Dungeon Master Assistance

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Tag Archives: Magic

D&D 5E – Schools of Magic

Schools of Magic

Here is a cheat sheet for when a PC uses an identify spell on a magical item in your dungeon. You know what it does, but when they ask what school of magic it is, do you know? Remember that some magic, such as some potions, aren’t associated with any school.

Abjuration “Protectin’ stuff” (Abjure: to renounce)

They create magical barriers, negate harmful effects, harm trespassers, or banish creatures to other planes.

Examples: Alarm, Protection from Evil and Good, Arcane Lock, Glyph of Warding


Conjuration “Makin’ stuff” (Conjure: to create)

Spells involve the transportation of objects and creatures from one location to another. Some spells summon creatures or objects to the caster’s side, whereas others allow the caster to teleport to another location. Some conjurations create objects or effects out of nothing.

Examples: Entangle, Fog Cloud, Dimension Door, Cloudkill, Teleport, Wish


Divination “Knowin’ stuff” (Divine: discover or learn)

Spells reveal information.

Examples: Identify, Speak with Animals, Detect Thoughts, See Invisibility, Scrying


Enchantment “Convincin’ stuff” (Enchant: to cause someone to act in a way it usually wouldn’t)

Spells affect the minds of others, influencing or controlling their behavior.

Examples: Charm Person, Sleep, Hold Person, Zone of Truth, Power Word Kill


Evocation “Makin’ energy stuff” (Evoke: cause an effect)

Spells manipulate magical energy to produce a desired effect. Some call up blasts of fire or lightning. Others channel positive energy to heal wounds.

Examples: Fire Bolt, Light, Cure Wounds, Heal, Magic Missile, Spiritual Weapon, Earthquake, Telepathy


Illusion “Trickin’ stuff” (Illusion: a deception)

Spells deceive the senses or minds of others.

Examples: Invisibility, Magic Mouth, Simulacrum


Necromancy “Dead stuff” (Necro: death)

Spells manipulate the energies of life and death. Such spells can grant an extra reserve of life force, drain the life energy from another creature, create the undead, or even bring the dead back to life.

Examples: Chill Touch, Spare the Dying, False Life, Blindness/Deafness, Gentle Repose, Resurrection


Transmutation “Changin’ stuff” (Transmute: to change)

Spells change the properties of a creature, object, or environment. They might turn an enemy into a harmless creature, bolster the strength of an ally, make an object move at the caster’s command, or enhance a creature’s innate healing abilities to rapidly recover from injury.

Example: Mending, Prestidigitation, Darkvision, Knock, Polymorph, Time Stop


D&D 5E – The Nature of Magic

What is Magic? How does it work?

I was trying to figure out how (in 4th and 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons) a character could learn all there was to know about a magic item by simply examining it for an hour. This wasn’t possible in earlier editions. You could only learn about an item by trial and error or by some magical means. It is only now coming up because I never played 4th edition, and this is the first time I have been the DM running a 5th edition game.

After a lot of research (Google is my friend) I finely came to the realization that the nature of magic has changed. To make logical sense out of it all (assuming you can apply logic to the rules of magic in a fantasy game), this is what I came up with.

Nothing below is official. It simply represents my ideas and house rules.

The Source of Magic

Behind reality as the player-characters know it, there is a sort of internal “skeleton”, over which reality exists like skin atop muscle and bone. This “skeleton” can best be envisioned as an unseen essence that pervades all parts of the multiverse, directly linking everything to every other thing. This is the source of all magic. When you cast a spell, you actually create a specific alteration in the local essence, which then causes the spell effect you wanted in the ‘real’ world. Some call this essence “Mana”. In the Forgotten Realms it is called the “Weave”. If the Weave in an area is damaged or destroyed, magic is unreliable or impossible – that’s what creates Wild Magic and Dead Magic zones in the Realms.

All the physical laws of the universe are simply reflections of the true, background laws that govern this universal essence. The average person can only perceive normal reality, but some creatures are born with the ability to sense the universal essence.

All magic-using beings share an innate ability to manipulate the essence. Likewise, almost all those “gifted” with these abilities must receive training in arcane (wizardly) or divine (clerical) magic in order to learn how to manipulate the essence with finesse.

