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I have a halfling cleric of Bahamut who wears his holy symbol as an amulet around his neck as a spellcasting focus (so material components are not an issue).
However, as per this question, this does not cover the Somatic component of any spells he casts.

He also wields a light crossbow as his only weapon, which has the two-handed weapon property.
How does RAW handle Somatic casting when you're holding a two-handed weapon? Can I simply take a hand off my weapon, cast the spell, and re-grip all in the same action?
If not, has anyone run into this problem at their table before and how did you handle it?

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Taking your hand off the weapon should not require any action expenditure - you are just letting go of it, same as if you dropped it.

You can then use your free object interaction to restore your grip after casting.

The PHB Errata says:

Two-Handed (p. 147). This property is relevant only when you attack with the weapon, not when you simply hold it.

So you can hold it with one hand while you are not attacking with it.

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The two handed weapon property reads:

Two-Handed. This weapon requires two hands to use.

It says nothing about requiring 2 hands to hold, carry, or lift.

The heaviest weapon in the game is the Pike, or the Heavy Crossbow, at 18 lb. However, the amount you can lift is your Strength score multiplied by 30. Even assuming that lifting with one hand only allows you to lift half your normal capacity, a character with a Strength score of 8 (the lowest score possible with stat arrays or point buy) can lift 120 lb with 1 hand. So an 18 lb weapon should present no difficulty whatsoever.

As for the difficulty of gesturing with one hand while holding something in your other hand, every character can do that anyway, so there's no reason it would present a difficulty.

Now, for action economy: You have one free object interaction per turn. So you can take a hand off your weapon and cast a spell in one turn, then next turn you can put your hand back on your weapon to attack. Note that the Ammunition property works as part of the attack, so it doesn't need your free object interaction. Note that this leaves you unable to attack between your turns, but the only reaction you commonly take with a weapon is an opportunity attack, and you can't do that with a ranged weapon. Of course, you would be unable to take the reaction from a Commander's Strike maneuver (for example).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Just by the way, in older editions being unarmed in combat was penalized. Like, AC penalty if I recall. Was this removed in 5e? \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Dec 11 '14 at 9:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot There's nothing like that. I'm pretty sure we have a question on that somewhere, actually. Ah, here it is. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Dec 11 '14 at 9:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that the PHB Errata is even clearer about what the Two-Handed property means: "This property is relevant only when you attack with the weapon, not when you simply hold it." \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 15 '18 at 20:14
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Let's look at it this way; an archer can, as part of their attack action do the following, while maintaining a grip on their two-handed bow with one hand:

  1. Reach to their quiver
  2. Draw an arrow Align the nock with the string
  3. Put the nock on the string
  4. Change their grip on the arrow/string
  5. Draw the string back Release the string

Here we have gripping and ungripping of a weapon with one hand, while manipulating an object with that hand, and it is completely incidental to the use of said weapon. At higher levels, the archer can repeat this process multiple times during the same action.

To argue that a wizard can't:

  1. Release their versatile staff with one hand,
  2. Make a gesture with their free hand,
  3. Return their hand to their staff

Here we have the gripping and ungripping of a weapon with one hand, without manipulating an object with that hand, but the argument is being made that it takes some form of action to do this?

That's a pretty hard argument to make. Both are grabbing/releasing the weapon with one hand the same number of times. The archer additionally has to manipulate an object with their other hand. (That's fine motor control in a high-stress, combat situation.)

If the archer can manage it, the wizard certainly can.

Additionally, interpreting the requirements of a Somatic component that way would make it impossible for a wizard to cast a spell with both Somatic and Material components without spending the prior round 'drawing' the spell component(s) and freeing a hand to make the gesture.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "Reach to their quiver" is part of "ammunition" property of a weapon, right? And this property does not help with casting - not by RAW. And from the question: "How does RAW handle Somatic casting"... I would certainly allow it in my game (as I've already said), but I don't believe it's RAW. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Dec 12 '14 at 15:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes. My point is that the entire process of using the bow, which requires more done than the somatic component of a spell gets wrapped up in 'completely incidental to the use of the weapon'. So what's the rationale for thinking that it takes multiple actions to take your hand off of something, and put it back on after doing something? Note that the rules don't say it takes an action to take your hand off a weapon, or put your hand back on a weapon. Putting your hand on a weapon that is held in your other hand is not the same as drawing said weapon. It's already in your other hand. \$\endgroup\$ – Theo Brinkman Dec 12 '14 at 19:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please edit this discussion into your answer and avoid posting duplicate answers. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Dec 13 '14 at 11:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ You are allowed to use the hand with the components to do the Somatic portion. So you're wrong here, sorry. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Spoo Apr 15 '18 at 10:48
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Not a RAW, but quote from designer's twitter

