familiar with how spells are cast. If not done well enough however, you can imagine a very powerful wizard making the minimal gestures necessary and getting away with the casting. The DM could always use an Arcana skill challenge or the spell is wasted to make this interesting. Possibly the same thing when grappled if you roleplay some kind of pinning action (a basic grapple is not the same thing as a pin though - a grapple is akin to grabbing another creature by the wrist, arm, etc. and not necessarily a bear hug).

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They should prevent, but there are no rules for this.

As far as I have read there are no indications that conditions as restrained and grappled affect spellcasting at all. The problem is that there are evidence that "proves" that those conditions should affect spellcasting, particularly the restrained condition. One of these rules is Armor Proficiency (PHB 144, emphasis mine). Armor proficiency stipulate that, without proficiency, the caster is unable to cast spell in an armor. In PHB 201 there is a small section that goes a little deeper in the reasons why using an armor that you are not proficiency interfere with spellcasting. From this segment we can see the implications of wearing armor and hampering spellcasting.

Armor Proficiency: Anyone can put on a suit of armor or strap a shield to an arm. Only those proficient in the armor’s use know how to wear it effectively, however. If you wear armor that you lack proficiency with, you have disadvantage on any ability check, saving throw, or attack roll that involves Strength or Dexterity, and you can’t cast spells.

Casting in Armor: Because of the mental focus and precise gestures required for spellcasting, you must be proficient with the armor you are wearing to cast a spell. You are otherwise too distracted and physically hampered by your armor for spellcasting.

Since being too distracted and physically hampered is a reason to nullify spellcasting, other conditions that physically hamper the caster would, and should, also hamper spellcasting (game balance aside). The closest and easiest condition that apply hampering conditions similar to the lack of armor proficiency is the restrained condition (emphasis mine).

Restrained (PHB 292)

  • Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature’s attack rolls have disadvantage.
  • The creature has disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws.

As you can read from the quotations, some effects are similar between armor proficiency and the restrained condition. Also, as a note, it seems that it require at least some level of dexterity to be able to cast spells, but that is never touched in D&D for balance factors. Thus, the evidence points that, at least the restrained condition, should hamper spellcasting.

Balance

There are some illogical things in the rules that make you wonder why a particular feature like wearing armor hampers spellcasting, but other things much more invasive as being restrained by a creature do not hamper spellcasting at all. But, if the condition is frequent enough, this would defeat the purpose of spellcasters, since they are too easy to shoot down.

What to do?

Do these condition should stop spellcasting? If the situations occurs too often, no, it should not be applied unless the players want the challenge.

Is it an oversight form the authors? Most likely no, since they removed any vestige of the cumbersome 3.X arcane failure by armor for a more simple and manageable "or you have it or you don't, but nothing in between" mechanic, they might have foreseen these situations. The moment you add more rules like this, more and more situations are going to appear that would stop spellcasting and more things to track down, and that seems out of the spirit of 5e.

As a DM

All the logic points out that it should hamper spellcasting, if you have a vision for this there are some rules that support the theory. Just remember, if a change seems to powerful, you have all the right to revert your decision.

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protected by Oblivious Sage May 17 at 0:32

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