Greater Restoration in 5e: The Best Uses & NPCs With The Ability

Casting Time

1 action

School

Abjuration

Damage/Effect

Healing

Range

Touch

Class

Artificer, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Ranger

Attack/Save

None

Duration

Instantaneous

Level

5th

Components

V, S, M

Spell Description

You imbue a creature you touch with positive energy to undo a debilitating effect. You can reduce the target’s exhaustion level by one, or end one of the following effects on the target:

  • One effect that charmed or petrified the target
  • One curse, including the target’s attunement to a cursed magic item
  • Any reduction to one of the target’s ability scores
  • One effect reducing the target’s hit point maximum

What is Greater Restoration?

Greater Restoration is a powerful healing spell capable of negating several different types of harmful effects. Its abilities don’t allow you to provide a creature with hit points, but it does allow you to put an end to serious conditions that can be even worse than a nasty hit.

Most healing spells give creatures their hit points back. Such a thing is undeniably helpful, but there are more conditions and effects out there that can harm you.

Lesser Restoration, the little sibling to this spell, deals with some of the more common conditions. With that 2nd-level spell, you can cure a creature of disease, or of the blinded, deafened, paralyzed, or poisoned conditions.

Where Lesser Restoration is straightforward in its benefits, Greater Restoration can feel a bit complex. We’re going to run through the effects this spell can heal or undo, one by one.

Reduce Exhaustion Level

If you haven’t had to deal with exhaustion in a game of D&D, you’re quite lucky indeed. Exhaustion can be caused by several things, including environmental factors and creature abilities, but each time you gain a level you deal with more and worse side effects. Make it to six levels and death is your reward. 

Exhaustion LevelEffect
1Disadvantage on ability checks
2Movement speed halved
3Disadvantage on attack rolls and saving throws
4Hit point maximum halved
5Speed reduced to 0
6Death

There’s nothing great about being exhausted in D&D, and Greater Restoration can at least drop you back one level. This is especially helpful in the midst of a combat encounter where your enemy is stacking exhaustion counters on you or an ally due to their abilities.

For more on exhaustion, check out our article that dives deep into this deadly status effect.

Charm or Petrify Effect

Both of these have the potential to be pretty nasty. Being charmed isn’t awful on its own, but can come with some serious downsides, while being petrified is consistently a bad thing. 

For those of you that don’t know, petrifying a creature turns that creature into a solid object (normally stone) along with a number of other side effects. Think Medusa and you’ve got this condition nailed. 

Being able to remove this is so amazing. Not only can it save one of your allies, but it can also potentially reanimate a creature that’s been petrified for thousands of years (since you stop aging when you become petrified.

The real kicker to this is that it doesn’t just negate the charming or petrifying, it undos the effect that charms or petrifies. Often, being charmed comes with a slew of adverse effects, and this spell can get rid of them all with one 5th-level slot. 

As an example, the powerful spell Dominate Monster, a common tool of the feared Mind Flayers, is a spell that is based entirely around charming a creature.

Once charmed, the creature obeys your telepathic commands. A Greater Restoration is a quick fix to this when an ally of yours fails their save and falls victim.

Curses

I think it’s pretty obvious that curses are bad. These can be brought on by many things, including spells and magical items. Getting rid of them is almost always going to be the way to go.

The important thing to note here is that this does not remove a curse from an item, it just has the ability to remove the attunement an item has to a creature. In doing so, the creature is no longer cursed, but you should probably avoid picking the item back up. 

Reduced Ability Scores

Quite simply, a reduced ability score is very bad. This might cause you to become unintelligent, have no way of casting spells, or make it impossible to land a hit. Since ability scores are pretty much the core of your character’s abilities you don’t want them to be any lower than they already are. 

Hit Point Reduction

Some of the most deadly effects reduce a creature’s HP maximum. This sort of effect is like being hit with unhealable damage, and all the Cure Wounds in the world can’t save you from such a thing. 

Most of these effects have something nasty topped onto it like “if a creature’s hit points are reduced to 0 in this way they become a ghoul.” Even without fearing an eternity as a mindless creature, reduced hit points are an easy way to die fast.

When Should You Cast Greater Restoration?

Greater Restoration should be an easy decision to cast. Is one of your allies petrified? Restore. Is the 12th-level Barbarian down to a maximum HP of 4? You probably should’ve restored him sooner. As with any healing spell, you use it when a creature needs to be healed.

Of course, this is a 5th-level spell. Which means you’re always going to be in short supply of slots to cast it with. So there has to be a little bit of decision-making channeled into this spell. 

Certain effects are worse than others. Being petrified, while terrible, isn’t likely to kill an ally anytime soon. On the other hand, if an ally is at five levels of exhaustion and you’re fighting a creature that incurs more levels, you might want to save that ally from an instant death. 

This really speaks to the situationality of a Greater Restoration spell. For starters, it’s a spell you don’t want to have to cast. Being put in a position where the difference between life and death is a 5th-level spell slot means you’re dealing with a particularly dangerous encounter indeed.

