Play a mean spell caster with tons of slots? It might be time to invest in some spell cards. Upon first glance, however, these can seem like tricky items to navigate. Do not be dismayed! Here is a breakdown of what your spell card is trying to tell you.
Top – Name of the spell. Obvious, I know. But be careful! There’s a huge difference between a Fireball and a Fire Bolt. You don’t want to be prepping to drop 8d6 on a baddie, only to learn that its actually 1d10.
Below the Name – Hugely important. This tells you what level your spell of choice is, and what type of spell it is. For example, Fireball is a 3rd level evocation. Pay attention to this, because you may end up prepping a spell your character does not have spell slots for yet. The spell cards are awesome though, because on the back of each one are numbers that also indicate what spell level they are.
Quad Box – Did I just coin that? Anyway, I’m referencing the four boxes on top of the card.
Casting Time refers to the time it takes to cast that spell in combat. Casting time can vary per spell. Here are the main casting times in the Dungeons & Dragons modules.
- Action, which means that, on your turn in the initiative order, you may (try to) cast the spell.
- Bonus action, wherein you can cast the spell and then do something nifty on top of that, like move out of range of that Red Dragon’s throat furnace. OR, you can do something with your action (whatever the scenario dictates), and THEN cast your spell.
- Reaction, when a scenario triggers your magical response. For heavy magic users, Counterspell is a useful reactionary spell. I play a sorcerer, and I find the Absorb Elements spell from Xanathar’s very useful. More on that later!
- On occasion, you may find a spell that can be cast as a ritual. If you’re into that dancing round a bonfire in the woods thing. A character cannot cast a spell as a ritual unless they have a feat that allows them to do so. Just remember, rituals take 10 minutes longer to cast than normal spells. You’re not going to want to bust out a ritual in the heat of combat.
Range tells you how far you need to be from the target for the spell to take effect. Fireball is a long range spell, wherein you can be standing up to 150 feet from the target for it to hit. Other spells will be less, some more. Some require you to touch the desired target (kinky), and there are even some that can be cast up to a mile away. Dial up long distance, baby!
Components. Here’s where things get interesting. To a new gamer—a foundling, if you will—those letters in the Components section might seem arbitrary. Here’s what they mean:
- V – Verbal. Think Harry Potter, waving his wand around shouting Expelliarmus, or Expecto Patronum! Most spells require you to verbalize what you’re doing. While you don’t have to go dusting off your Latin text books, it’s important to remember that spells requiring this component cannot be cast if you are gagged, incapacitated, or temporarily without the ability to speak.
- S – Somatic. This component requires the use of gestures. Obviously, you can get really creative with this one, especially in the right company. My DM gets very creative with these. If your spell requires a Somatic component, and you are bound at the wrists or laying limbless on the volcanic sands of hell (Anakin style), unfortunately you won’t be able to cast.
- M – Material. A pinch of ash, a shard of diamond, a drop of rainwater. Some spells require material components. For example, the Fireball spell requires a tiny ball of bat guano and sulfur.
Now, if you have a spell that has all three of these components listed, you only need to provide one of them to be able to cast the spell. The spells do not require all three, so you can end your Google search for where to find bat guano in the D&D compendium.
Duration. This tells you how long it takes to cast the spell. There are a few lengths of duration times. Here are some prevalent ones.
- Instantaneous – This is the case for a most spells. The effects of these spells happen in a Thanos-snap, and because of their speed, cannot be dispelled, because the magical effects last only for an instant. However, this begs clarification. If you cast a fireball in a tavern, the natural effects of those flames, being a natural element that has been magically produced, will persist, and your tavern will burn down.
- Concentration – Some spells require concentration. If they do, you will find a nice little “C” specified on the spell card. That means that the effects of the spell hold as long as you do. However, if you take damage, fail a saving throw, or experience an effect that will break your concentration, the spell effects end.
- Until Dispelled. This is a little rarer. However, the duration is what it says. The magical effects of your spell persist until someone dispels them.