A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Dwarf in the Playground

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    Oct 2014

    Default Creative Cantrips - Mage Hand

    “You may judge any spellcaster by their biggest spell, but you should judge a master by their cantrips.”
    -Olaf Junier, Magic Instructor

    5th edition embraces your group’s interpretation and rulings, allowing players to come up with new ideas for old things all the time. This needs to be balanced against dangerous, game-breaking precedents. This is part of a series ofpostings around Cantrips to help balance the player desire for cool ideas with the DM’s need to know what is possible before they are problems for their game.

    Tips for the everyone at the table:
    • Be clear and consistent in advance – Whenever possible, make rulings based on clear language and interpretations, not on the specific tricks. Also do it early so nobody has to discuss laws of physics in a critical battle.
    • It is a game, but not just a game – The Rule of Cool balances the Rule of Reason. Or yet another way, players need to have fun but might want to ‘forget’ a good idea if it would disrupt an important plot point they know the DM is relying on.
    • The DM can always change a ruling, but be fair about it – If an interpretation turns out to be too abusable, it can be changed. But the players may need to compensate accordingly so don’t do it in combat and/or disallow them to switch out cantrips they will no longer use.

    This posting will go over an analysis of the cantrip, while the second goes into specific tricks/effects you can do and what rulings they may rely upon. I am hoping for even more ideas, and stories are welcome.

    Cantrip Details
    30 Range (both creation and during effect)
    No material component
    1 minute duration
    10 lb weight limit (effective 2 strength)

    Anything you can do with one hand can be done at a distance.

    Pros and Cons
    • Pro – DMs are comfortable with it. Want a ruling? Do it yourself with one hand.
    • Pro – This is a third hand for you, which opens some doors of its own. But it can’t be an extra hand to cast spells since that would be two actions.
    • Pro – Arcane Tricksters or Thieves have even better efficiency with this cantrip.
    • Pro – sticks around without recasting
    • Both – The hand can’t go through things. Not explicitly stated, but implied.
    • Con – Dispelled if leaves your 30’ range. That is within anyone’s charging range
    • Con – Spectral floating hands tend to draw attention, but at least it doesn’t give off light. If you want to be subtle, you will need some assistance or stealth proficiency
    • Con – Explicitly cannot trigger magical items
    • Con – Explicitly requires an action to dismiss. But a workaround is floating out of range with your movement.
    • Con – Can’t move or act without using an action (see 30’ range). Includes repetitive actions like sprinkling dust
    • Con – 30’ movement is less than a wood elf or monk’s normal movement, slowing them down
    • Con - one minute isn’t long. Don’t forget about it unless you are done with it.

    Rulings that Apply
    • Bonus actions – If you get a bonus action, can you also use it through the hand or only full actions? The RAW writup specifically says only normal actions.
    • Drag strength – if you can lift 10 lbs you should be able to drag 50 lbs as though you had a strength of 2. Some may rule that you only can apply 10 lbs of force instead, though.
    • Gaps in casting - At-will effectively means ‘always there if you spend the actions’ but your DM may rule that there is a ‘gap’ between castings where you drop the object.
    • Help actions – Assisting others through a spell makes sense, but expect to explain how you can help in detail.
    • Skill checks - Some effects logically require proficiencies or skill checks to do (ex. pickpocketing, mimicking someone else’s hand)
    • Sense of touch – Probably doesn’t have it, but if it does that is very handy (sorry)
    • Sense of location – Questionable since you need to know where it is to perform actions. If you don’t have this or a sense of touch, then you can’t control it without line of sight.
    • Size – not defined at all. Assume it is the caster’s hand size by default, but it could be mutable. Long fingers or extra small hands could have special uses.
    • Hit Points – Undefined, but let’s assume that it isn’t indestructible (though that would be awesome…). I’m going to assume 5-10hp but let it be resistant or immune against environmental effects.
    • Immovability – If it has a strength of 2, it can’t resist too much effort against it. Either it would move or dispel. I’m assuming it dispels here, but there could be other options if people could move it off initiative with strength checks.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Dwarf in the Playground

    Join Date
    Oct 2014

    Default Re: Creative Cantrips - Mage Hand

    General Interact at a distance
    • Drop a vase as a distraction
    • Goose the barmaid near a rival as she is moving away
    • Open a door from a distance. Really useful since most traps try to hit the opener and not their party.

    Tripwire or detect invisible/concealed objects (sense of location, touch)
    While you can’t ‘feel’ through the hand, you can move it around and see if it interacts with something. Light objects (tripwires, pots) would be pushed over, but heavy objects would just stop it. This allows you to detect invisible walls, illusionary pits, or just feel around in the dark (slowly).

    Mimic a spell (skill checks, size)
    But good for one round of distraction or more if you are good with intimidation or deception. Mimic a bigby spell, carry a weapon for spiritual weapon, that 4th edition divination ritual would have been perfect as well.

