DnD Witches: 1st Level Spells

Discover eleven new 1st level spells for 5th Edition witches.

Chapter IX: The Wicked Queen, Or, The King Gets A Tummy Ache

Hera, the aspiring dowager queen of the Peaceful City, studied the apple in her hand. She had purchased it from a street vendor outside the palace walls. Its skin was slightly withered and it had one or two dark spots that gave it an unwholesome look. It was perfect!

Closing her eyes, she began repeating a complicated set of gestures with her free hand. With each repetition, her movements grew more frenetic.

At last, when her contorting fingers seemed nothing but a blur, she cried out in a sing-song voice:

When he breaks the tender peel, to taste the apple in my hand. His breath will still, his blood congeal, then I’ll be ruler of this land!

Creating New 1st Level Spells

When I first designed the witch class, I did so for my home game and I chose the class’ spells from the official sourcebooks. However, a number of those spells are not in 5th Edition’s System Reference Document (SRD). As a result, I took the time to create a handful of replacements.

So, without further ado I give you eleven new first level witch spells, along with the canonical spells that inspired them.

Arms of Hadar1

Arms of Hadar is a handy little spell with some delightful flavour text. Its power to neutralize a target’s ability to take reactions makes it a valuable spell for a warlock who needs to get out of a tight spot.

I definitely want my witches to have something comparable to this marvellous bit of magic!

Dark Mist has the same range as Arms of Hadar, ensuring that even opponents with reach weapons are vulnerable. However, it requires a different ability check, deals different damage, and has a different secondary effect.

My research suggests a spell like this ought to deal an average of 8.4 hit points worth of damage. Now, Average(2d8) = 9. However, this is a little higher than the target and a lot higher than Arms of Hadar’s average of 7! The last thing I want is an overpowered spell. 3d4 gives an average of 7.5 but doesn’t feel very D&D to me, so 2d6 it is.

Now, it could be argued that having disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks until the end of your next turn is more debilitating than an inability to take reactions until the start of your next turn. On the other hand, I suspect more creatures are immune to poison than necrotic damage.

Dark Mist

  • 1st-level conjuration
  • Casting Time: 1 action
  • Range: Self (10 foot radius)
  • Components: V, S
  • Duration: Instantaneous

Waves of viscid dark mist materialize and boil around you. Each creature within 10 feet of you must make a constitution saving throw. On a failed save, a target takes 2d6 poison damage and is poisoned until the end of its next turn. On a successful save, the creature takes half damage, but suffers no other effect.

At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the damage increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 1st.

Catapult2

Catapult is a great first level spell. The ability to turn any random bit of detritus into a deadly projectile is phenomenal!

Bird Bolt doesn’t have Catapult’s range and it’s not quite so deadly. But, it has the potential to strike multiple targets and the ability to knock them prone.

Also, the thought of knocking an entire row of opponents down like so many bowling pins is delicious!

Bird Bolt

  • 1st-level conjuration
  • Casting Time: 1 action 
  • Range: 30 feet
  • Components: S, M (a raven’s feather)
  • Duration: Instantaneous

You point a raven’s feather and a dark shadow in the shape of a bird leaps from the feather and flies in a straight line. Any creature is in the shadow’s path it must make a dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, the target takes 2d8 force damage and is knocked prone.

At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the damage increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 1st.

Cause Fear3

Cause Fear is a straightforward spell, useful in combat, or to avoid it. Toxic Air, on the other hand is more strictly a combat spell. However, both require saving throws and both rely on one of Fifth Edition’s handy conditions.4

Toxic Air

  • 1st-level transmutation
  • Casting Time: 1 action 
  • Range: 60 feet
  • Components: V, S
  • Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute

You corrupt the air around one creature you can see in range. Constructs and undead are immune. The target must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or become poisoned until the spell ends. The poisoned target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.

At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, you can target 1 additional creature for each slot level above 1st. The creatures must be within 30 feet of each other when you target them.

Cure Wounds5

Cure Wounds is the more powerful of 5E’s pair of 1st level healing spells. It’s only drawback is the need to touch the intended patient.

My spell is even more powerful than its inspiration, however, it comes with an additional handicap. Its additional 1-4 points of healing are subtracted from the caster’s hit points. In fact, it is theoretically possible that the caster will lose more hit points than the patient gains! Hense the spell’s name: Sacrifice.

Sacrifice

  • 1st-level necromancy
  • Casting Time: 1 action 
  • Range: Touch
  • Components: V, S
  • Duration: Instantaneous

You touch a living creature with zero hit points, channeling your own life force into their body. The creature gains hit points equal to 1d12 + your spellcasting ability modifier. However, you loose 1d4 hit points. This spell cannot be cast by, and has no effect on, undead or constructs.

