5th Edition Spells – Cause Fear

Cause Fear

Warlock, Wizard - 1 Level Spell

School: Necromancy
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: 60 ft
Components: Verbal
Duration: 1 Minute
Attack/Save: WIS
Reference: XGE 151
Concentration

You awaken the sense of mortality in one creature you can see within range. A construct or an undead is immune to this effect. The target must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or become frightened of you until the spell ends. The frightened 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 one additional creature for each slot level above 1st. The creatures must be within 30 feet of each other when you target them.


My Comments: It’s interesting that this is a Necromancy spell. It makes sense thematically, of course, but influencing a target’s mind immediately brings Enchantment to mind rather than Necromancy. This has meaning beyond just flavor, I think.

To me, it implies that you aren’t just influencing someone, you’re actually channeling necrotic energy into their mind, allowing them to know that negative flow is coming from your direction, thus causing fear to the point that the target is disadvantaged and can’t move toward you.

But is it a good spell? Well, let’s review. What does it mean to be frightened?

Cause Fear, Scared Orc

Frightened:

  • A frightened creature has disadvantage on ability checks and attack rolls while the source of its fear is within line of sight.
  • The creature can’t willingly move closer to the source of its fear.

So, you cast it and then the target gets a WIS save. If they fail their save, they have disadvantage and can’t get closer to you. Then, at the end of their turn, they get another chance to save. Let’s say you have a Spell DC of 14, which is pretty good, you cast this spell on an a target with average wisdom, so they roll d20+0 trying to beat 14.

This means they have a 30% chance of breaking the spell right away, and every end of turn thereafter. For the cost of one spell slot and an action, it could definitely be worth it in the right situation. However, the chances of the spell making it to the full minute of its duration is unlikely.

But really, how many fights in D&D get much over a minute anyway? Certainly, one opponent rarely lasts 10 rounds, especially one with disadvantage.

Obviously, with a DC of 12 and a target that has a +2, they have a 50% chance of throwing it off. At that point, I question it’s utility. So, as always, pick your targets with care.

Now, is frightening somebody really that great? Yeah, definitely, in the right situation it is. Tactically, frighten a target and then place yourself near the archers and other mages and the target won’t be able to get near them either.

Also, once frightened, they have disadvantage on ability checks, so make sure that your compatriots are able to take advantage with martial tricks, spells and other effects. Now is a great time for the barbarian to push the target off a cliff, right?

Interestingly, it can also have use outside of combat. In a hippogriff-riding contest? Scare the crap out of your opponent just as they have to do a tricky maneuver. Basically, anytime someone has to make an ability check you want them to miss, this spell  has utility.

ONE BIG CAVEAT: It doesn’t say it in the spell description, but the target must be able to see you for the effect to work. Note the following from the description of the frightened effect:

“…while the source of its fear is within line of sight.”

So this isn’t really going to be a sneaky spell. DM’s keep this in mind and let your players know (unless you’re an evil DM, then don’t 😈). Players, keep this in mind when casting and don’t make your DM remind you 😏.

Class-wise, I think this is a great spell for a Warlock given the way it scales.

Give it a shot, don’t be scared!

[pssst… want to draw a card from The Deck of Many Things?]

Dave Goff

Writing and creating in my spare time to avoid going crazy in this mad, mad, world. Check out some of my materials on DMsGuild and let me know what you think! subscribe to keep up with new posts and leave comments to keep the conversation going.

1 Comment

  1. Josiah on March 14, 2022 at 9:40 pm

    Good review, I always feel like this spell does not quite do enough to make it worth while. I can always find something better to do with an action.

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