The spells of D&D 5e – as contained within the Players Handbook, Xanathar’s Guide to everything and other sources – appeal to a broad range of characters with applications in combat and in many instances of day to day life. In a world of unexpected and varied dangers it pays to cover all bases… but what if the more a plot unravels, the more specific forms of magic become useful to you?
Presented here are very specific spells designed to inspire ideas specific to your own campaign, referring to motives of specific factions or parties, designed for combating a particular type of opponent, or overcome a particular type of obstacle. The rules as listed use Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, but should be readily modified to suit most fantasy systems. Here are three campaign-specific spells.
3rd level abjuration
Casting Time: 1 action
Components: V, S, M (A trilliant cut emerald worth at least 200 GP)
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes.
Snakes, yuan-ti, hydras, and other serpentine creatures within 10 feet of you must succeed on a wisdom saving throw or be afraid of you. While afraid of you they cannot use their action for anything other than dashing away from you. Creatures must repeat the saving throw when they enter or start their turn within the range of the spell. Creatures you designate within the range have advantage on saving throws against poison effects, and resistance to poison damage.
At higher levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th level or higher, you may increase the radius of the spell by 10 feet, and again when you use a 7th level spell slot, and again when you use a 9th level spell slot.
6th level divination (ritual)
Casting Time: 1 minute
Components: V, M (a complex puzzle of wooden or metal pieces that has been solved)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 hour.
For the duration your mind sees through elaborate and complicated patterns as if they were childishly simple, isolating clues, and comprehending solutions. The affected creature has a +10 bonus to intelligence checks made to solve riddles, puzzles, and devices. This bonus applies to all checks made to recall knowledge concerning the riddle, puzzle, or device, and to investigation checks made to search for clues, hidden components, or hidden patterns.
The spell does not account for active deceptions, or any knowledge not overtly possessed by the creature, such as languages it does not understand. If a component is missing, the spell will allow the creature to observe this fact, but will not reveal the location of the missing object, unless it is something they have already encountered, or if it is something that can be found within areas the creature investigates while affected by the spell.
Mark of Bel’Taln
Casting Time: 1 action
Duration: 1 hour
When you cast Mark of Bel’Taln, take 1 fire damage. A brand in the shape of the arcane mark appears on your skin on a location of your choosing, and remains there for the duration before fading.
The mark is used to identify members of the cult of Worshipful Bel’Taln to one another, and can only be taught to members by other members. A creature does not need to have the spellcasting feature to be able to cast Mark of Bel’Taln, but you must have a wisdom or charisma score of 13 or higher. This spell cannot be learned by elves or half elves.
When you reach 5th level, and good standing within the cult, you may be granted one of the additional features listed below. You may gain additional features at 11th level, and again at 17th. You must be granted these features by a a higher ranking member of the cult. When you cast the Mark of Bel’Taln, you take additional fire damage equal to twice the number of additional features you know.
- While you bear his mark, you may speak the language of Bel’Taln. You can understand and be understood by monstrosities as if you shared a language, and you have advantage on charisma checks and animal handling checks made to influence their behaviour.
- While you bear his mark, you have the blessing of Bel’Taln. You have resistance to acid and cold damage. Your unarmed attacks deal bludgeoning damage equal to your proficiency modifier, and you may choose to make unarmed attacks using your spellcasting modifier instead of strength.
- While you bear his mark, you know the heart of Bel’Taln. You may teach the cantrip Mark of Bel’Taln to another creature. Doing so takes 1 hour, and the process ordains the creature into the cult of Worshipful Bel’Taln. That creature must meet the requirements to learn the cantrip as listed above.
- While you bear his mark, you know the wrath of Bel’Taln. When a creature makes a melee attack against you, you may use your reaction to deal an amount of acid damage to that creature equal to your spellcasting modifier.
- While you bear his mark, you know the enemies of Bel’Taln. You have advantage on skill checks when they specifically pertain to elves. For example, you have advantage on stealth checks made to hide from elves, or insight checks made to sense the motives of elves.
Ok, I think we run this series through November and then put it to rest for a few months. I have had an idea for something else for next year, and I have some films chalked up to review. As for next week:
Books and their secrets, some tomes of knowledge that grant unexpected benefits, such as spells, formulas for magic items, or unveiling the location of incredible treasures.
An extra planar encounter table, detailing potential encounters within… let’s see… Carceri! The Prison Plane, the inescapable torment.
Or three different ways in which paladins can embrace or interpret their oaths, and the laws that they abide by.
