- Casting Time: 1 action
- Range: 150 feet (20-foot sphere)
- Duration: 10 minutes (Concentration)
- School: Transmutation
- Class: Druid, Ranger
- Level: 2nd level
- Damage/Effect: Control, Piercing
- Attack/Save: None
- Components: V, S, M (seven sharp thorns or seven small twigs, each sharpened to a point)
The ground in a 20-foot radius centered on a point within range twists and sprouts hard spikes and thorns. The area becomes difficult terrain for the duration. When a creature moves into or within the area, it takes 2d4 piercing damage for every 5 feet it travels.
The transformation of the ground is camouflaged to look natural. Any creature that can’t see the area at the time the spell is cast must make a Wisdom (Perception) check against your spell save DC to recognize the terrain as hazardous before entering it.
What Is Spike Growth?
Spike growth is an excellent battlefield-control spell that creates an area of hard spikes and thorns. This area creates what is known as difficult terrain while also damaging creatures that move into or within the space.
The first part of understanding a spell is recognizing how to cast it. For Spike Growth, we simply need to burn a 2nd-level spell slot and utilize our spellcasting focus. Since the material components don’t have a cost, an arcane focus or a component pouch can both allow us to cast the spell.
Next, we have to choose where the spell is cast. We target a point that is within 150 feet of us, and from that point, the surrounding terrain is covered in spikes. This is normally as simple as drawing a circle with a 20-foot radius, but it might get a tad bit more complicated if we’re dealing with three-dimensional terrain (i.e. hills or stairs).
Our job is mostly done, but now we need to concentrate on the spell. Concentration is a mechanic in 5e that allows us to manage spells with lasting effects. Simply put, as long as we are able to maintain concentration on Spike Growth, the terrain will remain in place for 10 minutes or until we decide to end it.
Now that all the basics are out of the way, let’s talk about what the spell actually does. We know that it creates difficult terrain, but what does that actually mean?
Well, difficult terrain is the mechanical name for terrain that is hard to travel through. When moving through difficult terrain, you move at half speed. In other words, for every 1 foot covered, creatures need to spend 2 feet of their movement speed.
Effectively, the 20-foot circle we’ve created actually has a radius of 40 feet, at least as far as a character’s movement speed is concerned. This makes it much harder to pass through and is a great way to stop a lot of creatures in their tracks. Since most creatures have less than 40 feet of movement speed, they won’t be able to pass through the entire area without using their action to Dash.
Crossing the area along its widest section (the diameter) now costs 80 feet of movement even though it’s just 40 feet wide. This is not only a great way to exert some control over the battlefield, but it also sets us up perfectly to capitalize on the next part of this spell.
The spiked terrain that grows from this spell is good for more than just slowing down our opponents. It also allows us to dish out some damage, punishing our enemies for even attempting to move through the space.
Spike growth deals 2d4 piercing damage to creatures for every 5 feet they move through it as well as 2d4 piercing damage for simply entering the space. There is no save or attack roll required either, so this damage is guaranteed as long as you can force creatures into moving through the terrain.
It should be noted that this damage is based on distance traveled, not movement speed spent. Still, a creature using all of their base movement speed, let’s say 30 feet, will only move 15 feet through the difficult terrain, taking 6d4 damage or an average of 15 damage. If they enter as part of their movement, that’s another 2d4 damage thrown on top of that.
Since this is a spell primarily used by Druids, this spell is available at 4th level. At that level, just one turn of movement through the terrain is a serious threat to most of your enemies.
A part of this spell’s description that I feel often goes unobserved or underappreciated is the fact that the transformation is camouflaged to look natural. Creatures that are in view of the area as it transforms will recognize the magic occurring, but other creatures will need to pass a perception check to realize something is amiss.
This is, to me, incredibly interesting. First, it implies that hard spikes and thorns can somehow be disguised to look like any terrain since you don’t have to cast this outside. That’s a bit silly, but it’s part of the magic, and part of the fun is describing how this makes sense in settings like a cave or castle.
Second, this section of the spell does a lot to stop this spell from being rendered useless. If a creature knows there are spikes covering the ground, they would be wise to simply move around it if possible. This isn’t always true, but when it is, it can suck to watch the entire enemy forces walk around your wasted 2nd-level spell slot.
Needing to recognize that it’s there means that some creatures will be caught completely off guard and will suffer the consequences.
The last part of this that’s worth discussing is that it requires an active perception check. In combat, that would be a whole action wasted learning what’s going on. Plus, making a perception check requires you to think something is up in the first place, so most creatures simply won’t do it. You don’t know what you don’t know, as the saying goes.
It’s particularly interesting that Passive Perception doesn’t come into play here. This removes creatures’ ability to notice the Spike Growth on accident and basically ensures that Spike Growth is the perfect trap for the unsuspecting.
How Good Is Spike Growth?
Spike Growth is a great spell for multiple reasons. It allows us to control the battlefield while still dealing the amount of damage we’d expect with a 2nd-level spell. The two pieces of this spell also synergize extremely well, forcing our enemies to move slowly in an area where they take damage for moving.
The simplest metric by which to judge a spell is its damage output. The thing that makes this spell so appealing is that it automatically deals its damage, a rare trait for sure. Most spells require an attack roll from the caster or a saving throw from the target. Either way, there’s an amount of chance added in.
