Dungeon Master Assistance

Where anyone over 18 can share thoughts and ideas on RPGs.

D&D 5E – Spellcasting – Components

My thoughts on Components.

First, here is what it says in the Player’s handbook:


A spell’s components are the physical requirements you must meet in order to cast it. Each spell’s description indicates whether it requires verbal (V), somatic (S), or material (M) components. If you can’t provide one or more of a spell’s com ponents, you are unable to cast the spell.

Verbal (V)
Most spells require the chanting of mystic words. The words themselves aren’t the source of the spell’s power; rather, the particular combination of sounds, with specific pitch and resonance, sets the threads of magic in motion. Thus, a character who is gagged or in an area of silence, such as one created by the silence spell, can’t cast a spell with a verbal component.

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.

Material (M)
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 of the spell.
A spellcaster must have a hand free to access a spell’s material components — or to hold a spell-casting focus — but it can be the same hand that he or she uses to perform somatic components.

There are some monsters which can cast spells with their innate spellcasting ability they do not have to provide any components. Unless stated otherwise if you cast a spell from an item you can do so without any components.

V – Verbal: Most spells require the chanting of mystic words. Chanting is by definition a clearly audible sound. A sorcerer with the subtle spell meta-magic, or a level 20 druid with the Archdruid class feature can ignore the verbal component when casting a spell. My house rule is that it must clear and a voice that can be heard from at least 20 feet away in normal circumstances. It cannot be whispered.

S – Somatic: Spellcasting gestures might include a forceful gesticulation or an intricate set of gestures. This requires a free hand and will be clearly visible. A sorcerer with the subtle spell meta-magic, or a level 20 druid with the Archdruid class feature can ignore the somatic component when casting a spell. Any spellcaster with the War Caster feat can use hands occupied by a weapon or shield.  My house rule is that because of the exaggerated gestures required, you cannot cast a spell that requires a somatic component if your hands bound or tied together.

M – Material: If you have a component pouch or a spellcasting focus (which may be a holy symbol depending on your class), you can ignore all material components which have no indicated costs. The Ranger is notable for not having access to a spellcasting focus, and will always need a component pouch or the specific component. A free hand is needed here. If you cast a spell from a spell scroll you do not have to have the material components. A way of the four elements monk does not have to provide material components for their elemental spells.

My house rules regarding material components:
 1)            Component pouch or spellcasting focus.
                This must be presented boldly.
2)            Material component with no cost listed.
                These are not needed if you are using a component pouch or spellcasting focus. If you are using the material component then I will assume that you stock up on these during your downtime but only if you are in a location where you would have access to them.
3)            Material component with a listed cost.
                Your PC must have procured the item and have it listed on his character sheet. If not, you cannot cast the spell. I will make an exception for low cost items (typically less than 100gp value). For these I will assume that your character purchased them during his down time and you can simply deduct its value from your character sheet at the time you cast the spell.

4)            Rare or uncommon components.
                There may be, from time to time, a spell that requires a rare, uncommon, or even unique component. You must, of course, have that component before you can cast such a spell.




4 responses to “D&D 5E – Spellcasting – Components

  1. drstrangepork23 September 20, 2018 at 11:27 am

    I just came across some errata in Sage Advice that shocked me (and really made me feel bad for Eldritch Knights). Paladins and Clerics are allowed to have their holy symbol (spell focus) on their shields, and since another RAW says that the same hand being used for Material components can be used for Somatic, then a Cleric or Paladin can have mace and shield out (for example), and still cast spells (unless it has a GP cost like you note).

    I dont understand why an Eldritch Knight couldnt put their arcane focus in their shield, but oh well =/

    Click to access SA_Compendium.pdf


    • Ronny September 20, 2018 at 2:19 pm

      For those that may be following this. The passage that you are referring to says in part:

      “a cleric’s holy symbol is emblazoned on her shield. She likes to wade into melee combat with a mace in one hand and a shield in the other. She uses the holy symbol as her spellcasting focus, so she needs to have the shield in hand when she casts a cleric spell that has a material component. If the spell, such as aid, also has a somatic component, she can perform that component with the shield hand and keep holding the mace in the other.
      “If the same cleric casts cure wounds, she needs to put the mace or the shield away, because that spell doesn’t have a material component but does have a somatic component. She’s going to need a free hand to make the spell’s gestures. If she had the War Caster feat, she could ignore this restriction.”

      I guess that I may have read this before, but I had forgotten. This second paragraph is just silly. In my games, if you want to have the advantage of having your holy symbol painted on your shield and use it as your spellcasting focus, I will allow it. But I also allow anyone wielding a shield to make a spell’s gestures (the somatic component) with the same hand that they are using to hold the shield. Because you can’t simply drop a shield (it takes one action to don or doff) I must assume that shields are strapped on so you could let go of the handle to make gestures and not drop the shield. But if they do so they do not get the armor class benefit of that shield that round.

      I agree with NOT allowing an arcane focus to be a shield or to be anything emblazoned on a shield.


      • drstrangepork23 September 20, 2018 at 2:57 pm

        that ruling murders my will to live haha. I can completely get behind the “holy symbol that happens to be shaped like a shield” trick, but i AGREE. is the hand empty, or not? ITS FULL EITHER WAY, either with a shield, or a holy symbol. I mean if the players holy symbol were a teeny tiny toothpick, id still rule the off hand is occupied. I am currently living with it even though it is causing my hair to fall out, simply because it only applies to clerics and paladins (no reason given, but sigh). Id be better off with it if they just threw in some flavor text, like cleric/paladin Somatic components, due to their Martial Nature, are basically just pointing the shield, or something. the sage advice made my head hurt.


      • Ronny September 20, 2018 at 3:33 pm

        The idea that you can manipulate material components in the same hand that you are doing somatic gestures throws me a little. The only reason that I agree with that is to make life a little easier on spellcasters.
        I have no problem with only allowing holy symbols, and not arcane focus, on shields. The way I see it is that arcane focus needs to be an object and not just an image. The physical object must be manipulated to gather and focus the magic power. But a holy symbol is just an image or design that represents a particular deity. With it you are proclaiming loudly that the power is coming from them and not you.
        I also have a little problem with using a component pouch as a spellcasting focus, but that is not a hill I want to die on.


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