Magic: Casting

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Casting a Spell

Spells are commonplace among the heroes and villains of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. When a character casts any spell, the same basic rules are followed, regardless of the character's class or the spell's effects.

First, you must have access to a spell to cast it, either from your class, a magic item, or some other source. Certain classes also require that you have the spell prepared in advance.

Second, in combat, you must cast a spell as an action (see "Actions" in the combat rules), unless a spell's description says otherwise. Outside combat, you can effectively cast a spell whenever you want, but you must complete one spell before casting the next.

Spell Components

A spell's components are the physical requirements you must meet in order to cast it. Unless a spell's description says otherwise, a spell requires you to chant mystic words and complete intricate hand motions with at least one of your hands. Some spells also have material components that are required for their casting.

If you can't complete a spel's component, you are unable to cast a spell. Thus, if you are silenced or don't have a hand free, you cannot cast a spell.

Spell Disruption

Some situations make spellcasting tricky. For example, if you stand on the deck of a storm-tossed ship, a crashing wave might wash over you just as you attempt to cast a spell and disrupt it. Similarly, completing the intricate hand gestures for a spell can be difficult while an orc is swinging an axe at you or while a dragon's tail is sweeping past.

Spellcasting in Melee: When you cast a spell while within a hostile creature's reach, the spell must target a creature within 5 feet of you or create an area of effect that includes a space within 5 feet of you, otherwise you must first succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity check. If you fail, the action you used to cast the spell is wasted, but the spell itself is not.

Environmental Disruptions: Various environmental effects might lead the DM to ask you to succeed on a DC 10 Constitution check in order to block out the distraction and complete the spell. If you fail, the action you used to cast the spell is wasted, but the spell itself is not.

Casting Time

Casting a typical spell requires a single action,about 6 seconds of reciting a magical formula and completing a set of hand motions.

A few spells can be cast as reactions. These spells take a fraction of a second and are usually cast in response to some event. For instance, the feather fall spell allows you to float safely to the ground the moment you fall into a pit. Such a spell can usually be cast as an action or a reaction, with different effects depending on how you use it. If a spell can be cast in reaction to something, the spell description tells you exactly when you can do so.


A spell's description specifies its range. The range is the maximum distance from you that you can place the spell';s effect. The effect might extend beyond that range. All that matters is that when you cast the spell, you place its initial effect or chose a target that is not beyond the range.

Most spells have a range expressed in feet. Some spells, such as cure light wounds, can target only acreature (including yourself) that you touch. In other words, you must be able to reach the target.

Other spells affect only the caster. For example, the shield spell protects you, and only you.


A spell specifies how many creatures it targets or what area of effect it covers. If a spell targets one creature, it says so. If it targets more than one creature, it specifies the maximum number of creatures it can target.

You cannot target a creature with a spell if that creature has total cover.

If you are in the area of effect or within range of a spell you cast, you can target yourself.

You must be able to see a creature that you target directly with a spell. This requirement does not apply when you include a creature in an area of effect. A particular spell might override one or both of these rules.

Areas of Effect

Many spells have an effect over an area. A fireball explodes, burning an entire group of orcs. A cone of cold blasts forth, freezing a gang of ogres in place. These spells cover an area, allowing them to affect multiple creatures at once.

An area of effect has one of several different shapes. It also has a point of origin, a location from which the spell's energy erupts. Each shape specifies how you position its point of origin. Typically, a point of origin is a point in space, but some spells require the point to be a creature or an object.

Cloud: You select a cloud's point of origin, and the cloud spreads outward from that point. The cloud's size is expressed as a radius in feet that extends from the point. The point of origin is included in the cloud.

The gas or other substance of a cloud expands outward from the point of origin. It expands the distance of its radius, moving around objects such as walls and pillars. A cloud might continue to grow or even move, depending on the specific spell.

Cone: A cone extends in a direction of your choice from its point of origin. A cone's width at a given point is equal to its distance from the point of origin. A cone's area of effect specifies its maximum length.

The energy in a cone expands in straight lines from the point of origin. If no unblocked straight line extends from that point to a spot within the cone, that spot is not included in the area of effect.

A cone's point of origin is not included in its area of effect, unless you decide otherwise.

Cylinder: A cylinder's point of origin is at the center of a circle of a particular radius given in the spell. The spell's effect then shoots downward or upward (your choice) from the circle's surface. The point of origin is included in the spell's effect. You can position the circle at an angle and determine from which side of the circle the energy erupts.

The energy in a cylinder expands in straight lines from the point of origin to the cylinder's perimeter. If no unblocked straight line extends from the point of origin to a spot within the cylinder, that spot is not included in the area of effect.

Line: A line extends from its point of origin in a straight line up to its length and covers an area indicated by its width. The line's width is its diameter. The point of origin for a line is not included in its area of effect, unless you decide otherwise.

Sphere: You select a sphere's point of origin, and the sphere explodes outward from that point. The sphere's size is expressed as a radius in feet that extends from the point. The point of origin is included in the sphere.

The energy in a sphere expands in straight lines from the point of origin. If no unblocked straight line extends from that point to a spot within the sphere, that spot is not included in the area of effect.


A spell's duration measures the length of time that it persists. A duration can be expressed as a period of time, expressed as rounds, minutes, hours, or even years. Some spells specify that they last until they are dispelled, usually through some magical effect that cancels them. As an action, you can end a spell that you have cast.

If there is no period of time specified in the spell, the spell's effect is instantaneous. The spell harms, heals, creates, or alters something or someone in a way that cannot be dispelled.

Spells and Saving Throws

Many spells specify that a target can make a saving throw to avoid some or all of a spell's effects. If a spell requires a saving throw, the spell specifies the ability score that the target uses for the save. The DC to resist a spell usually equals 10 + your relevant magic ability modifier.

The spell specifies what happens to a target on a successful or a failed save.

Attack Spells

Some spells let you make an attack roll. You resolve such an attack as normal, except that the attack seldom relies on Strength or Dexterity. An attack spell almost always requires you to use your magic ability, which is specified in the class or other source that gave you the spell. For instance, wizards use Intelligence to make their spell attacks, and clerics use Wisdom.

Concentration & Concentration Check

Some spells require you to maintain your concentration in order to keep their magic active after they're cast. If you lose your concentration, such a spell ends, although some spells trigger a mishap when you concentration is broken, as noted in those spells' descriptions.

A spell that requires concentration tells you that it does in its description. You can freely end your concentration at any time. Normal activity, such as moving and attack, does not interfere with it. Here are the things that can interfere.

  • Casting another spell that requires concentration: You lose your concentration on a spell if you cast another spell that requires concentration. You can't concentrate on two spells at once.
  • Taking damage: Whenever you take damage while you are concentrating on a spell, you must make a Constitution save to maintain your concentration. The save DC equals half the damage you take. If you take damage from multiple sources, such as an arrow and a dragon's breath, you must make a saving throw against each source of damage separately.
  • Losing consciousness: You lose your concentration on a spell if you are stunned or knocked unconscious. By extension, the spell ends if you die.
  • Suffering severe distractions: You can lose your concentration if something distracts you too much. If an attack or another effect can disrupt your concentration in this way, its description says so. For instance, you might need to make a Constitution save to maintain your concentration while a giant octopus grasps you. The DM 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 make a DC 10 Constitution save to maintain concentration on a spell.

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