If you have a problem, magic can solve it. For some problems, there’s fireball. For everything else, there’s the “utility spells” section of the book.
Spells solve problems. Sure, fighters and rogues can hold their own in a fight, or might be useful in the dank corners of the dungeon. But if you’re a caster, you’re out there solving problems. Most problems in D&D involve a great deal of aggressive solving: there’s a dozen or so cultists trying to summon their evil malefactor into the world, or a marauding dragon out for gold. And by now you know what spells let you roll the biggest damage dice. But once you stop worrying about dealing damage and instead look at the ways that casters can shift the whole paradigm of an encounter (combat or otherwise), that things really start to cook. Here are some great utility spells that do exactly that.
Never let locks get you down. Got a locked door you need to get through? You don’t have to wait for your rogue to roll above a 3, just Knock and boom, it’s open. Plus Knock handles the things that a set of thieves’ tools can’t. Unbar the door from the other side, bust out of manacles, free prisoners, free yourself–all in an instant. And it’s verbal only so nobody will even see it coming.
Purify Food and Drink
Worried about intrigue in the palace? With this spell you’ll neutralize poison from all food and drink in its sphere. Don’t get caught off guard by the ol’ sleeping draught in the mutton trick. Or, if you’re in a fight and your enemy is poisoning their weapons, hit their vials and see if you can’t talk your DM into turning them to water. Also, with this spell you never have to worry about disease so keep yourself safe from spoilt food.
This one’s useful in and out of combat. Create a thick, heavy fog that heavily obscures an entire area. Use this to sneak into an area undetected, passing like shadows in the mist. Or use it in the middle of a fight to give your whole party a chance to hide in the fog, and attack your enemies unseen–but you will get into the weird headache that sorting through heavily obscured areas means. The best thing this spell does is stop things that need to see you (like spells that hit a target you can see), which is perfect. Plus while you’re in the cloud, you can access your stored data (and everyone else’s).
Need to sneak past a guard or set up for an ambush or have the party leave an area? With Enthrall your caster becomes the center of attention, giving your targets (which are chosen from a 60 ft area, with no limit on numbers) disadvantage on perception checks to see anyone other than you.
Speaking of not being seen, Invisibility and Greater Invisibility open so many doors. As long as you don’t attack or cast a spell you’ve got an entire hour during which nobody can see you. You’ll still need a decent stealth score, because D&D is weird, but this opens up the world map in all sorts of ways. Sneak into the enemy camp, learn secret plans, ghost through the dungeon to steal the one thing you’re there to get and don’t worry about risking your hit points on those giants. This spell does so much.
Take off into the wild blue yonder. This is a 3rd level spell that, once again, solves so many problems. Can’t reach something? Have a chasm you need to cross? Worried about getting hit in a melee-heavy fight? Fly gets you out of reach of so many things, but puts the world at your fingertips. Climbing and walking become irrelevant for 10 minutes. Use fly to drop onto the roof. Sneak in with Invisibility. Open the castle gate with knock–you’re a one-wizard spec ops team.
If you really want to stress your DM out though, Modify Memory is a great, morally ambiguous way to mess with everything. You can modify one creature’s memory of the last 24 hours. Erase a mistake. Start a war. Have the king declare you dukes. And as you cast spells at higher and higher levels you can effect events further into the past–redeem the big villain of the campaign by having them forget the incident that drove them to villainy, or become the arch-villain of your campaign world with your mind control. Either way, this one is shenanigan city.
Do you want to travel further in three hours than most people do in a day? With Phantom Steed you can. Summon a horse, travel 10 miles in an hour (or 13 at a faster pace) and you’ll cut a day’s travel in half. Cast it more times and you’re zooming across the continent without getting fans up in arms about how big Westeros is.
There are a ton of utility spells out there. These are some of our favorites–but now we turn it to you.
What are your favorite utility spells?