What is Thaumaturgy?
Thaumaturgy is a Dungeons & Dragons 5e cantrip. Cantrips are “simple but powerful spells that characters can cast almost by rote”, level 0 spells that require no spell slots to use and can be used any number of times per day.
The word, borrowed from the late Greek thaumatourgía, means “the performance of miracles” and refers primarily to spells or charms related to ritual magic.
Practitioners of thaumaturgy are called thaumaturgists and were usually oracles of Gods, priests and priestesses, and divine healers.
The aptly named Thaumaturgy spell in Dungeons & Dragons 5e is described in the Player’s Handbook as a manifestation of “a minor wonder, a sign of supernatural power within range.”
Range/Area: 30 ft.
Duration: 1 minute
You manifest a minor wonder, a sign of supernatural power, within range. You create one of the following magical effects within range:
- Your voice booms up to three times as loud as normal for 1 minute.
- You cause flames to flicker, brighten, dim, or change color for 1 minute.
- You cause harmless tremors in the ground for 1 minute.
- You create an instantaneous sound that originates from a point of your choice within range, such as a rumble of thunder, the cry of a raven, or ominous whispers.
- You instantaneously cause an unlocked door or window to fly open or slam shut.
- You alter the appearance of your eyes for 1 minute.
If you cast this spell multiple times, you can have up to three of its 1-minute effects active at a time, and you can dismiss such an effect as an action.
Thaumaturgy may, at first, seem much weaker than a lot of other cantrip-level control spells such as Booming Blade, Thorn Whip, or Lightning Lure, but its true power is in the ability to have multiple effects active at one time.
Thaumaturgy’s spell effects are cosmetic — that is to say that they do not provide any lasting changes or damaging effects to any targets — but creative use of the cantrip can provide both mechanical and roleplay opportunities to players wishing to use it.
Who Can Cast Thaumaturgy?
Thaumaturgy represents, perhaps, the basis of a mortal’s access to divine power.
Though it may seem, at first, like a mere party trick, its descriptors and mechanics point to it as an important stepping stone for those with connections to the Divine.
It could be considered an early sign or milestone in the life of a Cleric or other thaumaturgist.
In line with its roots in divinity, Thaumaturgy is a natural fixture of the Cleric spell list, but that doesn’t mean that only Clerics are the only thaumaturgists in the Forgotten Realms.
Divine Soul Sorcerers have access to the entire Cleric spell list, Thaumaturgy included.
Tieflings can also learn Thaumaturgy through their Legacy racial trait if their bloodline tie is from Asmodeus (Infernal Legacy), Baalzebul (Legacy of Maladomini), Dispater (Legacy of Dis), or Zariel (Legacy of Avernus).
In addition, players who take the Magic Initiate feat and choose the Cleric class can take Thaumaturgy and one other cantrip and 1st-level spell from the Cleric spell list.
Outside of the core publications, Unearthed Arcana’s Ranger Archetype, Drakewarden, grants the Ranger access to Thaumaturgy as well.
When Should I Cast Thaumaturgy?
The Thaumaturgy spell, much like Prestidigitation, Control Flames, or Druidcraft, doesn’t have the innate damage uses packed by Fire Bolt or Toll the Dead, and its cantrip status limits its intrinsic usefulness as a control spell due to its low resource usage.
That doesn’t mean, however, that Thaumaturgy is useless.
Thaumaturgy’s primary uses — much like Prestidigitation — are in trickery. Even in combat, Thaumaturgy can be used for misdirection.
Though it may not seem to be as immediately useful as 1st-level Control spells like Charm Person, Command, and Entangle, Thaumaturgy’s trickery value is increased by the lack of required resources for casting.
As a cantrip, it can be cast any number of times during the day, and any “failed” uses don’t consume anything besides time.
Thaumaturgy can be used to influence the actions and movements of enemies without the use of mind control or even spell slots.
Tremors in the earth can be used to influence their movement rather than cause damage. Lamps can be brightened or dimmed to cause confusion, fear, or suspicion.
It’s essential also to remember that Thaumaturgy can be cast multiple times to gain various, separate effects from it, up to three. So utilising more than one effect of Thaumaturgy to gain a greater sense of impact to the illusion that one may create with it is possible, recommended even.
Especially when combining Thaumaturgy effects, the possibilities aren’t endless, but there’s quite many of them nonetheless.
Where Should I Cast Thaumaturgy?
Thaumaturgy’s uses may seem limited due to the modifiers “minor” and “harmless” in the description, but a little bit of creativity goes a long way with this cantrip.
Its effects can be used in any location and interact with the environment that can be revealing.
For instance, using Thaumaturgy on a door may reveal if it is locked or lamps can bit dimmed or brightened to conceal or reveal things within the environment.
The “where” question is determined mainly by which effect of Thaumaturgy you intend to use. Changing your eye color won’t be seen in a pitch-black dungeon. Similarly, casting thaumaturgy on a locked door might reveal your presence to a nearby enemy.
It’s essential to consider your goal when casting Thaumaturgy as its interactions with the surrounding environment and creatures.
Blasting the door open with thaumaturgy might scare enemies, and dimming the lamps in a room might make it harder for enemies without Darkvision to fight back.