So, rather than starting with my spell like I did in my Re-Skinning Spells part 1 last week, I’ll be starting with the spellcaster. To give your unique character a unique feel rather than just a colour-by-numbers hack-n-slash dungeon crawler, plant a little of their personality onto their spell list. For each character I’ll be throwing in more details like magical implements or Individual Magical Effect to give you some ideas on how to really change up your wizards, warlocks, sorcerers, and spellslingers.
Let me start with a character I’ve wanted to build for some time.
A wizard heavily invested in the nature of time, it’s mechanisms, how it shapes and is shaped by space and matter. There’s a few spells that are no-brainers for a master of time, Slow, Haste, Scrying, at later levels Time Stop and it’s not a huge stretch to throw in spells like Mending as a way to reverse time on a broken object, or Disintegration to accelerate time to the point of crumbling. But not every level comes with a complete collection of spells perfect for the Chronomancer.
It would not take an overly permissive DM to alter Conjure Minor Elementals to summon Modrons instead, those mechanical life-forms from the plane of rigid order and law. The collection from the Monster Manual sits within the Combat Rating requirements. Scrying and locating spells might help pinpoint the eddies and currents a creature leaves in the currents of time, Move Earth and Control Water might toy with history so ancient that the world was different.
Each time the Chronomancer casts a spell it is accompanied by the sound of a ticking clock, a whirling of spectral gears about his/her arms, and at later levels the very stars wheel in the heavens as he/she exerts power on the universe. A stopwatch might be the focus for the Chronomancer, or a sundial with a shadow that always points to the correct time, no matter the light in the room.
The magic of an Alchemist is all chemical, no otherworldly powers required. The correct admixtures can turn acid into a projectile capable of flying great distances, contain fire in a case of metal to be called upon later, or spawn lightning in a jar. The Artificer class for Eberron has dabbled a little in this, although I have to say I preferred the sub-type of wizard from an earlier issue of Unearthed Arcana. That works up to a point, but there are plenty of spells that you might not be able to pull out of a bottle.
Consider a spell like Wall of Stone, rather than a movement of earth the spell could be a growing mountain of foam that solidifies into a barrier. Illusions could be the result of a potent hallucinogen; it’s hard to summon an Insect Plague with chemicals unless you keep a box of larvae or a vial of potent pheromones in your pack.
Alchemists can fit into a low-magic setting, but have to plan accordingly. Your alchemist may have to carry a hefty medicine bag filled with bases, reagents, admixtures and solvents, along with enough glassware to refit a cathedral. You might be walking around in lab gear, goggles and gloves, collapsible work bench, the works.
Ok, let me draw some examples from elsewhere. I’ll grab some characters with signature spells or spell-like powers and give you something that’ll do the same job:
Maya’s Phaselock – Shamelessly going back to Borderlands, the Siren Maya has the power to imprison an enemy in a hovering bubble of raw energy from whatever plane of existence the Sirens draw power from. Hold Person would work fine as the basic version, but lacks the upgrades, they’re much harder to replicate without your DM allowing you to add powers and expending higher spell slots, or even several slots. Dominate Person, Bless, or Resistance can give you ideas for effects to pile onto a single spell.
Witcher Signs – Igni screams Burning Hands, nice and easy. Aard, maybe use Thunderwave. At early levels you might use Crown of Madness for the hypnotic sign Axii, rather than the more appropriate Dominate Monster. The shielding sign Quen has loads of possible options, from Shield to Magic Circle. And Yrden… is difficult, planting rune-circles that trigger when you pass over them is something you’ll have to wait for when you get level 3 spells and Glyph of Warding, but that’s such a versatile spell you should pick it up anyway, no matter who you are.
Waterbending – It’s easy to replicate earth, air, and firebending from the Avatar Series, plenty of fire-based spells, mobility and defensive spells for air, and things you can change into stone, especially if you build a druid. Water might be trickier, but there are things that could be made more… watery. Magic Missile and Cloud of Daggers, streaks of water hurled at opponents, Slow and Evard’s Black Tentacles could be used as patches of water that grip and bind.
A follow-up to similar articles I wrote on using D&D creature stats to make original sounding creations, how about giving your spell caster some original twists? There are a few different ways you can personalise your spell list, simply changing the appearance such as the colour, the sound, the very sensual content of your spell, is the easiest way by far, but with your DMs permission (or if you are the DM and don’t care) you can make minor tweeks to the effects of your spells. Changes of damage type are simple enough, but other effects should be taken with caution as they may unbalance the game in such a way that it makes your character more powerful than the others.
Oh yes, the Dungeon Masters Guide has its tips and tricks for spell design, but there is no exact science without zealous and time consuming playtesting, so with caution and judicious forethought, lets mess with magic. (more…)