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As a level 18+ druid I may use a Druidic Focus, may assume a Wild Shape, and may cast Beast Spells. May I do all three at the same time? Can a druid use a focus to cast beast spells?

Druidic Focus: A druidic focus might be... a totem object incorporating feathers, fur, bones, and teeth from sacred animals. A druid can use such an object as a spellcasting focus. (PHB p.151)

Components, Material

Casting some spells requires particular objects, specified in parentheses in the component entry. A character can use... a spellcasting focus in place of the components specified for a spell. [But not costly or consumed components] (PHB p.203)

Wild Shape

... You choose whether your equipment falls to the ground in your space, merges into your new form, or is worn by it.... (PHB p.67)

Beast Spells

Beginning at 18th level, you can cast many of your druid spells in and shape you assume using Wild Shape. You can perform the somatic and verbal components of a druid spell while in a beast shape, but you aren't able to provide material components. (PHB p.67)

Assume my wild shape has a hand--an ape, for instance--that can hold the focus and is free. My focus is something's decorated leg-bone which fell to the ground when wild shaping, and I picked back up.

I'm not able to provide material components (a la Beast Spells), but can I use the focus in their place?

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Shorthand, Absolutely Not

As others have stated, no you can not use a focus (of any kind) while Wild Shaped, even if the animal you morph into has hands, and they are empty and holding the focus. All of the information you posted in the original question provides the answers for you so long as you cross reference them. But a lot of people have missed a crucial part of WHY it can't be done.

Druidic Focus

A druidic focus might be... a totem object incorporating feathers, fur, bones, and teeth from sacred animals. A druid can use such an object as a spellcasting focus. (PHB5e p.151)

This essentially states that you get to create a focus out of whatever you deem worthy to call a focus, pretty neat.

Components, Material

Casting some spells requires particular objects, specified in parentheses in the component entry. A character can use... a spellcasting focus in place of the components specified for a spell. [But not costly or consumed components]

This is the start of the unravel. Here it says you can use a focus instead of a material component (so long as it has no cost/isn't consumed). So essentially focuses are just fluff/filler for material components that most people over look anyway, but if you don't overlook that stuff it's still a pretty minimal net gain.

Wild Shape

... You choose whether your equipment falls to the ground in your space, merges into your new form, or is worn by it.... (PHB5e p.67)

This portion infers that you get to wear or hold your focus if you so choose when you Wild Shape, which is pretty cool.

Beast Spells

Beginning at 18th level, you can cast many of your druid spells in and shape you assume using Wild Shape. You can perform the somatic and verbal components of a druid spell while in a beast shape, but you aren't able to provide material components. (PHB5e p.67)

This is the crucial spot. It specifically says NO material components. If you recall from what exactly a focus is, it is essentially a fancy material component. Meaning it can't be used, not because you can't "hold" it, but because for Game Design purposes they disallowed it. This is further backed up by the fact that they allow somatic components (hand and body gestures) even if you don't have hands or the appropriate body part to do the somatic component,i.e. a snake making a hand sign. So holding/wearing the material component/focus is irrelevant because it is completely outlawed in RAW.

Archdruid

At 20th level, you can use your Wild Shape an unlimited number of times. Additionally, you can ignore the verbal and somatic components of your druid spells, as well as any material components that lack cost and aren't consumed by a spell [Emphasis mine]. You gain this benefit in both your natural shape and your beast shape from Wild Shape.

Doesn't this seem a bit redundant? It is because it is trying to show you that it is essentially an improvement to Beast Spells. At this point once you reach 20th level you no longer need the material/focus component. So even at level 20 the answer is still technically no, but it becomes irrelevant because materials/focuses are no longer even needed.

However; this IS D&D so if the DM says, "Well that's stupid, you should be able to use your focus as long as you are wearing/holding it" then boom there you go, the true answer is yes you can, so long as your DM handwaives it.

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The point of using a spell-casting focus or a component pouch is to replace the components for a spell - since they are more or less just for flavor. It keeps you from holding on to a bag of random items just to cast spells (i.e. A bar of iron to cast Hold Person, or a bit of bat fur to cast Arcane Eye).

