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I'm playing a Warlock in 5e. I'm trying to make him a front line fighter/tank because we don't have any and our healing sucks. Thus, I'm trying everything I can to avoid being hit altogether. Mirror Image is helping, but I think some feats would really round out the character. One of these would be Medium Armor Prof. The other - War Caster, because how can I use a shield and my Pact Weapon if it stops me from casting spells, right? So, here's my question:

If I take War Caster, that allows me to perform the somatic components with my hands fullm holding weapon and shield. Does it also allow me to benefit from my Arcane Focus? Even though I can't touch it because I have my hands full?

If not, how can I cast spells at all that have material components? You have to pull the component out of your pouch to use the spell if it has a material component. If my hands are full I can't use either my focus OR my pouch!

Seeing as I'm doing this in Adventurers League, I want a really clear answer. I know I have to talk it over with my DM and see if they agree, but I need a good argument. What I'm saying is, I can't accept a house rule for this because it's sanctioned. I'm really hoping there's some kind of clarification out there for this.

Rules As Intended, either focus or pouch should work if I have that feat, but Rules As Written, there is no provision, so technically, this feat is only useful for a person with their focus in one hand and a shield or weapon in the other... which makes the feat pointless. (At least this part of it.)

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You're right, you're kind of stuck.

Thankfully, the action economy of 5e works in your favor here.

Here's what you need to do:

  • Select a crystal as your Arcane focus
  • Wear the crystal on your body (necklace, pendant, whatever). Components pouch also works here as there is no action economy on drawing stowing one of those.
  • When you want to cast a spell, drop your weapon and touch your crystal
  • When you're done casting, pick up your weapon.

This takes no additional actions, is perfectly legal (nothing specifies how big a crystal must be, just that you have a hand free to use it. (dropping a weapon costs you nothing, picking it up is your interact with object that's free with an attack or move).

The only real risk here is that if you do this a great deal, an enemy might begin to ready actions to attack you, or even move away from you while your weapon is stowed. This is something you'll have to live with for this to actually work.

Last thing that I'll say is that you should talk to your Adv League GM, or even seek out an answer from their twitter feed on this. GMs for Adv League are supposed to be lenient and use common sense in their rulings as the ruleset is flexible by design.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the input. Could this possibly also work if I switched the weapon into my shield hand? Shields are strapped on, right? Could I technically then use said shield hand to touch my focus too? Also, crystal totally works with the Kitsune theme I'm building for my character, so this idea is perfect. It can be his "Star Ball". \$\endgroup\$ – Snowpaw Oct 10 '14 at 7:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Snowpaw you may be able to hold your weapon in your shield hand. You can't use your shield hand to touch your focus since it's not "Free" \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Oct 10 '14 at 10:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would allow it as a DM. If you burned a feat on not having to drop your weapon for somatic components, it is really unfair to force you to drop it anyway for material components. \$\endgroup\$ – András Apr 11 '16 at 10:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ For extra style points (important for a Warlock - you are a Charisma class after all), instead of dropping your sword, stick it in the corpse of the last foe you killed, cast the spell, and then dramatically pull the weapon out. \$\endgroup\$ – Greenstone Walker Apr 23 at 23:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wouldn't touching the crystal be considered the free object interaction? \$\endgroup\$ – findusl Apr 24 at 23:57
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If you have access to Xanathar's Guide to Everything, it offers the Eldritch Invocation 'Improved Pact Weapon':

You can use any weapon you summon with your Pact of the Blade feature as a spellcasting focus for your warlock spells.
In addition, the weapon gains a +1 bonus to its attack and damage rolls, unless it is a magic weapon that already has a bonus to those rolls.
Finally, the weapon you conjure can be a shortbow, longbow, light crossbow, or heavy crossbow.

That first line partly solves your problem - it makes your weapon your focus, which allows you to cast spells with a material component while holding a weapon and shield. (The rest of the invocation doesn't impact on this particular question.) From there, if you take War Caster you can cast all spells, or if you don't you can cast any that don't have a somatic component while lacking a material component.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Technically, the Improved Pact Weapon invocation only works to allow a weapon and shield for spells that have a material component. For spells that have a somatic component but no material component, War Caster would still be needed since he would need a free hand to cast the spell. \$\endgroup\$ – nick012000 Apr 23 at 10:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000: True, though OP's specifically asking about benefiting from their arcane focus (i.e. material components) while their hands are occupied in this way. But what you point out is an important thing to note. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 31 at 18:38
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In Xanathar's Guide to Everything, on page 138 is a common magic item called : Ruby of the War Mage. It allows you to use weapons as a magic focus.

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Embed your crystal focus into the handle of your shield, so that you are holding both your shield AND your focus simultaneously. This eliminates the need to juggle your weapon when you cast spells. You could instead embed into your weapon handle, but doing it with the shield allows you to swap to a different melee weapon, or even thrown weapon, if needed.

Added benefit of not making it apparent to enemies that you have a fragile spellcasting focus dangling from your neck, as referenced in Wax Eagle's answer.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You haven't provided any explanation for why you think this is possible. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Nov 25 '14 at 22:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Given that there is a specific rule for doing this with a Cleric's spellcasting focus, I don't believe this is possible with other focuses. \$\endgroup\$ – Greenstone Walker Mar 22 '16 at 23:53
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Clerics are allowed to put their holy symbol on their shield, you could ask the DM to allow your focus to be on your shield.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Holy symbols are the exception to the rule about foci. They are not ARCANE foci because they are not ARCANE implements. They are divine. It specifically says a holy symbol can be emblazoned on a shield and that counts as wielding it. Allowing a focus to be used like that would be a HOUSE RULE and not valid for league play which is what I'm playing. Thus, not helpful. \$\endgroup\$ – Snowpaw Oct 10 '14 at 19:08

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