    Bonus to Strength checks/pull strength
    Not exactly obvious at first, but in a game where we measure every gold coin you can drag out of a room quickly, 50 lbs of dragging strength is 2500+gp more than you could carry before. Just say’in.

    Skyhook (Immovability)
    Leave it sitting in the air and use it as a platform for other things.
    • Hold your cloak and pack in the air during negotiations with pickpocketers
    • Hold up your book when reading for That Mage Look
    • Impromptu tripod for crossbow shooting
    • Hold an object up for soft cover (sheet, flag, prop up a board)

    Carry dangerous things (immovability, size)
    • Carry around green slime in front of the party and see those melee ambushers stop on their tracks.
    • Hold the Dangerous Item of Power 20’ in the air to protect it or just to keep yourself out of its Aura of Badness

    Combat pickpocketing as untrained (help actions)
    You might think that only thieves can get away with this, but anyone can pickpocket. Think of it as an at-will disarm spell for items not in their hands. If you fail, who cares? It just cost you an action as though they make their save. Good targets are belt buckles, component pouches, ammunition pouches, or even plucking out the arrow from a crossbow as a ready action. After all, they aren’t touching it while aiming.

    Communication (sign language, pointing)
    • Make gestures or use sign language at a distance
    • Point out important things to others without being obvious
    • Tug on their clothing as a signal or warning
    • Flip someone off with three hands to make your point
    • Mage hand high five! Shows off to the audience but could also work with other mages as a 'secret handshake'

    ‘Nail’ an object down
    Cup the hand and press it down on an object. It is now ‘held’ by something which makes a lot of actions harder. Wind isn’t a problem for paper, disarmed weapons can’t be quickly picked up, and thieves have a much harder time with slight of hand.

    Decoy or distraction
    • Mimic a creature (straw puppet or ‘minion’) before combat
    • Be the only thing that is visible when sneaking around (hand draws attention, trickster in the shadows does not)
    • Send the hand around corners first, triggering any readied actions by the enemies there
    • Hold a large object up so enemies waste an Use an Object action to get past or a Ready action to grab. Sheets, shields, paper wall panels, etc. I personally like rattan chairs as they are obnoxious, stand up on their own, and can be used for style during short rests.

    Carry a torch
    Special note on this one since the Light cantrip is now touch range so you can't just cast it 60' ahead when needed. Carrying the torch, a Light object, or the equivalent is now more useful.

    Set off traps
    Somewhat limited by the weight limit, but between either the hand or the object you are dragging around you should be able to trip most pressure plates. Note that a 50 lb limit may not actually set off all pressure plates. For instance, kobolds can set up traps that don't trigger unless there is 100 lbs on them so they can run across it but you can't.

    Of course, there have to be others too. Stories are appreciated!

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Dwarf in the Playground

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    Oct 2014

    Default Re: Creative Cantrips - Mage Hand

    placeholder if I need it

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Orc in the Playground

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    Oct 2015
    Everywhere and nowhere

    Default Re: Creative Cantrips - Mage Hand

    You can have it carry a torch in front of you, extending your range of vision.

    Open a door from a safe distance. Works great if combined with minor illusion to create an illusory head poking in through the now open door.

    My favorite use: express utter contempt for someone by making rude gestures with three hands at once!
    Nihil Refert

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Firbolg in the Playground

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    Jul 2013

    Default Re: Creative Cantrips - Mage Hand

    Actually, 50 coins is 1 pound, so it could drag up to 2500 gp (minus container weight).

    I always thought 5e Mage Hand can only carry lb, like in previous editions...this opens up new possibilities:

    Dragging 50 lb over the ground can detect some traps...maybe not in a kobold lair, where they may calibrated to trigger only when something heavier then kobold steps on them, but it's better to drop 50 lb of stones instead of the the party fighter into a hidden pit full of spikes.

    And of course interacting with the object from a distance helps avoiding some traps too...contact poison smeared on a doorknob, Indiana Jones style golden idol on a trapped pedestal in the middle of the room (ignoring the fact that thing would weight over 20 kilos if it would be solid gold), spring loaded poisoned needles in a chest...all are lot less dangerous when you stand 30' away.
    It's Eberron, not ebberon.
    It's not high magic, it's wide magic.
    And it's definitely not steampunk. The only time steam gets involved is when the fire and water elementals break loose.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Colossus in the Playground
    Segev's Avatar

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    Jan 2006

    Default Re: Creative Cantrips - Mage Hand

    My personal interpretation is not that it winks out nor can be pushed around if its force is exceeded, but that it is passed through at that point. It drops the bucket that now weighs 15 lbs. due to the added water because the magical force that composes it no longer exerts enough force to keep it from going through. So the bucket handle falls through the hand.

    I would, personally, agree that "it can't carry more than 10 lbs." can be liberally treated as "can exert 10 lbs. of force." The RAW technically don't give a limit on what it can drag, if you want to be pedantic, but the other extreme is that it doesn't say it can drag things at all, but only carry them. So I think "exerts 10 lbs. of force" is the best compromise.

