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D&D Basic: Spells



This breakdown of spells is lengthy enough that I'm going to boil down trends first, rather than making readers wade through a discussion of literally every spell in Basic to read a derived change log. You might say it's a trifle dry. (This blog is justly accused of same; I laud your forbearance.) There are also some discussions of what I foresee as optimal applications of various spells, and emergent oddities.

Directory of Spells

Aid hasn't gained any power - it's still eight hours of +5 hit points for three people - but a brutal nerf-batting of cure wounds and healing word (I am so sorry, clerics everywhere) increase the apparent usefulness of this spell. Also, it's a long-duration buff that isn't based on Concentration, so it is much more of a contender now.

Antimagic Field hasn't particularly changed, though the changes to Concentration are an enormous nerf to its potential. Going up and hugging the wizard is a lot less impressive when all he has to do to end the effect is deal a point of damage and get you to fail your Constitution save. (To be fair, the enemy fighters will still turn you into hamburger in that time.) I do kind of wonder if we'll see any Bizarro World interpretations of "creatures created by magic," so that Antimagic Field instantly stops all undead.

Arcane Eye got a tiny bit better, extending its darkvision range.

Arcane Lock gained an expensive material component and, for some reason, lost the Ritual tag. I can't figure why - this spell is more likely to see use on non-adventuring days anyway, thanks to its indefinite duration.

Blade Barrier: It's going to be really weird the first time a mid-level rogue passes clean through a blade barrier unharmed. It looks like this was always a Thing, going back to 3.x, and I just didn't play enough high-level games to see it happen. Of course, now it's got a Concentration duration, so if there are feats to ignore cover, an archer can dispel it with a shot or two.

Bless is still one of the major crowd-pleasers of first-level cleric spells. Sure, Concentration duration, but damn is that a fight-winner of an attack bonus. Its maximum duration got cut from 10 minutes to 1 minute, though.

Blur also had its maximum duration chopped from 10 minutes to 1 minute. A self-only buff with a Concentration duration... well, at least it does serve to make you harder to hit.

Chain Lightning got a bit of an upgrade: greater range, those ten damage dice are d8s rather than d6s, and it gained a boosted effect for using a higher-level spell slot. Spending a 7th-level slot in place of a 6th to splash that 10d8 to one additional target... very nice.

Charm Person gained an effect for using higher-level slots - extra targets. It's only one extra target for each level of spell slot, but... that is some really, really nice crowd control, since it sounds like each charm effect might be broken separately.

Command gained the same higher-level-slot benefit that charm person did. It's a little better in combat, since the saving throw doesn't gain advantage if your allies have initiated hostilities, but otherwise it's charm person's kid brother. What a scamp.

Commune hasn't changed, but I do think the "secret" 25% chance of failure is just bizarre. It's similar to the 25% chance of failure for repeat castings of other divinations, but as written, there's no reason for the outcome to be secret. You're going to figure out very fast whether you receive an answer or not. Now, if there were a 25% chance for later castings to go to the wrong Greater Entity... well, drunk-dialing a Potentate of Hell sounds like a great plot-starter. Actually, I'm pretty sure this was a major storyline of Piratecat's Defenders of Daybreak campaign...

Cone of Cold got cooler, going from 6d8 to 8d8 damage. Also, this is the highest-output damage spell that can be Overchanneled, if you're an evoker... so that's pretty sweet. Is it worth 2d12 necrotic damage to go from an average of 36 damage to a guarantee of 64 damage (plus stat bonus from Empowered Evocation)? Good God, yes, especially if you're getting multiple enemies in the area. Unless that 2d12 damage is going to put you in the dirt or the average damage output is overkill, this is barely even a decision. A sixty-foot-long cone is a lot of murder.

Cure Wounds, as mentioned, got a substantial reduction, from 2d8+2 down to 1d8 + spellcasting ability bonus. It also scales at 1d8 per spell level rather than 2d8. I think I am mostly sad about this decision, but I suppose it might be the case that clerics were too able to just heal through everything that enemies could dish out? I dunno.

Dancing Lights got nerfed. Good lord, people, who nerfs dancing lights? I mean, it didn't have much to lose! Its range is a little shorter now and it sheds dim light rather than full brightness.

Darkness changed from Touch range to 60-foot range. My players have never seriously considered using this spell, but for those players that do, I'm sure this is a great improvement to its utility.

