Ray of Sickness Spell Guide 5e:

Ray of Sickness is a sick (I had to, sorry) spell that comes to us from 2nd edition.

It was a popular choice in 3e, and now in 5e, it has found its home among the ranks of necromancers of all flavors.

Ray of Sickness

Ray of Sickness Statblock

  • Casting Time: 1 action
  • Range: 60 feet
  • Duration: Instantaneous
  • School: Necromancy
  • Class: Sorcerer, wizard, death domain, the undying, alchemist
  • Level: 1st
  • Damage/Effect: Poisoned
  • Attack/Save: Constitution
  • Components: V, S
  • Ritual/Concentration: None

Spell Description. A ray of sickening greenish energy lashes out toward a creature within range. Make a ranged spell attack against the target. On a hit, the target takes 2d8 poison damage and must make a Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, it is also poisoned until the end of your next turn.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the damage increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 1st.

Damage Table

Ray of Sickness starts off at a very impressive 2d8 damage for a first-level spell. Every level after that grants it an additional 1d8.

Who Can Cast Ray of Sickness?

Ray of Sickness is a fairly common spell available to a wide variety of spellcasters.

Wizards and Death Domain Clerics gain easy access to Ray of Sickness, probably because both classes have a very specific necromancer vibe to them or that Ray of Sickness is nearly a standard offensive spell.

Undying Warlocks also are granted Ray of Sickness, which, when combined with the unique attributes of the Warlock’s pact magic, make this a formidable attack spell at higher levels. These Warlocks also have a tendency to favor necromantic magic and definitely feel more comfortable with the undead than other casters generally do.

Sorcerers are a wide and varied lot who do gain access to many of the darker spells; however, you don’t find many necromancers among the Sorcerer class for the simple reason that Sorcerers can not cast Animate Dead for some silly reason.

If you are going to take Ray of Sickness as a Sorcerer, you may need to consider exactly what flavor you are going for here. Green dragon origin comes to mind, or a member of the Yuan-Ti race could easily pull it off, but other Sorcerer types might need a bit of explanation.

Finally, Alchemist Artificers gain this spell. While necromancy isn’t a big thing among Artificers, it is easy to imagine Alchemists quaffing so many questionable brews that they know intimately how to make someone sick.

Is Ray of Sickness  Better Than Other Spells?

First-level attack spells have a bit of variance to them outside of simply dealing damage.

If all you want is to deal damage, go with Magic Missile. Sure, the damage output is not as great as Ray of Sickness, but you will consistently deal more average damage over time with Magic Missile.

If you want a chance to deal loads of damage, go with Chaos Bolt or Witch Bolt. Those will also deal more damage than Ray of Sickness.

Even Chromatic Orb or Guiding bolt will do more damage than Ray of Sickness in a single go.

But characters who take a serious look at necromancy want more from their spells than just the destruction of their enemies. They want it to be artfully done and preferably without damaging the body too much because… well, you know… every foe is a future zombie minion!

Ray of Sickness has the nifty ability of potentially poisoning your target.

From the Player’s Handbook: A poisoned creature has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks.

So, poisoning a creature will not allow your allies to get advantage or deal more damage, but it will stop your target from being able to fight back or do anything useful like make perception, investigation, or athletics checks.

In short, Ray of Sickness is the heaviest damage-dealing spell at first level, but it will add versatility to your castings.

When Should You Cast Ray of Sickness?

You should cast Ray of Sickness when you want more than just to attack your target’s HP.

If your target is a martial combatant intent on putting their pointy bits into your squishy bits, casting Ray of Sickness will definitely dissuade them from that course of action — or at least make it more difficult.

Blowing up your target doesn’t stop them from hurting you if you fail to blow them all the way up. But poisoning them? That’s worth trying.

If you happen to get the drop on a guard that you want to sneak by, poisoning them with Ray of Sickness will definitely hurt them, but it will also give them disadvantage on perception checks to see you and your friends, potentially letting you sneak by while they are driven to their knees wondering what they ate.

Along the same lines, if your enemy is about to complete a ritual, climb a wall, balance on a beam, make a concentration check, etc., Ray of Sickness will seriously hamper their ability to do that.

