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One of my PCs is a (weird) wizard who is frequently switching quickly between items—one turn he's wielding a quarterstaff two-handed, the next he's got a component pouch and a dagger, and after that, he's going back to the two-handed quarterstaff to prepare for an attack of opportunity.

We often find ourselves in situations where we're not sure if the rules on action economy actually allow for him to cast some of these spells. For clarification, this question is two-fold:

  • If a focus is merely worn, can a wizard still cast his spells?
  • If it fits, can the wizard hold a component or focus in the same hand that performs somatic components?
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The rules for spellcasting spell this out clearly:

A spellcaster must have a hand free to access a 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. (Source: 5e System Reference document)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Neat. This text is much clearer than what's in the PHB. \$\endgroup\$ – AceCalhoon May 17 '16 at 18:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ The only difference between this and the PHB is the addition of "-or to hold a spellcasting focus-". The PHB later says "A character can use a component pouch or a spellcasting focus (found in chapter 5) in place of the components specified for a spell." which to me would imply that the exact same rules apply. \$\endgroup\$ – Tin Man May 17 '16 at 18:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Amadeus9 Of course the exact same rules apply. There is something to be said about the text here being clearer than in the PHB (where, as you point out, they are in different locations). \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude May 17 '16 at 18:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ One thing to note is that the staff can be a wizards arcane focus: "an orb, a crystal, a rod, a specially constructed staff, a wand-like length of wood, or some similar item" and that it can be used to make normal melee attacks. \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich May 18 '16 at 1:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Walt that text was included in an errata later in the PHB. The errata is here: media.wizards.com/2016/downloads/DND/PH-Errata.pdf \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 9 '18 at 20:36
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Most focuses are held.

Not always, for instance some clerics can use a shield as a focus. But if you are using a focus, you will need to be holding it. This is not true for a component pouch.

You can hold a focus in the same hand as you do your somatic components

A spellcaster must have a hand free to access a 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.

You don't need to hold a component pouch

You can just have it on your belt and reach in to grab what you need.

You cannot sheath weapons and draw weapons in the same turn

At least, not without using an action. You get one free object interaction each turn. This can be sheathing a quarterstaff, or it can be drawing a dagger. To do both, you must use an action or drop the original item. The good news is that he probably doesn't need to do this. You can hold a staff one-handed while you're performing a spell and then hold it again in two hands once the spell is complete.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Important to note that you could simply drop the weapon, which doesn't cost an object interaction. \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude May 17 '16 at 16:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ "You don't need to hold a component pouch You can just have it on your belt and reach in to grab what you need." Well, it states that you can use the pouch instead of material components. I guess you have to hold it in your hand to cast a spell, just like you had a regular component. \$\endgroup\$ – Momonga-sama May 17 '16 at 16:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ "You can hold a staff one-handed while you're performing a spell." But if you do this, can you still spend your reaction for a 2-handed opportunity attack with the staff? \$\endgroup\$ – Robert May 17 '16 at 16:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Momonga-sama Yes. Of course my interpretation is that it can go in the same hand as you are doing the somatic components with, similar to a focus. \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle W May 17 '16 at 17:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Momonga-sama I think it's more along the lines of, you pull the specific materials from the pouch and hold those in your hand. \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude May 17 '16 at 18:33
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You need a single hand free for both Material and Somatic Components to be met

The Rules on Spellcasting specify how Material and Somatic components work:

Somatic Components

If a spell requires a somatic component, the caster must have free use of at least one hand to perform these gestures.

Material Components

A character can use a component pouch or a spellcasting focus (found in “Equipment”) in place of the components specified for a spell....A spellcaster must have a hand free to access a 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.

Specific Questions

Using these guidelines, let's look at the questions presented:

Question 1

If a focus is merely worn, can a wizard still cast his spells?

No - as stated under Material Components, a spellcaster must have a hand free to access...to hold a spellcasting focus.... In order to cast with a Material Component, the focus can't simply be worn, it must be held.

