Mage Hand 5e

A spectral, floating hand appears at a point you choose within range. The hand lasts for the duration or until you dismiss it as an action. The hand vanishes if it is ever more than 30 feet away from you or if you cast this spell again.

You can use your action to control the hand. You can use the hand to manipulate an object, open an unlocked door or container, stow or retrieve an item from an open container, or pour the contents out of a vial. You can move the hand up to 30 feet each time you use it.

The hand can’t attack, activate magic items, or carry more than 10 pounds.

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V, S
Duration: 1 minute
School: Conjuration cantrip

Player’s Handbook, pg. 256

Mage Hand 5e

Mage Hand is an incredibly versatile cantrip that’s a lot of fun to use. While the spell description does a good job of clearly laying out what Mage Hand can and can’t do, it still leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Let’s go over the spell’s basics, as well as answer some of the most commonly asked questions about Mage Hand.

Who Can Cast Mage Hand in 5e?

The following classes have Mage Hand on their spell list:

The following subclasses get Mage Hand for free:

  • Rogue (Arcane Trickster)

  • Ranger (Swarmkeeper) (TCoE 60)

The Telekinetic feature also allows for any class to pick up an empowered version of Mage Hand (TCoE 81).

What Does Mage Hand Do in 5e?

Mage Hand summons a spectral, floating hand within 30 feet. It lasts for 1 minute, or until dismissed, recast, or the hand moves more than 30 feet away from the caster.

You can use your actions to control the hand for simple object manipulation and it can carry up to 10 pounds. The hand cannot attack or activate magic items.

As for the deeper set of Mage Hand rules…

What Are the Rules for Mage Hand in 5e?

The rules for Mage Hand in DnD 5e are as follows:

  • Mage Hand doesn’t automatically follow you. You need to use an action to control the hand, so if you run away from it without spending an action bringing it closer to you (30 feet at a time, max), the hand will vanish the moment you move out of range.

  • Mage Hand requires sight to conjure, but not to move. Like all spells, you need “a clear path to the target” to cast Mage Hand in a location (PHB 204). However, once the hand is summoned, the only stipulation on it vanishing is range. BUT the hand is not intelligent and can’t make independent decisions, so if you can’t see where it is, you can’t command it to perform a specific interaction with a particular item.

  • Enlarge/reduce on Gnomes/Halflings cannot allow you to pick them up. A favorite cheeky trick of players using a small race is to use Enlarge/Reduce to make themselves smaller and then use Mage Hand to fly them around. The main reason this does not work is because Mage Hand can only manipulate objects, not creatures.

  • Mage Hand can’t attack. Players don’t often try to break this rule, as it’s clearly laid out in the last line of the spell description. However, it’s worth noting that the hand also can’t perform attack-like actions, such as shoving. This ability is reserved for players who pick up the Telekinetic feature (TCoE 81).

  • Mage Hand can’t administer healing potions. Unfortunately, healing potions qualify as magic items (DMG 135). So Mage Hand can carry a healing potion across the room, but it can’t “activate” it by administering it to a player.

  • The Mage Hand is visible. Unless you’re an Arcane Trickster Rogue, Mage Hand is visible to all creatures, so you can’t get away with sneaky/spooky stuff with it (under normal circumstances).

  • Mage Hand doesn’t trigger Alarm. Mage Hand is not a creature, and so will not trigger the effects of the Alarm spell (PHB 211).

  • Mage Hand can’t deliver touch spells. That’s reserved for the Find Familiar spell.

  • Mage Hand can pass through physical barriers. Mage Hand is spectral, so it can pass through physical barriers. However, as stated above, you still need sight in order to direct the hand to perform specfic actions.

    Additionally, even if you have sight of the object in question (such as through a window), the Mage Hand won’t be able to pass through the barrier with the object — the object will just collide with the window.