At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the healing and damage increase by 1d12 and 1d4 respectively, for each slot level above 1st.

Dissonant Whispers6

As a bard’s bread and butter, Dissonant Whispers can be a very useful spell.

Rootbound falls in line with then quintessential bard’s spell, but it feels a little more like a witch’s curse. Imagine a creature’s horror as woody tendrils burst from its calves and burrow into the ground at its feet!

I’ve opted for a Constitution saving throw as opposed to a Strength save. The damage type is piercing — reflecting the root filaments forcing their way out through the creature’s skin.

Rootbound

  • 1st-level transmutation
  • Casting Time: 1 action 
  • Range: 60 feet
  • Components: S
  • Duration: Instantaneous

Tree roots sprout from a creature you can see within range, anchoring it in place. The target must make a Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, it takes 2d8 piercing damage and its speed is reduced to zero until the end of its next turn. On a successful save, the target takes half as much damage and retains its movement.

At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the damage increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 1st.

Hex7

You may recall that Hex already inspired my Evil Eye cantrip. However, it’s such a witch-friendly spell, it inspired a variation for saving throws instead of ability checks.

Of course, a failed saving throw is generally a lot more devastating than a muffed ability check, so I ramped down the spell’s duration. Thus, this spell imposes disadvantage on a single saving throw.

In play, Jinx sets the stage for a second, more devastating, spell.

Jinx

  • 1st-level enchantment
  • Casting Time: 1 action 
  • Range: 30 feet
  • Components: V, S, M (a mummified frog’s toe)
  • Duration: Instantaneous

You place a curse on a creature that you can see within range. Choose one ability when you cast the spell. The target has disadvantage on the next saving throw it makes with the chosen ability.

A remove curse spell cast on the target ends this spell early.

Ice Knife8

This spell is more like frosty hand grenade than a knife. But it does feel very cinematic to me.

Death Dart has similar filmic imagery and also feels a bit like a magical bomb. However, its secondary explosion is a tad more complicated.

It is a little challenging to calculate the typical damage of a spell with the potential for multiple targets who take different amounts of damage. Assuming I treat it as per taking half damage, my best guess is about 9.5 points of damage — which, admittedly, is less than Ice Knife’s 12.5 points.

Death Dart

  • 1st-level conjuration
  • Casting Time: 1 action 
  • Range: 60 feet
  • Components: S, M (a pinch of sulfur)
  • Duration: Instantaneous

A dart made of solid darkness forms in your hand. You hurl it at one creature within range. Make a ranged spell attack against the target. On a hit, the target takes 2d8 necrotic damage.

On a miss, the dart sails on until it hits a solid object or reaches its maximum range. The dart then shatters and each creature within 5 feet of it must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or take 1d8 necrotic damage.

At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, all the damage increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 1st.

Inflict Wounds9

A straightforward spell; Inflict Wounds deals an above average amount of damage. In fact, it holds its own even when upcast all the way to ninth level!

I wanted to add a bit of imagery to my version of this spell. And, since witches are less likely to be carrying a weapon, a ghostly axe or sword seemed perfect.

Typically, a spell like Phantom Weapon deals an average of 10.1 points of damage. (As I mentioned, Inflict Wounds is an exception.) 2d10 yields an average of 11 point, so Phantom Weapon isn’t quite as powerful. On the other hand, fewer creatures have immunity to psychic damage than necrotic.

Phantom Weapon

  • 1st-level enchantment
  • Casting Time: 1 action 
  • Range: Touch
  • Components: V, S
  • Duration: Instantaneous

An ethereal melee weapon of your choice appears in your hand. Ghostly forms writhe in agony within the weapon’s transparent form. Make a melee spell attack against a creature you can reach. On a hit, the target takes 2d10 psychic damage.

At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the damage increases by 1d10 for each slot level above 1st.

Ray of Sickness10

Ray of Sickness is an interesting spell because it requires two different d20 rolls to take full effect. The first is a ranged spell attack that deals poison damage on a hit. A successful hit also triggers the second d20 — a Constitution saving throw. Failing this save renders the target poisoned.

Ray of Fear11 follows a similar pattern. A ranged spell attack that deals an average of 9 points of psychic damage. Followed by a Wisdom saving throw with (you guessed it) being frightened as a consequence.

Ray of Fear

  • 1st-level enchantment
  • Casting Time: 1 action
  • Range: 60 feet
  • Components: V, S
  • Duration: Instantaneous

A beam of sickly yellow light streaks toward a creature within range. Make a ranged spell attack against the target. On a hit, the target takes 2d8 psychic damage and must make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, it is also frightened of you until the end of its next turn.

At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the damage increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 1st.

Sleep12

This final spell has two origins the first is the spell Sleep and the second is a well known animated film.

Admittedly, Sleeping Death has the potential to punch above its weight; the target cannot be awakened by a simple slap in the face. However, it is held in check by four factors:

Firstly, the spell has a casting time of 1 minute. Hence, this is not a spur of the moment spell.

Secondly, the apple has a monetary value. Obviously, 1 cp is a negligible cost. Since the apple has a cost, however, the spell cannot be cast without it.13

Thirdly, the apple only lasts one hour. Thus, careful planning is required or the spell will go to waste.

Fourthly, the apple must be eaten willingly. Therefore, it cannot simply be shoved into the target’s mouth.

Sleeping Death

Dip the apple in the brew. Let the sleeping death seep through.

  • 1st-level necromancy (ritual)
  • Casting Time: 1 minute 
  • Range: Touch
  • Components: V, S, M (an apple worth 1 cp)
  • Duration: 1 hour

This spell creates a delicious magical apple. The first creature to willingly take a bite from the apple must make a constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the victim takes 2d4 necrotic damage and falls unconscious for 10 minutes. On a successful save the target takes half damage but is otherwise unaffected. Undead, creatures that do not sleep, and creatures immune to being charmed automatically succeed on the saving throw.

The spell is ended early in the following ways:

  • The sleeper’s true love kisses it.
  • The sleeper takes damage.
  • A remove curse spell is cast on sleeper.

At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, roll an additional 1d4 for each slot level above 1st.

Witch Bolt14

Arguably, Witch Bolt ought to be a witch spell on the strength of its name alone. Sadly, this spell is not in 5th Edition’s SDR. Happily however, this provides an impetus to create a new multi-round spell.

Casting Sapping Fire causes dark flames to roar to life around an enemy. Initially, this magical anti-fire does a little necrotic damage. However, the spell’s real power comes into play after a series of Constitution saving throws — the target becomes wearier and wearier until they finally die of exhaustion!

In order to fall in line with the canonical spells, Sapping Fire should cause about 7.3 points of damage — 2d6 fits the bill nicely.

Now, I am a big fan of Fifth Edition’s Conditions! In my experience however, Exhaustion, is rarely used. Why? Perhaps because its initial effect15 is so minor and its final effect is so final?16 In any case, Sapping Fire takes advantage of this little used condition.

While a target is unlikely to fail six consecutive Constitution saves, this spell does have the potential to kill an enemy no matter how many hit points they may have.

So how likely is this spell to have a deadly effect? If we assume the caster has a 50% chance of hitting the target with a ranged spell attack and the target has a 50-50 chance of failing a Constitution saving throw then,

    \[ 0.5^7 = 0.0078125 \]

Which is just a little more likely than rolling a 19 or 20 on a d20 with disadvantage. Not impossible certainly, but it isn’t going to happen very often. And, to be fair, a spell that takes 7 rounds to kill a single enemy can hardly be considered overpowered!

Sapping Fire

  • 1st-level evocation
  • Casting Time: 1 action 
  • Range: 30 feet
  • Components: V, S, M (charcoal)
  • Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute

Black flames envelope a creature you can see within range. Make a ranged spell attack against the target. On a hit, the target takes 2d6 necrotic damage, and on each of your turns for the duration, you can use your action to force the target to make a Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the target gains one level of exhaustion. The spell ends on a successful save. The spell also ends if you use your action to do anything else or if the target is ever outside the spell’s range or if you cannot see the target.

When the spell ends, the levels of exhaustion are removed.

Additional Reading

D&D Spell Design — Discover what makes a combat spell tick.

DND Witches: Cantrips — Seven cantrips for witches.

Which Class Is The Witch Class — Design notes for a 5th Edition Witch Class.

Notes

  1. Arms of Hadar is found on page 215 of the Player’s Handbook (PHB).
  2. Catapult is found on page 15 of the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion (EEPC) and page 150 of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything (XGtE).
  3. Cause Fear is found on page 151 of XGtE.
  4. See Appendix A: Conditions on page 290 of the PHB.
  5. Cure Wounds is found on page 230 of the PHB.
  6. Dissonant Whispers is found on page 234 of the PHB.
  7. Hex is found on page 251 of the PHB.
  8. Ice Knife is found on page 19 of the EEPC and page 157 of XGtE.
  9. Inflict Wounds is found on page 253 of the PHB.
  10. Ray of Sickness is found on page 271 of the PHB.
  11. The yellow to Ray of Sickness’ green.
  12. Sleep is found on page 276 of the PHB.
  13. See Materials (M) on page 203 of the PHB.
  14. Witch Bolt is found on page 289 of the PHB.
  15. Disadvantage on ability checks.
  16. Death.

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