The second bullet point of the War Caster feat reads as follows (PHB, p. 170):

  • You can perform the somatic components of spells even when you have a weapons or a shield in one or both hands.

Are you allowed to cast spells in the following situations without the feat:

  • when wielding a sword and shield?
  • wielding a two-handed weapon, such as a greatsword?

How does this change when you have this feat? For the two-handed weapon scenario, can you not simply hold the two-handed weapon in one hand and cast the spell in the other? Or is there a rule specifying you must hold a two-handed weapon with two hands even when you are not attacking with it?


3 Answers 3


On pg 203 Under Spell Components:

Somatic (S)
Spellcasting gestures might include a forceful gesticulation or an intricate set of gestures. If a spell requires a somatic component, the caster must have free use of at least one hand to perform these gestures.

Your GM could rule that you may hold your Two-handed weapon in one hand while casting the spell, but you will have to ask your gamemaster before hand asking if you may cast a spell with a "bonus action" casting time and still attack with the two handed sword.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh I see, so this element of the feat has more meaning if you have multiple attacks. Does this have any impact when you are a level 1 where you typically don't have bonus attacks? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 21, 2016 at 20:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ No, this isn't about multiple attacks. He's specifically talking about making normal action attacks and casting with a bonus action. You wouldn't be able to do a normal action attack and cast a spell because Extra Attacks states that it applies when you take the Attack action (and casting a spell is not the Attack action, therefore you don't get another attack). This is further clarified in the Sage Advice Compendium. With two-handed weapons specifically it's not totally spelled out if you can cast or not since you could take a hand off and still be holding (but not wielding) the weapon. \$\endgroup\$
    – JBC
    Oct 21, 2016 at 20:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ To expand on the above, the two arguments are mostly around does taking your hand off the weapon and putting it back on each count as a "free action item interaction" of which you only have one per turn. If it does and you take off a hand and cast, you'd no longer be wielding your weapon until you put your second hand back on, e.g. on your next turn, which affects things like being able to take attacks of opportunities with your weapon. There are various discussions on this point if you search around. Short answer: ask your GM. \$\endgroup\$
    – JBC
    Oct 21, 2016 at 20:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting, I hadn't thought of that consequence. In most cases I am the GM and my intuition is that you can take your hand off a two handed weapon to cast a spell, but this particular feat feature left some ambiguity. I didn't want to cheat my players out of something special when investing in this feat. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 21, 2016 at 21:04

Players handbook page 203 says to cast a spell with somatic components the caster must have 1 hand free.

This feat modifies this requirement.

  • \$\begingroup\$ how about material components? \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Oct 21, 2016 at 21:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @András A caster can use the free hand used for somatic gestures to also get material components, or use a Focus. This is explained in the PHB p203. So presumably a dual wielder/shield user with War Caster will also have a Focus or only cast spells without a M component. You could interpret War Caster such that it also allows grabbing material components while also holding a weapon/shield, but that would be a DM interpretation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason K
    Nov 15, 2016 at 18:26

Allow me to add some clarity to the other answers you may or may not be getting.

You asked how and why the second bullet point in War Caster works, asking if; WITHOUT the feat, you could cast spells in certain situations.

When Wielding a sword and shield?

Only with spells that have JUST verbal components

(unless you are a Cleric or Paladin using a Holy Symbol, which can be emblazoned upon a shield or worn around the neck)

Here's why: PHB pg 203 breaks down what each Component of a spell; that is, Verbal, Somatic, and Material; means and what happens if you can't provide each required component of any spell you wish to cast.

"...if you can't provide one or more of a spell's components, you are unable to cast the spell..."

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

Material: "...A ...caster must have a hand free to access these components (either a Spellcasting Focus, A Component Pouch, or the individual material requirements) ...but it can be the same hand used to perform Somatic components."

Verbal: "...the chanting of mystical words....a character who is gagged or in an area of silence (otherwise unable to speak), can't cast a spell with a verbal component..."

If any spell that you cast while holding both a shield and a sword, meaning both of your hands are occupied by an item that is NOT your spellcasting focus, then you have no hands free to use Somatic or Material components and those spells can not be cast. Having both hands occupied does nothing to impede you from casting spells that only have Verbal components however.

Wielding a 2 handed Weapon like a Greatsword

Not by rules as written if the 2 Handed weapon is not Versatile

A greatsword is a 2 handed weapon and, despite the argument about being able to 'let go of it for a moment and hold it with one hand', it is unfortunately not also a 'Versatile' weapon, which allows for wielding in one or two hands as desired. PHB page 147 explains that 2 handed weapons (that are not versatile) require 2 hands to use when making attacks.

These 2 (perhaps not entirely clear to some people) rulings make having the War Caster feat actually mean something, or else the feat would not be written with the very particular language it is written with. If you COULD cast a spell while wielding a weapon in 2 hands or having a weapon and a shield in both hands, the 2nd bullet point of this feat would be useless and void. They did not make this bullet point useless and void by allowing you to 'take a hand off of' a 2 handed weapon for spellcasting purposes.

Argument: Errata made a point of emphasizing that you don't need 2 hands for a 2 handed weapon 'while you simply hold it' , leading to some speculation that during combat it is perfectly fine to 'simply hold it' with one hand to cast a spell...even though this would change everything and make the 2nd bullet point in the feat useless and void, which we already know Wizards of the Coast didn't and wouldn't do. An argument can be made for the other side that the Errata wouldn't go out of its way to spell it out like this if it couldn't be used, and so it goes, back and forth, until someone over there clarifies. In this case use whichever side of the argument you feel is correct.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Being able to perform S components with a two-handed weapon does not make that aspect of War Caster useless. It still benefits shield users and two weapon fighting. You can't seriously suggest all two-handed weapon need to be held with both hands all the time. Bows are two-handed weapons and by the rules the player takes their hand off them every time they draw an arrow (Ammunition property). \$\endgroup\$
    – Doval
    Oct 24, 2016 at 20:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Doval Bows may require one hand to hold the Bow, and another to draw to the ammunition (making it 2 handed but not Heavy) , but the clearly defined and written rules of D&D 5E were obviously not meant to be broken down into semantics and technicalities. The above rules are clearly stated on 2 handed weapons and all components except verbal. Disliking the way the rules work together when spelled out doesn't make my answer bad, only undesirable. \$\endgroup\$
    – Airatome
    Oct 25, 2016 at 1:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ A bow isn't two-handed because you need a second hand for ammunition, it's two-handed because you need two hands to take the shot, which is exactly what the errata was addressing. A Light Crossbow also needs a free hand for ammunition but is a one-handed weapon because you only need one hand to shoot it once it's loaded. I don't dislike your answer because it causes the rules to interact weirdly, I dislike it because it's wrong! The errata spells out clearly very clearly the 2H property is only relevant to attacking. \$\endgroup\$
    – Doval
    Oct 25, 2016 at 12:51

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