The disadvantage on ability checks provided by Ray of Sickness will hinder their ability to make constitution checks to maintain concentration, make difficult movements, or even grapple!

Though… who would want to grapple with a nauseous person? 0 stars, do not recommend.

Improving Ray of Sickness

Before we talk about homebrewing improvements, let’s begin with a short list of feats that will improve your character’s effectiveness with Ray of Sickness.

  • Spell Sniper will increase the range of your Ray of Sickness from 60 feet to 120 feet. This improvement will allow you to try that technique of casting from stealth in order to slip by a guard or even disrupt a target’s movement or skill checks.
  • Poisoner will allow your poison damage to overcome resistance, though not immunity. If your DM allows you to use this spell to create poisons, you can then have a better poison than the one granted by the poisoner feat which you can apply as a bonus action.
  • Metamagic Adept will give you two metamagic options to add to your Ray of Sickness. I recommend Twin Spell so that you can hit more targets and Extend Spell so that you can double the duration of the poisoned effect. The more sorcery points you spend, the longer it will last.

Homebrewing options for improving Ray of Sickness could look a variety of different ways.

  • When using higher spell slots, you could forgo some extra damage to add other conditions to the poison effect, like blindness, deafness, stunned, prone, or unconscious. I would recommend sacrificing 2d8 damage for any one of those options.
  • You could ask to make an Arcana or Religion check to modify the spell as you cast it, allowing it to be cast on objects or perishable food items for a short period of time and have the effects of the spell transferred that way.

Common Questions About Ray of Sickness

To find an FAQ list for this particular spell, I had to go down to the crypts underneath the Black Citadel, and I want you to know I wouldn’t do that for just anybody.

Can You Use Ray of Sickness To Poison Food or Drink?

According to the RAW, no. Ray of Sickness targets creatures only. However, as a rule of cool variation, I would allow Ray of Sickness to be cast on food or drink and make the damage be a part of the saving throw. I would grant half damage on success.

At that point, though, we might as well just create a homebrew spell.

Can You Use Ray of Sickness as a Component To Creating a Poison?

There are no rules for this. I would allow it as a DM, provided the player used the spell slot to make the poison and had proficiency in alchemist tools. I would then also make them pay at least 25 gp in material components per level of the spell slot used to make the poison.

After that, the poison would deal damage and bestow the poisoned effect on a failed save and half as much damage on a successful save with no poison effect.

Can You Use a Metamagic With Ray of Sickness?

You can! Twin Spell, Silent Spell, Transmute Spell, Quick Spell, and Empower Spell are all valid options for Ray of Sickness.

Have you ever seen one of those movies where one person gets sick and then blows chunks all over another person who in turn gets sick, and they projectile vomit all over another person who gets sick and so on in a violent expulsion of chain regurgitation?

Twin spell would be like that. 😊

If a Target Is Immune To Poison and the Poisoned Condition, Are They Immune To Ray of Sickness?

Yes. Just because this is a spell does not mean it overcomes that immunity.

Flavorful Considerations

While the spell specifies that greenish light comes from your fingertips to cast the spell, it isn’t necessarily game-breaking if you choose to present it a different way.

Maybe your spellcasting somatic component is a simple poking your finger down your throat, and then somehow the gag reflex is transferred to your target. Maybe the Verbal component is a simple yet frighteningly loud RETCH!

Instead of a greenish beam of light, what if you hock a loogie across the battle map, and you hit the target with it?

“Ew, gross, my dude, that landed in my mouth!” Save vs. poisoned, brochacho!

The Subtle Relationship Between Poison and Necrotic Damage

In the realm of elemental damage, poison is just one of many ways you can be hurt on the Material Plane.

But when we start talking about extraplanar energy or magic, the different elements tend to morph into a smaller number of supernatural energies.

Fire and lightning become radiant, thunder becomes force, and poison becomes necrotic.  

So, for flavor reasons, if you want to make a necromancer or a necrotic-energy-focused character, feel free to slip a little poison in there to show that relationship.

Happy Gaming!

That’s all for now, folks. May your adventures be rewarding, your loot boxes be full, and your enemies be at a disadvantage.