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D&D 5E Guide to cruddy spells (v1.01)

Gadget

Adventurer
I agree with most of the spells from the bad spell list, but some of these buff spell complaints are, a bit too much.
I'm the one who put Blight in the bad spell list, so just let me explain: it is the best single target damage spell at fourth level. Which is sort of like having the best tan among the mole-people, as its only other real competition is the terrible Phantasmal Killer. In short, all it does is damage, and the damage is...not great. It could have added a small debuff or something. Unless you're fighting plants. Then it's the Bee's Knees.

And the reason Flesh To Stone is bad is because there is really no reason for this to be a concentration spell, it already has the pass a save x times before failing y time to keep it in line. And then to force the caster to keep concentrating long after the target is stone for the effect to "stick" is just adding insult to injury. The real reason this was added was to help the PCs if a BBEG casts on the PCs, thereby making it more of a "DM Spell."
 

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Blight needs a defender.
  • There are times single-target damage is exactly what you want.
  • The big 3rd-level AoE spells do 8d6, so if you only have 1 target and expend a 4th-level slot, 9d6 < 8d8
  • Necrotic damage isn't commonly resisted
  • Most upscaled low-level damage spells do significantly less
    • Chromatic Orb: 6d8
    • Magic Missile: 6d4+6
    • Melf's Acid Arrow: 10d4
  • The exception is Scorching Ray, which at 10d6 fire, is pretty much on par, but it's still fire damage, and it can be obstructed.
So I would argue it is in fact fine. It's not stupendous. But it's not bad.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Blight needs a defender.
  • There are times single-target damage is exactly what you want.
  • The big 3rd-level AoE spells do 8d6, so if you only have 1 target and expend a 4th-level slot, 9d6 < 8d8
  • Necrotic damage isn't commonly resisted
  • Most upscaled low-level damage spells do significantly less
    • Chromatic Orb: 6d8
    • Magic Missile: 6d4+6
    • Melf's Acid Arrow: 10d4
  • The exception is Scorching Ray, which at 10d6 fire, is pretty much on par, but it's still fire damage, and it can be obstructed.
So I would argue it is in fact fine. It's not stupendous. But it's not bad.
Necrotic is a fairly good damage type; but "necrotic to which all undead and all constructs are immune" is a crappy damage type, as bad as fire if not worse. On top of that, the range is a mere 30 feet and it targets Con saves.

Blight does not belong on a list of The Suckiest Spells In D&D. It's not an awful spell. But to call it "fine" is an overstatement; I would never waste a prepared spell on it unless I knew I was going to be fighting some kind of Elder Plant Monster. Scorching ray offers comparable single-target damage, with four times the range, and you can use it in a lower-level spell slot and/or split it among multiple targets.

Generally, however, if I want to lay down a lot of single-target damage, I pick a fellow PC who's good at laying down single-target damage, and I cast haste on them.
 

Alright, a few of the ones I really have to disagree (with whomever originally posted the original comments) over:

Sure Animate Dead/Create Undead (the necromancer spells) are underwhelming if your goal is to be the general of an unstoppable undead army. If that's what you are after play the Necromancer in Diablo II. Group tabletop rpgs are not the place to play a general. There is lots of use to be had for a squad of zombies or whatever in carrying stuff, triggering traps, and generally any creative purpose you can come up with for a completely expendable extra person. They are like hirelings that you don't have to pay and can get killed without any moral compunctions. In combat they are not going to bring much hurt, but they can certainly be in the enemies way and against less strategically competent enemies they can force them to waste their actions mopping up undead mooks rather than attacking anyone important. Any damage they do is gravy.

