90 ft (20 ft )
1 Minute ©
V, S, M
Squirming, ebony tentacles erupt from a point you can see within range, filling a 20-foot square on the ground. For the spell’s duration, these tentacles cause creatures moving across the ground within its area of effect to treat it as difficult terrain.
The first time a creature enters the affected area on a turn or starts its turn there, the creature must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or take 3d6 bludgeoning damage and be restrained by the tentacles until the spell ends. A creature that starts its turn in the area and is already restrained by the tentacles takes 3d6 bludgeoning damage.
A creature restrained by the tentacles can use its action to make either a Strength or Dexterity check against the caster’s spell save DC, freeing itself on a successful check.
Damage on Successful Save: None
Damage on a Failed Save: 3d6
Statuses Inflicted: Restrained
Status Duration: 1 Minute (or until successful Strength or Dexterity check)
Affected By Cover: No
Evard’s Black Tentacles – A Brief History
Evard’s Black Tentacles – also known simply as “Black Tentacles” – is a 4th level conjuration spell available to both wizards and warlocks who follow the Pact of the Great Old One.
This is one of a small number of spells in D&D 5e where the identity of its creator is known. Other examples include Tasha’s Hideous Laughter, Melf’s Acid Arrow, and Tenser’s Floating Disc.
Interestingly, Tenser is the name of a magic user played by Gary Gygax’s son, Ernest, in one of the very earliest playtests of D&D back in the 1970s.
Gygax is well known for populating early D&D rulebooks and adventure modules with content from his own house games, weaving his friends and family into the tapestry of what would later become the Greyhawk campaign setting. Mordenkainen – as in Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes – was Gygax’s own wizard PC.
Beyond Gygax’s own desire to give his friends cameos, the reason we see player-created spells woven into the history of D&D is that, back in the fabled days of OD&D and B/X, magic users (there was no such thing as a wizard, warlock, or sorcerer back then – and there certainly weren’t any bards) were allowed to work with the DM to come up with their own spells.
As long as the DM (or referee) ruled that they were balanced, and the mage invested the necessary time and money into conducting their magical research, they could craft their own spells to use while adventuring.
Then, if they passed on their spellbook to another character or, as is more likely, another mage found it on their charred and withered corpse, that spell could pass along to a new owner.
Thus, player-generated content slowly made its way into the fabric of D&D.
Let your wizards do this in your 5e games. The way that I ensure player-created spells don’t get too crazy without curtailing the players’ fun is to rule that the player gets to come up with the spell’s effect, casting time, etc.
Then, I tell them what level the spell will be and how much the material components will cost to cast it. Then, we bargain back and forth, nerfing the spell until it’s something we’re both generally unhappy with – as is the nature of an effective negotiation.
“Who born in the last forty years can measure of themselves an ounce of the worth of Otiluke, Bigby, Tenser, or Robilar–or even Rary or Evard?”Mordenkainen, Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium
Evard, known as Evard the Black, was a neutral evil archmage who operated as an information broker in a Sheldomar Valley in Greyhawk. He was originally a minor noble who turned to spellcrafting, briefly counting himself as a friend of Mordenkainen, but later proving to be an enemy of him and the Circle of Eight.
He’s also supposedly responsible for creating the lesser-known spells Evard’s All-Seeing Worm and Evard’s Menacing Tentacles, but it’s Black Tentacles for which he’s best known.
What Is Evard’s Black Tentacles? Is It A Good Spell?
Black Tentacles is a spell that sacrifices a lot of the damage you’d expect from a 4th level spell for some amazing control.
The ability to lock down more than ten enemies inside a squirming wall of nightmarish tentacles for up to a minute is insanely powerful. This means that the paltry 3d6 bludgeoning damage per round this spell inflicts is more of a cherry on top than the nightmarish cake itself.
Evard’s Black Tentacles is best deployed against large groups of foes, and can effectively neutralize a staggering number of lower-level minions at once. Throw this spell at a horde of charging goblins and watch them get absolutely wrecked.
Also, any spell that can restrain multiple creatures at once is insanely powerful, as it then sets up other members of your party with area of effect magic for near-guaranteed damage – as the restrained condition imposes disadvantage on dexterity saving throws.
I’m a huge advocate of any party having two full spellcasters in their ranks, with one focused on control and utility and the other on raw damage. Twinning Evard’s Black Tentacles with a Fireball is one of the most effective ways to turn a deadly encounter into a wicked easy murder luaou.
It’s also a great spell to burn against powerful solo monsters. Because of how D&D 5e compensates for the action economy (the side with more actions per turn usually wins, unless the power levels are super out of whack – which is why CR is more of a rough guideline than an actually helpful metric) most high level bad guys are going to be able to make multiple attacks per round.
Sure, if the party can focus all its attention on a single monster, that monster won’t last for more than, say, three to four turns.
However, pretty much all powerful monsters have access to multiattack and do a crapload of damage, which means a single critical hit can cause the balance of an encounter to swing wildly from one turn to another.
First, the players do a bunch of damage to a monster and then it either dies or directs all its attacks against one PC and maybe kills them.
If you want to avoid that second possibility, any spell with the ability to restrain a powerful enemy is huge. The fact that, once restrained, a target of Evard’s Black Tentacles needs to make a check (not a saving throw) to escape, is immensely powerful, as it basically guarantees that any creature who gets snagged by a black tentacle is going to spend at least one round not beating the party rogue into a bloody pulp.
Commonly Asked Questions About Evard’s Black Tentacles
Do Black Tentacles Affect Allies?
Yes, unfortunately, the wording of Evard’s Black Tentacles makes no distinction between friendly and hostile creatures. All creatures that enter the spell’s radius must save or take damage and be restrained.
Also, all creatures treat the spell’s area as difficult terrain. The only exception to this would be the School of Evocation Wizard’s Sclupt Spells feature.
Beginning at 2nd level, you can create pockets of relative safety within the effects of your evocation spells. When you cast an evocation spell that affects other creatures that you can see, you can choose a number of them equal to 1 + the spell’s level.
The chosen creatures automatically succeed on their saving throws against the spell, and they take no damage if they would normally take half damage on a successful save.
How Tall Are Black Tentacles?
There’s no official answer, so it’s up to your DM. Previous editions of D&D have described the tentacles as being 10ft long, but the 5e rules explicitly state the affected area is in the ground (meaning you could imagine it as more of a pit of writhing ebony snakes).
Can You Dispel Black Tentacles?
Yes. Also, if the caster of the spell takes any damage, they must make a Concentration saving throw or the spell ends.
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.