Ensnaring Strike is a new spell to DnD in 5e. Unlike previous editions, rangers get a unique spell list that is not drawn from the druid list, and it comes with many unique spells designed to supplement what the ranger already does well.
This is one of those spells, and this post is Black Citadel’s guide to the uses and abuses of the new favorite: Ensnaring Strike.
- Casting Time: 1 bonus action
- Range: Self
- Duration: 1 minute
- School: Conjuration
- Class: Ranger, Oath of the Ancients
- Level: 1
- Damage/Effect: Piercing, restrained
- Attack/Save: Strength
- Components: V
- Ritual/Concentration: Concentration
The next time you hit a creature with a weapon attack before this spell ends, a writhing mass of thorny vines appears at the point of impact, and the target must succeed on a Strength saving throw or be restrained by the magical vines until the spell ends. A Large or larger creature has advantage on this saving throw. If the target succeeds on the save, the vines shrivel away.
While restrained by this spell, the target takes 1d6 piercing damage at the start of each of its turns. A creature restrained by the vines or one that can touch the creature can use its action to make a Strength check against your Spell Save DC. On a success, the target is freed.
At Higher Levels. If you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the damage increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 1st.
How Does Ensnaring Strike Work?
Ensnaring strike is cast as a bonus action. For the next minute, you can maintain concentration while you try to hit a creature with a ranged attack. As soon as you hit, your attack deals damage, and the target must make a strength save or be restrained. They are restrained until that 1 minute or your concentration is over. If they pass the saving throw, the spell ends.
Who Can Cast Ensnaring Strike?
This is a unique ranger spell, which means only rangers can cast it.
Unlike the other primary spell classes, there is no published feat that allows you to take a ranger spell, and there are no magic items that give you access to it, although it would be incredibly easy to homebrew an Ensnaring Arrow. (You’re welcome).
While archery specialist fighters or rogues wish they could cast Ensmaring Strike and other ranger spells, they simply can’t.
Besides, if you really wanted to play an arcane archer, you should have simply played a ranger. *ooo burn…*
How Does Ensnaring Strike Compare to Other Ranger Spells?
There are a slew of other ranger spells that act in a similar way to Ensnaring Strike.
The method of casting a spell that improves an attack and holding it until the attack is successful is a great way to go about the entire process. That way, you don’t lose the spell slot just because you rolled low on the attack. By holding the spell, as it were, you can make sure it goes off well.
These spells are Ensnaring Strike, Zephyr Strike, and Hail of Thorns.
Ensnaring Strike and Zephyr Strike are easy to choose between as a low-level ranger. Zephyr Strike is specific to melee attacks, and Ensnaring Strike is specific to range attacks. Your weapon of choice will generally determine which of these spells you choose.
However, you should always consider the opposite! If you are a ranged specialist, maybe you should prepare a Zephyr Strike as a way to powerfully protect yourself if you are threatened in melee.
Many foes like to charge the sniper thinking they can get inside the range of their weapon and put pressure on them. With Zephyr Strike, you could get a bonus to movement to help you escape and deal a surprising amount of damage to whoever thought they could charge you.
Likewise, if you are a melee specialist, you should consider taking Ensnaring Strike as a way to pin your foe down until you can close the distance between you.
Either option might be a way to conserve your spell slots until you really need them.
The third spell, Hail of Thorns, is similar to Ensnaring Strike in that it is specific to ranged attacks. However, it gives you a nice little AoE and is therefore not very comparable to Ensnaring Strike. It targets a different type of enemy and should only be taken if you expect to face loads of weaker minions.
When Should You Cast Ensnaring Strike?
You should cast ensnaring strike in any of the following conditions:
- If your target is trying to escape, Ensnaring Strike will halt their movement.
- If your target is facing off against your allies, you may be able to give your allies advantage by restraining the target. This is doubly true if your ally is a rogue, paladin, or monk. Rogues get sneak attacks, and paladins will be able to use their smite attacks with more confidence in a successful strike. Monks will feel better about using their ki points to get extra attacks knowing they are less likely to miss.
- If your target is charging you, you can drop their speed to 0 and use the extra time purchased by this spell to establish a better position or finish them off.
- If your target is the subject of a Bane or Mind Sliver spell, they will be less likely to pass the Strength save against your Ensnaring Strike.
- If your target is a spellcaster, you should absolutely cast Ensnaring Strike since spellcasters typically have lower strength.
Common Questions About Ensnaring Strike
We scoured the archies here in the darkened cellars of the Black Citadel and found four of the most common questions about Ensnaring Strike and posted them here for players and DMs alike.
While there is no such thing as a stupid question, there were a few questions out there that were exceedingly hopeful to the point of being asked by people who obviously didn’t read the spell. For these people, you, the DM, will need some extra arguments to maintain order at your table.
Check out these FAQs to get that.
Can Ensnaring Strike Work More Than Once?
No, not in the RAW. Ensnaring Strike only works on a single target during the first successful attack you make in the minute after casting the spell. Maintaining concentration allows you to continue restraining that target for the remainder of that minute until they succeed on the Strength saving throw.