When utilising more than one effect of Thaumaturgy, the distance between yourself and your targets becomes significant as no point of origin can be more than 30 feet from you.
So, you would have to move closer to a lamp that is more than 30 feet from you before you can dim its light.
However, once you cast the spell, the effect will last for the duration unless dispelled as Thaumaturgy does not require Concentration to maintain the effect.
Why Should I Cast Thaumaturgy?
With the amount of emphasis that has already been placed on the necessity of creativity when using Thaumaturgy, it would be simply unthinkable not to include a list of potential uses for Thaumaturgy.
We’ll organise the different benefits based on the specific effect being cast by Thaumaturgy.
Your voice booms up to three times as loud as normal for 1 minute.
An immediately viable option for this effect of Thaumaturgy is to seem more intimidating.
Especially when used in a dungeon or other sufficiently reverberation-heavy setting, being able to yell very loud is intimidating and could be used to control an otherwise chaotic situation or cow a group of individuals into obeying you.
This particular effect could also be used to “imitate” the “voice of God” by granting you the thundering effect we often associate with the word of God.
Such an effect could easily be used to give the individual passage, assistance, or favour from a group of people who believe them to be a vessel of divinity.
You cause flames to flicker, brighten, dim, or change color for 1 minute.
Aside from just being cool, Thaumaturgy’s ability to dim flames is usable for aiding in Stealth checks by making the room darker.
Reciprocally, one might use the power to brighten flames to light a path, read a map, or otherwise aid in Investigation checks by making the room brighter.
Outside of playing hide and seek, one can use Thaumaturgy to cause flames to flicker. This flickering effect could be utilised to add gravitas to a message delivered or even convince someone that a location is haunted.
For best results with haunting, one may want to consider further using Thaumaturgy to make the shutters fly open and closed and possibly add some haunting whispers to the air!
You cause harmless tremors in the ground for 1 minute.
Right away, even though the tremors are harmless, most people don’t want to run through shaking ground. 1 minute doesn’t seem like a long time, but in D&D 5e, a combat round is only 6 seconds.
So that ground will be trembling for a whopping 10 rounds if you want to be all rules-lawyer-y about it!
Aside from combat, you could combine the ground tremors with making your voice boom loudly to give the appearance that you’re shouting so loud that the world is shaking.
It’s hard to argue with someone shouting so loudly that the ground is shaking beneath them.
You create an instantaneous sound that originates from a point of your choice within range, such as a rumble of thunder, the cry of a raven, or ominous whispers.
Creating sounds where there are none is both scary and wondrous, depending on the sound, of course.
This ability could see a use for “proving” your divinity by creating the sound of thunder — a well-known representation of divine wrath — or creating the sound of a chorus of angels.
It could also effectively frighten a lone guard at night with the sound of banshee wail or the cawing of a murder of crows.
As previously mentioned, it is almost a necessary effect to use when trying to convince someone of the haunted nature of an area.
You instantaneously cause an unlocked door or window to fly open or slam shut.
Making a door or window open or close is an unusually beneficial ability for cantrips like Thaumaturgy. Still, the important note here is “fly open” and “slam shut”.
Do not forget that the door or window will open or close as loudly as possible when using this spell. There is no stealth involved in this particular use of Thaumaturgy, no matter how hard you try.
That being said, if you try hard enough, anything is possible. Consider hiding in a hallway near a door and when a guard walks by, use Thaumaturgy to slam the door open in his face.
That’s 1d4 of improvised weapon damage, and if you don’t get caught, when he sees that the door opened “on its own”, he’s going to have questions without answers.
You can also use Thaumaturgy on a door while fleeing towards it if you see a door at the end of the hallway while you’re running away, trying using Thaumaturgy to slam it open.
If it doesn’t open, it’s locked, and you know, before reaching the door and testing it, you’ll have to open it by other means, kick it down or something.
You alter the appearance of your eyes for 1 minute.
Altering the appearance of your eyes has a lot of potential for roleplay interactions. You can use it to aid in disguising yourself by changing your eyes to be a different color. But that’s boring and overdone.
What could we do that runs deeper than that?
You could make your eyes appear glassy and cloudy to give you the appearance of blindness. In doing so, you could use this to gain knowledge from people who don’t think that you can see them.
You could alter your eyes to have slitted or horizontal pupils to gain favour from or better integrate into a group of animalfolk.
You could also make your eyes appear demonic or angelic to prove or exert your divinity in social situations. You could use this feature in accompaniment with altering the volume of your voice to make yourself appear as an authoritative oracle of a particular divine being.
The Thaumaturgist’s Thesis
Thaumaturgy is a fantastic and unique skill that benefits, first and foremost, the creative player.
Trading innate damaging capabilities for unusual utility powers is a feature that is as useful as you make it out to be. Lack of lasting resource use for Thaumaturgy makes it a fantastic spell to use when needing a little extra flavour or utility for investigation and other non-combative checks.
So, its abilities are extraordinary for use in low-stakes situations, especially when there’s an impending doom of high-stakes battles, like a dungeon.
Regardless of how you choose to use it, any and all thaumaturgists can provide valuable and vital flavors to the parties they integrate into. Happy questing!