The sorcerer's Subtle Spell metamagic option states:

When you cast a spell, you can spend 1 sorcery point to cast it without any somatic or verbal components.

The description of material components (which subtle spell does not remove) states in part:

A spellcaster must have a hand free to access these components, but it can be the same hand that he or she uses to perform somatic components.

From these two, I'd conclude that a bound and gagged sorcerer could not cast any spell requiring material components. (For safety, we might also want to remove the sorcerer's focus or components bag if possible.)

However for spells without material components, is there any way to prevent a sorcerer from casting, short of conditions that deny him actions (incapacitated, petrified, stunned, or unconscious)? Charmed would prevent hostile spells, but not necessarily escape-type spells.

Suppose you had a captured and unconscious sorcerer and wanted to wake and question him, but believed he might have access to Subtle Spell -- is there any safe way to do this?

The party is 5th level, and we have a monk, a war domain cleric, a sorcerer, a barbarian/druid, and homebrew variant barbarian 1/life cleric 1/wizard(abj) 3. We have a couple of NPC allies as well. There are a bunch of dead knights around, so grabbing additional weapons and armor is possible. No magic items except healing potions.


5 Answers 5


Put him in armor he's not proficient in.

In 5e you cannot cast spells while wearing armor you're not proficient in. So unless the sorcerer has dipped Fighter and is therefore proficient in all armor (one of the quirks of 5e), wearing armor he's not proficient in renders him unable to cast spells. Plus, the armor makes it more difficult for him to escape without the time to remove it. Make sure to keep him tied up at all times though. So when adventuring it pays to bring along some extra armor, just in case you encounter evil enemy spellcasters (or evil Druids in earlier editions, where Druids became unable to cast spells or Wild Shape when wearing metal armor).

Note that this will work only once, and a savvy DM will have his villains minor in Fighter while attening Evil Spellcaster School to get a workaround for this.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I love this answer. I suspect that our DM would just house-rule around it though, saying that if you don't have to move to cast, it doesn't matter what you're wearing or bound up with. However the description of that rule does say that it interferes with "mental focus" as well, so maybe. :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 25, 2015 at 22:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PurpleVermont And well he should@house rule it, that's the entire point of the DM being a human and not just a stack of papers :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 26, 2015 at 1:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ If they multiclass into fighter they would only gain proficiency with up to medium armor. So heavy could still effect them \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 9, 2015 at 22:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeWhoFreeks unless they started in fighter then went into spellcasting \$\endgroup\$
    – Daniel
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 18:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is also nicely a non-magical solution so a party without a full spellcaster can still use it even on a high level caster. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 23 at 15:33
Suppose you had a captured and unconscious sorcerer and wanted to wake and question him, but believed he might have access to subtle spell -- is there any safe way to do this?

Kill him while he is asleep and have your 5th level cleric cast "Speak With Dead". If the sorcerer is dead he can't cast spells.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This scenario also circumvents the old adage about the of the sorcerer and person to keep a secret. \$\endgroup\$
    – GcL
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 16:09

Most spells require an unobstructed path to the target. Bind him and stuff him a large chest.

  • \$\begingroup\$ doesn't prevent him from buffing himself, teleporting away, etc. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 19:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Misty step requires that the caster be able to see the location. I'm not aware of another teleport that could be cast by a level appropriate sorcerer that is being opposed by a level 5 party. But you are correct that it doesn't completely shut the caster down. However, as a preventative measure I still stand by its use. \$\endgroup\$
    – TraigosOde
    Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 20:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Dimension Door. \$\endgroup\$
    – mmachenry
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 3:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Blink, Fear, Gaseous Form, say goodbye to everything your party owned and wasn't wearing. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 7:06

The key point is that the sorcerer requires "a hand free to access spell components" so anything that binds his hands should work.

A straight jacket would be fine if you just happened to have one.

More seriously what you basically need is an ad hock pair of handcuffs or the functional equivalent. Just tying his hands together behind his back or putting a loop around his wrists then wrapping his arms around his waist or chest should be quite sufficient to prevent him from using his hands to handle material components.

Of course if you really want to get simple you could just take a hammer to his fingers/hands or cut off his hands but I'm guessing that's a little overboard for most folks. <_<

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    \$\begingroup\$ The question is asking about spells that don't have material components, so I don't think this answer would work. Even if you cut off their hands, they can still cast those. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 11:40

Picture a spell needing both a somatic and material components. This feat lets you forgo the somatic components. This means that if someone would normally be required to get bat guano out of their belt and wave it around can instead use the bat guano from their belt. So tying them up wouldn't disallow them from casting the spell. (If we are thinking of it realistically.)

Reading the rules literally, yes someone with armor is not able to cast spells. Period. Clearly though, subtle spell addresses the reason why a sorcerer in bum armor is unable to cast a spell. (Because they can't waive their hands around) So I don't think you're unable to prevent a sorcerer, with subtle spell, from casting a spell.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This flatly doesn't address the ability for a caster proficient in an armor type to cast spells while wearing armor. (Also, in your world, how are Paladins and Eldritch Knights supposed to cast spells at all?) \$\endgroup\$
    – Shalvenay
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 3:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ I meant without proficiency* \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 26, 2015 at 13:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Material components explicitly says they need a hand free to access the components. Even if they don't have to "wave them around" they still have to touch them. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 27, 2015 at 18:49

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