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The description of Mage Hand says:

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 (PHB p.246)

while the description of Acid (vial) says:

As an action, you can splash the contents of this vial onto a creature within 5 feet of you or throw the vial up to 20 feet, shattering it on impact. In either case, make a ranged attack against a creature or object, treating the acid as an improvised weapon. (PHB p. 148, "Adventuring Gear")

However Mage Hand also states:

The hand can’t attack, activate magic items, or carry more than 10 pounds.

So the question is can Mage Hand pour out Acid (vial) onto an enemy? And if it can be poured, would the damage require an attack roll from the caster or a dex saving throw from the target? If it is an attack roll, then what does it scale off of and how would proficiency be determined? If it is a saving throw, then how is the DC calculated (either a specific DC to the vial/Mage Hand or the caster's spell save DC)?

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Mage hand can pour out a vial of acid.

Pouring a vial of acid in this way will (generally) not damage an enemy.

It's exactly as the rules you quoted say. You can pour out the contents of a vial. Per the description of Acid, simply pouring isn't enough to do someone--who likely doesn't want acid poured on them--damage.

If you start pouring acid on one who doesn't want to be acidified, they can move, interpose an object, or otherwise evade the damage. In order to damage someone with acid you've got to splash it onto them, an activity that's defined as a ranged attack. And Mage Hand, per its description, can't effect damage on someone trying to not be damaged: it can't attack.


Could one pour the vial over an unsuspecting enemy, or one incapacitated or restrained, thereby causing them damage? I contend it follows the same rules: if you would need to make an attack roll, Mage Hand can't do it. Whether those situations require an attack roll--and therefore are attacks which Mage Hand cannot effect--is a ruling to be made by the GM.

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I would say no. Based on what else you can do, they seem pretty serious about the fact that the Mage Hand can't attack. If you look at the Arcane Trickster subtype, where part of their schtick is about using the Mage Hand creatively, it gives additional actions limited to Tricksters (PHB98):

  • 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.

Those are still pretty far away from attacking. You don't even get the ability to tap someone on the shoulder with it in a distracting way until level 13.

So I would interpret the two rules you cited to mean you could pour the contents of a vial out on the floor with a Mage Hand, but the strength required to attack someone with it is out of your reach, so to speak. If you can't lift 11 pounds, you probably can't accelerate a vial of acid through the air onto someone fast enough to reasonably get them. This applies even if they're tied down - per PHB, attacks against a restrained creature have advantage, but that doesn't make them not attacks.

If I were DM, I would probably let you pour acid onto an inanimate object (like a rope holding up a chandelier...) or, in a noncombat situation where turns aren't a concern and you can take your time, onto someone who was tied down. But RAW doesn't necessarily support even that - I'm not aware of any rule saying you don't have to roll to attack someone outside of combat, and per PHB194:

If there's ever any question whether something you're doing counts as an attack, the rule is simple: if you're making an attack roll, you're making an attack.

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Yes a Mage Hand could pour a vial out, in a deliberate sort of way, above a creature. But since the mage hand cannot make "violent" moves (attacks) it would be easy to avoid (in or out of combat).

Assume an automatic success to avoid the dribbling acid, unless the target is incapacitated or perhaps otherwise unable to duck out of the way, for example, in a cramped vertical shaft. (Even then, a had or a helmet might offer protection.)

But common sense dictates if acid can be poured on the target's skin, that will cause damage. And the 5E SRD states that liquids harmful to a creature will damage it if poured on it.

Holy water damages undead creatures and evil outsiders almost as if it were acid....to use it against an incorporeal creature, you must open the flask and pour the holy water out onto the target. (http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/SRD:Holy_Water)

Avoid Absurdity

Interpreting the Mage Hand attack exclusion to preclude it performing any harmful action leads to absurdity. Mage Hand can "open an unlocked container" (PH 256), but what if the container is trapped, and would damage an enemy if opened?

