Not every interaction with your foes can be centered around simply dealing damage. Well, I guess it can if you’re the barbarian or just a murderhobo wizard.
Still, some of us like to go for a more elegant approach, using finely tuned strategy and our powers of influence to overcome threats.
Today, we’re going to be talking about an interaction spell that will be the bane of your foes’ existences. That’s right, we’re diving headfirst into the Bane spell.
- Casting Time: 1 action
- Range: 30 feet
- Duration: © 1 Minute
- School: Enchantment
- Class: Bard, Cleric
- Level: 1st-Level
- Damage/Effect: Debuff
- Attack/Save: CHA Save
- Components: V, S, M* (*a drop of blood)
Up to three creatures of your choice that you can see within range must make Charisma saving throws. Whenever a target that fails this saving throw makes an attack roll or a saving throw before the spell ends, the target must roll a d4 and subtract that from the attack roll or saving throw.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd-level or higher, you can target one additional creature for each level above 1st.
What Is Bane?
Bane is a spell that debuffs your enemies, causing them to take a deficit to their rolls for up to an entire combat. As far as 1st-level spells go, there is a lot of value that we can gain from this if we use it on the right creatures and can manage to keep our concentration up.
This spell exists as the balancing act to bless, a spell that has the inverse effect. This gives a lot of our characters a choice between boosting the attacks and saves of our allies or putting our enemies at a deficit. That is a choice we’ll discuss later, for now, let’s just talk about what this actually does.
Now, I’m not going to insult you by rewriting the spell in simpler words, it’s already an extremely simple spell to understand. I’d much rather talk about how effective this spell is. Is it really a ‘bane’ or is it just a mild inconvenience.
How Good Is Bane? The Math
Well, that requires us to understand our dice rolls. Attacks and saves are made using d20s. There’s a good chance you already knew that. What you might not know is the statistical likelihood of rolling a number.
Well, it’s 1 in 20. Again, not very surprising, but trust me, we’re getting to the fun stuff.
The average roll of a d20 is not 10, but 10.5, or 11 if we round up. This means we have a 50% chance of rolling 11 or better, and so do our enemies.
The chance of rolling better than a number decreases by 5% as we increase the target we’re setting. We can see this a bit more simply by saying that we have a 100% chance of rolling a 1 or better, and only a 5% chance of rolling a 20 or better.
The same rules work for a d4, except we work in increments of 24% chances. This also, strangely enough, makes the average d4 roll a 3, or rather 2.5.
Okay! Basic odds out of the way, let’s get back to the spell in question.
Is bane a good spell?
Well, how high is your AC? The higher the average AC of your party is, the better of a spell this is going to feel like.
When an enemy makes an attack against an AC of let’s say 14, they’re going to have a 40% chance of hitting that. Now these odds change based on the creature’s bonuses to attack. Imagine the columns in the graph above moving to the right by one for each point of bonus they make to their attack roll.
With a bonus of 3, they would now have a 5% chance of successfully hitting an AC of 23. This concept works with any DC, but we’re specifically talking about AC for the sake of this spell.
At earlier levels, we’re not looking at creatures with very high bonuses to hit, but even still a goblin has a +4 to hit. If your weakest party member’s AC is 12, that means the goblin boys have a 65% chance of hitting them. That’s not great for the squishy wizard that forgot to cast mage armor.
Throwing bane into the mix means at least evening those odds and getting them closer to the standard. It’s no disadvantage (which is like a blanket -5, math I’ve covered elsewhere on this site) but it’s a solid debuff.
What’s more is that every time your targets make a roll they’ll have to roll that d4, meaning that if the dice gods are with you, at least a few of them will have 4 subtracted from their roll.
How Good Is Bane? The Verdict
Now that we’ve done the math, or now that you’ve scrolled past all those numbers, we can say that bane is… decent. It’s definitely going to help, but how much it helps is dependent on a lot of factors, not the least of which is down to the roll of the dice.
Having good AC, or a way to give your allies improved AC, is almost always going to be better than this, but that doesn’t mean this spell is without it’s merit. This does have the ability to stop your enemies from hitting you and your party.
At higher levels, this really starts to fall off. It doesn’t stop impacting the enemies rolls. It’s just that a -4 is a lot more effective when put on a creature that has +3 to hit than it is on a creature that has +8 to hit.