Dragon's Breath is a great spell. It has two features that make it great, the first is giving a meaningful attack to familiars, the second is being able to choose from four types of damage. It is given to the Wizard and the Sorcerer. The first of these can easily have a familiar, the latter is the most known-spells starved class in the game (Tasha's subclasses notwithstanding) and needs spells with flexibility. Basically it gives you a mediocre cantrip with one of several damage options, so when you run up against the enemy that your go to cantrip is ineffective against, or who is vulnerable to a particular type of damage, you've still got something, meaning you can get by with fewer damage cantrips. I still wouldn't necessarily call it a good pick for a Sorcerer, but most spells on the Sorcerer list aren't really worth taking for them with their very limited known spells, this is the fault of class design not of Dragon's Breath.

Timestop is better for NPCs than for PCs, as it's principle value is in "oh naughty word, I wasn't expecting combat and I don't have my buffs up". Players generally aren't ambushed into a fight so important that they want to burn their 9th level spell on it. This is especially true of players who have been successfully playing a character up to at least 17th level, and probably extra true of players who spend their time carefully optimizing spell load-outs. PCs also usually aren't inclined to just run without the rest of their group, because D&D characters suffer from codependancy issues by both design and metagame conceit. But the NPC mage they get the jump on will be quite thankful for the opportunity to put on his mage armor, mirror image, and mindblank (just to cover the m's) before doing battle, or to just grab the macguffin, turn ethereal, and leave a delayed action fireball for his antagonists.

Create Homoculus is a mediocre spell few people would ever choose, and I absolutely love it. It is there to explain part of the lore of the world (that there are creatures called homoculi, are created by wizards with whom they share a telepathic connection). It then lets wizard characters emulate that lore if they really want to. It is way too high a level for the power it gives, because in the lore having a homoculus is a mid-to-high-level wizard thing. I like spells that bring plot magic and lore magic into the game mechanics accessible to players. And having a familiar equivalent who not only can exist besides your familiar but also shares all your knowledge and senses as long as they are on the same plane as you is actually pretty sweet. The utility of giving it a huge chunk of your hitpoints is pretty damn circumstantial, but no part of the spell forces you to do that when you don't want to.
 

Quartz

Hero
Spoiler: Demiplane


I'm not grokking your hate for Demiplane. It's not a combat spell. But consider its use for a mage's lab. Or a treasure room. The party's private treasure room. It's not a spell to have memorised; rather it's one to have on a scroll or in an item. A Portable Door instead of a Portable Hole.

Magic Weapon bridges that gap and allows a party to have "magic weapons" to combat whatever nasty requires it.

I don't have sufficient experience here but it seems to me that resistance to non-magic weapons is unfair - and thus unfun - to the high-level combat classes. Spellcasters can do their thing or plink away with cantrips for full damage but the poor combat classes get their damage halved. If the basic idea is to make the critter more bad-ass, why not restrict it by Proficiency Bonus? Say that the beastie gets Resistance if your PB is below +4 (for example)?
 

I'm not grokking your hate for Demiplane. It's not a combat spell. But consider its use for a mage's lab. Or a treasure room. The party's private treasure room. It's not a spell to have memorised; rather it's one to have on a scroll or in an item. A Portable Door instead of a Portable Hole.
It's not hate but it's easy. Most of the rules to support a need for functions like that are not included in 5e & frankly the percentage of campaigns that reach 15th level to cast this spell is so small (Low Single digits & even that is likely inflated by one shots) that you have a spell that functionally has no real use aside from supporting subsystems wotc never wrote & the spell is placed at a level that ensures it's unlikely to be something even available in the vast majority of campaigns. A flufff spell that requires the GM to build rules to give it a use that is placed dramatically beyond the reach of most players & campaigns is a cruddy one no matter how cool it could be in the tiny fraction of games that reach it if the gm creates rules that make it useful failure to consider use cases for a spell does not get a pass.
I don't have sufficient experience here but it seems to me that resistance to non-magic weapons is unfair - and thus unfun - to the high-level combat classes. Spellcasters can do their thing or plink away with cantrips for full damage but the poor combat classes get their damage halved. If the basic idea is to make the critter more bad-ass, why not restrict it by Proficiency Bonus? Say that the beastie gets Resistance if your PB is below +4 (for example)?
The 5e developers inherited a game swimming in magic items & in some areas made serious efforts to change that without even telling the people writing other parts of the system. 5e is a game where magic weapons are fairly common & any spells that fail to account for that are problematic. Multiple books support their commonality as dmg213 uncommon weapon xge126 &dmg 135 list as 1d6x100gp & 101-501gp in cost. There is also this line on xge 146 "Having no magic makes it extremely difficult for a party to overcome monsters that have resistances or immunity to nonmagical damage. In such a game, you’ll want to be generous with magic weapons or else avoid using such monsters." The spell is designed for some game other than the one wotc built & sells as d&d 5e no matter how many times someone says "optional" & is not worth licking the shoes of most spells that are merely bad. If that 100-600gp +1 magic weapon being very difficult to obtain despite all of that is the game wotc designed wizards with spell scribe costs & every caster with spell component costs deserve several pounds of flesh from some of the people at wotc. @Democratus that's great that you managed to do that & enjoy it, but as both the dmg & repeatedly in xge show.....

