Addressing the Mage Hand

I’m not sure if this really counts as something we got wrong while playing, but it is something I wanted to address to our audience if they have any questions regarding it. During this week’s episode (Mieveht Story – Arc 2 – Episode 3), Willow had a really clever idea with her mage hand. In order to create a distraction, she wanted to have her mage hand throw a rock down a hallway, past some thugs that were in front of her and her group. The goal was to pull their attention to a hallway off course from where they were going, attempting to avoid an encounter. I thought this was a great idea, however, we ran into a few issues with it that I had to make some in the moment calls on.

First of all, the spell doesn’t explicitly say it can be used in this way, however it gives some options of light tasks it can do, that imply it has some reasonable motor skills. I liked the idea and the creativity and it didn’t seem too out of the realm of possibility for the mage hand to do, so I ruled that the mage hand was capable of throwing the rock. Some might argue that, since the spell explicitly says it cannot make an attack, that it can’t throw a rock. I took that into account and decided that since Willow was not attempting to use this for damage, it stays far enough away from making an attack. I had said the hallways were fairly wide, so the hand wasn’t trying to precisely hit something like it would during an attack.

The second issue came from her low stealth roll, drawing the attention of the thugs. The thugs were somewhat distracted in an argument anyways, so I thought the stealth vs their perception was a good enough way to handle if they would notice her casting it in some way. Unfortunately, them noticing, also meant that they could see the rock being thrown. This is where on the fly rulings got really muddy. I could find nothing about what to do if the hand itself is attacked. It has no stats, so it can’t really be hit. I really don’t think being unable to interact with the hand is right, since the hand can interact with the physical world. So on the fly, I decided hitting it would cause it to fade away.

I admit, having the thug so easily cause the spell to fizzle, might have been a little too harsh on my part. In my head, I chose this course of action for a few reasons. The thugs heard the casting of the spell, so they would have been looking in the direction of the hand. We hadn’t broken into initiative yet, but if we had, they probably would have been nearly on top of Willow before the throw could have been made. I also knew the spell was a cantrip and wouldn’t really be able to do anything during the fight, so I saw causing the spell to fizzle as not really taking anything away from the player.

After the session, Christa (who plays Willow) and I had a chat in Discord for a little while. We decided that in order to make things more fair on both sides, we would give the mage hand a mini stat block. Doing this means that she will have a better idea of what the hand is capable of while using it, but also gives me a bit of a defense against it. A situation besides this that made me want to assign it some actual stats was thinking about a situation where the hand is used to pickpocket someone. Without being able to deal with the hand, if someone noticed there would be no recourse for it aside from just following it back. Also, since it can go invisible, they wouldn’t really be able to follow it either. However, being able to cancel the spell essentially whenever I felt like it doesn’t make much sense either.

Here is our version 1 stat block for the mage hand:

Hit Points 19 10+(INT modifier * Caster’s Level)
Armor Class 13 10 + Caster’s DEX modifer
Stealth +8 Caster’s Stealth
Sleight of Hand +6 Caster’s Sleight of Hand

This may change over time depending on if we run into balance issues, but for now this gives us some strong guidelines to go off of.

It wasn’t until I was looking things up while writing this post that I discovered that the spell catapult exists. I see that my ruling gets very close to the mechanics allowed by catapult, however, I think I will allow them going forward under the conditions more explicitly stated in the mage hand spell. Specifically, catapult is used if you want to deal damage, but mage hand can be used to toss an item.