Port of Entry – Introduction to Casting

One of my favorite elements in Dungeons and Dragons is spell casting. No offense to any of the fighters out there (myself included), but why wouldn’t you want the ability to cast spells in a fantasy world? I sure do!

So today, how about we break down what it takes to cast a spell in the dragon game. For further information, please see page 203 in the Player’s Handbook.

Who Can Cast Spells?

Traditionally, the magic casters are considered to be bards, clerics, druids, paladins, sorcerers, warlocks and wizards. Of course this list expands when you consider the sheet amount of supplement and Unearthed Arcana resources available, but let’s try keep it simple today.

There are times when a traditional non spell casters, such as fighters, monks, rangers, and rogues, can dabble in magic, depending on subclass abilities, magic items and possible feats they have taken in their build. As always, discuss with your Dungeon Master regarding character build specifics you have in mind.

Typically, you will see a spell written out in the below format.

Spell Casting Time

Spell casting time is how long it will take to cast the spell. Most commonly, you will see this written as 1 action, 1 bonus action, or 1 reaction. See A Turn in Combat for more information on actions. But spells may also be rituals that can take 1 minute to 1 hour to cast.

Make sure to become familiar with your spell casting times, as it can have a huge effect on when you decided to cast!

Spell Range & Area of Effect

A spells range is how far away you can cast a spell. Some spells require you to touch yourself or a willing creature, and others can be cast from quite a distance away, such as from 120 feet or even the same plane of existence.

When casting spells, take the opportunity to figure our where you are going to be for your spell’s origin, as shown with yellow stars in the below image. This will give you an idea of how many enemies will be in your blast radius, and let you take care not to accidentally hurt any allies. You can also choose where to target a spell. For example, if you know you want to toss a fireball to a dragon, and your allies are at its jaws, you may want to center your spell on the back area of the creature, to allow allies to remain in the safety zone.

Chart showing areas of effect for spells
Image Credit: Variant Ventures

Arcane Focus or Component Pouch?

Depending on how you flavor a caster, you may decide on an arcane focus or a component pouch from which to draw upon arcane energies to cast a spell. An arcane focus is an item like a crystal or a staff that your character uses to channel their arcane energy to cast. A component pouch is a small pocket or bag in which your character would carry the material components for spell casting. 

Neither choice is more powerful than another and the choice is completely up to you!

Spell Components

Verbal – Components require you to speak to cast a spell. Traditionally, you must be able to vocalize to use these spells so, for example, a character who is gagged or in a zone of silence, will be unable to cast a spell requiring verbal components.

*If you are playing a character who is non verbal, speak with your Dungeon Master to discuss how this will work. Non verbal characters should not have to miss out on casting.

Somantic – Somantic components are gestures a caster will use. Casters must have use of at least one hand to cast a spell requiring somantic components. A character who is grappled would be unable to cast.

*Similar to above, if your character build does not come by this ability naturally, speak with your Dungeon Master about how casting will work for your character. Ming-Hua from The Legend of Korea was a powerful water bender, regardless of how others may have perceived her.

Material – Material components are material items that will be consumed by a spell. These may be smaller items such as a cork or an eyelash, or bigger items that come with a cost, such as diamonds worth 50 gold. Generally speaking, items listed without a cost can be obtained for free throughout your travels. It just makes sense that a caster could find a bit of fur or charcoal while adventuring. But in your world, some of the costly items might be very rare and hard to find, therefore you’ll need to spend some coin to gain access to the spell.

Spell Durations & Concentration

A spell duration is how long a spell will last. You may find spells that last for 1 minute, 1 hour, etc. Others will last for one round of combat, until something triggers them or maybe even last for days, years, etc.

Concentration is the casters ability to maintain focus on a spell. Casters may only concentrate on one spell at a time, meaning you cannot cast two concentration spells at the same time. You may however have one concentration spell active and cast a spell that does not require concentration.

Spell

Now we get to the fun part! What does your spell actually do? This will be written on the bottom of the spell card or entry and take up the greatest portion.

If it is an attack spell, the type of damage the spell causes will also be written. Types of damage can be things such as radiant, thunder, necrotic, slashing, bludgeoning, etc. This may make a difference your attack as enemies may be vulnerable or resistant to certain types of damage.

Spell Cards for Dungeons and Dragons
Photo Credit: Variant Berry

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