Improving Ensnaring Strike for Multiple Foes
Since you are maintaining concentration, some of the DMs around here will allow you to use ensnaring strike on another successful ranged attack during that minute of concentration if the first target is freed from the restraints before the spell ends. Once that minute is up or your concentration ends, the spell is dismissed.
Can Ensnaring Strike Restrain a Mount and a Rider With One Shot?
No. Ensnaring strike only works on one target, and a mount and rider are two targets. We recommend targeting the mount so that the rider falls and takes damage.
Does the Weapon Deal Damage in Addition to the Ensnaring Strike Spell?
Yes! A longbow does 1d8 plus the restraints and 1d6 if they fail the saving throw.
Can an Improvised Weapon Work With Ensnaring Strike, or Can I Throw a Rock/Coin/My Socks and Use Ensnaring Strike?
Yes! You can totally ensnare someone with your dirty underwear if you throw it as an improvised weapon and cast Ensnaring Strike. But if all you have is a pair of dirty underwear to throw, you may have problems bigger than what ensnaring strike can solve. Also, it may violate the Geneva Convention.
For the DMs: Using Ensnaring Strike as Your Guide
Alright, let’s put the kids to bed and get to the nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty side of what this little spell can do.
At its core, Ensnaring Strike gives us a template for how to balance a magical effect that deals damage and restrains a character.
Therefore, while you could easily make a homebrew magic piece of ammo that simply does Ensnaring Strike when you throw or shoot it as mentioned above, you could also use Ensnaring Strike as your template for traps, alchemical weapons, or homebrew monsters.
A trap based on Ensnaring Strike would be any trap that first makes an attack roll and then forces a Strength save or be restrained and take 1d6 damage. To make this, you would need to figure out what the attack bonus and the saving throw are.
To make those decisions, consider the CR of the trap. Ensnaring strike works on a PC’s level, and that PC has a proficiency bonus. Use the proficiency bonus for your guide.
So, if you want a CR 3 trap, then base your trap on what the numbers would be for a PC that has a proficiency bonus of 3. If the spell was cast by a 5th-level character, that means they would make their attack with a maximum of +7 (Dex mod + Proficiency bonus) and the ammo would deal 1 damage die +4 (Dex mod bonus). The strength saving throw for Ensnaring Strike as cast by a 5th-level ranger would be 14 (Wis mod + Proficiency bonus + 8). After that, they could have used a 2nd-level spell slot on it, thus dealing 2d6 damage while restrained.
Therefore, if your ensnaring strike-based trap shot a dart whenever someone stepped in a certain square, it would have an attack roll of +7 and it would deal 1d4+4 piercing damage. After that, the victim would have to make a Strength saving throw versus DC 14 or be restrained and take 2d6 piercing damage until they can escape.
That is a good CR 3 trap.
An Alchemical Weapon
An alchemical weapon based on Ensnaring Strike would work much like the trap above; however, the attack roll would be based on the character throwing the weapon.
To make it more interesting than simply a magic dart or arrow, an alchemical weapon would be more similar to a potion or a viscous fluid that exploded out.
You will need to determine what type of attack it is, what the initial damage is from the weapon, what the saving throw will be versus restraint, and how much damage it will deal while restraint is active.
Since this is an alchemical weapon, consider giving it a splash effect. Instead of a bonus to hit, make it an automatic hit against a single creature within a 5-f00t square, and have them make a Dexterity saving throw or take the initial damage.
If we use the same formula as the trap above, the victim will need to make a Dexterity save versus 14 or take damage. Since we are making this weapon up, we can give it a reasonable damage die and say it is 1d6 Acid damage.
After that, the acid congeals into a sticky goo that restrains the target unless they can make a Strength save versus 14. If they fail, they will take 2d6 acid damage per turn until they can escape.
Therefore, this alchemical bomb can be thrown 30 feet and forces the target to make a Dexterity save versus 14 or take 1d6 acid damage. Additionally, they must succeed on a Strength save versus 14 or be restrained. A restrained character takes 2d6 acid damage until they escape.
A Homebrew Monster
A homebrew monster is also fairly easy to make. All we have to do is find any existing monster that meets the CR requirement we are trying to make. Let’s say we want a low-CR, undead monster that has a nasty-as-hell fungal vomit attack that works like Ensnaring Strike. Think of a Lovecraftian fungus zombie.
Take the stat block for a zombie, and replace its base attack with a ranged attack that acts as an Ensnaring Strike cast by a first-level ranger.
With a proficiency bonus of 2 and a Dexterity modifier of +3, the attack roll would have a +5 to hit.
Let’s keep the weapon damage reasonable again and say it does 1d6 poison with no bonus.
The same proficiency bonus plus a Wisdom modifier of +2 would create a DC 12 on the Strength saving throw.
The first-level spell slot would create 1d6 damage for failing the saving throw.
Therefore, our dirty little friend would have a vomit attack with a +5 to hit, 1d6 poison damage, and a Strength save vs. 12 or be restrained and take 1d6 necrotic damage until you can escape.
That kind of makes me shudder.
On that note… Happy Gaming!
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I played the game a lot as a kid, back in first edition. Over the past few years since 5e was released, I’ve really started getting back into it. Currently, I run a campaign online for some friends and my brothers, and we also play a side-sesh just to mix things up.