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By "casting foci", I am referring to arcane focus, druidic focus, and holy symbol, because they're all just different fluff for the same thing, just keynamed for class restrictions.

When I say magic item, I mean magic in the sense that it has supernatural properties, not "magic item" as a rarity based loot-drop type item as exemplified by the DMG treasure lists. (That said, the second situation below may be affected by that definition) When I say mundane, I am referring to an absence of magic, not a state of boringness.

These are all listed in adventuring gear, and each type of casting focus gives examples of objects which can be used. The adventuring gear consists of mostly mundane objects, and the examples given sound like mundane objects as well. However, the list also includes magic items, like healing potions... and the foci are indeed being used to generate magical effects in the game without the use of non-monetary spell components. The answer to this question is relevant in these situations:

  1. A character finds some need to improvise a casting focus, so they pick up an object which satisfies the description of an example. (Let's say, a wooden dowel rod for an arcane caster who lost his wand) Does it work? If so, why can't an arcane caster use any phallic object, (most weapons, his finger, or even his actual phallus) as a stand-in for the word "rod"?

  2. A character, through whatever circumstances, loses their focus, so they decide to make a new one with downtime. Should they use Craft or Create a Magic Item? If they must use create a magic item, what is a druid doing that is so special when he cuts this sprig of mistletoe over any other sprig of mistletoe?

This is based on me thinking about this answer I gave a while back, and being dissatisfied with it. (And a friend made some dick jokes about the word "rod" as an example for arcane foci.) I cannot find anything in the core texts which states clearly one way or the other. (Though I've been known to be a poor reader) So, I would like to know,

is there any official source which clearly states whether or not casting foci are magic items?

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They are not magic items, but they are specific items.

A focus substitutes for non-costly material components, essentially each caster makes a flavour choice as to if they will use a focus or a materials pouch. They can change anytime they like.

The only magic item described in the PHB is the Potion of Healing: all other items in the book are mundane. They would be crafted.

However, an object either is or is not a focus. A stick is not a focus in the same way that a belt pouch is not a materials pouch, a pointed stick is not a dagger and a flask of oil is not a flask of water.

As written, a focus is not tied to a specific individual so, if you lost your arcane focus, you could use someone else's. Just like you could use someone else's materials pouch.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is alchemist's fire not a magic item? \$\endgroup\$ – JAMalcolmson Sep 14 '16 at 0:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JAMalcolmson it's not called out as one. The potion is. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Sep 14 '16 at 2:48
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No, casting foci are not magic items.

The PHB describes the arcane focus as:

a special item— an orb, a crystal, a rod, a specially constructed staff, a wand—like length of wood, or some similar item designed to channel the power of arcane spells

There is nothing in the book that says that it is magical in and of itself, only that it is "special". In the absence of a description to the contrary (and 5e is pretty scrupulous in identifying such things) the base assumption would be that it is not a magical item.

As to whether you can just simply craft one given raw materials is an exercise for the individual DM. The assumption here would be that since it is "special", then special effort, skills or materials would be required.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a reasonable assumption to make. It's the same assumption I made in my reply to that question. But it's still an assumption, not a reference to a clarification, which is what I'm looking for. (Or a flat statement that there is absolutely no source to base an answer off of. I don't have the time or capacity to be constantly wired into every source of rules information) \$\endgroup\$ – JAMalcolmson Sep 14 '16 at 0:58
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Yes.

This answer is based off of your statement of clarification here:

When I say magic item, I mean magic in the sense that it has supernatural properties, not "magic item" as a rarity based loot-drop type item as exemplified by the DMG treasure lists.

A spellcasting focus clearly has some kind of property that makes it magical in nature for at the bare minimum, three reasons:

  1. It allows you to bypass the requirement of material components, which means it is substituting the parts necessary to trigger a spell by acting as a focal point of your magical energy and in some way fulfills the prerequisites of the spell being cast;

  2. You can't just pick up a rock and declare it as a spellcasting focus. You actually need to do something, and I'll elaborate on that further, in order to make that focus usable; and

  3. You must be capable of casting spells to use one. This is covered under each of the spellcasting classes and dictates which focus you are capable of using. For example, a Sorcerer can NOT use a Holy Symbol or a Druidic focus (unless they were multi-classed).

Elaboration:

There's no provisions either for or against being creative with your focus. Crawford, Mearls and many more have confirmed on numerous occasions that players could fix their focus on their shield, on the pommel of a sword, emblazoned on their armor, etc. From this you can infer that the act of creating the focus by the caster and investing it with a modicum of your own power is what is necessary to create the focus and have it be usable.

As to why you can just pick up any focus of your class's category and use it in the same manner, it is also logical to conclude that creating a focus is extremely simple since there isn't a cost associated with it besides the price of the item you wish to use. Since you can use one at level 1, it also implies that learning to use a focus is a routine part of the process of learning to cast spells. However the classes focus the power differently, thus restricting focuses to specific class types.

But basically, based on what you asked with respect to its properties, yes, it is magical in the sense that it is not a mundane item. Would it glow with detect magic? Maybe; that's really up to the DM. I would make it glow, because to me the requirement of being a caster to use one says everything you need to know.

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