Matt Petruzzelli ‏@mpetruzz Jul 28

Does an arcane focus staff also/always count as a quarterstaff? @mikemearls

Mike Mearls ‏@mikemearls

@mpetruzz believe so, yes. i think that's why the quarterstaff became a one-handed/versatile weapon

Whilst not a proof, it is at least strong indication that temporarily holding a two handed weapon with one hand to cast a spell was not meant to be possible, by design. Of course RAW sometimes differs from intentions, and I admit I can't find strictly logical indication of this in rules.

RAI

As far as I understand RAW, you can hold it one handed, sure, but you can only draw or sheath for free in round. And the only RAW option to get hand free from weapon, other than sheathing that weapon, is to drop on the ground if I recall correctly. So taking a hand off the crossbow would have to be considered a kind of sheathing, making PC considered unarmed and unable to use that crossbow until the beginning of his next turn when he can "officially" draw it with hand he used for spellcasting. Pretty consistent with first section, I'm afraid.

Personally

I see no reason what you described should not work. Your character obviously can hold that crossbow with one hand when he uses other hand to pull next bolt from quiver, and no actions or interactions are considered spent, are they? Don't see why doing the same to get a hand for spellcasting should be that different. But I admit, I would treat this as a houserule.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is an arcane focus, in the shape of a staff (as in the one wizards choose at level 1), different to an arcane focus staff? \$\endgroup\$ – Biomage Jul 6 '18 at 9:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Biomage this is a totally different question, and as far as I remember it was already asked and answered here. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Jul 6 '18 at 14:07
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This feat settles it fairly clearly in my opinion.

WarCaster

Prerequisite: The ability to cast at least one spell You have practiced casting spells in the midst of combat, learning techniques that grant you the following benefits:

  • You have advantage on Constitution saving throws that you make to maintain your concentration on a spell when you take damage.
  • You can perform the somatic components of spells even when you have weapons or a shield in one or both hands.
  • When a hostile creature’s movement provokes an opportunity attack from you, you can use your reaction to cast a spell at the creature, rather than making an opportunity attack. The spell must have a casting time of 1 action and must target only that creature.

This feat, from 5th edition, states "You can perform the somatic components of spells even when you have weapons or a shield in one or both hands.", implying that without this feat you would be unable to perform somatic spells with these things in your hands.

Essentially, if you're not holding a focus item, you need a completely free hand. This makes sense as every casting archetype has a focus of some sort intended for use in combat. The Eldritch Knight and other classes that take auxiliary spells must either run around with one hand empty, or take this feat if they plan on casting somatic or material based spells in combat.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You almost have a whole answer. I'd add more to flesh it out, including where the feat is from. \$\endgroup\$ – Chuck Dee Mar 10 '15 at 17:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ray -- this doesn't address the situation I'm in, where the caster is freeing one hand for the duration of the cast then regripping the weapon once the spell is done. I'd say the text you are emphasizing from War Caster only applies when ungripping and regripping the weapon is inapplicable, such as with TWF styles. (Not that you wouldn't take the feat anyway -- the ability to use spells for OAs I think is worthwhile, especially for full casters.) \$\endgroup\$ – Shalvenay Mar 11 '15 at 1:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ray -- this contradicts the PHB Errata for the "Two-Handed" weapon property. \$\endgroup\$ – Shalvenay Jun 20 '15 at 7:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is incorrect, the feat covers a whole load of things such as shields and dual wielding, and doesn't mention two handed weapons. \$\endgroup\$ – gburton Jan 20 '17 at 7:37

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