One of the characters is an Arcane Trickster who has Mage Hand. She's been pretty creative in using the spell, and I wanted to know what restrictions the spell had.

  1. The PCs were in a castle and were getting shot at through arrow slits by Drow. She made an incredibly high Perception check, so she could see the crossbow. She used the mage hand to pull the bolt from the crossbow. I thought this was amusing and allowed it, although I wasn't sure if this was RAW.

  2. The PCs were behind a locked door that potentially could be opened from the other side. She wanted to use the mage hand to open the door from the other side. I ruled that she couldn't see the other side, so she couldn't use the spell in that way.

So, do you need to be able to see the mage hand to use it? It can be used to pick pockets, but how much can it be used to harass monsters / NPCs?

Mage hand description (PHB page 256):

A spectral, floating hand appears at a point you choose within range. The hand lasts for the duration or until you dismiss it as an action. The hand vanishes if it is ever more than 30 feet away from you or if you cast this spell again. You can use your action to control the hand. You can use the hand to manipulate an object, open an unlocked door or container, stow or retrieve an item from an open container, or pour the contents out of a vial. You can move the hand up to 30 feet each time you use it. The hand can’t attack, activate magic items, or carry more than 10 pounds.

Possibly related question: Can any spellcaster use Mage Hand to perform a Sleight of Hand check?


3 Answers 3


You do not need to be able to see the Mage Hand to be able to use it, otherwise ATs wouldn't be able to make the hand go invisible. However, working around corners (or otherwise out of sight) would effectively impart the blinded condition to any action you were going for. As such, you wouldn't be able to interact with a target except by guessing which location it was in (unless you knew the target's location, and it was static (i.e. an unmoving object (keys hanging on an post) or a guard that's asleep in a chair)).

Nothing about the spell itself implies any sensory input gained from the hand, so unless you can see what's going on to direct it, it's going to be pretty difficult to use. As a caveat to that, however: ATs can make the hand go invisible... therefore, they have to be able to at least "feel" where it's at.

If the door was simply a one-way door that didn't actually require a key, I'd say (unless you rule that the handle requires more than 10 lbs of pressure to activate) that it would work if she could get the hand into the room.

If she was suggesting picking the lock, I would say that's not possible because she couldn't get her mage hand or lockpicks to the other side of the door... unless she casts/pushes them through the keyhole/under the door (your ruling on whether the keyhole goes all the way through (in which case, she could pick it from her end)).

RAW: With an invisible mage hand, you can do the following (AT, Mage Hand Legerdemain, PHB p. 98)

  • You can stow one object the hand is holding in a container worn or carried by another creature.
  • You can retrieve an object in a container worn or carried by another creature.
  • You can use thieves' tools to pick locks and disarm traps at range.

In the spell text, it doesn't put any restriction on "any object not worn or carried," so it could definitely be used to take a crossbow bolt, or even pull the trigger prematurely.

RAI: You couldn't possibly see what you're doing with a fine lock or trap at range, so being blinded isn't an issue, because you can "feel" it through the hand. And you don't need to be able to see the hand. If she could get the tools, she could open the door from the other side.

As far as harassing people... that's pretty broad. You could apply 10 pounds of effort in quite a few fashions. Steal a handful of their arrows (and hold them up in the air (no more than 30 feet away from you)), undo their belt, tie their shoes together (or any other myriad wardrobe malfunctions), pull their hair or flick their ears(no damage), put a thumbs-up in their chair as they're about to sit down, use scissors to snip a cross/bow string (cruel, if it's a magic item - maybe only against mundane strings)... the list goes on.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jul 1, 2019 at 6:28

I would like to question the logic of the very last paragraph in Airatome's answer (the comparison of Fireball to Mage Hand), by posing another question:

What is the target of a Clairvoyance spell?

Following the logic given in Airatome's answer, the target must be where you create the sensor.

Yet Clairvoyance is clearly able to be cast in an unseen location, without a clear path (several such examples are given in the spell text, in fact).

So what could differentiate the targeting of these spells?

Fireball reads "from your pointing finger to a point you choose within range". Mage Hand reads "appears at a point you choose within range". Clairvoyance reads "create an invisible sensor within range"

My understanding is that the word "point" here is less important than the explicit statement that Fireball starts from you and travels to a target.

Or to put it another way, how about we compare Mage Hand to Clairvoyance instead of Fireball, which (IMHO) has an equally similar text.