Bards learn that words and music are not just vibrations of air, but vocalizations with power all their own. They learn to untangle and reshape the essence in harmony with their wishes and music.

Clerics and Paladins are conduits for Divine magic, the power of the gods. Divine casting is done by channeling the essence provided by their deities and forming spells out of that.

Druids and Rangers revere nature above all, and can draw essence from the land, gaining their spells and other magical powers either from the essence that flows through nature itself or from a nature deity.

Monks make careful study of the essence that flows through living bodies. Most monastic traditions call this ki.

Sorcerers learn to harness and channel their own inborn magical abilities. They gather the essence to them from force of will.

Warlocks receive their magical abilities from a pact they made with an otherworldly being. This is similar to the way gods channel essence through divine casters.

Wizards create elaborate mental structures within the mazes of their own minds, traps which funnel magical essence like a roof collects rainwater for a barrel, stored and ready to be used over the course of a day.

Detecting Magic

This magical substructure to the universe, this unseen essence, can be manipulated by users of magic. It can sometimes be concentrated and placed inside a creature or object. Examples would include casting a spell on a creature to make it resistant to fire, or creating a ring of protection. These magic infused creatures or items emit a type of magical radiation. A creature with the ability to sense the universal essence can detect this magical glow, but it is invisible to all others without some magical way to detect it.

The “Detect Magic” spell:

Magical radiation is similar to light in that it is dimmer the farther you are from it. It can pass through most objects, but is blocked from most forms of detection by 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt. For the magic radiation to be strong enough to be detected by the “detect magic” spell, you must be within 30 feet of the magic creature or item. If you sense magic in this way, you sense the presence of magic, but can’t determine in which direction, or how far away the magic item is. Anytime during the duration of the “detect magic” spell, you can take an action to see if there are any specific items or creatures within sight that you can identify as magical. You will see a faint aura around any visible creature or object in the area that bears magic. If you don’t see an aura around anything, then the magic that you sense must be out of sight. It could be one or more items or creatures that are invisible or hidden. For instance, they could be behind a door or in a box or under a secret panel in the floor.  If you do not see it, you do not see the aura. This also means you cannot use this to locate invisible creatures or objects. Any aura detected can only be seen by the spellcaster. The color of the aura corresponds to the object’s school of magic. If the item has no particular school then the aura has no color. The brightness of the aura indicates the relative strength of the magic.

Unless the magic item is invisible, you can see it if it is within range but behind a transparent barrier, such as glass. You also perceive its magical aura. This includes potions that are in glass bottles. If the potion is in a container that is not see-through you will not see the aura unless you remove the cap and look directly at the potion.

Identifying Magic

If you were to touch a creature that possesses magic, you would not typically feel the magic. But if you were to hold a magic item for a few seconds (a round), you would feel the magical radiation generated by the item effecting your body and/or your mind in some way. The sensation will differ depending on the magic contained within the item. If you continue to hold the item and concentrate on it for a short rest, “At the end of the rest, the character learns the item’s properties, as well as how to use them.”

“Potions are an exception; a little taste is enough to tell the taster what the potion does.” You can’t hold a potion in your hand. The bottle isn’t magical, just the liquid it contains. You could stick your finger into it, and leave it there for an hour, but a drop on your tongue is much faster. A taste is not enough to receive the effects of the potion. If it is poison, a taste is not enough to do harm to the taster. When tasting it, the magic of the potion enters your body and instantly reveals its nature.

Magic items want you to know their properties! The magic is alive! Or, rather, it contains a life force. All life has magic flowing through it to some degree, and all magic has some degree of life flowing through it. This explains why some powerful magical items possess sentience. The item’s creator forced so much magical essence into the item that it became sentient. This also explains why magical essence tends to be attracted to living creatures (and sometimes to dead creatures). And why magic can create or destroy life.

The Identify Spell

This spell makes you more receptive to the magical essence of the item. To identify the magic in an object with this spell, you must remain in physical contact with it for at least 1 minute. “If it is a magic item or some other magic-imbued object, you learn its properties and how to use them” (That much is the same as you can get from examination alone. But with the spell you also learn) “, whether it requires attunement to use, and how many charges it has, if any. You learn whether any spells are affecting the item and what they are. If the item was created by a spell, you learn which spell created it.”

