The School of Abjuration. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.
And by nothing, I of course mean negating, canceling out, and taking your opponent’s strategies and techniques and turning them into a soft cheese. Not literally of course, that’s transmutation.
Abjuration is the magic of protection, prevention, and the restoration of order. It may not be dramatic, but it is undeniably powerful.
While other magics (*ahem ahem* evocation) might focus on flashy firestorms and thundering gales of wind, I would argue it is much more impressive to take that gale of wind and quiet it to nothing, perfectly canceling out the energy of each and every molecule of air until nothing but stillness remains.
That’s the power of abjuration magic, and in this article I’ll be looking at the ins and outs of the school in D&D 5e as well as some of its best spells.
What Is Abjuration Magic?
We’ve had a brief primer on abjuration magic; metaphorically reducing your enemies’ abilities to cheese and whatnot.
But what exactly is the School of Abjuration magic? What is it good at, and how can we incorporate it effectively into our games?
Schools of magic in D&D 5e can be somewhat loose (I recommend this article if you need a more general guide).
The School of Abjuration contains those spells that involve generating protective forces, neutralizing or nullifying other magics, binding creatures and preventing them from taking certain kinds of actions, and exorcisms.
With abjuration magic, you can create barriers of magical energy, reduce damage, bind extraplanar entities, prevent divinations, negate magic, free yourself and others from bonds, and restore people to their normal state of being.
While some of these effects can be extremely dramatic, others are more subtle. It’s hard, though not impossible, to make an absence of something impressive.
Remove Curse won’t win you any combat encounters, but abjuration magic in general is undeniably effective at removing obstacles.
Strengths & Weaknesses
Hopefully by now the strength of abjuration magic is pretty clear. Protection (from Good and Evil, or otherwise) can seriously turn the tide of a battle or even the whole plot.
As for its weaknesses, abjuration has the vices of its virtues. Sure you can prevent others from using their magic, lift curses, and absorb/prevent damage.
But the School of Abjuration has almost no offensive game. Sure, sometimes the best offense is a good defense, and sure some spells do banish your enemies from your plane of existence, but it’s not permanent.
What do you do when your Wall of Force runs out of juice?
Abjuration works best when supporting the other members of your party who can dish out some damage while you completely shut down your enemies’ ability to wish you dead.
When supported by friends, an abjurer can save lives, prevent damage, and lock down your enemies so hard they’ll think it’s 2020 again.
Abjuration & Character
Because abjuration magic is often about returning or maintaining the state of things, it’s often associated with lawful alignments.
While lawful alignments can work really well with the theme of the abjuration school, chaotic alignments can also make effective abjurers.
Consider the chaotic-neutral Sorcerer whose life goal is to put everyone on an even playing field. Cleric bullying a helpless fighter? Counterspell. Barbarian trying to crush a wizard? Try Mage Armor.
As for common archetypes of abjurers, abjuration wizards are pretty standard.
The master of magic capable of unraveling any spell is always useful to have in a party. However, you can find abjuration magic in a lot of other classic tropes as well.
The priest who exorcizes a demon is an abjurer, and so is the paladin who simply negates the shadow of death that hangs around a necromancer.
And of course, every mage’s favorite trick, the force field, is an iconic use of the school.
While the School of Abjuration does lend itself toward particular kinds of characters, I would say the school would be well used by anyone who, even if it’s only for a specific situation, is the kind of person to just say, “No, you don’t get to do that today.”
D&D 5e’s magic is all about spells. Well, it’s mostly about spells.
For those of you who like to homebrew, especially DMs, consider the potential of the abjuration school beyond the almost 60 abjuration spells out there.
Abjuration magic, in some form, can be found in pretty much any magic system. I highly recommend exploring some of those options and incorporating it into the way magic shows up in your world.
Maybe there’s a powerful artifact that can shield a whole city if it’s used in the right way. Or specific rites that the party needs to perform to banish a ghost or stop a possession.
Using the principles of abjuration magic to create non-spell-based magical effects can make the fantastic elements of your world stand out and make the universe feel truly magical.
I also recommend using the School of Abjuration to tell stories.
Establishing the power of some kind of abjuration effect, like a shield, is a great way to set up the power of an enemy (or an ally!) when they break through that shield.
A dragon capable of simply eating a spell makes a deeply intriguing monster that players will love to find out about.
Magic works best when it can be integrated fully into the story rather than just being another resource.
Try using the ideas behind the School of Abjuration to more cleanly integrate magic into your game.
Iconic Abjuration Spells
Below are some of the best and most iconic abjuration spells in the game.
While a list of every high-quality spell in the School of Abjuration would go on way too long, these spells exemplify the school and are some of the most generally useful spells at their level.
That’s not to say other spells aren’t useful; Dispel Magic, for example, isn’t on this list.
These spells are simply the best at what they do, and when it comes to countering magic, Counterspell sees a bit more use than Dispel Magic or Remove Curse.
For more precise information on the effects of each spell, follow the links!
Absorb Elements/Shield (1st Level)
These two first-level spells are so useful they’re practically must-haves for any class that can cast them.
Both spells can be cast as a reaction; Absorb Elements grants resistance to an elemental damage type, and Shield increases your AC by 5.