With Spike Growth, we’re guaranteed to deal damage so long as someone walks through the area of this spell. Since there are many ways to force a creature’s movement, we don’t even have to leave that to chance. Even higher-level staples like Fireball can’t compare to a well-planned and timed Spike Growth (when performing at their respective levels).
Outside of damage, we can also look at the different uses of a spell if we want to see just how much we can really rely on it.
This is a control spell through and through, and the main area we talk about control is in combat on the battlefield. With the size of Spike Growth’s effectiveness, it’s going to completely change how the battlefield works almost every time it’s cast.
There’s really no such thing as an average battlefield. The different map sizes, terrains, and obstacles can make for a unique combat experience every time you roll initiative, but it doesn’t help us judge this spell with total accuracy.
Still, a circle with a radius of 20 feet is pretty big. That’s a 40-foot diameter, or more importantly, it covers about fifty 5×5-foot squares on a battle grid. With a space this large, there’s a lot you can do.
You can use Spike Growth as an obstacle or a way to route your enemies into a smaller kill zone. It can also be used as a way to trap a large number of your enemies and deal as much damage as possible. Or, if you’re fighting one large enemy, you can place them in the middle and keep them inside the bounds with other control spells.
The uses for Spike Growth are really only limited by what the map you’re playing on looks like. In a small corridor, it makes a barrier that is impassable without taking serious damage. In a wide-open field, it creates a deadly space that’s hard to avoid. Considering your options before you cast it will undoubtedly give you the best bang for your buck.
Since Spike Growth lasts for 10 minutes if you hold your concentration that long, it can be used well outside the confines of a one-minute battle. This means it’s particularly useful for laying a trap.
The added piece of the spell’s description regarding the spikes being camouflaged into the terrain only drives this home more. We’re basically told, “Hey, if you need a short-term trap, set this up, and no one will be the wiser.”
It’s not incredibly difficult to execute well either. Basically, if you have a scout that sees someone coming or you have some other way of guaranteeing someone walking by in the next 10 minutes, start up the spell, and wait.
You should recognize, though, that once someone takes damage, they’ll likely be acutely aware of what’s going on. At the very least, they’ll take a step back before proceeding, and that’s when your other spells and abilities come into play. With a bit of synergy, you can really capitalize on the opportunities this spell sets up.
Synergistic Spells and Abilities for Spike Growth
Like most concentration spells, Spike Growth works well as part of a team. It’s the alley-oop of spells, creating a moment of opportunity to really deal a devastating blow. Below are some spells and abilities that can get great value when paired with our spiky 2nd-level spell.
Thorn Whip – Forced Movement Through Spike Growth
Thorn Whip is a cantrip available to Druids that feels like the most natural fit for Spike Growth. It’s even got a similar theme, utilizing thorns to control the battlefield.
This spell uses a thorn-covered vine to grab Large or smaller creatures and pull them 10 feet closer to you. While doing so, it also deals 1d6 piercing damage or more based on your level.
The basic premise here is that you set up Spike Growth, and then, on your next turn, drag a creature through the spikes with your Thorn Whip. Since Spike Growth doesn’t specify “when a creature moves on their turn” and only cares about movement through the space in general, that 10 feet of forced movement is just adding some automatic damage into the mix.
Remember too that creatures take damage for entering as well as moving through the space, so even just pulling a creature into the area is enough to capitalize.
This concept is not unique to Thorn Whip, although it’s one of the easiest and cheapest ways to pull it off. As a spiky Druid spell, it’s a perfect fit. Oh, and Rangers can pick this up if they choose the Druidic Warrior fighting style at 2nd level to get access to a Druid cantrip.
There are many other ways to force movement, be they spells or class features, and using any of them is a surefire way to really make sure Spike Growth is dealing as much damage as possible. This is especially true when you use them not only to move a creature through the area but to keep them there as well.
Some other options include:
- Eldritch Blast with Grasp of Hadar or Repelling Blast
- Frightened Condition (While not technically forcing movement, it prevents a creature from moving closer to the source of its fear. This can be strategically used to force a creature into moving through the Spike Growth if they move at all.)
- Dragging a grappled opponent (This does force the grappler to take damage as well, but this may be a necessary sacrifice in a pinch.)
- Dominate Person or Monster
F.A.Q. About Spike Growth
Does Spike Growth Affect You? Does Spike Growth Affect the Caster?
Unfortunately, the caster is not protected from the effects of Spike Growth naturally. Generally, unless an area-of-effect spell says otherwise, the caster still takes damage if they are inside of the area.
Luckily, the simple solution here is to avoid the spikes you’ve created. You can start by casting it at a point that keeps you outside of its area and then simply stay on the edges to use any other effects you may have.
Of course, you can also put yourself in the middle and use it as a protective boundary if you simply don’t use your movement. If you absolutely need to move, you can always end your concentration on the spell to avoid taking any damage.
Does Spike Growth Count as Magical Damage?
Yes, Spike Growth counts as magical damage. Magical damage is defined as damage from a magical source, and a spell definitely counts as a magical source. Since you aren’t permanently changing the terrain but instead are creating a magical obstacle, Spike Growth deals magical piercing damage.
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As a kid, I was often told to get my head out of the clouds and to stop living in a fantasy world. That never really jived with me, so I decided to make a living out of games, stories, and all sorts of fantastical works. Now, as an adult, I aspire to remind people that sometimes a little bit of fantasy is all you need when life gets to be too much.