Death Ward didn't change. It's pretty expensive for something that may well not come up, but it's also a non-Concentration buff, so I can see this getting some use.

Delayed Blast Fireball is back in the game, and if you can time it just right, you might be doing 22d6 fire damage with it. It's got some funky live-grenade rules, based on successful Dexterity saving throws; I wonder if there are any implications for this spell interacting with the evoker's Sculpt Spell ability? With a Concentration-based timer (up to 1 minute) on its detonation, it's also a deadman switch spell.

Disintegrate deals damage normally now, rather than using a hit point threshold. I am always happy about removing hit point thresholds from the game. It seems like an odd case for a Dexterity save rather than a Constitution save, but... sure. It deals an average of 75 damage (up from 59.5), and dusts anyone that falls to 0 hit points (Wildlands South in-joke: "At least Lethal is in the campaign book.") It also features a very aggressive scaling of 3d6 per spell level, but tacking on up to 9d6 might not make a huge difference at that level. I guess we'll see.

Dispel Magic got better - it is now a hard counter for any spell of its own level or lower. This is a great example of how scaling dispensed with the need for some spells. It may be too powerful - it has the potential to counter a lot of spells at once, if a target is heavily protected with magic.

Divination: Just to be obsessively nit-picky, the phrase "random reading" (for when you've used too much divination and it starts to go haywire) doesn't make sense in context for this spell the way it does for augury, which has a list of four possible responses. The original text, found in the last playtest packet, read "false" in place of "random," which makes more sense. Too nitpicky by far? Doubt it not!

Dominate Monster and Dominate Person have gone through one irrelevant change and four really important ones. Irrelevant: range changed from 100 ft to 60 ft. Important:
All in all, the spells are less useful than their 5th and 8th-level slot would lead you to expect, and only some of the most adventure-disrupting applications remain viable. I wonder if we'll see the enchanter tradition within the Wizard class gain special exceptions to this spell's application? I would be find that pretty cool.

Dream is newly added to 5e, though it has a long pedigree in D&D. Interestingly, they've tacked on some of the functionality of nightmare to this spell as well. Considering how little use this spell is likely to see, that seems fine. I like that the nightmare side of the spell interacts with the rules for long rests. For the time being, dream stands in for sending as well. I really like the idea of wizards "dueling" with bad dreams, and if they fail their Wisdom saving throws they do not regain spell slots the next morning. I'm a little surprised they didn't factor in the Exhaustion condition, for that matter.

Earthquake got a minor face lift, dropping its bizarre hit point threshold mechanic and cleaning up the rest of its text a bit.

Etherealness has increased its duration and fundamentally changed its purpose. The spell no longer allows travel to the Deep Ethereal, Inner Planes, or Ravenloft (who does this? What part of Domains of Dread don't you fucking understand?), which is probably helpful to the DMs who aren't interested in really exploring the published multiversal cosmology. The spell is now more about freedom of transit within Prime, which was always an option but not as emphasized in the playtest version's text. The spell can also target more people now, in its scaled-up form; this is a major improvement to its usefulness, since it doesn't turn the wizard into a frickin' decker.

Find the Path (and Discern Location, which is not attested at all in Basic or the playtest documents) are famed far and wide for ruining adventures. Have they fixed it in Basic? Well, here's one place that I like Concentration duration. Oh look, it no longer tells you how to bypass traps or gives you the secret password for glyphs of warding. Yup, fixed. Okay, this spell can live. It solves mazes but doesn't avoid danger.

Faerie Fire gained a Concentration duration. Considering that it's a Dex save for the target to avoid granting advantage to all attackers for the duration... yeah, I guess that's fair. In a fascinating move, there is no way to cast this spell in Basic. I assume it's here to pre-emptively support drow and druids? Or they just forgot to cut it.

Finger of Death no longer has a hit point threshold, so I like that. Its average damage has increased from 54 to 61.5. Thinking about the zombification rule, it suddenly matters a whole lot whether your DM has creatures be dead at 0 hit points, or just "bleeding to death and automatically failing its saves." This won't come up in a whole lot of groups, but it's an area where a rule that usually doesn't matter suddenly changes everything about how this spell works. Probably it should be changed to "[a] humanoid reduced to 0 hit points..." instead of "killed."

Fireball increased from 6d6 damage to 8d6, and gained 50% longer range. Sure, why not.