    In an X-Crawl game, we'd just gone through a dungeon hosted by a Dungeon Jockey (think in-story DM who runs a dungeon like a game show/reality show) who was a grade-A jerk of the "smiles and pretends to be your friend while back-hand complimenting you and kicking you while you're down" variety. DJ Sunshine, as he called himself, finally showed himself, in person, to congratulate us for beating his dungeon (with more back-handed compliments insinuating we should have done better).

    Our priest of Dionysus returned his grin with one equally false, walked right up, and kicked him in the crotch. DJ Sunshine's grin only got wider and more smug as we heard "CLANG!" come from the full suit of plate mail pants he was wearing under his baggy ceremonial clothes. My bard had mage hand still up from earlier. I made a crushing motion with my fist, IRL, as I asked the DM what 5 lbs. of force, applied directly INSIDE the pelvic region of the pants would do. The DM described how the DJ's face turned white and his smug grin withered as he crumpled over in pain.

    The cleric got a huge reputation boost for being able to kick THAT HARD.

    (One can argue that I didn't have line of effect, but mage hand was a little fuzzy in that edition, or at least we the players and the DM thought so at the time, on whether LoE was necessary and maintained. Plus, rule of cool worked out in our favor, there.)

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Dwarf in the Playground

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    Oct 2015
    The Shadows

    cool Re: Creative Cantrips - Mage Hand

    Put it in someone's mouth, kill the evil tyrant the creative way.
    Quote Originally Posted by RickAllison View Post
    And you instantly made me start humming the song from Pirates of the Caribbean. I hope you are proud of yourself
    78% of DM's started their first campaign in a tavern. If you're one of the 22% that didn't, copy and paste this into your signature.

    Where did you start yours?

    On a Merchant ship traveling through "Cutthroat's Pass," which has quite the abundance of pirates, because it's the only viable route to get between an Island City-State and the Mainland.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Pixie in the Playground

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    Sep 2015

    Default Re: Creative Cantrips - Mage Hand

    How about carrying a 10lbs shield and hiding behind it?

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Colossus in the Playground
    Segev's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2006

    Default Re: Creative Cantrips - Mage Hand

    Playing off the spell component pouch thread, perhaps one use would be to have a mage hand hold your spell focus for you. Just rest your hand on it when you need to use it, and let go so your mage hand can keep it aloft, in easy reach, when you don't.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Dwarf in the Playground

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    Oct 2014

    Default Re: Creative Cantrips - Mage Hand

    Thanks, Madbox. I just knew that I would miss some obvious ideas.

    I updated the 'rulings' section to include a third possibility for drag strength. I've never had someone rule it has an absolute 10lbs of force, but that does make sense.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Pixie in the Playground

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    Nov 2016

    Default Re: Creative Cantrips - Mage Hand

    (I realize this is an old thread, sorry).
    You may want to add extra uses for Arcane Tricksters, as they get a special mage hand (including free invisibility).

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Barbarian in the Playground

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    Feb 2015

    Default Re: Creative Cantrips - Mage Hand

    Note for future character:
    "Handy" the mage. Caster with a left handed Crawling Claw familiar and makes a Right Hand shaped Mage Hand. Wears a robe/coat with extra long sleeves and uses his familiar and Mage Hand as prosthetics.

    Never has to worry about touching poison and can really throw a punch.

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Pixie in the Playground

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    Nov 2019

    Default Re: Creative Cantrips - Mage Hand

    Some more ideas:
    * Tap shoulder of ally to quietly get their attention
    * Communicate with simple hand signals: stop, come this way, Yes, No, look left, 3 enemies to the right, etc.
    * Tap shoulder of guard to distract him while you slip past the intersection
    * write messages / draw maps in the dirt (or with chalk)
    * snatch the paper work off the enemy commander's desk through his open window
    * swing a rope (with a weight tied to the end) in a circle about yourself --> cheap means to detect invisible or stealthed enemies
    * Tie the far end of your rope to a tree across the 25' chasm / river
    * drop a 10# weight onto someone from 30' up (ouch!)
    * fake having an animated sword defending yourself
    * dirty tricks- throw dirt in the face of an enemy
    * Pull the trip-rope taught as the enemy pursue you

    Note, many of the above can be duplicated or improved with the first level spell Unseen Servant, which has a 60' range and 30# capacity
    Last edited by Zap; 2019-11-10 at 10:19 PM.

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Dragon in the Playground Moderator
    Peelee's Avatar

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    Dec 2009
    Birmingham, AL

    Default Re: Creative Cantrips - Mage Hand

    The Mod on the Silver Mountain: Mage Hand is not suitable for necromancy.
    Last edited by Peelee; 2019-11-10 at 11:22 PM.
    Cuthalion's art is the prettiest art of all the art. Like my avatar.

    Number of times Roland St. Jude has sworn revenge upon me: 2

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