The exceptions to this rule:

  1. The component is labeled with a cost in gp

  2. The component is consumed by the spell (PHB p. 204 under Material Components).

Provided that the DM rules that your beast-form can wear your focus, you should be able to use the focus to replace the purely flavor based material components, but not the mechanically based ones (those that cost money or are consumed) since a focus does not replace such materials.

In short- yes you can use your focus in beast-form, but only to waive the spell components which are not consumed in casting or are labeled with a gp cost since you specifically must use those components - which you are not allowed to do in beast form.

Although the above answer is true for games relying on the first printing of the PHB, the second printing of the PHB amends the rules of a spellcasting focus- " A spellcaster must have a hand free to access the spell's material components -- or the hold a spellcasting focus" (pg. 203). If you are using the second printing of the PHB the answer would be no, if your beast-form is not able to hold and therefore not able to use the druidic focus.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$ – Amedeus Aug 2 '15 at 18:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ The focus is a way "to provide material components". Beast Spells specifically says you can't "provide material components". How does a focus (or component pouch) get around a hard no? \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Feb 4 at 21:20
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No, you cannot cast spells requiring a material component while wild shaped

As noted in the question, Beast Spells states in part:

You can perform the somatic and verbal components of a druid spell while in a beast shape, but you aren't able to provide material components.

I read the intent of this as allowing spells with S and or V components, and disallowing those with M components. This is based on my reading of the various ways a caster can satisfy the Material Components requirement of a spell, as elaborated below:

The rule describing druidic foci on PHB page 151 says:

A druid can use such an object as a spellcasting focus, as described in chapter 10

Chapter 10 rules on material components (PHB p. 203) give 3 options for satisfying the requirement to provide material components for a spell that has a material component requirement -- find the specific listed items, use a component pouch (assumed to have all the right stuff in it), or use a spellcasting focus:

A character can use a component pouch or a spellcasting focus (found in chapter 5, "Equipment") in place of the components specified for a spell.

(exceptions for costly material components follow)

Normally a caster would not actually find the specific listed components (except in the case of costly components) -- but this does leave an option for a caster separated from his/her spellcasting focus or components pouch if they can find the right stuff in their environment. The "typical" ways of satisfying the material components for spells that require non-costly components are to use either a pouch or a focus.

Since Beast Spells states that you cannot provide material components, you cannot provide that required spell component any of the listed ways. This is most likely because you do not have hands, as further down that section it states:

A spellcaster must have a hand free to access the spell's material components -- or to hold a spellcasting focus -- but it can be the same hand that he or she uses to perform somatic components.

[Note, the explicit reference to the spellcasting focus here occurs only in the second printing of the PHB]

Thus you require a hand free to either access a component pouch or to hold the druidic focus. Other than primates, a beast form will not have hands at all. A special rule lets you do the gestures without (humanoid) hands, but specifically says you cannot provide the material components.

... well, maybe, IF your beast form has hands...

Although I've hypothesized that it's about usually not having hands, there's nothing in the rule that says you can't provide material components unless you have hands, so for the few beasts that have hands, while I think a DM could rule this either way, I would probably still rule "no" -- all three methods are listed under "material components" in the PHB and provide a variety of ways of satisfying the "material components" requirement of the spell, thus any of them count as "providing material components". The rule that says you cannot provide material components does not actually say that it is because you do not have hands, that is just my guess as to why that rule might make sense.

However, if you did interpret that rule as meaning that only providing actual listed components is prohibited, and that using the alternate methods of satisfying the material components requirement were permitted, then if your beast form did indeed have a hand with opposable thumbs, I could see allowing it.

In summary

This all really comes down to whether "provide material components" is meant to include all the ways one can satisfy the material component requirement of a spell or only some. A DM who wants to rule on this has to decide:

Is using a focus a different type of action than providing material components, or is it a different way of providing material components?

Until WOTC weighs in on this, I don't think the PHB specifies clearly which of these interpretations applies, so this comes down to DM discretion.

If you rule (as I would) that "provide material components" means doing any of the things listed in the Material Components section of the PHB, then you can't do it in beast form, period. You can't do it by finding the components in the forest, by using a material components pouch, or by using a spellcasting focus, no matter how many hands you have.

