5th Edition Spells – Vicious Mockery

Vicious Mockery

Bard - Cantrip Level Spell

School: Enchantment
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: 60 ft
Components: Verbal
Duration: Instantaneous
Attack/Save: WIS
Reference: PHB 285

You unleash a string of insults laced with subtle enchantments at a creature you can see within range. If the target can hear you (though it need not understand you), it must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or take 1d4 psychic damage and have disadvantage on the next attack roll it makes before the end of its next turn.

This spell’s damage increases by 1d4 when you reach 5th level (2d4), 11th level (3d4), and 17th level (4d4).

My Comments: Let’s first take a moment to consider what I believe is the most important aspect of this spell. You get to insult things to death. How awesome is that? I can tell you how awesome it is; it’s so awesome that there are several Vicious Mockery insult generators out there because people love to have fun insults ready.

Okay, so right off the bat, we see it’s good for role playing purposes in combat, but what about actual utility? After all, it’s only d4 damage and scales with more d4’s, so it’s not going to be your giant-killer. Or, is it?

I would say that the low damage die is offset by three things:

  • First, the fact that is has a save instead of a to hit roll and that save is on Wisdom, something a lot of opponents are generally pretty low in.
  • Second, the damage is psychic, which means fewer creatures will have resistance or immunity.
  • Third, probably most important, it also imposes disadvantage on the target’s next attack. Sometimes not getting hit has more value than doing damage.

Some important notes about this cantrip are:

  • you have to have line of sight and the target needs to be able to hear you. However, they don’t necessarily have to understand what you’re saying. Apparently, language is no barrier to knowing when someone is dissing you.
  • The carrier effect of disadvantage is imposed even if the creature is immune. For example, a construct is one of the few types of creatures immune to psychic damage and according to Jeremy Crawford “the second effect isn’t reliant on the psychic damage getting through.” It is, however, still reliant on the target failing it’s saving throw.
  • In the nitty gritty of things I’ve seen people miss or misunderstand, it’s says that disadvantage is applied “on the next attack roll.” Many people have thought this meant the next weapon or melee attack role. Good news, Bards! It applies to spell attacks as well!
  • And finally, how many good Bard cantrips are there? This is great for Bards, lets them stretch their creative legs and think of some great put downs for every encounter. Of course, like most things involving Bards, the rest of the party may get tired of it. 🙂
sad ogre hit by vicious mockery

Sad Ogre is sad. I turns out words do hurt him. Image from Alvaro Torres.

So, is it a giant-killer? Honestly, with the right party it really could be. If you’re facing a low-wisdom hill giant and causing a significant number of their attacks to miss allowing the rest of you party to mulch them, then yeah, it’s a key part of the strategy.

What’s your favorite Vicious Mockery insult you’ve heard?


[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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