5th Edition Spells – Toll the Dead

Toll the Dead

Cleric, Warlock, Wizard - Cantrip Level Spell

School: Necromancy
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: 60 ft
Components: Verbal and Somatic
Duration: Instantaneous
Attack/Save: WIS
Reference: XGE 169

You point at one creature you can see within range, and the sound of a dolorous bell fills the air around it for a moment. The target must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or take 1d8 necrotic damage. If the target is missing any of its hit points, it instead takes 1d12 necrotic damage.

At Higher Levels. The spell’s damage increases by one die when you reach 5th level (2d8 or 2d12), 11th level (3d8 or 3d12), and 17th level (4d8 or 4d12).

My Comments: I have to admit, I thought Toll the Dead was over-powered when I first read it. But there are some things that make it reasonable as long as the DM is paying attention- the verbal and somatic requirements, line of sight, necrotic damage, wisdom saving throw and the noise.

I’ll say it again, DM’s don’t pay enough attention to how LOUD some spells are, like the Booming Blade & Thunderclap cantrips. It doesn’t say how loud the dolorous bell is, but if it were me I would say that the bell could be heard at least in adjacent rooms.

With that out of the way, let’s take it from the top:

Verbal & Somatic requirements– This means that you have to be able to speak (not be Silenced or gagged, for example) and move your hands (not be tied or otherwise restrained). Tie this in with the line of sight requirement and some tricks go out the window. I saw a post where someone said their players used a fist-sized hole in a door to spam attack enemies from the safety of 95% cover. I would say “Nah.” It’s kind of clever but you can’t always go with “rule of cool.” Imagine trying to point at something while trying to also see it through a 2-3″ hole in a door. Not only would that be near impossible, it also wouldn’t be too hard for intelligent creatures to move a foot or two to one side or the other where you lose line of sight.

Line of Sight – As mentioned above, the DM should have an environment set up where line of sight is often difficult, especially at 60′ range. Also, it’s only 60′, not the 120 of some other direct damage cantrips.

Necrotic damage – Not exactly a weakness, but there are some pretty common monsters and adversaries that have resistance or immunity.

Wisdom saving throws – To be honest, I lost track of which save proficiencies are the most common for monsters and it always depends on the situation but I’m pretty sure wisdom is easier for most foes to save against than, say, intelligence. I’m sure someone has more up-to-date info. Let me know in the comments.

All of this isn’t to say the spell sucks, because it doesn’t. It’s pretty awesome both in terms of usage and flavor. Though the “kick’em when they’re down” aspect of extra damage to wounded targets makes me feel like it’s not really a “good aligned” spell but alignment arguments get tiresome pretty quick, so forget I mentioned it. LOL

I decided to also compare Toll the Dead to other spells for Cleric, Wizard and Warlock, so check out this post for a handy chart. Comparing cantrips: Toll the Dead, Eldritch Blast, Sacred Flame & Firebolt



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

[P.S. Check out the Wacky Dungeon game just above the footer!]

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.

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