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I've been playing D&D 5e since it came out but this is my first time playing an Arcane Trickster. While thinking about some creative ways to use my invisible mage hand, I encountered something that seems ambiguous to me: if my invisible mage hand picks up a pebble, does the pebble vanish within the mage hand (as if the object were enveloped in an invisibility cloak), or would the object simply appear to be floating suspiciously mid-air?

Wanting to plan and roleplay correctly, I asked my DM. Together, we haven't been able to find anything that suggests one interpretation over another. My DM is relatively new (her third session is coming up, but it's her first non-one-shot) and she seems fine with just making an arbitrary ruling, but she would like her ruling to be more firmly based in the rules in the interest of being fair.

According to the rules, does the invisible mage hand conceal objects (palmable things like a single coin that I'm swiping out of somebody's purse or a pebble) that it carries, or do the carried objects appear to float mid-air? Or, are the rules (PHB, DMG, MM) silent on this?

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The rules, as written, don't say.

There are no specific rules regarding the contents of an invisible mage hand but there is evidence that objects held in the hand may be invisible.

While we don't have many general rules regarding invisibility (mainly just what's in the "Hidden" sidebar in the PHB), we do have an invisibility spell and an invisibility monster action to base our decision off of. We also have usability to consider; why would the designers give us the ability to turn the mage hand invisible if it gives away its position as soon as it picks something (anything) up?

Invisibility the spell says that all objects worn or carried by the target are invisible. This seems fairly harmless and renders the spell kind of useless if it doesn't give completely invisibility to all objects carried and worn.

Under the control of a skilled arcane trickster, the mage hand can be used to manipulate objects, pick locks, pick pockets, or carry an object or objects weighing up to 10 lbs. It can also turn invisible, per the arcane trickster's class feature.

With that in mind, we can probably make some assumptions about the hand:

  • It is probably the size of an average person's hand
  • It is dexterous, or at least as dexterous as its controller
  • It can manipulate small objects such as a lockpick
  • It can steal things from people

We also know the following:

  • In other cases in the rules, invisibility turns held objects invisible. This alone is not reason enough, but because it makes the spell invisibility useful (otherwise enemies would see your sword and attack you sight unseen) it is important to the argument (usability, as I mentioned above).
  • The arcane trickster is a class archetype based around a rogue who uses magic to play tricks and get away with his roguish activities.
  • The arcane trickster gets special rules for his mage hand.

Taking these things into consideration, it seems quite in line with the design goals of 5e and the overall flavor of the class to allow objects held in the hand and completely obscured by it to become invisible. This includes as many coins as can fit inside the closed fist, a dart, dice, a key, lockpicks, or other small, "palmable" objects. Larger objects, such as weapons, planks of wood, mugs of ale, and so on, would be visible because they are not completely obscured by the mage hand.

My reasoning for this:

  • Invisibility the spell and invisibility the monster action generally grant invisibility to the target and all items worn or held.
  • The arcane trickster relies on subterfuge and trickery. Why give them an invisible mage hand if it can't hide anything inside it? That's like saying, "Here's a beer, but don't drink it!" Or maybe more like, "Have this beer, you can drink it, but only when no one is looking. Oh yes and you're in a crowded marketplace."
  • For the skeptical DM: It doesn't hurt anything to allow this! In fact, it will probably make your games more fun when your Arcane Trickster's player is having more fun.
  • It isn't broken. It doesn't imbalance anything in the gameplay and it's easily overcome or made up for in other areas by a good DM. Personally, I don't think it even needs to be "made up" for. It is by no means a showstopper.
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    \$\begingroup\$ I like the mention of how invisibility generally works. I think it's become clear to me that the rules don't give a specific (maybe besides not specifically allowing it) so the general rule for invisibility is helpful. It should be noted, by the way, that from what I've seen in the PHB, not all instances of turning invisible necessarily state that held or worn items also become invisible. Look at Mislead, for example. \$\endgroup\$ – Tophandour Mar 14 '16 at 23:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ If the book had to spell out the rules for invisibility every time it's mentioned, it would be much longer (and more expensive to print, thus giving lower profit margins) for not much benefit. Sometimes things like that are just omitted for space reasons. It may have benefited from being placed in a more central location, but like much of the content in 5e, it's probably best left to the DM to figure out how it all works together. \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Mar 14 '16 at 23:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Historical note: In earlier editions, the invisibility spell conferred invisibility on objects held by the target at the point when the spell was cast, but not on objects picked up later - but also, objects picked up and slipped into a pocket by an invisible creature would be concealed by the invisible pocket. Basically, invisibility is always weird. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Mar 15 '16 at 1:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ I chose to accept this answer because it helped me (and my DM) out with finding the general rules of invisibility in the absence of any specific rules. It seems that in general, items disappear when held or worn by an invisible creature but we also noted that the rules don't always explicitly state when items disappear even when it would make sense that they would (like the Mislead spell). This led my DM to distrust the omission of the specific case as evidence of it not working, so she decided to go with having objects vanish. \$\endgroup\$ – Tophandour Mar 15 '16 at 19:58
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The rules are silent, at least in so many words. On PHB p98 it says "when you cast mage hand, you can make the spectral hand invisible". It doesn't say anything about what happens to carried objects. It does not say, "any carried objects remain visible" or "any carried objects also become invisible". I think that is an argument against it right there. Carried objects becoming invisible would be an effect worth mentioning.

