Unearthed Arcana: Starter Spells Analysis

This week the D&D team is back with some new cantrips and 1st level spells.

Before I begin I’d like to note that this is the last month we’ll be getting an Unearthed Arcana article every week. When April is over, we’ll be getting two Unearthed Arcana articles at most each month. Also, Jeremy Crawford’s Sage Advice column will return. Now that the announcements are over, let’s begin because there’s much to cover.

Cause Fear(Warlock, Wizard). You force the target to make a Wisdom Saving Throw against being frightened. The special about it is that if the target has 25 or less hit points, they make the Saving Throw with disadvantage. That’s a good way to incorporate the flavor of a spell into its mechanics.

Ceremony(Cleric, Paladin). You can choose among seven different effects. Note that this spell can be also cast as a ritual, which is the reason I believe it’s kinda powerful.

  • Atonement. Shouldn’t this be a higher level spell?
  • Bless Water. There should be a limit to this because it’d be crazy if you could create infinite holy water. The Alchemist’s rules could work here as well, I think.
  • Coming of Age. It reminded me of the Bless spell. But this one is for ability checks, targets one creature, does not require concentration, and it lasts for 24 hours. It’s not bad but this can used on a creature only once.
  • Dedication. That’s pretty much the same with Coming of Age, but it works for Saving Throws.
  • Funeral Rite. A corpse blessed with this ceremony can’t be turned into undead for 24 hours. This can only bypassed with a Wish. This is a very specific effect, but I can see why it exists.
  • Investiture. You can give the ability to a character to cast a spell, instead of casting it yourself. That’s actually pretty handy. However, the spell must be cast within 1 hour or the spell slot is lost.
  • Marriage. Another effect that can benefit a creature only once. You can give a +2 bonus to AC and Saving Throw for 24 hours, provided they stay within 30 feet of each other. It’s not a bad bonus but, sadly, it can be used only once.

Chaos Bolt(Sorcerer). I like its name, its flavor and its mechanics. However, I have a note on it. The reason the spell scales with a d6 instead of a d8 is probably because they want to keep the the echo(copy, double, call it whatever you like) chance of the spell fixed. I’d prefer if the chance would scale with the level of the spell slot used, or at least scale the damage with d8s and just give only the first two d8 the chance to cause the spell to echo.

Guiding Hand(Bard, Cleric, Druid, Wizard). If there’s a place you want to go and that place exists on a map, then you can get GPS service in the form of a hand. It’s an interesting effect and the hand makes it fun. The map restriction keeps it from being overpowered.

Hand of Radiance(Cleric). That’s a 5 foot radius area of effect damaging spell. I can’t see a reason why a Cleric wouldn’t have this spell prepared.

Healing Elixir(Warlock, Wizard). Let’s see. You can use a level 1 spell slot in order to create an elixir that heals for 2d4 + 2 hit points, which pretty much makes it a standard potion of healing. It lasts for 24 hours or until you drink it. Now, here’s the thing. Nobody can stop you from spending all of your spell slots in order to make these elixirs, take a long rest if you’re a Wizard or a short one if you’re a Warlock, and then venture onward with a bunch of free healing potions. This needs addressing.

Infestation(Druid, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard). You conjure up a bunch of bugs, possibly damaging and moving the target a bit. I like that the direction of the movement is random. It’s another way to incorporate the flavor of a spell into its mechanics. However, I don’t like bugs.

Primal Savagery(Druid). It’s like a melee Fire Bolt. It’s not bad.

Puppet(Bard, Warlock, Wizard). This one lets you control the movement of a creature that fails the Constitution Saving Throw, and also make it drop what it’s holding. I can’t say it’s not powerful. Also, what happens if you order the target to move past your allies? Do they get attacks of opportunity and, if yes, does that break the charm effect, like it would for the Charm Person spell?

Sense Emotion(Bard, Warlock, Wizard). It does exactly what its name says. What I really like, though, is how it handles the case when its cast on a non humanoid or someone who is immune to charm effects. So even when this could be useful, you can’t always be sure it gives you an accurate answer.

Snare(Druid, Ranger, Wizard). I like this one. It’s a handy magical trap. My only note is that I don’t understand why the Wizard can get this spell. Is it because the flavor dictates that you enchant a rope, or because the Wizard gets every single spell?

Sudden Awakening(Bard, Ranger, Sorcerer, Wizard). You can wake up any number of creatures within 10 feet of you and also lets them get up for free. This can be useful if the DM likes having random encounters even during rests. However, could it also be used to wake up targets of the Sleep spell? In that case, its usefulness increases a bit.

Toll the Dead(Cleric, Warlock, Wizard). A nice cantrip with good damage, that gets better if the target has suffered any damage. Its flavor reminds me of Bloodborne.

Unearthly Chorus(Bard). This looks like a Bard flavored Charm Person spell, with a Charisma Saving Throw instead of a Wisdom one. It also grants advantage to Performance checks in general, as well as Deception and Persuasion checks against the affected creatures. The choose your music part will definitely lead to interesting situations.

Virtue(Cleric). Temporary hit points are always nice. However, this cantrip doesn’t scale, which means it will stop being useful very quickly. At least, it’s a Cleric spell which means you won’t be stuck forever with it.

Wild Cunning(Druid, Ranger). It pretty much provides survival skills. It doesn’t provide anything that a Survival check or spending time wouldn’t be able to get you, though.

Zephyr Strike(Ranger). It provides a bunch of things. You get a free Disengage, extra movement, and advantage on your first weapon attack. Concentration complicates this a bit but also makes this last for more than one turn.

And that’s all. Overall, I’m happy with the spells presented. Of course, some have problems and need fixing but that’s why this is considered playtest material.

You can read the full article here and download the PDF here. And don’t forget, the survey about last week’s subclasses can be found here.

5 thoughts on “Unearthed Arcana: Starter Spells Analysis

  1. I really liked the idea behind Healing Elixir, specially for my Primeval Thule campaign I’m starting this sunday (Cleric is not a PC option, and I’ve chosen some alternatives for healing including a healing patron for warlocks, the only spellcaster class I’m allowing for PCs). But making their duration 24 hours is very prone to abuse, specially for warlocks.
    I’d make it have a a shorter duration and/or limiting the elixir to one, ie. if you cast it again the previous elixir loses its potency or ceases to exist. Something like that and I think the spell might be fixed, I’d really like for this one to become a new spell on some upcoming book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly. It’s a very interesting spell but needs fixing. An easy fix would be making its duration 1 hour and possibly adding a maximum amount of potions. This way you’d be still able to make more than one but the situation would be less prone to abuse.


  2. I need to sit down and take a closer look at these spells.

    I will say that Puppet caught my eye immediately. You point out the proper questions: what happens when the target of the spell is forced to do something so obviously dangerous? My first thought was to Puppet them and then lemming them right off a cliff. The obvious answer is a save or end to the effect.

    But if it is so obvious why wasn’t it included?

    Liked by 1 person

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