Have you ever wanted to mend the wounds of your compatriots and yourself with a whispered prayer?
Or perhaps snap your fingers and turn into a fly and infiltrate a secret meeting? Maybe you’d prefer to strike your opponents with lightning while screaming about your ‘unlimited power’? Well in Dungeons and Dragons, yes, it is quite possible.
However, if you’re new to Dungeons and Dragons. Playing as a spell caster can be a daunting experience. Every spellcasting class has a myriad of spells and incantations in their arsenal. This can be an overwhelming thing for a first timer. Getting to know all the spells at your disposal, how much time and materials they each take to cast, what they do for you and your party or against your foes, and knowing the opportune moment to use them…can get a little hectic.
But have no fear! We here at Lore Forgers are here to help! Here’s a list of what we’ll cover:
- Basic Mechanics of Spell Casting
- Distinguishing the Arcane from the Divine
- Dissecting Party Roles and Choosing Yours
- Choosing Between Knowing Spells or Preparing Spells
- Creating Your Spell List
Let’s get to it!
Spells are a great way to spice up the game. They are various in their applications. You have spells that deal damage, give you buffs and bonuses, give you inspiration, and bend reality to your will. This includes anything from hurling a fireball to charming a foe.
(Before you read any more on this section, I suggest you check your official Player’s Handbook for the rules and regulations. These can be found starting on page 201.)
Here’s what you need to know about how magic is played in Dungeons and Dragons in a nut shell.
Each spell has different levels from 0 to 9. The higher the level of a spell the more powerful it is and, depending on the spell, how long it’s affects last. Your character has Spell Slots, which determines how many spells of a given level he/she can cast per long rest. The given amount of spell slots is dependent upon the character’s class and level.
All spells have casting times. Some spells can be cast instantaneously, while other require a specific amount of time and material components, as well as verbal oration and somatic gestures. Some spells you can cast as a bonus action during combat, giving you a potential of two spells (one as your action, then another as your bonus action) per round of combat.
Be mindful though, because some spells require your character’s constant focus to maintain over the spells duration.
These spells are known as concentration spells. If you cast a concentration spell, and wish to cast a different concentration spell while the first spell’s affect is active, that spell’s affect will fade as you cast the new one. These spells vary in their cast time and should be carefully considered before being used.
Spells also have a range they need to be cast within to work. These ranges vary from touch to hundreds of feet. Some spells have radial, conical, cylindrical, and cubic area of effects. There are even some spells that travel over a certain distance in a straight line. Always be aware of your party’s positions in combat to avoid friendly fire, and to use the spells area of effect more efficiently.
There are spells that require you to make a spell attack roll. This is much like rolling for a physical attack, just slightly different. You roll a d20 and add what is called your Spell Attack Modifier, which is determined by your spellcasting ability modifier + your proficiency modifier. You then take what you rolled against your opponent’s armor class, and that’s what determines whether the spell hits its target. For example, let’s say that my spellcasting ability is charisma. My charisma modifier is +4 and my proficiency bonus is +3. Therefore, my spell attack modifier is +7 (4+3). So, I rolled a d20 and got a 12, I add my spell attack modifier of +7 for a total of 19. The target’s armor class is 18, so my spell successfully hits my target.
Distinguishing the Arcane from the Divine
Mechanically there is no difference between Arcane and Divine spells, rather the difference is in how your character can cast. When a caster is casting, they are drawing forth from the magic of The Weave and how you draw that power from the weave determines whether you’re using arcane or divine magic. When your character draws forth this power from their own understanding of the Weave, either learned or intuitive, this is considered to be Arcane Magic. Classes such as Bards, Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards are wielders of the arcane in this sense. They understand the Weave, and that allows them to directly pull the threads of the Weave and bend reality to their will.
Other casters however, do not draw their spells from the Weave directly. Instead, they call upon their deities or the sacred, primal forces of nature to mediate their access to the Weave and cast a spell. This is what classifies one as a user of Divine Magic. The classes that use such methods to spell cast are Rangers, Druids, Paladins, and Clerics. The focus and rely on outward forces to grant them magical abilities. This can usually involve a prayer, or a deep meditative connection with nature’s primal power.
Dissecting Party Roles and Choosing Yours
Now that you have a better understanding of Magic and how it works, it’s time to decide your role within the party. How is it you want to play? Do you want to be a magic canon, dealing insane amounts of damage? Or would you prefer to buff and grant boons to yourself and your allies, making your party stronger? Or perhaps you’re the kind of player that like to use magic a little less unconventionally? Well, to figure this out, you’ll need to know that there are three basic types of spells: Damage, Support, and what I call Flavor spells (Non-Combative.)
Damage spells are well…magic that makes things go boom. You have spells that deal direct elemental, poison, necrotic, force, and physical damage. While Support spells are comprised of effects that grant your party bonuses to all sorts of things, from additional armor class to resistances and regeneration of hit points. You can even call forth powerful entities to fight alongside the party, supporting your comrades and dealing a little extra damage.
