Harkening back to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (DnD 2e), Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound is a simple utility spell named after the canonical wizard Mordenkainen.
In DnD 5e, the Basic Rules have shortened the name of the spell to simply Faithful Hound, which is good. It is for the same reason we all stopped saying Jimi Hendrix’s All Along the Watchtower as opposed to Bob Dylan’s, Tina Turner’s Rollin on the River as opposed to CCR’s, and Limp Bizkit’s Behind Blue Eyes as opposed to The Guess Who’s — the newer versions were better than the originals.
(I am lying about that last one, and I swear to Vecna if anyone says they are quoting Fred Durst with those lyrics, I will raise whatever hippies there are to be found in their ancestry and SACRIFICE THEM TO THE PINBALL WIZARD!)
This post is all about Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound: who should cast it, how they should cast it, and how we can make it better.
Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound
MORDENKAINEN’S FAITHFUL HOUND
- Casting Time: 1 action
- Range: 30 ft.
- Duration: 8 hours
- School: Conjuration
- Class: Wizard
- Level: 4th
- Damage/Effect: 4d8 piercing; utility
- Attack/Save: Melee
- Components: V, S, M
- Ritual/Concentration: No
Spell Description. You conjure a phantom watchdog in an unoccupied space that you can see within range where it remains for the duration until you dismiss it as an action or until you move more than 100 feet away from it.
The hound is invisible to all creatures except you and can’t be harmed. When a Small or larger creature comes within 30 feet of it without first speaking the password that you specify when you cast this spell, the hound starts barking loudly. The hound sees invisible creatures and can see into the Ethereal Plane. It ignores illusions.
At the start of each of your turns, the hound attempts to bite one creature within 5 feet of it that is hostile to you. The hound’s attack bonus is equal to your spellcasting ability modifier + your proficiency bonus. On a hit, it deals 4d8 piercing damage.
Who Can (and Should) Cast Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound?
Wizards are the only class who can cast Faithful Hounds according to the Rules as Written.
As a conjuration spell, any Conjurer wizard should either know it or at least have it on a scroll.
Other wizardly types may find this spell useful, but to be fair, 4th level is a rather high spell slot to have left over after a day of adventuring.
If you and the DM agree, sorcerers could also have access to this spell; however, I would change the flavor and damage type to reflect the sorcerer’s origin.
If the sorcerer is a Dragon Origin sorcerer, call it Faithful Dragonling and have it deal elemental damage of the sorcerer’s favored type. If a Shadow Origin sorcerer wants this spell, allow the shadow hound to deal psychic or necrotic. If a Storm Sorcerer wants a Faithful Hound, let it deal lightning or thunder.
The same could easily apply to warlocks or clerics. I see no reason why a spell this simple should be restricted to wizards only. It is not game-breaking in the slightest.
Is Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound Better Than Other Spells?
Simply put, no. Faithful Hound is a rather underwhelming spell that is often referred to as a “fancy alarm.”
Many would say that it is highly situational at best and a waste of spells known at worst. They say that the Faithful Hound can not move, deals a negligible amount of damage, and costs too high of a spell slot. It is not an effective combat spell.
Truth be told, it was never meant to be a combat spell. It is derogatorily referred to as a “fancy alarm spell,” but in truth, that is exactly what it is.
In combat, any Flaming Sphere will do much better than a Faithful Hound in both damage and battlefield presence.
But this spell was never meant to be in combat.
This spell is best used as a trap, and as such, it is one of the better ones available.
If used correctly, Faithful Hounds will not only be a game-changer, but it will become a cornerstone of fundamental downtime tactics.
When Should You Cast Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound?
If you are traveling a long distance, not every day will be filled with random encounters or combat. Your wizard will not be casting heavy spells all the time. If they are, they better charge extra!
On those long days of travel when you haven’t used all of your 4th-level spell slots conjuring acid rain or barbequing bad guys, it is no big deal to set up a Faithful Hound.
Since the hound can see invisible creatures and detect creatures on the Ethereal Plane, nothing will be able to sneak up on you while you sleep.
A 4th-level spell slot in exchange for NOT getting your throat cut in your sleep? Sold!
Furthermore, if you cast it at a natural choke point like a cave opening or similar corridor, you can almost guarantee that any intruder will necessarily trip the bitey alarm spell.
Other perfect places to cast this spell are in adjoining rooms, the other end of the hallway, or behind the BBEG. When the barking starts, everyone will look in that direction while you either stealth away or give all of your friends advantage on their next attack.
Finally, if you are being chased by people who like to punch wizards, you can cast this spell right next to you. It won’t stop them from attacking you, but it will grant you a free attack for 4d8 piercing damage, and no one ever complained about that…except, of course, for the guy whose heart-print undies we can now see after the Faithful Hound tears a chunk out his loincloth.
Common Questions About Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound
We get a lot of questions around here on all kinds of topics. I went and looked around in our archives (spam folder) and looked up everything our faithful readers sent to us on this spell.
Here’s what I found:
Does Mordendainen’s Faithful Hound Prevent Movement in That Space?
It does not. It is always possible for any creature to move through another creature’s space, provided they accept the risk of an attack of opportunity.
Sadly, the hound does not get reactions, so anyone can move through its space with impunity.
Can Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound Take Opportunity Attacks?
It can not. The hound does not get reactions. It can only take an action to bite a creature that is within 5 feet of it at the start of your turn.
Can Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound Be Cast on Moving Objects, or Must It Remain Stationary?
There is no way to move the Faithful Hound. It can not be cast on a floating disk, a cart, a donkey, or anything else you can think of.
The spell states that the Faithful Hound is cast onto a space, not an object. Therefore, if a cart or a floating disk exists in that space, the hound can not also exist there since it is to be cast on an “unoccupied” space.
If you are on a vehicle, the DM could reason that the hound will stay on the vehicle with you, but that would be a special case requiring DM approval.
Is Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound a Creature?
It is not. If the hound were a creature, you would be able to improve it with different spells, buffs, or even debuffs if another caster conjured one that is antagonistic toward you.
Much like an Unseen Servant or Bigby’s Hand, this spell simply creates an invisible force that acts in a predetermined way.
Should Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound Be a Ritual Spell?
Faithful Hound would be an excellent candidate for a ritual tag if your DM approves. In general, ritual spells do not deal damage, but this is such a minor amount of damage, and it is primarily useful, so it shouldn’t be a problem.
If, however, your DM is sticky on the damage-dealing pseudo-restriction, then negotiate to replace the damage with a stun effect. If anyone comes within 5 feet at the start of your turn, they must make a WIS save vs. your Spell Save DC or be stunned for one round.
Happy Gaming! May all your 20s be natural!
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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.