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5 Overlooked Cantrips in Dungeons and Dragons 5e

March 20, 2023

(And 4 To Avoid)

Hi there, chances are you googled “best cantrips” and that’s easy; it’s Eldritch Blast. It’s got the range, deals force damage that is rarely resisted, and doesn’t take any materials to cast. But aside from that, what are some other overlooked non-combat cantrips worth taking and what are a few to avoid?

Let’s dive in with…

The description of Guidance

Credit: D&D Online

1: Guidance:

Adding a 1d4 to any ability check, especially at a low level is a massive help. Even if you roll a 1, it might be the difference between picking and breaking a lock. Your cleric or druid can do this for free all day long, provided they’re not concentrating on anything else. Think of it as a magical high five. Charm that guard, guidance. Move this boulder, guidance. Juggle these apples, guidance. It probably won’t come up in combat, but in your day-to-day adventures, it’s great right through to level 20.

The description of Mending

Credit: D&D Online

2: Mending:

If you’re an artificer, mending is how you heal your mechanical friends, but for a wide variety of classes, it has loads of uses. Not only can you fix broken items to help people for free (or charge them, hey, run a repair shop in a small town if that’s your thing) but you can repair arrows or thrown weapons of your own, or even weapons or armor scavenged from certain monsters.

Where mending really shines is using mending on your own items that you intentionally break. Say you have a cart, and you don’t want it stolen; break the axle and come back to repair it later. Maybe you have a criminal and you don’t want them picking a lock on their handcuffs. Get some chain, smash the links, and mend them together so there is no lock. Have a knife you need to smuggle somewhere, break it into little pieces with a hammer and mend them back when you need to. Maybe there is a secret message on a piece of paper or a map you need to protect, rip it up and have it knit back together when you’re ready to read it.

The description of Prestidigitation

Credit: D&D Online

3: Prestidigitation:

For a long time I overlooked this spell in favor of minor illusion, but honestly, it’s a solid choice for when you need a guard to leave their post and you soil their pants from 10 feet away. Maybe you’re out on a date and you get mustard on your lapel, you’ve got a magical stain remover. You could run your own dry-cleaning business. Look at me, taking out this diamond, oh no I dropped it. Quick, everyone look around for it! Did anyone see where it went? Use that chaos to sneak away. Fighting a doppelganger that looks identical to you, well now it’s got a magic pink X on its forehead. Maybe you just need to snuff out a campfire to get the drop on some goblins. The best part is that you can have multiple versions of these effects at the same time and not have to concentrate on them.

The description of Light

Credit: D&D Online

4: Light

With a range of touch, light can be somewhat limited. But it lasts for an hour and doesn’t require concentration so those are both perks. The light can be whatever color you want to, so that helps if you’re trying to be stealthy. You can light up a stone and put it into a hooded lantern to make a flashlight, or just light up the fighter’s helmet so they don’t have to use a torch.

Light can also be used as a weapon. You can make a touch attack that an enemy can avoid with dexterity to light up their armor in a dark cave, or you could just light and throw a rock at some monsters crouching in the darkness. You can also block the light by keeping the object that is lit concealed, say in a clay jar, the jar breaks open and you bathe everything in bright light. Now they’re standing in bright light, and you can clearly see them, but they can’t see you in the dark, giving you advantage and them disadvantage.

The description of Mold Earth

Credit: D&D Beyond

The description of Shape Water

Credit: D&D Beyond

5: Mold Earth / Shape Water:

I put both in this last slot as they’re very similar, but I want to highlight both of them.
Mold earth can be used to dig, you know, for treasure. Pick up 5 cubic feet of dirt (in six seconds) shake the dirt out, collect any objects in it, repeat. You could dig a pit for a trap, make an earthwork wall or embankment to give yourself advantage or mess up the terrain to slow an advancing enemy. You could even make messages or drawings in the dirt or 3D model the face of an enemy in clay to ask around town where they might be hiding.

Shape water can be used for messages too by shaping the water into words, but it’s got other odd properties as a cantrip. Since the water expands when it freezes (in six seconds with this cantrip), you can use this to break locks or shatter the hinges off doors. You could find if there are fish in water by controlling it or look for something in muddy water by making it clear. If you mix sand into the water and have the water spin, you can weather down objects and grind them like a rock tumbler, maybe polish gems or stones or even clean the tooth of a dragon.

These next cantrips, feel free to skip these.

The description of Blade Ward

Credit: Wikidot

X: Blade Ward

In this form, this spell is terrible. Fine, it gives resistance against bludgeoning, slashing, and piercing attacks, but those are only weapons attacks making this spell useless unless you’re being hit with a weapon. A bear gnawing on your arm or a goblin jump kicking you over a table, you’re taking all of that damage. Also, it takes an action to cast it, rather than a bonus action. I guess if you were totally surrounded by tiny enemies with weapons, like a pack of pixies, and needed to take less damage, I suppose this could help, but you probably have more spells that will outclass this. Or just kill the thing trying to kill you, that could work. Also, unless you’re an eldritch knight or a combat bard, you shouldn’t be on the front lines having weapons stabbing into you in the first place.

The description of Control Flames

Credit: D&D Beyond

X: Control Flames

I know I went on and on about controlling water and earth, so why not flames? Well making fire in Dungeons and Dragons, especially in 5e, is easy. You can produce flame, create bonfire, firebolt, and those spells all make more fire and cause damage. Control Flames doesn’t make new fire and can’t even spread the fire unless you have fuel where the fire should be. Also, if you needed to put out a fire, you could use most of the other cantrips on this list to just dump a blob of earth on it or just snap your fingers and make the fire no longer exist with prestidigitation. And it only works on non-magical fire, pass.

The description of the cantrip Spare The Dying

Credit: D&D Beyond

X: Spare the Dying.

Sigh. Just use a healer’s kit. It does the exact same thing and they come in a pack of ten. Sure, a healer’s kit costs 10G, but are you THAT strapped for cash?

X: True Strike

I will admit, True Strike sounds cool. You learn about your enemy to hit them harder by peering into their defenses as the gods themselves tell you their weaknesses. But only YOU get advantage on attacks, and you don’t learn anything useful. Are they resistant to certain kinds of damage or spells? What are they going to do on their turn? Where are they weak? You don’t get any of that, but you get advantage on your next attack, but you have to make an attack roll against them on your next turn or the spell is wasted. Also, since this spell is concentration based, you can’t concentrate on other useful spells and if you take damage, you might lose this spell. Your Dungeon Master might let you cast this out of combat, but if you already have a surprise round, you have advantage already anyway and giving the enemy a round of actions is just going to get you and everyone else more injured. Bottom line, just attack twice!

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