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D&D: Five of the Worst 3rd-Level Spells

3 Minute Read
May 13 2024
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3rd-level spells are where D&D really starts to lean into why spellcasters are so good all the time. But not with these spells. These are some of the worst.

What makes for “one of the worst” 3rd-level spells? It’s a great level, as far as spell levels go, you unlock spells like fireball or fly, or for the more tactically minded, Lemound’s Tiny Hut. But at the same time, there are some stinkers in there.

And a big part of it comes, not because these are necessarily bad on their own (though many are) but because they just aren’t as good as something like Fireball. Whatever the cause, these are some of the worst 3rd-level spells in D&D.

Flame Arrows

Flame Arrows used to be a great way to add extra damage to your whole party. But the current version of the spell pales in comparison to its former glory. Especially since it takes up your precious concentration slot. This spell gives up to twelve different attacks an extra 1d6 points of fire damage. Which is a lot to make while you’re in a single fight.

Granted, the spell lasts an hour, but even so, it’s hard to get a ton of use out of it. You’re spending a 3rd level slot for a potential extra 12d6 points of fire damage in a vacuum, sure. But in reality? You’d get more mileage out of a Hex spell upcast to 3rd level.

Wall of Sand

Wall of Sand would be pretty alright—if it were a lower-level spell. All it does is slow targets down and block the line of sight. It’s basically like combining Web and Darkness together, sort of, but it feels a bit too costly for being 3rd level. Especially since creatures can spend their movement action to just pass through it, in which case it’s worse than Darkness because you can’t even hide in it, except in the most corner-case scenarios.

Catnap

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This spell would be amazing in real life because you spend one action to fall asleep for ten minutes, and you wake up feeling as though you’d gotten an hour-long nap. However, in D&D, this is an awful costly bonus for a 3rd-level spell slot. Instead of dealing damage or enchanting targets or flying, you can hopefully get a quick nap.

But if you have ten minutes, typically, you have an hour, so it doesn’t make that much difference.

Vampiric Touch

This spell is one of those that sounds way cooler than it is. Damage a target and heal yourself. Except the damage is 3d6 to a single target, and heal yourself half that much. And it takes your concentration. You can do less damage than a first-level spell with it. Sure, you can use it round after round, but because you’re concentrating on it, and it’s a melee spell attack, you’re going to be at risk of losing it while you’re using it.

Erupting Earth

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Erupting Earth is just a worse fireball in every way. It deals 3d12 damage in a smaller area (a 20-foot cube, compared to a 40-foot sphere), so it does less to fewer creatures than Fireball would. Erupting Earth just pales in comparison.

What are your picks for worst 3rd-level spells?

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Author: J.R. Zambrano
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