With regards to your mention of experience... this post should help see the problem with overused energy/magic resist & immune+legendary resist t that is always relevant alongside nonmagical Bludgeon/piercing/slashing that is quickly rendered meaningless. The system math already assumes that the resistance to nonmagical b/p/s will frequently be a factor to bridge the gap in badly inverted LFQW damage output. Having nondamage spells cast by the linear mage going an extra step trying to resist LFQW even after inverting it is just gross overkill.
 
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Stalker0

Legend
Necrotic is a fairly good damage type; but "necrotic to which all undead and all constructs are immune" is a crappy damage type, as bad as fire if not worse. On top of that, the range is a mere 30 feet and it targets Con saves.

Blight does not belong on a list of The Suckiest Spells In D&D. It's not an awful spell. But to call it "fine" is an overstatement; I would never waste a prepared spell on it unless I knew I was going to be fighting some kind of Elder Plant Monster. Scorching ray offers comparable single-target damage, with four times the range, and you can use it in a lower-level spell slot and/or split it among multiple targets.

Generally, however, if I want to lay down a lot of single-target damage, I pick a fellow PC who's good at laying down single-target damage, and I cast haste on them.
I'll also note, that if you assume a target is going to pass their save about 40% of the time (aka 60% of the time you get damage through), Magic Missile has the same DPR, force is even better than necrotic, and MUCH higher range.

Blight exist for one real purpose, you know your going against plants, and you want plant busters. If your going into the forest to fight the druids, this spell rocks. And honestly that's ok, its okay to have spells that are niche, as long as they are really good in their niche (which blight is).
 

Stalker0

Legend
The 5e developers inherited a game swimming in magic items & in some areas made serious efforts to change that without even telling the people writing other parts of the system. 5e is a game where magic weapons are fairly common & any spells that fail to account for that are problematic. Multiple books support their commonality as dmg213 uncommon weapon xge126 &dmg 135 list as 1d6x100gp & 101-501gp in cost. There is also this line on xge 146 "Having no magic makes it extremely difficult for a party to overcome monsters that have resistances or immunity to nonmagical damage. In such a game, you’ll want to be generous with magic weapons or else avoid using such monsters." The spell is designed for some game other than the one wotc put built & sells as d&d 5e no matter how many times someone says "optional" & is not worth licking the shoes of most spells that are merely bad. If that 100-600gp +1 magic weapon being very difficult to obtain despite all of that is the game wotc designed wizards with spell scribe costs & every caster with spell component costs deserve several pounds of flesh from some of the people at wotc. @Democratus that's great that you managed to do that & enjoy it, but as both the dmg & repeatedly in xge show.....
I would argue that I do think magic items as a whole are and can be fairly optional, but I do agree that magic "weapons" are likely much more common in most games.
 

