Paladin - 2 Level Spell
Casting Time: 1 Bonus Action
Duration: 1 Minute
Reference: PHB 219-220
The next time you hit a creature with a weapon attack before this spell ends, the weapon gleams with astral radiance as you strike. The attack deals an extra 2d6 radiant damage to the target, which becomes visible if it is invisible, and the target sheds dim light in a 5-foot radius and can’t become invisible until the spell ends.
* When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, the extra damage increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 2nd.
My Comments: In my continued survey of the 5th Edition Smite spells, the next one in my pocket is Branding Smite. This 2nd level spell is a good choice for your Paladin for a few reasons. First of all, and the primary reason to even keep it memorized, is it causes a goodly amount of damage and only takes a bonus action to cast. Especially using it with higher level spell slots, this is a good one for 5th level and above Paladins to start keeping on regular rotation.
“In addition, Branding Smite damage is radiant, a damage type that the least number of creatures have resistance to.”
In addition, Branding Smite damage is radiant, a damage type that the least number of creatures have resistance to. In fact, many monsters – especially undead ones – are vulnerable to radiant damage, making it a good choice when facing an undead horde. So you can use this spell when attacking many different kinds of targets at will without fearing their resistances getting in the way of some heavy damage.
A final effect of Branding Smite to note, however, is one that is useful, even if fairly niche. Secondary to any of the damage it causes, Branding Smite can be used against specific creatures to eliminate their best defense: invisibility. This spell will “brand” them with a halo of light, taking away any benefits of their invisibility for up to 10 rounds (one minute). And, better yet, it has no save attached to this effect! Unless your target is somehow resistant to magic completely, even a glancing blow against that invisible stalker will cause their best defense to be useless.
This spell is relatively straightforward, and is a good one to consider memorizing as you start getting second level spells. However, there is a small quibble I have with the spell, and it has nothing to do with its usefulness. Instead, I have some issues with its name.
To put it simply, branding someone or something is an act of ownership. The history of marking slaves and prisoners with non-consensual brands and tattoos is a practice that I would like to believe most people would consider monstrous, if not downright evil. The only real positive connotations I can think of for the act of branding is consensual body modification that many people enjoy. Even the more prevalent practice of branding livestock, while a particularly neutral topic, is explicitly a mark of ownership. I find it useful to challenge the “rules” of the worlds we play in when it comes to language and how it can actually reinforce how we use those words and how that impacts our thoughts and actions.
“I find it useful to challenge the “rules” of the worlds we play in when it comes to language and how it can actually reinforce how we use those words and how that impacts our thoughts and actions.”
Okay, now that was said, I want to make sure all my readers know I’m not trying to “cancel” Branding Smite. As if I could, anyway. I also understand that this is a relatively minor quibble, but one that can illuminate a philosophy around how we, as gamers, pay attention to how the game influences our thinking. If you’d like to hear more about the power of words, and the impact those words can have, on gamers, take a listen to the Rolling the Dice on Race in Dungeons & Dragons episode of the podcast Code Switch.
And, of course, leave comments below! This is a hairy and sometimes charged topic, and I’d love to hear some reflections on it. Especially when you consider a Paladin is supposed to be all about the goodness and righteousness in the land. Whose righteousness, though? And how are we reinforcing it?