In the Player’s Handbook, some characters have the ability to cast spells using a spellcasting focus. The book does not do a great job of explaining what that means, however. In this guide we cover what these items are, how they are used, and why they are useful. Join us, if you will, for our Spellcasting Focus 5E Guide!
Spellcasting Focus 5E Guide
A spellcasting focus is an item special to a spellcaster. These items are used to channel arcane energy during the spellcasting process. The most obvious example would be a wizard making use of a magic wand. However, only certain classes may use a spellcasting focus. These include sorcerers, wizards, clerics, and warlocks.
Who can use them?
The use of a spellcasting focus for sorcerers, wizards, and warlocks is known as an arcane focus. They can make use of a variety of items to channel their arcane power through. Other classes are more limited.
While clerics may also use a spellcasting focus, their options are far more limited. This class may only use a holy symbol as their focus. The same is true for paladins.
A Druid may also make use of a druidic focus for these purposes, which could include an array of natural items like feathers, living wooden staves, or teeth from a sacred animal.
Finally, a bard can also make use of this type of spellcasting by using their musical instrument as their spellcasting focus.
What do they do?
These items are more than just character fluff. The primary advantage for using a spellcasting focus is that it eliminates most components fo a spell. For example, Goodberry requires a sprig of mistletoe to cast. Using a spellcasting focus, you do not need these components.
There is an important exception, though. Major components to a spell will have a GP cost listed in their description. These are still necessary even when using a spellcasting focus. For example, Greater Restoration (Listed in our Top 10 Artificer Spells) requires 100 gp worth of diamond dust. This is required to cast the spell even with a spellcasting focus.
Examples of Spellcasting Foci
The PHB gives a few suggestions but does not include an Arcane Focus 5E list. That said, we have provided some suggestions below. In general, these items should not be weapons, shields, or armor. However, this is ultimately up to your DM.
Arcane Focus 5E List
- Carved wand
- Rare stone
Druidic Focus 5E List
- Wand from a living tree
- Animal fur
- Animal teeth
- Holly or mistletoe
Holy Symbol 5E List
- Carved symbol
- Blessed item
- Religious artifact
- Small box holding sacred relic
Spellcasting Focus vs. Component Pouch
A debate rages on using a spellcasting focus vs. a component pouch. Ok, maybe it’s not raging. But there seems to be a genuine discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of each. While both options are similar and useful, it is worth noting these differences.
A component pouch offers all of the minor components to a spell that the foci allow you to ignore. These bags are 2 pounds and cost 25 gp. This is roughly twice the size of a wand and more than twice the cost. So why choose the pouch? The most obvious advantage is that outside of spellcasting, you have a free hand to do with what you will. Using a spellcasting focus that hand would be holding your wand, orb, etc. If this seems like a minor concern, a spellcasting focus might be for you.
It should also be noted that some spellcasting foci has other uses. For example, a cleric can use their holy symbol for turning undead. A bard can use their instrument for a variety of reasons as well. Ultimately, the differences between these two options are minor and boil down to your personal taste most of the time. The only obvious difference is that a component pouch is available to all classes, including those that cannot use a focus.
Concluding our Spellcasting Focus 5E Guide
That wraps up our Spellcasting Focus 5E Guide. While using these items does not radically alter the way spells are cast, they can eliminate a lot of the minor annoyances that come with it. I like the use of an arcane focus like a holy symbol, as it both fleshes out a character and simplifies gameplay without dumbing it down. Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below!
Art by Linweichen available through Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
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