Together, they constitute a reliable safeguard mitigating and outright preventing damage from a broad variety of sources without impinging on your action economy.
Pass Without Trace (2nd Level)
One of the best stealth spells in the game, everyone benefiting from this spell gets a +10 to stealth.
What makes this spell so good is that it can allow your entire party, even those wearing loud armor, to easily pass stealth checks. In that respect, it can be even better than Invisibility.
Counterspell (3rd Level)
Probably the most iconic countermagic out there, Counterspell lets you burn a reaction to simply cancel someone else’s spell.
This can be a literal life-saver against certain enemies; the wrong save-or-suck spell targeting your fighter can break combat, and this spell often makes full use of its spell slot.
If you can, I recommend using Counterspell with the Subtle Spell metamagic as it prevents enemy spellcasters from counterspelling your Counterspell.
Magic Circle (3rd Level)
Magic Circle is the abjuration spell that shows up the most in popular culture (in some form or another).
It allows you to create an area that prevents celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, or undead from so much as entering the area, and it protects creatures in the circle from being charmed, frightened, or possessed.
This is a versatile spell. Not only can you use it as protection, but you can also trap a creature in the circle by casting an inverted version of the spell. This offers numerous options for tactics around trapping a creature.
Wall of Force (5th Level)
Wall of Force creates a wall of, well, force. You can also create a sphere or a dome if you want. In fact, you can position the wall in pretty much any orientation that works for you.
What makes this spell so useful is that nothing, absolutely nothing, can physically or ethereally pass through it.
You can walk around it, fly over it, tunnel, or even use a Disintegrate spell to destroy the wall of force, but you can’t pass through it, or use a Dispel Magic to get rid of it.
That means it prevents all damage, and it could even survive a nuke if your campaign tends toward that direction!
When it comes to abjuration spells, few spells say “No” like the Wall of Force.
Greater Restoration (5th Level)
This spell restores. It’s in the name.
Targeting a creature with this spell lets you either reduce their exhaustion level by 1 (6 levels means death!), remove a charmed or petrification effect, remove a curse, remove any reduction to their ability score, or remove one effect reducing their hit point maximum.
This spell just solves problems, and it does it better than most. Removing status effects is a powerful ability, especially if your DM has realized that in D&D 5e status effects are far more hurtful than simple hit-point loss.
The fact that abjuration magic, and this spell in particular, is one of the few ways to achieve that effect merely cements its position.
Planar Binding (5th Level)
Planar Binding is the spell for you if you want to make a deal with a devil. It lets you bind an extraplanar creature that you’ve summoned to your will, turning its abilities into your resources for the task you specify.
Of course, summoning a creature like that is bound to be dangerous. I recommend, what else, abjuration magic to keep you safe while trying to use this spell.
Guards and Wards/Druid’s Grove (6th Level)
Both of these spells let you safeguard an area with magical effects, though, of course, the effects vary between the spells.
These are the best abjuration spells for guarding a large area, and you’ll often find these in effect in a wizard’s tower or a druid’s…..grove.
In any case, the spells work best when guarding an area over a long period of time. That’s why casting them once a day for a year makes them permanent!
Antimagic Field (8th Level)
This spell’s level means that few would-be abjurers get to use it, but for those who do, it’s a game-changer. Literally.
Inside the antimagic field this spell produces, spells simply don’t work.
For up to an hour at a time, you can simply cut out a large portion of the mechanics in D&D 5e (more or less).
Of course, if you’re a full caster, you might make yourself more helpless than the enemy, but when you’re supported by a party or fighting a more powerful spellcaster (or both), this abjuration spell is a great shutdown.
Prismatic Wall (9th Level)
Of the three 9th-level abjuration spells, Prismatic Wall is by far my favorite. Sure, you can imprison creatures forever or make yourself immune to all damage for 10 minutes, but Prismatic Wall has style.
The spell creates a barrier, shapeable like Wall of Force (so you can make a sphere or a dome as well as a wall), with seven layers: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
The barrier is opaque (so enemies can’t target you through it) but sadly not as imperviable to damage as a Wall of Force.
Personally, I recommend adding a Wall of Force to this spell to really round out the protection; it’s already at 9th level anyway.
Any creature can simply walk through the barrier if they wish, but each barrier causes progressively nastier effects.
Most do some kind of damage, though the variety is such that no one will have resistance/immunity to all of them.
If the damage doesn’t kill you, one barrier tries to turn you to stone. Another sends you to another plane of existence.
What I really love about this spell though is that each color can be taken down by the right kind of damage or spell. For example, 25 points of cold damage takes down the outer barrier.
The ability for players to potentially figure out how to take down a prismatic wall while maintaining the wall’s effectiveness as a protective barrier worthy of 9th-level spell slot makes this spell ripe for creative, puzzle, or combat uses.
The School of Abjuration is all about denying others. It doesn’t burn, charm, or transform the world and people around you, but it does prevent others from exerting that kind of power over you and your friends.
Abjuration is a school for those who understand that magic is not just about dealing damage with lightning bolts but creating options where previously there might only have been the deadly fire of a Red Dragon.
With that in mind, I hope you can use the insights into the School of Abjuration presented here to make your D&D 5e experience more fun, more flavorful, and less dangerous!