Each spell falls into a family of spells with a list of specific spells within. Inside each spell you will see the elemental branches that can cast it and the changes that branch has on the spell's effects. If a branch is not in the spell’s family that branch cannot be used to cast the spell. These spell variations can be found beneath each spell listing in green and are considered spells when selecting them as spells known. A spell family is not a spell.
Schools of Magic
Academies of magic group spells into five categories called schools of magic. Scholars, particularly wizards, apply these categories to all spells, believing that all magic functions in essentially the same way, whether it derives from ki energy or taken from the spirits' ether. The schools of magic help describe spells; they have no rules of their own, although some rules refer to the schools.
Magic that creates a very temporary amount of an element to attack with. The created energy or object doesn’t last more than the few seconds it is used to attack with.
Magic that uses an element to create objects like walls, weapons, and tools. The school focuses on creating lasting effects.
Similar to structural magic, this school usually creates a type of physical substance but is more malleable by nature. The school focuses on modifying the terrain and area around it to cause effects.
Magic that modifies the physical aspects of something that already exists. A lot of healing and empowering magic can be found in this school.
This school focuses on debilitating effects on the environment and individuals. Ailments and force effects can be found in this school.
Casting a Spell
When a character casts any spell, the same basic rules are followed, regardless of the character’s class or the spell’s effects.
Each spell description begins with a block of information, including the spell’s name, level, school of magic, casting time, range, components, and duration. The rest of a spell entry describes the spell’s effect.
Most spells require a single action to cast, but some spells require a bonus action, a reaction, or much more time to cast.
A spell cast with a bonus action is especially swift. You must use a bonus action on your turn to cast the spell, provided that you haven’t already taken a bonus action this turn. You can’t cast another spell during the same turn, except for a cantrip with a casting time of 1 action.
Some spells can be cast as reactions. These spells take a fraction of a second to bring about and are cast in response to some event. If a spell can be cast as a reaction, the spell description tells you exactly when you can do so.
Longer Casting Times
Certain spells (including spells cast as rituals) require more time to cast: minutes or even hours. When you cast a spell with a casting time longer than a single action or reaction, you must spend your action each turn casting the spell, and you must maintain your concentration while you do so (see “Concentration” below). If your concentration is broken, the spell fails, but you don’t expend a spell slot. If you want to try casting the spell again, you must start over.
The target of a spell must be within the spell’s range. For a spell like magic missile, the target is a creature. For a spell like fireball, the target is the point in space where the ball of fire erupts.
Most spells have ranges expressed in feet. Some spells can target only a creature (including you) that you touch. Other spells, such as the shield spell, affect only you. These spells have a range of self.
Spells that create cones or lines of effect that originate from you also have a range of self, indicating that the origin point of the spell’s effect must be you (see “Areas of Effect”).
Once a spell is cast, its effects aren’t limited by its range, unless the spell’s description says otherwise.
A spell’s duration is the length of time the spell persists. A duration can be expressed in rounds, minutes, hours, or even years. Some spells specify that their effects last until the spells are dispelled or destroyed.
Many spells are instantaneous. The spell harms, heals, creates, or alters a creature or an object in a way that can’t be dispelled, because its magic exists only for an instant.
Some spells require you to maintain concentration in order to keep their magic active. If you lose concentration, such a spell ends.
If a spell must be maintained with concentration, that fact appears in its Duration entry, and the spell specifies how long you can concentrate on it. You can end concentration at any time (no action required).
Normal activity, such as moving and attacking, doesn’t interfere with concentration. The following factors can break concentration:
- Casting another spell that requires concentration. When you cast another spell that requires concentration at the start of each of your turns you must make a Constitution saving throw to maintain concentration. The DC equals 10 + 5 x the number of spells you are concentrating on + the level of the highest level spell you are concentrating on. On failure you lose concentration on highest level spell then make the check again for the next spell you’re concentrating on.
- Taking damage. Whenever you take damage while you are concentrating on a spell, you must make a Constitution saving throw to maintain your concentration. The DC equals 10 or half the damage you take, whichever number is higher. If you take damage from multiple sources, such as an arrow and a dragon’s breath, you make a separate saving throw for each source of damage.