A more reasonable reading is that Mage Hand cannot make sudden moves that would be required to hit a creature. It can interact with objects that in turn can harm creatures.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Your quote from dandwiki does not match the actual SRD and this drastically changes your answer. You may want to revisit. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 9 '19 at 16:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks @NautArch. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Sep 9 '19 at 16:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ dandwiki strikes again :( \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 9 '19 at 16:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that any article with the prefix "SRD:" on dandwiki is referring to the 3.5e SRD anyway, as noted on the linked page itself. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 10 '19 at 5:46
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By RAW, no: Mage Hand can't attack. But if this came up in one of my games, I'd house-rule Mage Hand to act like a creature with a STR of 1, a BAB of 0, and a base damage of 1d2 nonlethal (or whatever that translates to in 5e): it can lift about 5 lbs; it has a -5 to hit, so it's unlikely to hit anything that's able to resist; and it has a -5 to damage, so it can't do anything worse than a light slap. I'd model the poured acid stream as a thrown weapon with a range increment of 5'. If the character wants to use Mage Hand to pour acid on something, I'd let it try, but the attack penalties make it unlikely to accomplish much other than damaging the floor.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a surprisingly elegant solution. \$\endgroup\$ – fectin Jan 14 '17 at 17:25
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tl;dr The safest interpretation is that if it requires an attack roll, it's a no-no, but that leaves a lot to play with.

It's a really weird way that people treat mage hand. I mean, seriously, it can open a door, but not light a fuse for tnt? It can be used to disarm a trap using thieves' tools (Arcane Trickster sure), but not intentionally spring one?

I call BS on all that. I think as long as it doesn't have to make an attack roll, you're good to go. Yes, it can pour out acid. No attack roll, that's just a reflex save with a forgiving DC on the recipient's part (akin to dodging falling bird poo, essentially) -- if the enemy knows that it's coming, it can basically just side-step it, but if it's caught unaware you might end up taking some chemical burns as it hits your head and gets between your skin and armor before you get out of the way.

Same with lighting TNT. It should be able to light a fuse, but not have the ability to get good momentum with throwing it. Treat it like a drone. That said, it could grab that stick and just follow enemies around and so long as they don't take a Dash action to get away you pretty much have a fly-by-wire MPG (magic propelled grenade) lol

And nothing says your FAMILIAR can't throw that bottle! Mage hand can carry 10 pounds, and some of the familiars like monkeys and raccoons and ferrets could be plucked up and make the attack roll for the hand, actually putting some effort into it and negating the "can't attack" rule altogether.

Hell I have a bag of holding design with triple-distilled Dwarven Spirits hooked up to a vacuum pump that's used basically like an insecticide or weed-killer hand pump, with a little pull-wire attached to some flint-and-steel at the end of the spray nozzle to effectively make a small flame thrower with a huge reservoir and weighing almost nothing. You can go through the bother of setting that thing as a trap, rigged up to a tripwire and have it squeeze off and burn anyone opening a door, or you can sipmly have your mage hand very casually flex and release itself and create a constant stream of fire in one direction. The mage hand isn't attacking, and is in fact doing less of an action that it would if you had it opening a door for you or writing in a book. It's not making a BAB, not aiming or seeking to attack anything, just squeezing and relaxing its little hand and anything stupid enough to walk through that stream of fire better have a good reflex save or fire resistance.

Look there's a 1001 fun things to do with Mage Hand, and saying "well if it does damage it's not allowed" is as silly as saying that a player who is lawful good wouldn't take a selfish action.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi Madrummer, not that this invalidates your answer or anything, but you appear to be using what I think are 3.Xe terms, such as reflex save (I assume you mean Dexterity save for 5e?) and BAB, which I don't know enough about 3.Xe to know what that means in 5e. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Aug 17 at 11:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ I also see a reference to "use your familiar to make the attack", which is equally not allowed in 5e because familiars have the same type of restrictions as mage hand. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Aug 17 at 11:25

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