Flavor spells are spells that do things not directly related to combat.
There are spells that transform you into whatever you want, changing your humanoid form into that of an animal, beast, or another humanoid. Some flavor spells allow you to detect magic as well as good and evil forces. Other spells allow you to charm, weaken, sicken, or deceive non-player characters. There are also spells that allow your character to glimpse into the past, present, and future and divine the truth of events.
Now, it’s important to have a focus on what kind of spells you’d like to have in your character’s arsenal.
However, it’s also imperative to have a healthy balance of spells. For example, if you want to deal damage, you’ll need a decent number of spells that deal damage. But try and find some cool flavor spells that could come in handy if your party is in a tight spot socially. Maybe a spell that allows you and your party members to fly. Or a teleportation spell linked to your home city to beam your party out when things begin to look dire. If you want to create a character that does nothing but cast damage spells that’s perfectly alright, but you may find your character has little use outside of destroying things. Try adding some variety and utility to your character to keep them interesting, and make them useful in situations outside of combat.
Some classes are better at certain roles than others, but that doesn’t stop any class from fulfilling a role. To maximize the effectiveness of your class, be sure you understand what ability scores that class relies on, and pick a race that compliments those ability scores. Although, nothing is stopping you from making something unique if you really want to.
Choosing Between Knowing Spells and Preparing Spells
Spell casters have two ways of having spells at the ready to cast. Either they know these spells intuitively through their own experience, or they prepare spells with a spell book and carefully study the rituals and incantations every day. If you are starting as a new player, my recommendation is that you start with a class that knows spells intuitively. This will give you a specific number of spells that you need to learn about and understand. I find that when you have a class that you need to prepare spells for each day, you have an entire spell book to try to understand and that can be overwhelming for someone who has never played before.
However, if you trust that you can get the hang of it and keep up with all the spells your class has at its disposal, then go for it. The benefit to choosing a class that prepares spells is that they can more frequently change what spells they have on hand. Bottom line, pick a class that has the mechanic you are most comfortable with. Try not to overthink it, and go with your gut. Also, be patient. Dungeons and Dragons is a learning experience at first, and you may go through a couple characters before finding a good fit.
- Classes That Know Spells:
- Classes That Prepare Spells:
Creating Your Spell List
Now it’s time to create your spell list. To do this, you need to understand how the class you picked works and what spells are available to your class. Establish whether you want to be a damage or support role, and pick some spells accordingly. You’ll also need to do some reflecting on what kind of utility you would want as a caster. Ask yourself, “What would I do in this situation?” (that situation being outside of combat, i.e. a social, political, or espionage type circumstance). Keep in mind conflict can be resolved without violence, and sometimes violence will lead only to the party’s doom. All of the spells for each class are located in Chapter 11 of your players handbook.
To help with your choices, here are a few general archetypes:
- A Teifling Sorcerer who focuses on damage and has some spells to enhance her abilities as well as those of her party. She can also levitate a myriad of daggers, and fly herself.
- A Dwarven Cleric that focuses on granting boons to his allies, and bends the will of his foes to match his own. He also calls upon mystical allies to come to his aid.
- A Dragonborne Bard who revels in close combat. His silver tongue stings just as much as his blade, weakening the moral of his enemies and bolstering the courage of his allies. He disguises himself using an illusion to change the hue of his scales as to avoid offending anyone.
- A Wood Elf Ranger that releases volley after volley of magical arrows. She marks her target with the magic provided to her, allowing her to stalk her prey effortlessly, and grant her arrows a stronger bite. Her time stalking the woods has given her abilities that shroud her every step and harden her skin, resisting poultry damage.
- A Halfling Paladin who, though small in stature, lands excruciating blows to those who cross him. In his wake, he leaves a blazing trail of holy flame, leaving his comrades in awe. He is hearty, and just when he seems to be hurt, radiant light bursts from his wounds and his vitality is returned. Violence is not his only answer however, for his charm is infectious and he can end a fight with words as easily as he can with his flail.
(These are just general archetypes I came up with. I want to leave the choosing of the actual spells to you. A, because there’s a crap ton of spells to choose from for each class, even at level one. And B, it would convolute this post and I like to keep things simple. If you want to know what spells are efficient for your play-style, you’ll have to look at your class’ spell list in Chapter 11 of your Player’s Handbook.)
Thank you for reading! I hope this helped all you new players out there looking to create a spell caster in your campaign. Please don’t forget to leave a comment and subscribe to our email list for updates and other D&D badassery!
Author: Ven’Orik (Zach)
I’m just a regular nerd with a passion for storytelling and fantasy. Growing up I read books by Tolkein and C.S. Lewis, and this solidified my love for the genre. I first started playing D&D when I was 13 and have been pursuing it since. I’m just here to share my knowledge and hopefully learn a thing or two from all of you as well!