If you rule that "provide material components" means providing the listed components, but that the prohibition on providing material components doesn't apply to satisfying the material components requirement of the spell with a druidic focus, then your only obstacle is that a spellcasting focus requires a free hand to use; thus while in a beast form with hands, you could cast with a druidic focus.

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No

As seen in pg7 of the PHB: Specific rules beat general rules.

Material components are a general rule found in chapter 10 which is overridden by the specific rule of Beast Spells(found in pg67 PHB).

Material Components

Beast Spells states "...you aren't able to provide material components".
The rules for material componets are found in page 203 which states the following:
"A character can use a.... spellcasting focus in place of the component". This means that a spellcasting focus can replace material components and therefore also be subjected to rules that affect material components. Also to note, the lvl 20 ArchDruid feature allows you to ignore material components when wild shaped so it seems the intention was to not let Beast Spells be able to cast spells with a material component.

Closing Comments

So rules as written: No but a DM can always "overrule" the rules. Also excuse me for any mistakes I might have made as this is my first answer ever submitted to this site.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for comparison with the 20th-level feature. (With the way the page breaks, I've got to admit I'd not even noticed it before you!) I think there's a good argument that the 18th feature should be construed so as not to moot the 20th, which a "yes" answer would (partially) do. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Sep 4 '15 at 15:45
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Yes, in the form of an ape, you can.

The only reason why the druid of lower then 18 level can't cast spells with no verbal component while shaped into an ape, is Wild Shape feature specifically stating, that he can't. He can use any kind of material components - focus, pouch or individual components (even costly ones) - as any creature with hands can. Note that material component is just a kind of fuel for the spell's energy. Nothing in the book says you need to perform some separate special magical manipulations with it during the casting. It just have to be here in your hand.

When druid gains Beast Spells, he no longer restricted to intelligible speech or hands to use verbal or somatic component. But his ability to use any components his form capable of using stays with him. He won't suddenly forget how to hold his staff-like focus for example.

Despite slightly obscure wording, Beast Spells don't spoil any of your abilities that you already have. Beast Spells just says it can't grant you the ability to use material component if you can't already use it (opposed to verbal and somatic ones which you now can use despite you usually can't without that class feature).


I may also add that you can choose to "wear" your focus instead of dropping it to the ground and then picking it up. An ape is capable of wearing (i.e. being equipped with) a club-like thing that your focus is.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ On Aug 4 the edit to the question included the "assume my form has a hand" and this answer addresses that core assumption. Would any down-voters care to explain the down-vote, or what they found wrong with this answer? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 3 '15 at 21:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ I downvoted due to the fact that what I interpret from the RAW is not whether or not you can hold the focus (why can't the focus be a necklace wrapped around your neck when you transform into a wolf?). The rules simply state, whether or not it makes in-game sense, that you cant use material components, a focus is simply a material component placeholder. My interpretation is backed up because it states you can still use somatic components (hand gestures and the like) but not material. \$\endgroup\$ – The Real Razgriz Sep 4 '15 at 13:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TheRealRazgriz Focuses are specified for different classes. All druidic focuses must be held in a free hand (not just worn somewhere). Check Holy Symbol which functions as a focus for a cleric and specifically states, that it can be just presented visibly opposed to a standard focus which requires free hand. \$\endgroup\$ – annoying imp Sep 5 '15 at 7:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ I want to give this one a +1, but the bit at the end about "wearing" a club = "being equipped with" a club = [presumably] holding a club...? I'm not at all sure what this is getting at, and it worries me that we're getting back into the morass of 1st-printing/2nd-printing edits that first polluted my question. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Sep 7 '15 at 19:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 Well, I can hardly see what is wrong here. Aren't you, for example, allowed to wild shape into an ape holding an... ink pen? You may leave the pen in your hand as an ape is capable of holding it (and even writing some dirty words into your master-archdruid's notes while he is out to make some herbal tea). However , I'm still certain you wouldn't do such impolite thing ;) \$\endgroup\$ – annoying imp Sep 8 '15 at 13:17

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