Fire Bolt is a new attack cantrip, notable for its damage output. The absence of a stat add to damage keeps it from grossly outclassing characters with ranged weapons, but it's quite respectable in any case.

Fire Storm had its targeting changed: instead of a single 100-foot cube (really hard to use well once melee is underway), it's now ten contiguous 10-foot cubes. You'll still need to take care with targeting, but this is a nice solution for clerics, since it's not like they have access to the Sculpt Spell ability. (Interestingly, Sculpt Spell doesn't specify that it works only on arcane evocations, so if you had two levels of wizard to go with 13 cleric levels, then... targeting gets a lot easier.)

Flame Strike gained 10 feet of range. Woo.

Flaming Sphere can now be directed to move around the battlefield as a bonus action rather than an action. I assume this bonus action doesn't count as "casting" a spell for purposes of restricting you to cantrips for your main action. Anyway, this is a subtle but significant power increase; the spell becomes much more like wandering damage and much less like an alternate at-will action, since you should be able to hurt at least one opponent with it every round.

Fly now scales to allow more targets when you use a higher-level slot, eliminating the real need for mass fly unless such a spell had a more efficient output of targets.

Foresight increased in duration from 1 hour to 8 hours. It is pretty much without question the best non-Concentration buff in the game. One of the spell's effects you might not instantly recognize is that inflicting disadvantage on all attacks against the target means that the target is immune to Sneak Attacks - thematically on-point, but probably intensely frustrating for rogues if and when NPCs start using it.

Freedom of Movement is unchanged. It's another buff with a duration not based on Concentration, and it is modestly beneficial in a lot of different situations.

Gate is unchanged. It feels very much like saying to the cosmos, "Let's see what happens." It has a wide variety of possible applications, none of which are guaranteed to work out quite like you hope. In short, the perfect tool for driving high-level stories. If you have someone's name (true name, if those are a thing in your campaign), this spell could be summed up as "extra-dimensional rendition." (If your enemy is on Prime, then... just be Elsewhere. Not that plane shift is in Basic.)
Vancian Digression: Given this aspect of the spell,  DMs might seriously consider giving their settings something comparable to Murgen's Great Edict, but banning extradition-by-Gate and a few other high-end aggressions rather than interference in temporal politics. (It would be insupportable to write so sesquipedalian a post about magic without at least a passing mention of Vance's works.)
Globe of Invulnerability makes it return to the rules after absence from the playtest packet. This is another spell for which a Concentration duration is a highly dubious proposition - a thrown rock can literally do what powerful magic (all the way up to cone of cold) cannot hope to accomplish. It begs comparison to anti-magic field, and in the balance it's... sometimes better and sometimes worse, depending on your situation.

Greater Invisibility is back too. It's a Concentration-duration buff, for combat, that is worth it for the wizard to cast on herself! If cast on the rogue, there's a good chance the wizard will take damage and lose her Concentration, which could be Awkward Turtle time.

Greater Restoration hasn't changed - and we still have no idea what would lower someone's ability scores.

Guardian of Faith now deals damage in 20-point chunks rather than 15-point chunks, which makes halving for successful saves a lot cleaner. This would have been a really good spell for a saving throw other than Dexterity or Wisdom, as those abilities do a lot of heavy lifting in Basic. I would at least consider the possibility of a Charisma save here. It is the non-mobile version of spirit guardians, with a long duration and fixed damage potential rather than much greater damage potential but the threat of disrupted Concentration (and one level higher; when cast with a 4th-level slot, spirit guardians is quite competitive even on short-term damage output). Overall, guardian of faith is probably not quite good enough.

Guidance now has a Concentration duration, which makes sense as a replacement for its internal rule that it ends if you cast it a second time - but now it's competing with all of your Concentration spells for space. Anytime a cleric isn't doing something better with the Concentration slot, guidance on someone in the party is a free +1d4 to an initiative roll.

Guiding Bolt is a new cleric spell, and it's a very solid single-target damage spell that also makes grants advantage to the next attack by an ally against that target. It feels a lot like a 4e leader power. Personally I'm glad they haven't ditched that style of cooperation in battle, even if it is much reduced. It's a better attack spell than inflict wounds at first level, by my guess - an average of 2.5 points of damage probably doesn't stack up to 120-foot range rather than Touch, and an amazing side effect. Inflict wounds gains more of a damage advantage as you feed higher-level spell slots into the casting.