Thus, I'd argue that Mage Hand CAN be summoned in a place you can't see, even behind total cover. Of course you'd have to "operate" it blindly, but I agree with other answers that that in itself is no barrier to the spell's usage.


Well first there is this:

Arcane Trickster level 3:

Mage Hand Legerdemain PHB 98

....you can make the spectral hand invisible, and can perform the following tasks with it.....you can perform these tasks without being noticed by a creature if you succeed on a (Sleight of Hand) check contested by (Perception). You can use your bonus action granted by Cunning Action to control the hand.

  • You can stow one object the hand is holding in a container worn or carried by another creature

  • You can retrieve an object in a container worn or carried by another creature

  • You can use thieve's tools to pick locks and disarm traps at range

Taking the unique version of Mage Hand that the Arcane Trickster has available, on top of it's normal applications, I would say pulling a crossbow bolt from a crossbow before the creature had a chance to fire it is acceptable; considering it can remove from as well as store in objects from a container. It is 'manipulating an object' in this scenario.

Scenario number 2 is a little tricky. First and foremost, the Mage Hand is 'Spectral' : 'of or like a ghost. Phantom. Insubstantial' . This does not mean, however, that the Mage Hand can pass through walls, doors, or other barriers unless you say as much. Since the spell description does not say it CAN'T , nor does it say it CAN; this is open to your interpretation. Following the rules of the Mage Hand Legerdemain, however, the hand IS capable of unlocking doors and disarming traps for or in place of the Rogue. It's up to you if you allow the hand to pass through to the other side and do as much.

The only problem here is line of sight. Generally you need line of sight to target something, but since the hand is never targeting anything as part of a spell and/or ability, nor do the key words "Target" or "An item/lock/trap you can see...", and is simply interacting with your (its) environment instead, I would assume as long as you are aware of what you are attempting to do: You know there's a lock on the other side of the door that needs picking. You know there's a crossbow bolt loaded in that crossbow that's about to be fired. You know there's a magical rod inside that magicians backpack.... I see no problem with giving your Mage Hand orders to perform the tasks that it's capable of performing without direct line of sight.

As for harassment? That's one of my own players favorite thing to do who is using an Arcane Trickster. 10lbs of pressure is an awful lot when it comes to simple harassment. Add on top of it that the hand is invisible if chosen to be so by the Rogue... well... some interesting things can happen when you make the hand interact with things such as belts, shoe laces, armor straps, tipping a bow that's about to be fired in the wrong direction.... I have Mage Hand stories for days.

On the subject of where you can summon the Mage Hand upon casting the spell? The spell says "..hand appears at a point you choose within range." Which shares it's target/range description with Fireball. On PHB 202 under the Range heading you will find: "...For a spell like Fireball (or in this case Mage Hand) the target is the point in space where...", and we all know we can't target what we can't see.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think, the point to make the Mage Hand appear is more like the point to make a familiar conjured by the Find Familiar spell appear. In fact, you can summon it at an unoccupied space within range, even behind a door or wall, where you can't see the point, just presume that there must be an unoccupied space. If that point is occupied e.g. by a table, the spell simply fails or the conjured thing appears in the nearest unoccupied space to that point within range. The DM has to decide. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 12, 2021 at 11:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ A familiar by its telepathic link could be helpful to use lockpicks you found on the other side to pick the lock of a door, but only a simple bar or latch could be lifted or a doorhandle of an unlocked door can be pushed with a "fumbling" mage hand blindly. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 12, 2021 at 11:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, there is no statement in the desription, that the mage hand has to appear in an unoccupied space, otherwise there is no statement that a mage hand can pass through solid objects and creatures, as well as no statement about "groping". This is all to the DM, and necessary to define limits for the spell. Fumbling a lurking hidden enemy around the corner or an invisible object by groping around, to "feel" what you can't see—yes. Pet a plague rat without risking to get its disease—yes. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 12, 2021 at 11:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Touch the cursed sword without catching the curse—maybe (there is still a connection between the mage hand and its user that a magic curse can use to find its victim). \$\endgroup\$ Mar 12, 2021 at 11:03
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ A blindly used mage hand should be able to turn a key in its keyhole, and a very difficult task to put a key into the keyhole—but still possible. Check it out when open your house door at night without using a light (or closed eyes) and one handed—it is possible, just not easy. As stated in a comment to an answer above, to "feel" with a mage hand is essential to the Arcane Trickster concept, performing "Sleight of Hand" and "Thieves' tools" jobs. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 12, 2021 at 11:27

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .