D&D’s setting of the Forgotten Realms is a world of magic and mysticism. Characters, creatures, deities and items can contain and use these magical energies.
Casting spells and using these energies follow certain rules. That is what this section will cover.
What is a Spell?
According to the Players Handbook, a spell is a “discrete magical effect, a single shaping of the magical energies that suffuse the multiverse into a specific, limited expression.”
In practice, it is an action you take to get a magical result. It can be offensive, like a fireball, or defensive, like a spell of mage armor.
Spells can be a lot of fun in the game, and I personally like to find a way to get at least a bit of magic ability in my characters. I typically play fighter types, but you can build your character to use spells even with that play style.
Lets cover the structure of the types of Spells first.
A spell level ranges from 0 to 9. It is a basic indication of it’s power and intricacy. This is not to say that lower level spells are not extremely important and powerful in their own right.
A level 0 spell is known as a Cantrip. They are simple spells that casters can use almost anytime.
Spell level is not one for one with your character level. They go up slowly as you level. You’ll have to be level 17 before you can use the highest level spells.
Known and Prepared Spells
Most casters need to prepare the spells they can use, meaning they pick from all the spells they know, and prepare a few for use.
Other casters have a smaller list of known spells, but they have no need of preparing them.
Regardless of how many spells you know or prepare, each caster has a set number of spell slots.
As an example, a level 3 Wizard has 4 level 1 slots and 2 level 2 slots. Each time she casts a spell, she uses up one slot.
Casting a Spell at a Higher Level
You can cast a spell at a higher level. For example cast a level 1 magic missile using a level 2 slot. If she does this, the magic missile is 2nd level and does more damage.
As mentioned above, a cantrip is simply a level 0 spell. It requires no spell slots and has no restrictions on being prepared. You can use cantrips over and over.
Certain spells have a special tag: ritual. Such a spell can be cast following the normal rules for spellcasting, or the spell can be cast as a ritual. The ritual version of a spell takes 10 minutes longer to cast than normal. It also doesn’t expend a spell slot, which means the ritual version of a spell can’t be cast at a higher level.
To cast a spell as a ritual, a spellcaster must have a feature that grants the ability to do so. The cleric and the druid, for example, have such a feature. The caster must also have the spell prepared or on his or her list of spells known, unless the character’s ritual feature specifies otherwise, as the wizard’s does.
– Players Handbook
We have a great guide on Ritual Spells for more information.
Casting a Spell
The spells attributes are typically laid out in a logical structure of information called a Spell Block.
A spell block will give you details like casting time, range, components, duration, targets, damage (if any) and saving throws (if any).
I’ll explain these for you but just understand that the spell block details what the spell will do.
Our Spell Blocks give you the information, and then below it we try to give the benefit of our experience with that spell. Is it good, under what circumstances, can it do this or that, answering common questions and misconceptions and more.
Typically casting a spell requires an Action. Similar to swinging a sword at an enemy, you use your action to cast a spell.
There are exceptions:
This is an extra quick cast that uses your bonus action rather than a full action.
Some spells, like counterspell, are cast as a reaction to something. These are also excellent since it uses a separate resource other than your action.
Longer Casting Times
There are some spells that take a long time to cast. They are noted in the spell description.
The Schools of Magic
There are 8 Schools of Magic in D&D. They are:
Abjuration – Protection, shields, barriers.
Conjuration – Summoning and creating things, also teleporting
Divination – Knowledge, communicating, seeing
Enchantment – Mind control, charm, sleep
Evocation – Energy control, Magic Missile, Healing, Telepathy
Illusion – Deception, Invisibility, Simulacrum
Necromancy – Control Dead, Chill Touch, Resurrection
Transmutation – Changing matter, Mending, Polymorph, Time Stop
We have a full guide on the Schools of Magic for you to check out for more details.
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Rich is an avid D&D player and DM. He has been playing since the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st and 2nd editions. He has run campaigns of various editions with family and friends for over 20 years. Playing DnD 5th Edition in person at local game stores and online with VTT’s over the past 10 years has provided a consistent connection to how the game has grown. He strongly believes in understanding the source material, but catering the games to your individual players. Feel free to ask anything in the comments or drop him an email: [email protected].