  • Certain Mage Hand abilities are restricted to Arcane Trickster Rogues. Many players have ideas for certain Mage Hand activities. If any of those are explicitly laid out in the Arcane Trickster Rogue’s Mage Hand Legerdemain, then an ordinary Mage Hand cannot do it. Those abilities include:

    • Stowing or retrieiving items carried or worn by another creature

    • Pickpocketing and/or planting items on a creature or in a container

    • Picking locks or disarming traps

    • Making the hand invisible

    • The ability to pass Sleight of Hand checks to avoid notice

    • The ability to control the hand using a bonus action

    Again, if you are not an Arcane Trickster Rogue, you cannot do any of the above with Mage Hand. That means Mage Hand cannot normally stow or retrieve items from creatures, even from allies or yourself.

How Do I Use Mage Hand in 5e?

Mage Hand has as many applications as you can dream up (within the limits outlined above). Here are some of the most popular and effective ways to use Mage Hand in your next game:

  1. Hands-free torch holding. Holding a torch is inconvenient; you lose the use of a hand, and monsters are naturally drawn to light sources. Why not make that light source an expendable spectral hand instead of yourself? Plus, putting a torch slightly ahead of your party or using it to scout a specific dark area of interest can alert you to danger before it’s too late.

  2. Spooking people. While the wonderful world of magic makes Mage Hand seem like a trifle, most denizens of (most) DnD universes aren’t all that accustomed to seeing magic in their daily lives. So even with a totally visible Mage Hand, you can get a pretty convincing poltergeist situation going. Or you can just tap a jittery guard on the shoulder and watch as he goes to pieces and abandons his post.

  3. Activating traps. While disabling traps is limited to Arcane Trickster Rogues, there’s nothing stopping you from using an ordinary Mage Hand a trap trigger-puller. Spot a tripwire up ahead? Have the Mage Hand pull it. See a pressure plate on the ground in front of the door you need to pass through? Send the minesweeper Mage Hand in.

    Not sure which pedestal has the real Macguffin and which is the fake? Have the Mage Hand try to grab the one you think is real while you hang back at a safe distance, just in case.

  4. Opening/closing doors. Sometimes you don’t know if a door is trapped or if there’s an ambush waiting on the other side. Mage Hand is great for checking things out, risk-free. It can also be a good way to close a door from across the room.

  5. Throwing distractions from different location. The ol’ “throw a rock far away to distract the dumb baddie” trick is a staple of the genre. Double down on the deceit by having the hand that throws the rock be 30 feet away from you, and you’ve increased your chances of success. Caution: this decision may spark a 10-minute conversation while you do the math to figure out how far a Mage Hand capable of carrying 10 pounds can throw.

  6. Pulling a lever, grabbing a key, winch drawbridge. Mage Hand was made for those moments when you can totally see the thing you need to interact with, but you just can’t reach it. Classics are grabbing the jail cell key from the wall or pulling a lever to deactivate a hazard.

    The winching of a drawbridge is a bit tricker and will probably require math and/or DM fiat to be workable.

  7. Tying a rope above. Having a grappling hook, rope, and access to Mage Hand makes the experience of climbing much simpler for your party. Of course, this only works if the spot you’re trying to get to is less than 30 feet above you, because of the spell’s maximum range. There also needs to be something for the grappling hook to latch onto.

  8. Using healer’s kit. While potions can’t be activated using Mage Hand, a healer’s kit is not a magical item. A DM may decide that you have disadvantage on the Medicine check to stabilize your ally, but it’s better than nothing if you can’t get into range.

  9. Fake sentry. With a light fabric, a light and small item (like a helmet), and Mage Hand, you can make a very unconvincing-looking creature that hovers. Close up, this isn’t good for much, but if you want to create a false impression at a distance, this trick might just work.

  10. Arcane trickster madness. Arcane Trickster Rogues get access to a bunch of other neat tricks with Mage Hand:

    • Invisible hand fun. The ability to make Mage Hand invisible bolsters many of the above applications of the spell and also opens up new doors. Now you can appear to be telekinetic when it suits you, and have an easier time performing other roguish actions like pickpocketing.

    • Pickpocketing/planting. Picking pockets at a distance, with virtually no risk if detected can resolve a lot of situations with less headache. Likewise, being able to plant evidence can be handy for campaigns heavy on intrigue.

    • Grabbing/storing items from/on allies. The normal Mage Hand cannot retrieve or stow objects held or worn by creatures, but Arcane Trickster Rogues’ Mage Hand can. Most players think of this solely from the pickpocket/plant perspective, but it also applies to allies. Being able to snag an item from or sneak an item into your ally’s pack at a distance can be necessary when open communication isn’t possible.

