Dungeons and Dragons – I Cast a Spell on You
We’re on to the next topic about magic, and where as the first one was more focused on story and why you might be a spell caster and the different casting classes, this one is going to focus on casting spells.
Spells have a lot of different components to them, and if it wasn’t hard enough to already have extra things to track, now you need to figure out which spells you want to take with you into combat.
With spells for most casters, you have a few different things to keep track of. The first is the number of spell slots that you have. If you are a Wizard, and this will be my standard example throughout the post, and you are at 3rd level, you will know 3 cantrips, and a number of spells in your spell book, generally to start that is going to be level plus intelligence modifier So let’s say your intelligence is 3 and your level is 3, you’d have at least 6 spells known. Then you have spells that you have prepared for the day. Again, intelligence plus your level, so you’d be able to prepare at least 6 spells for the day. Finally, you have your spell slots, that’s how many non-cantrip spells you can cast each day, which is 4 first level and 2 second level spells.
Now, as a Wizard, that doesn’t mean that you can cast each of the six spells you prepared once, and you need two second level spells ready to cast. You can cast the same spell all six times as long as it’s a first level spell. Spells can be cast at a higher level, so you can cast first level spells at second level, and you generally get some sort of bonus. So maybe you only use a few spells all the time, but you can prepare more so that you have the utility if you want.
Finally, cantrips are different. Those can be used as many times as you wanted throughout the day. But these spells tend to be weaker spells. It might do less damage or be an easier save, but more likely, if it has a save, it simply won’t do any damage if the person saves against it. These spells, though, sometimes do scale with level, because the spell slots, even at 20th level are still somewhat limited.
But that’s just about preparing your spells for the day for a Wizard. It’s similar for a lot of the other spell casting classes, with Warlock being the biggest exception, I’ll write about the Warlock specifically later. The other question with spells is what does the information mean on the spell itself?
Spells are going to have a handful of basic components. I’m going to be using the spell Thunderwave (found here on DnD Beyond). The first thing we see is the level. Thunderwave is a first level spell. That information isn’t extremely important, you’ll have that noted down on your spell list based off of where you put it. There are a few other things that can be useful, but not always. The school is useful if you are that type of Wizard because it makes it easier for you to learn. The same can sometimes be said for the damage type. Especially at low levels most monsters won’t resist much damage.
The next part is extremely important though, and that’s the casting time. For combat, casting time needs to be like Thunderwave and be an action. There are others that are bonus actions which can be used in combat, but you’re probably not going to be want to cast a spell that takes 1 minute to 1 hour to cast. You’ll be stabbed well before that. Then onto the duration of the spell. In the case of Thunderwave it’s instantaneous, so it’s a one off attack. There will be other spells that last a longer period of time. And the area of the spell, some of them will have a range to them, such as fireball does a sphere of damage at up to a distance away from you. Finally in the spell header information, we have the components for the spell. It might be an actual material or it might mean that you need to do a gesture and say something when you cast the spell. Most spells are going to have a verbal piece to them, but not all of them will.
Then we come to the main body of the spell. This tells you the affect of the spell and what sort of save people need to make against the spell. A lot of that information can be gotten from the header of the spell, but this makes it clearer and spells it out in order of how things will happen. It also tells you how much damage is being dealt and if it’s an attack spell, because not all spells get a save, some you need to make an attack roll for them. And beyond the damage, for a spell like Thunderwave, it tells you more flavor of what is happening, so it makes a loud noise that can be heard for a distance. Finally at the bottom, it tells you what it does if you cast it at a higher level. In the case of Thunderwave, for each higher level, you get an extra die eight of damage (1D8).
Now, this is a pretty dry read, I realize that. I’m really going through and breaking down a spell in detail. Most all spells are going to work like this and most casters are going to work like this. The Warlock is an exception, and some of the other classes, as compared to a Wizard, might not know more spells or have more that their disposal to pick from. I’ll actually give some advice for picking spells in a later article. Let me know what you think of spell casting, is it easy enough to understand, did I help make things clearer?
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