Harm got horrifically better. Now it doesn't just do damage (still never dropping the target to 0), it also temporarily lowers the target's maximum hit points by the same amount on a failed saving throw. That aspect of it is countered by healgreater restoration, and the Recuperation action. Beware of fighting high-level clerics without a high-level cleric of your own. Beware.

Haste now prohibits the use of cantrips with the hasted action, which seems unnecessary until we're talking about the scaled-up cantrips - they seem to want cantrips to be single attacks that are just a bit worse than what the fighter does with his turn at that level. Since haste allows only one weapon attack, the fighter would lose out to the spellcasters' cantrips in this relatively narrow case, so they've disallowed it.

Heal is now 10 points better, and has a scaling benefit for higher-level slots. Of course, there's always mass heal at 9th level, which is an order of magnitude better than a baseline heal.

Healing Word got nerfed just like cure wounds, dropping from 1d8+2 down to 1d4 + spellcasting ability modifier. This seems like a strange reversal of course on the availability of healing in the game and the portion of the cleric's resources that healing costs. The Disciple of Life ability of the Life Domain cleric is huge boost to this spell's output, by percentage.

Heroes' Feast is newly restored to the rules. I'm... a bit disappointed to see it grant immunities, but it is probably too expensive to cast regularly. I don't really know what the high-level game economy might look like, to be fair. Given that cost, I'd be comfortable with Heroes' Feast as a ritual, but as a rule there are no high-level rituals in Basic, presumably because they don't want you to get to cast additional spells of that magnitude in a day for any reason.

Hold Person now scales to allow additional targets with higher-level slots. It's very good crowd control, though you're not going to murder too many of them before they break free with Wisdom saves, unless there's a convenient cliff or window. The absence of a Coup de Grace action means that this spell isn't as much of a win-button as it was in 3.x.

Holy Aura is almost unchanged. It's a top-end party buff that is still very good despite its Concentration duration.

Ice Storm is unchanged, except for a 600% increase in its range.

Identify has changed quite a lot. I am quite happy to see that it can now target people and identify magic affecting them; I am also happy to see its casting time cut down to one minute (plus ten minutes for the ritual version, of course). It has an expensive material component again, which... okay, I get that the component is supposed to be a deterrent to the use of this spell, so that people will mostly figure out what items are through use. The player-facing rules give a different impression - the phrasing and the tradition behind the spell give the impression that this is how you're supposed to find out what magic items do.

Imprisonment returns to the game, though it drives me bonkers that characters have to figure out a creature's Hit Dice to know how precious of a gem they need to cast this spell on a target. Other than that, I guess it's fine; an epic-level version of it, Graz'zt, figures centrally in the Tales of Wyre, so I have a soft spot for this spell.

Inflict Wounds stepped up from 3d8 to 3d10, and changed from 25-foot range to Touch. It's a good use of a spell slot if you're just trying to kick out as much damage as possible, though as mentioned guiding bolt is a better game plan overall. I kind of wish it had a lower-damage ranged version that was part of the same spell.

Invisibility now has a Concentration duration, which is pretty reasonable to use here. I like that it scales up to allow additional targets.

Knock lost its ritual tag, which is good for protecting the niche of rogues, or anyone else proficient with thieves' tools. Also, the noise range of the spell has increased greatly - the use of this spell is pretty much an automatic failure of all stealth for the entire dungeon.

Lesser Restoration now has the option to remove poison in addition to its other options. It's interesting that purging each of these conditions is a mere second-level spell, though it does let them do away with each of the super-specific condition-purging spells, most of which never got used in 3.x. That part, I like. On the other hand, it will be all the harder to carve out a niche for the Medicine skill, since this spell is low-level and quick to use. It also means that spells and effects imposing these conditions need to be pretty beefy to feel threatening; this in turn stands to make Medicine an even less viable solution.

Levitate is... a valid attack spell now? It's better crowd control than hold person, if the target does not have a ranged attack available. It has a Concentration duration now, which means it's a lot less useful as a way to clear the wizard out of the fray if any of the enemies have a ranged attack.

Light gets some clarification to avoid weird corner-case abuse, and you can only sustain one light at a time, but is otherwise unchanged.