    • Picking locks/disabling traps from a distance. Rogues are always good at picking locks and disabling traps; Arcane Tricksters just get to do it at a distance, with less risk of injury to themselves.

    • Stealth operations. Need to poison a noble at a busy dinner? Snatch an important document behind the magistrate’s desk? Slide the fake jewel into the display case? Well as an Arcane Trickster, you can do these things at a distance and with a chance to do so unnoticed based on a Sleight of Hand check contested by the creature’s Perception check.

    • Good action economy. Finally, it’s worth noting that Arcane Tricksters can use their Cunning Action bonus action to control the Mage Hand. This allows for superior action economy, especially when there are a lot of items you need to interact with in the course of combat.

dnd 5e mage hand

Is Mage Hand 5e a Good Spell?

Yes, Mage Hand is a good spell that you’ll want at least one party member to have. Having so much utility in a cantrip is undeniably attractive, and so many situations can be resolved or aided by what is effectively telekinesis.

A number of rules limit Mage Hand’s capabilities, but when we look at alternative spells with expanded options, Mage Hand’s relative power becomes apparent.

Mage Hand 5e Compared to Unseen Servant

Bards, Warlocks, and Wizards get access to both Mage Hand and Unseen Servant, a first-level conjuration spell that is similar to Mage Hand. It can be cast at 60 feet instead of 30, lasts for one hour, and creates an invisible creature with 10 AC, 1 hit point, 2 strength, and no attack capability.

The Unseen Servant can only move 15 feet at a time as opposed to Mage Hand’s 30 feet, but you can move Unseen Servant with a bonus action rather than an action. Unseen Servant disappears if it’s ever more than 60 feet away from the caster, as opposed to Mage Hand’s 30 feet.

Unseen Servant can also be cast as a ritual without expending a spell slot if you have an hour to spare.

The main advantage of Unseen Servant is that it has limited intelligence and can therefore follow more complex commands. You don’t need to continuously see what it’s doing or repeatedly give discrete commands; if you tell it to chop wood, it will keep chopping wood to the best of its ability until it’s done.

Overall, the advantages of Unseen Servant aren’t attractive enough to warrant choosing it as a first-level spell. Mage Hand can cover pretty much everything you’d want to do with Unseen Servant anyway and it’s only a cantrip. We certainly don’t recommend picking up both spells.

Mage Hand 5e DM Tips

As a DM, you’re going to run into all sorts of crazy scenarios with Mage Hand. A common variation on a theme, however, is players trying to cheese the 10-pound carrying capacity with back-of-napkin physics to convince you that their Mage Hand can effectively shoot a 200+ MPH projectile. Nip this in the bud — Mage Hand cannot attack. Period. (Plus, c’mon, how many people do you know who can only carry 10 pounds but can throw over 100 miles per hour?)

Another common misunderstanding is that Mage Hand has some sort of intelligence. Remind players that it is no more sentient than their regular hands and it requires orders to do anything specific. You cannot tell your own hand to simply “grab the guard’s key” if your brain and eyes don’t tell you where the guard’s key is.

For players trying to use Mage Hand for medicine checks with their healing kit, we suggest giving disadvantage. Again, it’s not a sentient hand and it can’t really perform medical operations without you being able to see what it’s doing. That said, players can get salty if you disallow it entirely, so give ’em a go — if a player is in that much danger of dying, you should probably be a bit generous anyway.

Same goes for any other crazy Mage Hand shenanigans that don’t explicitly break the rules. DnD is a game where players can try anything; that doesn’t mean it’ll work.

Other than that, refer to the rules outlined above, use DM fiat when appropriate, and be consistent.

Simple Mage Hand 5e Spell Text

Mage Hand: (cantrip, 30 feet, 1 minute, V/S) Summon a floating, spectral hand within range for the duration or until dismissed, recast, or the hand is more than 30 feet from you. You can use an action to control the hand to interact with objects in basic ways. It can move up to 30 feet each time you use an action to control it. The hand can’t attack, activate magic items, or carry more than 10 pounds.