We all start somewhere; everyone is a first level dungeon crawler at some point and everybody needs to pick out those first couple of spells.
Just a quick note, here we mean five spells for adventurers who are just at the beginning of their careers. Not literal baby adventurers–those tend to be much higher level, and thus have a different selection of spell recommendations, most of which involve granting you the ability to reach high shelves unimpeded. Anyway, on to the list.
“The spell captures some of the incoming energy, lessening its effect on you and storing it for your next melee attack. You have resistance to the triggering damage type until the start of your next turn. Also, the first time you hit with a melee attack on your next turn, the target takes an extra 1d6 damage of the triggering type, and the spell ends.
At Higher Levels.When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the extra damage increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 1st.”
Coming to 5E from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, Absorb Elements is a first level abjuration spell that sounds almost too good to not be broken. Upon absorbing energy your character takes less damage and then can use that power to redirect the attack back at your foe, and the spell grows with you. This would be an incredibly powerful and useful spell anytime you find yourself in an encounter where acid, cold, fire, lighting or thunder damage are doled out. And it’s D&D, so that’s not an infrequent occurrence.
“A creature you touch regains a number of hit points equal to 1d8 + your spellcasting ability modifier. This spell has no effect on undead or constructs.
At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the Healing increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 1st.”
Every group needs a healer, or at least somebody with a healing spell or two and a couple of potions. At lower levels 1d8 of healing can be the difference between continuing the adventure or not, and with Cure Wounds ability to become more powerful as its caster does, it will continue to be a spell that keeps the rest of your party in the fight for many sessions to come.
“A beam of crackling energy streaks toward a creature within range. Make a ranged spell attack against the target. On a hit, the target takes 1d10 force damage.
The spell creates more than one beam when you reach higher levels: two beams at 5th level, three beams at 11th level, and four beams at 17th level. You can direct the beams at the same target or at different ones. Make a separate attack roll for each beam.”
Eldritch is such a popular spell among warlocks that it’s pretty much a joke, but it’s popular for a reason. This spell is awesome! At level 1 it creates 1d10 and only goes up from there. There may be more reliable ways to do up to 30 points of damage by the time you reach level 11, but when you’re at the start of your adventure there may not be a better way to show your foe that you mean business than whipping out an Eldritch Blast on them.
“You touch one object that is no larger than 10 feet in any dimension. Until the spell ends, the object sheds bright light in a 20-foot radius and dim light for an additional 20 feet. The light can be colored as you like. Completely covering the object with something opaque blocks the light. The spell ends if you cast it again or dismiss it as an action.
If you target an object held or worn by a hostile creature, that creature must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw to avoid the spell.”
This spell won’t be as useful to a party where every member has dark vision, but if there is even on human in your squad they will thank you. The ability to make a lamp anywhere you want for as long as you want will never not be helpful in an adventure. Need to see? Light. Need to scare off wild animals? Light. Need to send secret coded messages long distances? Color coded light!
“You extend your hand and point a finger at a target in range. Your magic grants you a brief insight into the target’s defenses. On your next turn, you gain advantage on your first attack roll against the target, provided that this spell hasn’t ended.”
This is the sort of underrated power that people may avoid using in a combat scenario because it isn’t immediately useful, but the big-picture help edge it could give your party is worth the low level spell slot. A sneak peak into your enemy’s defenses and advantage next time around will give the rest of the party the opportunity to make their hits worth as much as possible and your next strike just a little more likely to hit, even if it’s one turn where you don’t dole out any damage first-hand. Worth it.
What are you favorite cantrips and first levels spells? Did any of your go-to spells make the list? What can your magic user not leave camp without? Let us know in the comments!