Lightning Bolt, like fireball, stepped up from 6d6 to 8d6. Very respectable. They're worth Overchanneling, if you're willing to trade roughly 13 of your hit points for roughly 20 of each enemy's.

Locate Creature is back in the game. I have never actually seen anyone cast this spell, but I don't hear about this one ruining all that many adventures, so... sure, I guess?

Mage Armor is unchanged, and really very good - equal to +1 studded leather. Also, it's a non-Concentration buff.

Mage Hand picked up five feet of range. Which matters, I expect, to approximately zero players ever. I would love to be part of a game where the victory came from clever or brave use of mage hand, but... seriously, folks.

Magic Missile is basically unchanged. I guess it's up to individual DMs to determine whether three missiles count as one damage source to interrupt Concentration, or three. (What's that you say, I'm obnoxiously hung up on this one rule? Yes, but my point is that it has incredibly far-reaching consequences.)

Magic Weapon is now a bonus action to cast, which is nice (more nondamaging spells should look into this), but has a reduced duration and is a Concentration spell. We haven't seen enough of what they're doing with monsters to know if the weapon becoming magical is salient, but it's definitely a big deal in the bounded accuracy environment. Good enough to cast? Beats me.

Major Image picked up a scaling feature - I think this is the one example of scaling getting rid of the Concentration duration, in a sense opening the door to similar design elsewhere (at least if you accept the principle that third-party work should follow trends laid down in the initial design). It's interesting to me that the skill for finding something hinky in illusions is now Intelligence (Investigate) rather than Wisdom (Perception), but... fine, whatever. (Seriously should have been an Intelligence saving throw.)

Mass Cure Wounds got stepped down just like cure wounds did, from 4d8+15 to any number of targets, down to 3d8 + spellcasting ability modifier to a maximum of six targets. Setting aside the change in number of targets, this nearly halves its healing output to each target. I would be incredibly curious to hear about the design conversations that led to the Great Healing Reduction... at least for everything other than heal and mass heal.

So about Mass Heal. It jumped from distributing 500 points of healing however you damn well please to 700. Now, the average D&D Basic party of four, at 20th level, might reasonably have 770 hit points (assuming everyone in the party boosted Con to 20, because... it's a pretty good idea). It's sort of an absolute expression of "where there's life, there's hope."

Mass Healing Word stepped down from 1d8+2 to 1d4 + spellcasting ability modifier. The five-point kickers from Disciple of Life and Blessed Healer in the Life Domain look all the more important, but the main reason to use this spell is that it's the first party-wide in-combat healing spell. It may not do enough to save the day, but if multiple party members get flattened at once, it's the best panic button you get for awhile.

Mass Suggestion dropped its Concentration duration, and gained a scaling duration - up to a year and a day with a 9th-level slot. Holy cow. I can see some really interesting Twilight Zone-style plots emerging from NPCs using this spell. The question to ask is "what goal does a 17th level wizard have that a small village can really help with?" At its greatest durations, there are some oddities around figuring out how the target, or the spell, define the caster's companions.

Maze is a lot more interesting now: breaking free of the maze once you're in is wildly harder than literally the hardest possible saving throw (from the rules we've seen so far). DC 19 is the toughest that spells can be (8 + 5 for ability score bonus + 6 for proficiency); Maze is a DC 20 Intelligence check (not saving throw). This is much more compelling than the previous model. It's still doable, but your best bet is one of your allies breaking the caster's Concentration.

Side note: Melf's Acid Arrow isn't in Basic. That is really weird to me. I probably would have left this in and cut flaming sphere.

Anyway, Meteor Swarm: the upgrade to end all upgrades. It seriously went from 12d6 to 40d6. Setting aside the aggravation of rolling 40d6, I'm happy that the most powerful evocation in existence is a convincingly show-stopping amount of damage. I am also happy that no one is casting this more than once in a day. Even better, if you're an evoker, you can Sculpt around ten allies, so this close artillery support solves for the Fifth Maxim.

Minor Illusion is all-but-unchanged, except that it replaces Wisdom (Perception) with Intelligence (Investigate), and since components are now listed in greater detail, it is the only spell in Basic that does not involve a Verbal component - key, of course, to using this spell while under scrutiny.

