Arcane Focus

An arcane focus is 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. A
sorcerer, warlock, or wizard can use such an item as a spellcasting focus, as described in chapter 10.

Player’s Handbook, pg. 151

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 “Equipment”) 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 spellcasting focus — but it can be the same hand that he or she uses to perform somatic components.

Player’s Handbook, pg. 203

Arcane Focus 5e

An arcane focus is how some spellcasters avoid having to carry around material components necessary for casting certain spells. But, like much of spellcasting in DnD 5e, arcane foci and their attendant rules are a confusing topic for first-time players.

If you’re looking to build a spellcaster in 5e, this article will cover everything you need to know about how an arcane focus works.

What Does an Arcane Focus Do in 5e?

An arcane focus is an item that can be used in place of the material component of a spell, as long as that spell’s material component does not have a required cost and is not consumed by the spell. It is usable by sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards.

For example, a spell like Minor Illusion requires a material component (a bit of fleece), but it is not consumed by the spell, nor does it have a required cost. That means you can cast it with an arcane focus in place of this material component.

minor illusion spell description

Meanwhile, a spell like Protection from Evil and Good has a material component that is consumed by the spell (holy water or powdered silver and iron). Because this material component is consumed, you CANNOT use an arcane focus in place of it.

protection from evil and good spell description

Then you have a spell like Identify, which has a material component that is NOT consumed by the spell, but DOES have a cost requirement (a pearl worth at least 100 gp). Because this material component has a cost requirement, you CANNOT use an arcane focus in place of it.

identify spell description

And finally, you have a spell like Revivify, which both requires a material component with a cost requirement, AND this material component is consumed by the spell (300 gp worth of diamonds). Because of these factors, you CANNOT use an arcane focus in place of it.

revivify spell description

The vast majority of spells in DnD 5e DO NOT have a material cost requirement nor do they consume the material component. That means, for 84% of DnD 5e’s spells, an arcane focus can be used to cast them (or they don’t have a material component at all).

Note that a component pouch works in precisely the same way, but can be used by ANY class in DnD 5e; not just sorcerers, wizards, and warlocks.

Regardless of whether you’re using an arcane focus, a component pouch, or the actual material components required by the spell, you need a free hand to use them. This can be the same free hand that you use for the somatic component of the spell, meaning a spellcaster always needs at least one free hand to spellcast, unless the spell only has a verbal component (PHB 203).

What Are the Rules for Arcane Focus in 5e?

The rules for Arcane Focus in DnD 5e are as follows:

  • An arcane focus cannot be a weapon. Except for a staff or wand.

  • Losing your arcane focus does not break concentration. As long as you have it and can touch it when you initially cast the spell, you do not need to continue holding/touching it in order to maintain concentration on the spell.

  • You need a free hand to use your arcane focus. Even if a DM grants that a bracelet, amulet, ring, or other magic item can be used as your arcane focus, it does not negate the need to have a free hand to manipulate it. This was confirmed by 5e’s developers.

  • You can use a magic wand as an arcane focus. Again, you still need a free hand to manipulate it, but a magic wand is usable as an arcane focus.

  • You can grab your arcane focus as your 1 free object interaction. But it’s not part of the actual casting of the spell.

Arcane Focus 5e Compared to a Component Pouch

There is no great difference between an arcane focus and a component pouch, besides flavor. They both serve as replacements for a material component of a spell that does not consume the material component or have a required cost.

The only small difference between the two is that an arcane focus can be a magic item in its own right (like a staff, orb, crystal, or wand), while a component pouch cannot.

DnD 5e Arcane Focus FAQ

Arcane Focus DnD 5e FAQ:

  1. Do you need to hold arcane focus? Yes, you need to hold or at least touch an arcane focus to use it. This guarantees that no rules are broken, as you need a free hand to manipulate the material component of a spell (or a spellcasting focus) in order to cast a spell that requires it.

  2. What does arcane focus replace 5e? An arcane focus replaces all the material components of a spell, except for:

    • Components that have an associate monetary value (e.g., a diamond worth at least 300 gp).

    • Components that are consumed by casting the spell

    If one or both of those things is true for a spell, an arcane focus cannot replace the material component necessary for its casting.

  3. What does a +1 arcane focus do? A +1 arcane focus raises the spell attack modifier and spell save DC of its user by 1. For example, if you are a level 3 wizard (+2 proficiency bonus) with 16 intelligence (+2 modifier), your spell attack bonus is +5, and your spell save DC is 13. But if you have a +1 arcane focus, your spell attack bonus is +6, and your spell save DC is 14.

  4. Is an arcane focus one-time use? No, an arcane focus is not a one-time use. It is never used up, no matter how many times you use it for the purpose of replacing a spell’s material components.

  5. Can you have two arcane foci? Yes, you can have two arcane foci, but there is no mechanical benefit from having them. For example, if you have a +1 arcane focus and +2 arcane focus, you do not add them together for a +3 bonus; you can only use one of them at a time, for a maximum of a +2 bonus.

  6. What happens if a spellcaster loses their arcane focus? If a spellcaster loses their arcane focus, they need to provide the actual material components to cast spells that require them, even if the material is not consumed and/or has no cost requirement. This arcane focus can be replaced, but they cost between 5-20 gp and might be difficult to find outside of major cities.

  7. Can you use a magic item as an arcane focus? Yes, you can use a magic item as an arcane focus, as long as it’s a wand, rod, staff, or crystal. Just like magic weapons or magic armor are magic item versions of armor and weapons, a magic wand, rod, staff, or crystal is a magic version of an arcane focus. Note that a magic weapon (like a sword) CANNOT be used as an arcane focus; it needs to be one of those specific item types.

  8. Can a quarterstaff be an arcane focus? No, a regular quarterstaff cannot be used as an arcane focus. An arcane focus staff costs 5 gp, compared to a normal quarterstaff cost of 2 sp. However, you can use an arcane focus staff as a quarterstaff.

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