To compare, classes that can use Holy Symbols (paladins and clerics) have the clear path to displaying their Holy Symbol as a Material Component on a worn item such as a shield (PHB, 151). This case gives a very clear example of needing to be holding the Focus.

To use the symbol in this way, the caster must hold it in hand, wear it visibly, or bear it on a shield.

Question 2

If it fits, can the wizard hold a component or focus in the same hand that performs somatic components?

Yes - and fitting really isn't a necessary requirement. The rule quoted above regarding Material Components explicitly states that it can be the same hand that he or she uses to perform the somatic components.

Reviewing other objects in hands

Let's take a look at the various options provided in the question and how they work in determining if and when you have a free hand.

Quarterstaff only

The wizard can release one hand from the weapon to be free for Somatic/Material components without any issues. See this question.

Dagger and Component Pouch

This is easier than you think it is! You don't need to 'hold' your component pouch/focus - but you do need to be able to touch it. In this case, you can wield your dagger in one hand and then have your free hand access your Material/Somatic Components during the casting.

Shield and Dagger

If you've somehow got a way as a wizard to cast spells with a shield in one hand and you've got a weapon in another you're going to come up against some obstacles.

Both hands occupied

Some classes resolve the Material component of Sword and Board (Cleric and Paladin), but if you don't then you need to free up a hand in order to cast a spell with either a Somatic component or both Somatic/Material components.

The Warcaster Feat(PHB, Chapter 5) will allow you perform Somatic components even if you have no free hands. A Cleric or Paladin with Warcaster can use their Holy Symbol on a shield for both Somatic and Material Components.

If you are an Arcane caster without Warcaster, then you will need to do the following in order to free a hand:

  1. Drop your weapon
  2. Use free hand for Material/Somatic components and cast spell
  3. Free Object interaction to pick weapon back up
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The material component must be hold in their hand. They can use the hand holding the material components to perform somatic components.

Page 203, Player's Handbook:

Casting some spells requires particular objects, specified in parentheses in the component entry. A character can use a component pouch or a spellcasting focus (found in chapter 5) in place of the components specified for a spell. But if a cost is indicated for a component, a character must have that specific component before he or she can cast the spell. If a spell states that a material component is consumed by the spell, the caster must provide this component for each casting o f the spell. 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.

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In response to the bounty information request:

It is necessary to hold the material component a spell, but this may also be the same hand as is used for the somatic components, therefore, a caster must have a free hand to cast a spell.

Accessing the material component, however, is part of the Cast a Spell action and thus is subject to the action requirements of that activity.

Drawing or sheathing a weapon is part of the Use an Object action, but this is not the same as placing a hand on or off a weapon. Releasing one hand from a weapon could be construed as dropping it (though it doesn't fall because you had 2 hands on it), which is free. The rules are unclear whether putting your hand back on that weapon counts as Use an Object.

However, were you playing a gish character with a 2-handed weapon and magic, this is feasible by RAW, regardless of the ruling on how returning your hand to the 2-handed weapon.

  • Release one hand from the weapon for free so that it is available for spellcasting
  • Take the Cast a Spell action
  • Spend your Use an Object interaction to return your hand to your weapon to prepare for opportunity attacks

To the original querent, your player's action sequence is mostly correct by RAW if it is occurring in the same turn. The only error is that the character may not draw the dagger as you've described without dropping the quarterstaff to do so. They may grab their component pouch, though, to cast their spell. Although the rules don't state that the component pouch would need to be dropped after the casting to grab the quarterstaff again, I can't imagine that a caster in such a world wouldn't invest in the technology of drawstrings to ensure the pouch is always within reach.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that it doesn't require an object interaction to release your second hand from a two-handed weapon or to hold it again with the second hand (or at least that's how Mearls and Crawford would rule as DM): sageadvice.eu/2017/03/02/2-weapon-casting \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 11 '18 at 19:15

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