Misty Step is new, and while you wouldn't want to cast it all the time, it's a great low-end mobility spell. Requiring only a bonus action to cast is a big part of the spell's appeal. Its travel distance is pretty short, so it's best as a panic button or a way to get where you otherwise can't go. In any case, a great utility spell; interesting in that 4e characters (fey-pact warlocks and eladrin) could do essentially the same thing quite a lot more often. In this way it strongly signals the tone change from 4e to 5e.

Mordenkainen's Sword is now based on Concentration, but otherwise unchanged. It has a potential damage output of 30d10 (plus ten times your ability score modifier, if you have Empowered Evocation, so probably +50); realistically I doubt it will ever reach that point, between attacks that miss and the potential for disrupted Concentration.

Otto's Irresistible Dance has changed in a surprising way: there's no initial saving throw. The target is guaranteed to dance for one round; thereafter, they suffer disadvantage on saving throws, including the save to purge the effect. It doesn't stop them from attacking, but it does impose disadvantage on all such attacks. Also, the true name rule from the playtest packet is gone. It's not exactly crowd control, but it's a brutal high-end debuff.

Passwall is essentially unchanged - from the playtest and from 3.x.

Side Note: A lot of traditional spells are revealed as missing at this point - plane shiftpolymorphprayer, the excellent prismatic spray... I'm sure most or all will be back come 19 August. I am not sure they are allowed to call it Vancian magic if there is no prismatic spray.

Power Word Kill and Power Word Stun are functionally unchanged, and they're the last bastion of the hit point threshold. With so much of the hit point threshold mechanic eliminated, these holdouts are a matter of tradition dating back to 2e or earlier. Still don't like them, but I can ignore two top-end spells a lot more easily than I can all of the spells that previously had hit point thresholds.

Prayer of Healing stepped up from 1d8+6 to 2d8 + spellcasting ability modifier. It's out-of-combat healing for the whole party, and I'm all about it being efficient. I also like the Prayer of "modifier" as a potential approach to other beneficial effects - I can imagine a prayer of lesser restoration, for example, somewhere around fourth or fifth level.

Prestidigitation hasn't changed. I am shocked, shocked that a spell that does next to nothing did not need to be changed. Ahem.

Protection from Energy is unchanged. It's one of those Concentration-duration buffs you probably shouldn't bother casting on yourself, unless you need to survive a single blast.

Raise Dead is unchanged. I wonder what they see here that stops this from being a good ritual?

Ray of Frost picked up 10 feet of range, and is otherwise unchanged. In combination with misty step, it's all the kiting that money can buy.

Regenerate... whoa. Okay, so this spell used to be out-of-combat healing (1-min casting time) with a long tail of healing-over-time (one per minute for an hour; total healing 4d8 + 75). Solid, right? But, well, kind of a slow way to heal just a tiny bit more than heal. Now it heals the same initial 4d8+15, plus one per round for an hour. So... 4d8+615. If you need all of that healing, then friend, you might be a dragon. That's enough healing to get your ass kicked early and often and still be fine afterward.

Remove Curse is unchanged. Let's take it as read that some campaign settings need this spell to have a scaling factor and additional complications, because some curses just shouldn't be purged by a fifth-level cleric.

Resistance is the other cantrip you should be running in your Concentration slot if you aren't going with guidance. It gained a Concentration duration, but having a Concentration duration for something that only works once anyway is more or less fine.

Resurrection is unchanged. Just like raise dead, what makes this a bad candidate for a ritual tag?

Revivify is new: a third-level raise dead that works only on creatures dead for less than a minute. It's pretty much the spell to let you continue the adventure if someone dies unexpectedly. On that level, the spell is fine. On the other hand, it makes the cleric even more personally responsible for keeping the party alive and letting other players have fun. I'm worried about the social dynamic that is likely to emerge around parties expecting clerics to prepare this spell and leave a slot unspent in order to cast it. I like that it has a material cost that uses the same "currency" as the other spells to restore the dead to life.
Digression: So... clerical spellcasting in particular has an incredibly high demand for diamonds. (Wizards have stoneskin, but that is quite cheap compared to the clerical need for diamonds.) I am sure there are many ways this could be used to drive the story, starting with the Church - with or without the backing of the State - asserting a claim over all diamond mines in the kingdom, for the preservation of life. If you have a high-magic realm that uses such magic with any frequency (perhaps only on nobles and military officers), boom, there's some conflict, because they have a need that someone else can exploit. I'll take anything that makes these spells feel like more than a vending machine.
Sacred Flame gained a whole bunch of range. Now that I've been thinking about blade barrier, this spell works around the one major weakness of that one - it ignores the cover that your barrier grants to opponents. Interesting.