Of significance is that the normal mage hand is spectral, but the description does not describe carried objects as being spectral. And there is no sense that the spectral hand actually has any substance to it. If it has no substance how can it cover anything?

Another argument is that there is no place in the rules where things become invisible where it isn't described, that I can find. Any time a visible object becomes invisible, it says.

Also, logically I think it creates problems. Carried objects? So it could carry an invisible flask of oil into a guard shack and light it? It could snatch the crown off the king's head and make it disappear? Those uses seem beyond the intent and definition of "legerdemain" and into something much different.

Part of the definition of Mage Hand Legerdemain says:

You can perform one of these tasks without being noticed by a creature if you succeed on a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check contested by the creature’s Wisdom (Perception) check.

Surely if the intent of the feature were to purloin small items completely invisibly this section would mention it, or mention an additional advantage for the trickster.

Is allowing the hand to turn (perhaps small) objects invisible a viable option? Perhaps. But the rules don't support it, and arguments that they do are a bit of slight of hand all their own. That doesn't mean it doesn't have a place if a gm decides on a house rule. It might be fun. Of course, the gm will have to decide what sort of advantage that gives to the trickster. Does it negate the check quoted above? In the end it's up to the gm.

However, I think the weight of evidence is that things the invisible mage hand carries remain visible.

Clearly.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this in chat... \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Mar 14 '16 at 22:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think it's important to note that you're not turning something solid invisible, you're turning something spectral invisible. There's nothing solid-but-invisible to shield a held object from view. It would have been clearer if the PHB had said "...you can make the spectral hand fully transparent..." \$\endgroup\$ – gto May 27 at 3:00
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Jeremy Crawford unofficially addressed this question on Twitter:

When it's invisible, does an Arcane Trickster's Mage Hand Ledgermain make small objects it's holding also invisible?

No.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I was about to complain that this answer, while authoritative, should be expanded... but considering its a direct and complete quote in context no less... I am not sure \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Gorman Jul 31 '19 at 20:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Crawford's tweets are no longer considered 'official', can you provide more context to your answer to support his opinion? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jul 31 '19 at 20:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Link-only answers are discouraged, as they become useless if the linked content moves, changes, or is deleted. In addition, as NautArch says, Jeremy Crawford's tweets are no longer considered official rulings as of the 2019 Sage Advice Compendium. You should support your answer by explaining why Crawford's unofficial ruling is supported by the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 1 '19 at 8:21
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Only the hand itself is invisible, not objects it carries

There are other game features that grant a creature the ability to cast an invsiible mage hand. Notably, they are all associated with psionic creatures, such as the Gityahki and Githzerai, and they are explicitly indicated to be psionic in nature:

Innate Spellcasting (Psionics). The githyanki’s innate spellcasting ability is Intelligence. It can innately cast the following spells, requiring no components:

At will: mage hand (the hand is invisible)

[...]

With the release of Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, this ability is now also available to player characters through the Telekinetic feat (emphasis added):

You learn the mage hand cantrip. You can cast it without verbal or somatic components, and you can make the spectral hand invisible.

The part highlighted in bold face is identical to the wording used in the Arcane Trickster's Mage Hand Legerdemain. Given that this feat is meant to represent telekinesis, the ability of a person to move objects with their mind at a distance, it would be rather a non sequitur if it also allowed them to make small objects invisible. Obviously, the point of making the hand invisible is so that the manipulated object appears to be levitating on its own, thus simulating telekinesis within the rules of 5e. Even though Mage Hand Legerdemain is presumably not meant to represent innate telekinesis, but rather an actual modified mage hand spell, it uses a wording identical to that of the Telekinetic feat, and there is nothing to suggest that the invisibility is intended to work any differently: only the hand is invisible, not objects it carries.

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No

Concealing held objects is an addition to the hand's property of being invisible

We have no grounds to believe that an invisible container renders invisible that which it contains. Without specific rules stating that this occurs, we must assume that it does not.

Let's make an analogous, real world case using transparency: If I put a coin into a transparent container, the coin does not become transparent. It follows, then, that putting a coin into an invisible container would not render the coin invisible.

An invisible hand that does not render invisible the items that it holds satisfies the definition of invisibility, and thus the rules as written for Mage Hand Ledgermain

An invisible hand that renders held items invisible has two properties: The property of being invisible, and the additional property of rendering that which it holds invisible. The additional property is not specified by the rules and is not required by them. We therefore reject the additional property.1

1 Reject it from RAW. As a houserule, boon, or magic-item ability, this could work well and add a great deal of fun/utility.

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So long as the hand can close over it, yes it does conceal it.

Invisible means, by definition: not visible to the naked eye, unable to be seen.

This does not mean invisible equals glass window.

So yes, you could conceal something provided the hand could completely close over the item. The item would remain visible, but because the hand is invisible, the object would not seen because it would be wrapped in an invisible object.

This is much akin to dropping a coin in the pocket of your invisible robes. Or pouring water into your invisible cup. It's great for magic parties with the kids.

I think the problem most people are running into is that they simply assume invisible means camouflage or transparent. It doesn't say that. It says invisible, as in, not visible. This doesn't mean see through.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "I think the problem most people are running into is that they simply assume invisible means camouflage." -- Or perhaps transparent versus invisible. \$\endgroup\$ – Xiong Chiamiov Nov 22 '17 at 21:09

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