- Being incapacitated or killed. You lose concentration on a spell if you are incapacitated or if you die. The GM might also decide that certain environmental phenomena, such as a wave crashing over you while you’re on a storm-tossed ship, require you to succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw to maintain concentration on a spell.
The GM might also decide that certain environmental phenomena, such as a wave crashing over you while you’re on a storm-tossed ship, require you to succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw to maintain concentration on a spell.
A typical spell requires you to pick one or more targets to be affected by the spell’s magic. A spell’s description tells you whether the spell targets creatures, objects, or a point of origin for an area of effect (described below).
Unless a spell has a perceptible effect, a creature might not know it was targeted by a spell at all. An effect like crackling lightning is obvious, but a more subtle effect, such as an attempt to read a creature’s thoughts, typically goes unnoticed, unless a spell says otherwise.
A Clear Path to the Target
To target something, you must have a clear path to it, so it can’t be behind total cover.
If you place an area of effect at a point that you can’t see and an obstruction, such as a wall, is between you and that point, the point of origin comes into being on the near side of that obstruction.
If a spell targets a creature of your choice, you can choose yourself, unless the creature must be hostile or specifically a creature other than you. If you are in the area of effect of a spell you cast, you can target yourself.
Areas of Effect
Spells such as burning hands and cone of cold cover an area, allowing them to affect multiple creatures at once.
A spell’s description specifies its area of effect, which typically has one of five different shapes: cone, cube, cylinder, line, or sphere. Every area of effect has a point of origin, a location from which the spell’s energy erupts. The rules for each shape specify how you position its point of origin. Typically, a point of origin is a point in space, but some spells have an area whose origin is a creature or an object.
A spell’s effect expands in straight lines from the point of origin. If no unblocked straight line extends from the point of origin to a location within the area of effect, that location isn’t included in the spell’s area. To block one of these imaginary lines, an obstruction must provide total cover.
A cone extends in a direction you choose from its point of origin. A cone’s width at a given point along its length is equal to that point’s distance from the point of origin. A cone’s area of effect specifies its maximum length. A cone’s point of origin is not included in the cone’s area of effect, unless you decide otherwise.
You select a cube’s point of origin, which lies anywhere on a face of the cubic effect. The cube’s size is expressed as the length of each side. A cube’s point of origin is not included in the cube’s area of effect, unless you decide otherwise.
A cylinder’s point of origin is the center of a circle of a particular radius, as given in the spell description. The circle must either be on the ground or at the height of the spell effect. The energy in a cylinder expands in straight lines from the point of origin to the perimeter of the circle, forming the base of the cylinder. The spell’s effect then shoots up from the base or down from the top, to a distance equal to the height of the cylinder. A cylinder’s point of origin is included in the cylinder’s area of effect.
A line extends from its point of origin in a straight path up to its length and covers an area defined by its width. A line’s point of origin is not included in the line’s area of effect, unless you decide otherwise.
You select a sphere’s point of origin, and the sphere extends outward from that point. The sphere’s size is expressed as a radius in feet that extends from the point. A sphere’s point of origin is included in the sphere’s area of effect.
Many spells specify that a target can make a saving throw to avoid some or all of a spell’s effects. The spell specifies the ability that the target uses for the save and what happens on a success or failure.
The DC to resist one of your spells equals 8 + your spellcasting ability modifier + your proficiency bonus + any special modifiers.
Some spells require the caster to make an attack roll to determine whether the spell effect hits the intended target. Your attack bonus with a spell attack equals your spellcasting ability modifier + your proficiency bonus.
Most spells that require attack rolls involve ranged attacks. Remember that you have disadvantage on a ranged attack roll if you are within 5 feet of a hostile creature that can see you and that isn’t incapacitated.
Combining Magical Effects
The effects of different spells add together while the durations of those spells overlap. The effects of the same spell cast multiple times don’t combine, however. Instead, the most potent effect—such as the highest bonus—from those castings applies while their durations overlap.
For example, if two clerics cast bless on the same target, that character gains the spell’s benefit only once; he or she doesn’t get to roll two bonus dice.