First-level spells are more than just speed bumps on the road to greatness. See why these five spells are great tools at any level.
First-level spells are the fantasy equivalent of getting dress socks for Christmas. They’re a fact of life you have to deal with before you can get to the big box waiting under the tree that you’re pretty sure is a bike (or, y’know, Fireball). But since you have to deal with them anyway, here are five spells that keep on giving well after you’ve worn a hole in the toe. (I get a lot of socks this time of year.)
The key to getting the most out your spell slots is figuring out how best to use them. And the best way to use first level spells is for shenanigans. Oh sure, you can take something like magic missile or burning hands, and you’ll enjoy the odd d4 or d6 of damage here and there, OR you could dictate the flow of the battle with even the most paltry of your arcane powers. Use it to create instant difficult terrain that forces opponents to slow down. Or better yet, fall prone. Especially if you’re playing 3rd edition–creatures trying to move had to make a balance check just to try and move, with failure meaning they couldn’t, or that they’d fall. You might be thinking, “oh big deal, it’s a DC 10 check,” but when was the last time you put ranks into balance?
Even if they succeed, drop this spell in a chokepoint and you’ll buy your party at least a round to do whatever you want. For an added bonus, fire up Yakkety Sax when casting.
“Thanks, but why’d you have to put on the Groucho glasses to cast the spell?” “It’s a blessing in disguise…”
Sometimes, though, you just need something that works for any situation. Maybe you’re fighting flying foes, or squaring off against oozes. Again. When you need a good workhorse spell that appeals to everyone in the party, look no further than bless. With one first level spell slot, you get a buff spell that only hits your allies, lasts most of the fight, and ups the combat capabilities of everyone who matters in the fight. Fifth edition has the added benefit of not requiring concentration.
No I said silent *image.* You know what, never mind.
Did someone say shenanigans? Moreso than Grease, Silent Image is the king of shenanigans at low-levels. This spell lets you create any image you can think of. It’s an instant wall your allies can shoot through, it’s a hiding place you can custom tailor to the surrounding terrain. Worried your enemies have access to invisibility purge? Fret no more because with Silent Image you can take cover behind anything. Better yet, enhance your bluffs. Silent image can create the illusion of a force or phenomenon of your choice. Get yourself a halfway decent bluff, and you too will be able to convince your enemies that you can open a portal to some kind of hell dimension or create a localized black hole.
Of course, it’s only an illusion, so there’s a limit to its usefulness, but with the right kind of thinking, you can get just about anything you need from this spell.
This one is just incredible. It’s not very sexy to cast, but you get so much with one simple spell. It makes you harder to hit (whether by giving you a bonus to AC or by giving your foes disadvantage when they attack you), but that’s not the real reason you cast it. This spell makes you immune to mind control, possession, charm, etc.–or it grants an additional saving throw (with a bonus) to an ally already affected by one of those conditions. Powerful stuff for so humble a spell.
With one spell, you can ward a single ally from all attack. Granted, they’re not able to attack themselves (without ending the spell), but there are plenty of other actions you can take that are helpful. For instance, casting any of the spells on this list (unless you drop grease on an enemy), doesn’t break the sanctuary effect. Nor does casting other, more powerful defensive spells or illusions. And in a pinch you can use it to increase the odds that the one party member you really need to stay alive makes it to the next round at least.
Bonus: Absorb Elements
The only reason this one doesn’t make the regular list is that it doesn’t have a 3.x edition equivalent. So not everyone gets a chance to bask in its glory–but, if you’re playing fifth, this is another spell (along with shield) that will continually be good. It gives you resistance to a certain kind of damage from one attack–so you only take half the damage you’d normally take. This is a great way to turn that incoming 40 damage fireball into a much less deadly 10 points (assuming you succeed on your saving throw, but that’s why I always stand next to a Paladin). And as an added bonus, you get to throw an extra 1d6 worth of elemental damage with your next attack.
Did we leave any first-level spells out of the list? Got a better use for one of the ones we listed here? Let us know in the comments below!