Sanctuary is basically unchanged.

Shield now grants +5 AC rather than +4. Since it's a reaction to cast, it's one of the most literal panic-button spells in Basic, and I'm fine with it being really quite effective. It's about as close as D&D comes to a Diablo-style mana shield.

Shield of Faith stepped up from +1 AC to +2. With that Concentration duration, I'm not sure if it's worthwhile, but in the bounded-accuracy environment, +2 is kind of a big deal.

Shocking Grasp changed from forcing a Dexterity saving throw to making a spell attack. This wouldn't be a big deal, except that the evoker's Potent Cantrip doesn't apply to any Basic spells. Oopsie.

Silence is essentially unchanged, except that the text now calls out that thunder damage has no effect within the area of silence. This spell is weird to me - I like that it can't be cast on a person, but I'm confused as to why it's a ritual. What application am I overlooking in which you have 10 minutes to spare and can afford the noise created by the spell's Verbal component, when you need a silence effect that lasts ten minutes and requires Concentration? Without the Verbal component, I could imagine a corner-case stealth application. If the ritual form of the spell extended the duration, again, I'm sure there's a corner-case usage. I'm just not seeing it. Also, since there's no saving throw or disbelief of the illusion possible, it's really strange to me that silence is an illusion rather than an abjuration or transmutation. (I know its 3.x incarnation is an illusion, but it makes a little more sense in that context.)

Silent Image was not in the playtest document. I'm not exactly sure what the "intended" use of this spell is, insofar as open-ended illusions have designer intention (beyond being ruthlessly exploited by player creativity). The one that springs to mind for me is obscuring vision within an area - an illusionist who created a silent image of a fog bank (to cover for the absence of fog or mist spells from Basic) would have a pretty good argument for imposing disadvantage on Intelligence (Investigate) checks to see through the illusion. It's not like the investigator is surprised that there's no noise, or expects to feel something solid. So... heavy obscurement, Concentration duration. Fine, sounds fair.

Sleep gained another d8 of hit points of targets that it puts to sleep - sounds to me like NPCs might have gained more hit points. I still don't like this spell, because... well, a long list of reasons. I know having this spell in the game and making it work this way is a D&D tradition, but they've purged a lot of traditions that weren't working - this one would be a good candidate too. Bleah.

Spare the Dying went from a swift (i.e., bonus) action to an action, and it now only stabilizes - it does not even restore one hit point. Considering that with that same action and range you could use one of ten charges from a healer's kit (unit cost: 5 silver), or take a risk and roll a Wisdom (Medicine) check.. spending one of your Cantrips Known on this sounds like a strange idea. The spell needs to do something more to justify its existence. (So does Wisdom [Medicine].)

Speak with Dead now works on those that have been dead for ten days rather than seven. It seems arbitrary, though I would venture to guess that it's a nod to the ten-day week of 5e's default setting, Forgotten Realms. Anyway, it's not important either way. I'm a little surprised it doesn't have a scaling benefit for higher-level slots.

Spider Climb is unchanged.

Spirit Guardians is new and pretty badass. Its one weird weakness is that y ou have to be able to see your allies to designate them as safe from this spell. It's a very strong damage aura that scales up even higher. In this particular case, the Concentration duration might make sense, because I like that you can disrupt the damage aura. It would be very frustrating as the cleric, though, to get shot and lose the aura before damaging anyone. If you're sufficiently defended by a shield-wall, this spell is absolute murder.

Spiritual Weapon now adds the cleric's spellcasting ability modifier to its damage output. On first glance it seems to be as good as flaming sphere, maybe better - bonus action to cast, no Concentration. Flaming sphere can sometimes deal damage to two creatures at once, though, and deals half damage on a successful save... so they wind up pretty darn close in power. Obviously, they're cast by different classes and aren't in direct competition for one character's choice of action.

Stoneskin now has a Concentration duration - a massive change to a combat buff that was once just as good to cast on the wizard as on the fighter (or anyone else). It makes me wonder what kinds of Tradition benefits we'll see for Abjurers and Transmuters, since they're so focused on buffs - many of which will have Concentration duration.