What’s worse is there’s no right time to cast the spell. You might see a creature’s HP max reduced to 40% of what it once was and swoop in to save them, only to see another ally be taken over by Dominate Monster a couple turns later. 

Because of this, Greater Restoration is interestingly much better outside of combat. When you’re in combat, there are a lot of other ways to deal with most situations. 

Temporary hit points might be a clever solution to hit point reduction. If an ally has disadvantage from exhaustion, it will probably be more helpful to give them advantage on rolls or saves and let the two cancel out. 

The list goes on, but combat with any creatures that can cause some of these effects means that more of those effects are likely on their way. You can’t typically afford to drop all of your 5th or higher spell slots into damage control. 

Now on the flip side, when you’re out of combat, you have the ability to calmly assess the situation. Maybe multiple of your allies are suffering from exhaustion levels but one got petrified. Sounds like a bad time, but the best option is to remove the petrification and let everyone nap for a few days before getting back on the road. 

At the end of the day, Greater Restoration is a spell you have to choose wisely. Be absolutely sure that your party will benefit before casting it. Otherwise, hold onto that slot for a more effective way to handle the situation at hand. 

Who Should Take Greater Restoration?

While this spell can be cast by quite a few classes, it should really only be prepared by characters built around healing. There are a lot of very powerful 5th-level spells, and having this on deck “just to be safe” can prevent an otherwise solid build from being as powerful as it could be.

Clerics are an obvious choice, but they’re not the only healers in D&D. Druids and bards both make excellent healing and support classes with the right spell choices along the way. It also helps to have a subclass that lends itself to support. 

A Circle of Shepherds druid is a stellar choice for a supportive healer, using their connection to nature to protect others. A College of Lore bard is equally adept at healing, and has all of the support that the bard class in general offers to boot.

The artificer and ranger classes should really avoid Greater Restoration, since as half casters they only learn up to 5th level spells. These classes will want to use their highest spell slots to cast spells with longer-lasting effects.

Considering the when to cast section of this article, any build without alternatives to Greater Restoration shouldn’t have Greater Restoration. You want to be able to mitigate harmful effects in other, less expensive ways before resorting to such a high-intensity spell.

NPCs with Greater Restoration

Player characters don’t have to be the only ones with access to Greater Restoration. In fact, it’s a spell that’s inaccessible until at least 10th level. Since plenty of those harmful effects can happen way before then, it’s a good idea to let some NPCs in on the action as well.

Your NPCs with access to such a spell don’t have to be fully fleshed out clerics or bards, they can be any sort of character with access to magic. The type of character will influence how the characters convince them to cast it.

A wizard, bard, or potion maker might charge for the spell to be cast, material costs plus a “labor” fee. Druid and cleric analogues (priests, fey creatures, religious monks, etc.) might be willing to cast such a spell for those in need, or they might only aid those who swear fealty to their god or religion. 

If your characters get really messed up and are looking for solutions when they get to town, having an NPC ready to heal up the party (a bit of a Pokecenter feel) is a great way to go.

Spell Options Similar to Greater Restoration

We’ve done a lot of talking about not casting Greater Restoration in this article. As an expensive spell, it’s great to have alternatives, and necessary for a build that’s trying to do any real healing.

While any spell with the healing tag are going to be useful, we’ve put some important ones below for you to consider for your personal spell list.

Lesser Restoration, 2nd-level Abjuration

As the sister spell to Greater Restoration, this should be an obvious choice. It allows you to remove one disease or one of a select set of conditions. This is a much cheaper spell that can deal with some effects just as nasty as exhaustion or certification.

Poison and disease alone are the source of so many catastrophic, game-changing effects, and they can be gone with a wave of the hand.

Reincarnate, 5th-level Transmutation

A spell that brings someone back from the dead doesn’t sound like a nice alternative to a preventive healing spell, but it can in fact be extremely helpful.

Looking at exhaustion alone we can see this. If a creature has five exhaustion levels, it’s much easier to let them try not to die and burn one spell slot to completely reincarnate them than it is to burn five Greater Restorations and put them into top form. 

It’s not ideal, and it’s a bit cynical, but it’s certainly efficient. In a game like D&D, that’s often what counts.

Remove Curse, 3rd-level Abjuration

This spell allows you to remove a curse from a creature or an item. Again, this doesn’t actually break a curse on an item, it just breaks the attunement it might have to a creature so that it can be safely dealt with.

This is the same effect listed in Greater Restoration. If you have both in your spell list, you should never use Greater Restoration to break a curse, it’s just that simple.

Wish, 9th-level Conjuration

It might seem like an easy out to say that the strongest spell in 5e is a replacement for Greater Restoration, but there’s one clause of the spell that’s extremely important. “You allow up to twenty creatures that you can see to regain all hit points, and you end all effects on them described in the greater restoration spell.

If you have access to this spell, it’s certainly a lot easier than casting greater restoration 20+ times along with a slew of other healing spells.

False Life, 1st-level Necromancy

This spell, which can be upcast, grants temporary hit points. While this won’t affect a creature’s hit point maximum, it will let them stay in the game longer, and it can be cast at whatever level is necessary for the situation.