Democratus

Adventurer
There is also this line on xge 146 "Having no magic makes it extremely difficult for a party to overcome monsters that have resistances or immunity to nonmagical damage.
For us this is a feature, not a bug.

Powerful monsters with resistance should be hard. Difficult is fun. What's even more fun is figuring out how to defeat a monster without needing to just jump into full on combat every time.

I've had my monsters get buried alive, killed by more powerful monsters that the PCs negotiated with, tricked into traps, pelted with a swarm of alchemists fire/acid, or simply robbed of all their valuable treasure without the monster being aware until the party was long gone.

But if and when combat does finally occur against these beasts, the players enjoy that it is difficult and that "sword to the head" will be the long way to solve the problem. When they finaly do bring down a monster that has effectively double the hitpoints - they feel a great sense of accomplishment.

YMMV
 

Immoralkickass

Explorer
Its a pretty complete list, but I'm gonna disagree strongly on Aid, Bless, and Enlarge/Reduce.

Bless is a top tier spell for the sole reason that if the caster is one of the targets, it can help save itself for Concentration checks. Bonuses to saves and attacks are hard to come by and always good. You're absolutely crazy for knocking this spell. The only sad thing is the 3 target limit, which you didn't even mention. But it can be upcast at least.

Aid is good, can't argue with extra HPs. More HP is more HP. No concentration too. Its not S tier, but its good.

Enlarge/Reduce. It has utility for out of combat purpose, and no spell or tool can do what it does. If it was Enlarge and Reduce was split into separate spells, then yes they would be underpowered.

Also, how did FLAME BLADE not make it in?
 


Immoralkickass

Explorer
I thought that the point of Skill Empowerment being 5th level and requireing Concentration was to balance the Rogue vs the casters by not devaluing the Rogues Expertise.
The point of Skill Empowerment is to trap players who have not heard of Guidance, so that they can spend their 5th level spell slot to do something that Guidance have 25% chance of achieving the same effect. Except Guidance can also be used on just about any skill you choose, and SE only works on one skill that you are already proficient in.
 

Zubatcarteira

Now you're infected by the Musical Doodle
To be fair, Guidance needs to be recast for every single skill check. Maybe your Monk needs to stealth somewhere, or you want your Paladin to get better Persuasion right before a negotiation, in cases like that you can't keep casting Guidance over and over again.
 

@tetrasodium
Thank you for the comprehensive list of non concentration buff.
That is actually helpful. Many of those spells are very good, considering they all stack.

Edit: tensers transformation is really bad. On top of the armor issue you notice as soon as you read the spell, concentration on such spells just sucks. Since you want to go into combat, any damage breaks it.
And concentration is actually not necessary here. Why not use the phrase of the barbarian rage: while you are transformed, you can't concentrate on spells. And also: optional component: an armor you wear as focus, that does not hinder your spellcasting.
 
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NotAYakk

Legend
@tetrasodium
Thank you for the comprehensive list of non concentration buff.
That is actually helpful. Many of those spells are very good, considering they all stack.

Edit: tensers transformation is really bad. On top of the armor issue you notice as soon as you read the spell, concentration on such spells just sucks. Since you want to go into combat, any damage breaks it.
And concentration is actually not necessary here. Why not use the phrase of the barbarian rage: while you are transformed, you can't concentrate on spells. And also: optional component: an armor you wear as focus, that does not hinder your spellcasting.
Tensers has the problem that it works reasonably well for certain gishes, but not very well for J random wizard.

Like, a dual-wielding or xbe swords bard or whatever.

