Circle of Death Spell Guide 5e

Circle of Death

  • Casting Time: 1 Action
  • Range: 150 feet/60-foot radius sphere
  • Duration: Instantaneous
  • School: Necromancy
  • Class: Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard
  • Level: 6th
  • Damage/Effect: Necrotic
  • Attack/Save: Constitution Save
  • Components: Verbal, Somatic, Material (the powder of a crushed black pearl worth at least 500 gp)
  • Ritual/Concentration: N/A

Spell Description: A sphere of negative energy ripples out in a 60-foot-radius sphere from a point within range. Each creature in that area must make a Constitution saving throw. A target takes 8d6 necrotic damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

At Higher Levels:  When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 7th level or higher, the damage increases by 2d6 for each slot level above 6th.

Circle of Death Damage Table

Here are the Minimum, Average and Maximum Damage numbers for Circle of Death.  Casting the spell at levels higher than 6th increases the damage by 2d6/level.

Circle of Death Spell Description

A Note on Material Components:  Looking at the spell description, it might be concerning that the spell uses 500gp of powdered black pearl as a material component. 

However, this is a one-time cost for the spell, as the component is not consumed upon casting. Once you have the crystal and know the spell, you are only limited by spell slots, not gold.

Damage Done with Circle of Death:  As a damage-dealing spell, Circle of Death is pretty straightforward to employ effectively. Try to pick a point that includes as many of your enemies as possible (and ideally none of your allies), and cast the spell.

With a range of 150 feet for the point of origin, there’s a decent amount of flexibility with this spell. With a radius of 60 feet, the spell can cover a truly enormous area.

If your party ever faces an army, this spell will have your back.

Problems with Circle of Death:  That said, there are also some stunning downsides to the spell. For one thing, positioning a 60-foot sphere can be pretty tricky, and the spell doesn’t let you modulate the size or shape. That means if you aren’t fighting in a really wide-open area, the spell pretty much isn’t worth using.

Moreover, the spell only does 8d6 of damage (+2d6 per higher-level spell slot used). That’s a pretty solid chunk of damage but not for a 6th-level spell. A party capable of throwing out 6th-level spells will be at least level 11, and even a CR 10 monster can have hundreds of hit points.

Circle of Death vs Groups of Smaller Enemies:  That means that not only does this spell work best when used against large groups of weak enemies, but it is pretty much only useful against large groups of weak enemies. Against anything else, the damage is pitiful while the range is wasted.

Remember that this is a 6th-level spell. You don’t get to use these things often, and when you do, you should be able to expect that they will entirely swing the tide of a combat encounter or wholly solve a problem your party is facing (at least at mid-tier play).

Unfortunately, Circle of Death doesn’t meet that standard, making it generally a worse option than other 6th-level spells. But the situation is actually worse.

Does Circle of Death Go Through Walls?

According to the official rules on spell effects, for an area to be included in the area of a spell, you must be able to draw an unbroken straight line from the spell’s point of origin to the destination area.

If an area is totally shielded (by a wall for example), then the effects of Circle of Death will not apply to that area (or the creatures in that area). That means you can hide behind walls or particularly large tables to avoid the spell’s effect.

Does Circle of Death Work on Undead?

It depends. Undead have no special immunity to Circle of Death, but many undead are immune or at least resistant to necrotic damage. Those undead will be either unaffected or greatly less affected by Circle of Death.

However, it is the specific protection against necrotic damage, not their status as undead, that grants this resiliency.

Is Circle of Death a Good Spell?

Circle of Death can be a devastating spell, frightening and powerful. It’s also not a very good spell. Its damage isn’t great compared to other spells of the same level (though the area and damage type are excellent).

Being out-damaged by Otiluke’s Freezing Sphere is a bad sign for the spell. Moreover, as a 6th-level spell, it must compete with other spells that create portals and turn flesh into rock.

As simple damage, it is usually a worse choice than other spells of similar power, unless you’re looking specifically for a thematic spell to set the tone and inspire fear.