To use this spell to identify a potion still requires one minute, but you must come into physical contact with the potion, not just the bottle it is in. A drop on your tongue or on any spot on your exposed flesh is enough.

The identify spell won’t trigger a curse, but it also doesn’t tell you if an item is cursed. There is no easy way to know if an item is cursed except by trial and error. Even the legend lore spell may only hint that it may be cursed. The curse on an item may cause you to misidentify it.

D&D 5e – Spellbook Cards

Do you use Spell Cards to reference your spells?

Magic_CardsI have always found it useful to write down the information for each spell that my character could use on a 3×5 index card. Then I could pull just those cards with the spells I had prepared for easy reference.

Gale Force Nine has announced that they will soon have available now have available an official set of spell cards for 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons. I will probably get a set when they are available. You can read about them here: Adventurers Kit

In the mean time, Someone on reddit created an online spell card creator, where you can upload your own CSV file to make your own cards. It’s located here: D&D Next spellbook  card generator

If you are like me, and like the larger 3×5 cards, you can download a Form-fillable PDF file that I created that prints 4 3″x5″ cards on one 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet of paper. You will have to enter all of the information about each spell, but then you can print them on your own printer. The first card has the information on the GREASE spell for you to use as a guide. You can download this file here: Spell_Cards


UPDATE – now more cards on a sheet!

Thanks to the suggestion by James RW.  You can download them here: 5e_Blank_Spell_Cards

These cards are the more traditional 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″, like the power cards that the 4e Character Creator would print out.

Thanks to godeckyourself.com for appropriate printing instructions:

Take some time to find the right paper for your printer.
Traditional paper makes your prints look dull and faded, and feel very flimsy. Find the thickest paper your printer can handle; photo paper tends to have a nice thickness.

For best resuLts use the Latest version of Adobe Reader. After clicking print disable print scaling to prevent the cards from stretching.

Buy some card sleeves at your Local gaming store to protect your deck from gaming onslaught. These cards are the same size as poker cards, 2.5 by 3.5 inches, and fit modern sized card sleeves.


Blank Spell Cards - Colors

As requested by Gabriel Schive, you can now have spell cards in various colors. Download them here.

Spell Casting Basics

The rules for using magic in Dungeons and Dragons v3.5 can be confusing to a new player. Below is my attempt to make the magic system rules easer to understand. Note that the rules for Metamagic and Counterspells are simplified in my D&D Lite house rules.

What spells can my character cast and how does he learn them?

Spells come in two types: arcane cast by bards, sorcerers, and wizards and divine cast by clerics, druids, paladins and rangers.

How does my character cast a spell?

You simply tell the DM which spell your character is atempting to cast. If your character meets all of the requirements for casting the spell and it does not fail for some reason, then he has sucessfully cast the spell.

Your character must have and be able to use all of the componunts the spell requires. These are listed in the spell discription. The various types of components are:

  • V (Verbal): A incantation spoken in a strong voice. (Must be able to speek)
  • S (Somatic): A movement of the hand. (Must have one hand free)
  • M (Material): A small physical substance or object that is annihilated by the spell. (Must have the material in your hand)
  • F (Focus): A prop of some sort. (Must have the item of focus in your hand)
  • DF (Divine Focus): A holy symbol (for a cleric or a paladin) or a sprig of mistletoe or some holly (for a druid or a ranger). (Must be presented boldly)
  • XP (XP Cost): Some powerful spells entail an experience point (XP) cost to the character. (Must have the XP to spend without loosing a level)

Unless a cost is given for a material or focus component, the cost is negligible. Assume the character has all components (of negligible cost) needed.

To cast a spell, the character must concentrate. If something interrupts the character’s concentration while the character is casting (such as taking damage from an attack), the character must make a Concentration check or lose the spell. The DC for the saving throw depends on what causes the interruption and the level of spell you are attempting.

How long does it take to cast a spell?

