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Unearthed Arcana: Starter Spells

6 Minute Read
Apr 5 2017
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Spellcasters get a wonderful selection of new appetizers, including cantrips, 1st-level spells, and southwestern egg rolls…

That’s right folks, a whole bunch of new spells are out in this week’s Unearthed Arcana. Cantrips and 1st-level spells for everyone! Even Rangers! Are any of them going to depose Fire Bolt or Eldritch Blast from their lofty perches? Probably not, but they are still really good.

Seventeen new spells all in all, so let’s take a look and see what they’ve got for us this week.


Cantrips

Hand of Radiance (Cleric): A nice AoE-ish spell that effects creatures of your choice within 5 feet of you, giving them a Con save or they’ll take 1d6 (scaling) radiant damage. It’s useful in a pinch, and incredibly on-brand for Clerics who wield holy light as easily as they do their mace. Making it a Con save is less exciting, but it’s a mini-AoE that targets whoever you choose. so there’s not much to complain about here.

Infestation (Druid, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard) Probably the only spell that requires you to have fleas (its material component is a living flea) Infestation riddles your target with fleas and other parasites that deal 1d6 (scaling) piercing damage on a failed Con save. If the target takes damage, they move 5 feet in a random direction. Not the most impressive Cantrip in your arsenal, but being able to move your opponents around is always nice.

Primal Savagery (Druid) Make a melee spell attack and deal 1d10 (scaling) piercing or slashing damage as your action. I still think Shillelagh is better because it lets you add your spellcasting modifier to damage as well, so you’ll do higher damage on average–still if you don’t have a club or want to be the primal shapeshifter type of Druid, this is deliciously flavorful.

Toll the Dead (Cleric, Warlock, Wizard) I like this one because it’s nice to see Necromancy cantrips in general. And it does more damage if you attack a target that is missing hit points (1d12 instead of 1d8). It requires a Wisdom save, which is not ideal, but you’re probably going to get more use out of it than Poison Spray.

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Virtue (Cleric) Want to try and bolster your lower HP comrades–Virtue gives 1d4 + your spellcasting modifier in temporary HP, but only if they already have at least 1 hp. Situationally useful, this one might save someone in a pinch, but since it only lasts a round and never scales, I’m not sure that it’ll see much use once you’re past level 4 or 5. I could be wrong, but I just don’t see it.


1st-Level

Cause fear (Warlock, Wizard) I like this one. Make one creature Frightened for up to a minute if they fail their Wisdom save–it’s nice because they don’t get to repeat to break the condition, which is pretty debilitating as long as they can see you. Shut down a melee monster today. As an added burst of flavor, it draws on the subject’s feelings of mortality, so if they’re under 25hp, they’re at disadvantage on their save.

Ceremony (Cleric, Paladin) A flavor double-whammy. This one is really cool. Not necessarily the most practical thing for dungeon crawling as it requires you to perform a ceremony, like a marriage (although, hilariously, I have this image of characters getting married right before delving into a particularly dangerous dungeon), but it is a great tool for being a Cleric or Paladin in the world. I love that Wizards is adding some interaction-y kind of spells and then giving them a little mechanical boost. My favorite might be Coming of Age, which lets you give a boost to an ability check for someone after they’ve become a Young Adult. It’s just cool. Also this is how you make Holy Water. I think this is my favorite of the new spells because it fills a need that I didn’t realize existed–but reading through the various rites you can perform–it perfectly situates your character in the world. It gives them a footprint within it.

Although this does lead to an interesting exchange:

“If anyone has any objections to this union, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.”

“COUNTERSPELL”

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Chaos Bolt (Sorcerer) On the one hand, yay, Sorcerers get an exclusive spell–on the other hand, it just isn’t quite as good as some of the other first level spells that feel similar. Compare this to Chromatic Orb–you’re essentially trading a third of your damage for the possibility of getting to make a second attack against a different target. And sometimes that is the right decision–but pragmatically you’re better off with Chromatic Orb.

Guiding Hand (Bard, Cleric, Druid, Wizard) You create an illusory hand that leads you towards a stated “landmark” (a mountain, castle, fortress, temple, what have you), so long as someone in history has visited and it exists on a map somewhere. Which admittedly can lead to the players finding the villain’s hideout–util you get to the part where the villain lives on an island that appears on no maps, and which has no name.

Healing Elixir (Warlock, Wizard) You create a potion of healing that lasts for 24 hours and heals for 2d4 + 2). All in all this is fairly useful–it lets Wizards and Warlocks convert their unused spell slots into okay potions… although seriously if you’re a Warlock and getting to a rest with any spell slots left, you’re absolutely doing it wrong. Doubly so if you’re a Wizard.

Puppet (Bard, Warlock, Wizard) Flavoriffic in that it only requires a somatic component–but you seize control of someone and make them move up to their speed in a direction of your choice, and additionally you can make it drop whatever it’s holding. Another subtly powerful spell, real good for battlefield control.

Sense Emotion (Bard, Warlock, Wizard) Like detect magic, but for emotions. You can sense the prevailing emotion of humanoids (AND HUMANOIDS ONLY) which has distressing implications for the world of D&D, because they’re effectively saying that humanoids are the only creatures with feelings, and I know many beholders who would disagree with that. Vehemently. And with disintegration rays.

Snare (Druid, Ranger, Wizard) Create a magical trap that hoists someone up in the air whenever a small or larger creature steps into a warded area–this one is pretty strong, in that anyone snagged by it is at disadvantage to break out with a Dex save…but it takes a lot of preparation in that it requires a full minute to cast. So if your party is fine with you Witchering it up, then this is a useful tool.

Sudden Awakening (Bard, Ranger, Sorcerer, Wizard) Instantly wake up everyone within ten feet of you, additionally letting anyone who is prone stand up without spending any movement. This one is situationally very useful, but also the important thing to note here is that targets don’t get a save, or have to be willing. So you can just go around waking people up from sleep. The ultimate spell for getting revenge on your enemies.

Unearthly Chorus (Bard) Easily one of the best 1st level Bard spells out there. Surround yourself with a brilliant illusory choir that lets you use a bonus action (A BONUS ACTION) on each of your turns to beguile targets who hear you play or sing. Targets who fail their Charisma saves are friendly to you for the duration of the spell and up to an hour afterwards. And if that’s not enough, you can make Deception/Persuasion checks with advantage against anyone who was made friendly by this spell.

Wild Cunning (Druid, Ranger) Did you forget to pick up proficiency in Survival? Just take this ritual spell instead and you’ve got it covered.

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Zephyr Strike (Ranger) This one is…interesting:

You move like the wind. For the duration, your movement doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks.

In addition, the first time you make a weapon attack on your turn before the spell ends, you make the attack roll with advantage, and your speed increases by 30 feet until the end of that turn.

Now on the one hand, this is pretty cool–it’s a perfect spell for the ranger. It fits with the whole mobile skirmishing melee ranger…but it’s concentration, which means you’re not getting your Hunter’s Mark. Even so, I think it’s at the very least worth considering. Definitely less useful overall than Hunter’s Mark (which is, honestly, a big problem that Rangers have in general. Even their higher level spells fall short of Hunter’s Mark sometimes).

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What do you think of these spells? Let us know in the comments!

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