When Should You Cast Bane?
So now comes the big question. If this spell is decent, when can we get the most impact out of it? The simple answer is to just use this at the beginning of combat and do everything you can to hold your concentration.
Most combats aren’t lasting for a full 10 rounds or one minute. Likely, you’re going to see a lot of four- or five-round combats and a few that seem to drag on forever. Still, having your enemies be affected by the dreaded pyramid dice 15 times is a lot more efficient than using it as a last-ditch effort in the last round of combat.
The issue of bane isn’t really down to timing though. It has a lot more to do with whether or not there are better spells you can be casting. Concentration spells are extremely valuable. You can only cast one at a time, and often, they’re going to stay online for most, if not all, of a single combat encounter.
Are There Better Spells To Concentrate On?
Obviously, there are, but for this article, I want to talk about only 1st-level spells or cantrips with concentration available to bards and/or clerics. To get even more specific we’re looking only at buffs and debuffs.
Concentration Spells for Bards
Hideous laughter is a staple, and it’s probably one of the bard’s most known spells, underneath Vicious Mockery that is. It has the ability to completely incapacitate a single target that fails their wisdom save, through the magical power of laughter. Here I was thinking it was supposed to be a medicine.
Faerie fire, on the other hand, is used to outline a number of your enemies while simultaneously lighting up the battlefield. These outlines give all attacks against a creature advantage.
So long as your allies aren’t in the blast zone, or at very least have a high enough dex bonus to make the saving throw, this is great for making a lot of targets very easy to hit.
None of these are as defensive as bane ultimately is, but hideous laughter can completely remove a creature from combat. As for faerie fire, sometimes a good offense is the best defense.
Concentration Spells for Clerics
Clerics have a few good options here. Notably, we have Protection from Good and Evil and Shield of Faith. Both of these spells will have a very similar outcome, even if the way they achieve their goals are different.
Protection from G&E is a great spell if you’re dealing with aberrations, celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and/or undead. This spell will give one creature of your choice protection from a variety of conditions caused by the listed creature types, and cause attacks made by those types against your focus to have disadvantage.
The disadvantage is huge, because that is basically like giving them a +5 to their AC when dealing with the specified creature types. Add in the condition protection and you’ve got a spell that is far better than bane in specific instances.
The next best option is shield of faith, which just gives a +2 to AC to a single target. This is nice and general and is unwavering. Compared to bane, it’s actually a little underwhelming, since bane is going to protect any of your allies, even if it’s not as stable.
Should You Take Bane?
With all this talk of when you should cast the spell, you might be wondering if you even want to add it to your spell list in the first place. If you want my advice, which I assume you do, I’d probably take it.
Bane isn’t the best spell you can grab, but it is certainly consistent, and we like consistency. If you’re looking to be a support character in any sense, this and bless should be staples of your arsenal, and the choice of casting boils down to how scary your foes are.
There are certainly other builds for clerics and bards that focus on offense or even social interaction, but even those builds can still benefit from having a nice stable concentration spell ready to go at all times.
Compared to the other concentration spells available to these low leveled characters, there is a lot of value you can gain from this spell. It really comes down to what your approach is.
If you want to feel like you’re helping your allies, maybe you’ll even just go for Bless instead, boosting their attack rolls and saving throws. It’s really up to you. Fortunately, whatever choice you make is going to be a good one.
Choosing bane as your concentration spell in early-level combats means that you are choosing to protect all of your allies by debuffing your enemies, and that’s great. Sometimes those d4 rolls won’t be what you need to save the day, but when they are, you’ll be the hero your party deserves.
Bane is a spell that can be extremely useful for bards and clerics looking to get a feel for what controlling the battlefield looks like at early levels.
It’s effectiveness at higher levels is seriously lacking, and I would’ve loved to see that d4 transform into a d6 or even a d8 down the line, but sadly, that’s not what we’re working with.
What we have is a decent debuff spell that is often going to even the odds out in your party’s favor. It’s not earth-shattering, but it’s a 1st-level spell. What more can we expect?
I hope you enjoyed this little dive into odds and support spells, and I truly hope this spell is the bane of your enemies’ existences.
As always, happy adventuring.