Suggestion is now broken if you or your allies attack the target, and otherwise unchanged.

Sunburst has increased its range by 50% and its area of effect by 20%, neither of which are ultimately a big deal to changing the spell's effectiveness. Those blinded by the spell now get a Constitution save at the end of their turns to purge the blindness - as elsewhere, I like this 4e holdover, though it does mean that blindness probably won't last all that long for most castings. (But I don't know much about NPC saving throw values yet.)

Teleport has flipped the d100 roll from low-roll-good to high-roll-good, and fixed the error in the Mishap result that caused some Mishaps to create a recursive death loop. Teleport has been a 7th-level spell in the playtests, and it remains so here; I find this interesting in that it pushes the game-changer of teleportation back.from 9th level to 13th - this is a big deal when it comes to what each tier of play means and how they are distinct. (Contrast this with restoring the dead to life - now available as early as character level 5, under the right circumstances.) The spell's rules explicitly reference teleportation circles, so I wonder what level teleportation circle will be when it returns to the game. If it's a fifth-level spell, then this is just a place where a Basic game is sharply different from a Player's Handbook game - an odd choice, but okay.

Thaumaturgy, like prestidigitation, needs no change, and receives none.

Thunderwave has clarified the text in its Range field, and is otherwise unchanged.

Time Stop is unchanged.

True Resurrection is unchanged. Given its ruinous component cost, does anyone really care if you use this spell more than once in a day? It would not break anything if this were a ritual, I don't think.

True Seeing is the only case I have noted so far of a spell changing levels - in this case moving from 5th to 6th. The spell now sums up its effect as "grants truesight," along with a few other features. Okay, look: I like tagline structure as much as anyone, but this is a terrible implementation of it. A page reference would have been a nice minimum; much better is adding it to the Conditions page, and treating the Conditions page as a slightly glorified Glossary.

Wall of Stone got significantly reworked, making the wall possible to miss (AC 5 became AC 15) and destroy (doubled hit points per inch of thickness). It gained a Concentration duration, but uses it to interesting effect: if it runs to its maximum duration of ten minutes, the wall is no longer a magical construct, but real stone that cannot be dispelled. I like that this can be a permanent-construction spell or not. The times when you really want a construction spell, you're probably in downtime, so its Concentration duration isn't a problem. Like any spell of massive terrain deformation, though, it can be overpowered if used cleverly during combat, so it's a good context for Concentration.

Warding Bond is one of my favorite new spells, and it's just a rename of Shield Other from 3.x. As I mentioned back in the post on classes, this spell has excellent synergy with the Blessed Healer. I do have two nitpicks, though: when the Material component says you "have" to wear the platinum rings for the duration, I take from it that removing the rings ends the duration prematurely. I mean, you can't logically make it so that, retroactively, the spell never worked if you decide to take the rings off early. So with all of the things you can do as an object-interaction free action, why is removing a ring an action? Maybe the spell makes your joints swell... Anyway, all things considered, ending the spell shouldn't cost your action, because if you need to end it early, it's probably because you're getting a whipping in a fight and continuing the spell is going to knock the cleric out. Requiring an action from the healer in the midst of a charlie foxtrot is pointless - you're already costing the cleric's battle buddy a point of AC and the resistance to damage that he had so enjoyed. One last change: I would make the damage from this spell specifically not trigger Concentration checks, because this spell makes it unfeasible to maintain any such spells.

Web is unchanged beyond a range tweak and a rephrasing of how fire spreads from one section of web to the next. This spell is another missed opportunity to use a Strength saving throw - instead, you make a Strength check. Why do they even give fighters proficiency in Strength saves if they're going to use a phrase like "make a Strength check against [the caster's] spell save DC. If it succeeds, it is no longer restrained."?


If you've stuck with this post all the way to this point, I salute you. I have had harsh words for many of the spells in D&D Basic, but it's worth noting that no prior edition would come away with any less criticism, were I to subject it to the same standards. I think D&D Basic is actually in a very good place, warts and all. I am more interested in the fundamental tools of spell construction than in the spells themselves - there's an incredibly rich ground for first- and third-party development here, and spells are one of the few kinds of content for which I do welcome radical expansion. (Magic items, monsters, and player races are the others - a single campaign doesn't need to welcome every player race, but an unusual mix of races is one of the best ways to distinguish a setting from all of the others.

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