It also works much better if you are willing to pre-buff, or if someone else drops a haste on you, as it scales with taps.
 

dave2008

Legend
It's not hate but it's easy. Most of the rules to support a need for functions like that are not included in 5e & frankly the percentage of campaigns that reach 15th level to cast this spell is so small (Low Single digits & even that is likely inflated by one shots) that you have a spell that functionally has no real use aside from supporting subsystems wotc never wrote & the spell is placed at a level that ensures it's unlikely to be something even available in the vast majority of campaigns. A flufff spell that requires the GM to build rules to give it a use that is placed dramatically beyond the reach of most players & campaigns is a cruddy one no matter how cool it could be in the tiny fraction of games that reach it if the gm creates rules that make it useful failure to consider use cases for a spell does not get a pass.

The 5e developers inherited a game swimming in magic items & in some areas made serious efforts to change that without even telling the people writing other parts of the system. 5e is a game where magic weapons are fairly common & any spells that fail to account for that are problematic. Multiple books support their commonality as dmg213 uncommon weapon xge126 &dmg 135 list as 1d6x100gp & 101-501gp in cost. There is also this line on xge 146 "Having no magic makes it extremely difficult for a party to overcome monsters that have resistances or immunity to nonmagical damage. In such a game, you’ll want to be generous with magic weapons or else avoid using such monsters." The spell is designed for some game other than the one wotc built & sells as d&d 5e no matter how many times someone says "optional" & is not worth licking the shoes of most spells that are merely bad. If that 100-600gp +1 magic weapon being very difficult to obtain despite all of that is the game wotc designed wizards with spell scribe costs & every caster with spell component costs deserve several pounds of flesh from some of the people at wotc. @Democratus that's great that you managed to do that & enjoy it, but as both the dmg & repeatedly in xge show.....

With regards to your mention of experience... this post should help see the problem with overused energy/magic resist & immune+legendary resist t that is always relevant alongside nonmagical Bludgeon/piercing/slashing that is quickly rendered meaningless. The system math already assumes that the resistance to nonmagical b/p/s will frequently be a factor to bridge the gap in badly inverted LFQW damage output. Having nondamage spells cast by the linear mage going an extra step trying to resist LFQW even after inverting it is just gross overkill.
I'm going to disagree and say 5e, IME, works just fine, perhaps even better, without magic items. Now I don't run published adventures, but that is those are not "the game" to me. 5e gives me the tools I need to run a game without magic items and I am very thankful for that. When I came back to D&D with 4e, on of the few things I disliked as the requirement for magic items to keep up with the games math. That is not need the case in 5e.
 

Necrotic is a fairly good damage type; but "necrotic to which all undead and all constructs are immune" is a crappy damage type, as bad as fire if not worse. On top of that, the range is a mere 30 feet and it targets Con saves.

Most high-level undead resist or are immune to necrotic damage, and there just aren't that many constructs in the MM. It's kind of a dumb restriction, but not really a game-changer. Really, the only thing I've seen come up in play is the short range. Also worth noting that it's one of very few Druid damage spells. Anyway, I'm not saying it's amazing, just that it's around average for what it is.

Edit: tensers transformation is really bad. On top of the armor issue you notice as soon as you read the spell, concentration on such spells just sucks. Since you want to go into combat, any damage breaks it.

I feel like I'm the only person on the planet who has noticed Tenser's transformation works with longbows.
 

Tensers has the problem that it works reasonably well for certain gishes, but not very well for J random wizard.

Like, a dual-wielding or xbe swords bard or whatever.

It also works much better if you are willing to pre-buff, or if someone else drops a haste on you, as it scales with taps.
It is still a badly designed spell.
The heavy armor proficiency combined with donning heavy armor is just stupid.
At level 6, why not summon armor at the same time or instead give a magearmorlike buff.
 

Most high-level undead resist or are immune to necrotic damage, and there just aren't that many constructs in the MM. It's kind of a dumb restriction, but not really a game-changer. Really, the only thing I've seen come up in play is the short range. Also worth noting that it's one of very few Druid damage spells. Anyway, I'm not saying it's amazing, just that it's around average for what it is.



I feel like I'm the only person on the planet who has noticed Tenser's transformation works with longbows.
good catch... but see post above.
 

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