Few spells take more than 1 round to cast. Most only take the time of 1 standard action.

  • For 1 acton spells, you can also make a move action before or after casting the spell.
  • A spell that takes 1 full round to cast comes into effect just before the beginning of your turn in the round after you began casting the spell. You can not also move during this round other than taking a 5 foot step before, during or after casting the spell.

Does wearing armor effect spell casting?

  • Divine spell casters (clerics, druids, paladins and rangers) can wear any armor with no chance of the armor causing their spells to fail.
  • Arcane spell casters (bards, sorcerers, and wizards) have difficulty in casting while wearing armor. Bards can wear light armor without incurring any spell failure chance for their bard spells.

Spell Failure Check: A character who casts an arcane spell while wearing armor must usually make an arcane spell failure roll. The number in the Arcane Spell Failure Chance column on the Armor and Shields Table is the chance that the spell fails and is ruined. It is not necessary to make an armor check when casting a spell without a somatic (hand movement-based) component, such as Feather Fall.
Shields: If a character is wearing armor and using a shield, add the two numbers together to get a single arcane spell failure chance.

What is my spellcaster’s most important ability score?

The ability that governs spell casting ability depends on what type of spellcaster your character is: Intelligence for wizards; Wisdom for clerics, druids, paladins, and rangers; or Charisma for sorcerers and bards.

I call this his “Key” ability.

What is the maximum spell level my character can cast?

Your characters key ability score – 10 is the highest level spell your character is capable of casting.
Example: If your 5th level wizard has an Intelligence score of 12 the highest level spell he can cast is a 2nd level spell (12 – 10 = 2). So even though the Players Handbook says that a 5th level wizard can cast one 3rd level spell each day, your wizard isn’t intelligent enough to be able to cast any 3rd level or higher spells. He can, however, substitute a lower level spell.

Beginning at 4th level and every 4 levels after that you get the opportunity to increase one ability score by one point. Increasing your spellcasters key ability will increase the highest level spell he can cast. The highest level spells are 9th level which will require a key ability score of 19.

What is the Saving Throw?

Most harmful spells allow an affected creature to make a saving throw to avoid some or all of the effect. A saving throw against your spell has a DC of 10 + the level of the spell + your spellcaster’s key ability bonus

What is Spell Resistance?

Spell resistance is the extraordinary ability that some creatures have to avoid being affected by spells. Each spell includes an entry that indicates whether spell resistance applies to the spell. If your character’s spell is being resisted by a creature with spell resistance, the character must make a caster level check (1d20 + caster level) at least equal to the creature’s spell resistance rating for the spell to affect that creature.

What is Metamagic?

Metamagic is a way of changing the nature of a specific spell. Using metamagic, a spell caster can make spells last longer, make them reach farther, make them more difficult to resist, or even make them do more damage. The ability to manipulate metamagic is gained by acquiring metamagic feats.

What are Counterspells?

It is possible to cast any spell as a counterspell. By doing so, the character is using the spell’s energy to disrupt the casting of the same spell by another character. Counterspelling works even if one spell is divine and the other arcane.

How Counterspells Work: To use a counterspell, the character must select an opponent as the target of the counterspell. The character does this by choosing the ready action. In doing so, the character elects to wait to complete his or her action until the character’s opponent tries to cast a spell. (The character may still move at normal speed, since ready is a standard action.)

If the target of the character’s counterspell tries to cast a spell, the character makes a Spellcraft check (DC 15 + the spell’s level). This check is a free action. If the check succeeds, the character correctly identifies the opponent’s spell and can attempt to counter it. (If the check fails, the character can’t do either of these things.)

To complete the action, the character must cast the correct spell. As a general rule, a spell can only counter itself. If the character is able to cast the same spell and has it prepared (if the character prepares spells), the character casts it, altering it slightly to create a counterspell effect. If the target is within range, both spells automatically negate each other with no other results.

Specific Exceptions: Some spells specifically counter each other, especially when they have diametrically opposed effects.

Dispel Magic as a Counterspell: The character can use dispel magic to counterspell another spellcaster, and the character doesn’t need to identify the spell he or she is casting. However, dispel magic doesn’t always work as a counterspell.