As a spellcaster in Dungeons & Dragons, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of options available to you.
Some spells seem like easy picks. For example, being able to turn invisible to avoid attacks and slip by unnoticed? Yeah, Invisibility is always going to be useful. Being able to incinerate a room full of baddies? Yeah, Fireball is pretty awesome.
But once you’ve taken the spells that seem like must-picks, which other spells should you focus on?
After all, there are plenty of D&D 5e spells that don’t immediately seem very useful… But when they’re used in clever and interesting ways, they can really turn the tides of any combat or social encounter.
Here are some of the most overlooked yet useful D&D 5e spells that you’d be a fool to underestimate. The next time you’re adding a spell to your character, you may want to consider these ones.
1. Heat Metal
Choose a manufactured metal object, such as a metal weapon or a suit of heavy or medium metal armor, that you can see within range. You cause the object to glow red-hot. Any creature in physical contact with the object takes 2d8 fire damage when you cast the spell. Until the spell ends, you can use a bonus action on each of your subsequent turns to cause this damage again.
If a creature is holding or wearing the object and takes the damage from it, the creature must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or drop the object if it can. If it doesn’t drop the object, it has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks until the start of your next turn.
Heat Metal sounds pretty straightforward the first time you read it. You can make a metal object glow red-hot. Big deal, right?
Well, the thing about Heat Metal is that it can have different effects depending on what you cast it on—and with its 60-foot casting range, you have a lot of options.
Cast it on the Big Bad’s wielded sword and they’ll either have to drop the weapon or continue suffering damage every turn. And the damage from Heat Metal can’t be halved with a saving throw!
If you want to inflict damage without any chance of the target dropping their weapon, you can instead cast Heat Metal on their armor (which usually can’t be taken off quickly during combat).
Not only will they continue to take Heat Metal damage, but they’ll also get Disadvantage on all attack rolls and ability checks!
2. Plant Growth
This spell channels vitality into plants within a specific area. There are two possible uses for the spell, granting either immediate or long-term benefits.
If you cast this spell using 1 action, choose a point within range (150 feet). All normal plants in a 100-foot radius centered on that point become thick and overgrown. A creature moving through the area must spend 4 feet of movement for every 1 foot it moves.
You can exclude one or more areas of any size within the spell’s area from being affected.
If you cast this spell over 8 hours, you enrich the land. All plants in a half-mile radius centered on a point within range become enriched for 1 year. The plants yield twice the normal amount of food when harvested.
Plant Growth is one of the more situational D&D 5e spells because it needs to be case in an area with lots of natural plants. That rules out most cities, most indoor or underground locations, and anywhere that’s a desert, tundra, or similarly barren.
But when you are able to cast it—which should often be true when you’re traveling from location to location—you can use it to effectively lock non-flying enemies in position. (They’ll need to spend 20 movement per 5-foot cell.)
Combine that with a bit of teamwork to take down enemies with ease. Area spells are more potent because they can catch most (or all) targets, and spells like Erupting Earth and Spiritual Guardians (which do damage over time as long as enemies are within range) pair well with Plant Growth.
And since you can exclude your party from getting caught up in the overgrowth, Plant Growth can be used as an escape spell. Being chased down by pursuers? Trip them up and get away.
3. Thunder Step
You teleport yourself to an unoccupied space you can see within range (90 feet). Immediately after you disappear, a thunderous boom sounds, and each creature within 10 feet of the space you left must make a Constitution saving throw, taking 3d10 thunder damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. The thunder can be heard from up to 300 feet away.
You can bring along objects as long as their weight doesn’t exceed what you can carry. You can also teleport one willing creature of your size or smaller who is carrying gear up to its carrying capacity. The creature must be within 5 feet of you when you cast this spell, and there must be an unoccupied space within 5 feet of your destination space for the creature to appear in; otherwise, the creature is left behind.
Thunder Step is published in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
For D&D spellcasters, having ways to get out of dangerous situations is an important part of surviving adventures. After all, you have limited health, fragile armor, and not many defensive skills.
That’s where a spell like Thunder Step comes in. It’s basically a beefed up version of Misty Step with longer range, a way to inflict damage, and the ability to bring someone with you. Whereas Misty Step costs 1 Bonus Action, Thunder Step costs 1 Action.
Thunder Step isn’t just a way to get yourself out of danger—you can use it to save one of your teammates. Dimension Door can do the same thing (i.e. bring someone with you), but Thunder Step has the extra feature of leaving thunderous pain in your wake.
If you need a mobility spell with lots of style, get Thunder Step!
4. Modify Memory
You attempt to reshape another creature’s memories. One creature that you can see must make a Wisdom saving throw. If you are fighting the creature, it has advantage on the saving throw. On a failed save, the target becomes charmed by you for the duration. The charmed target is incapacitated and unaware of its surroundings, though it can still hear you. If it takes any damage or is targeted by another spell, this spell ends, and none of the target’s memories are modified.
While this charm lasts, you can affect the target’s memory of an event that it experienced within the last 24 hours and that lasted no more than 10 minutes. You can permanently eliminate all memory of the event, allow the target to recall the event with perfect clarity and exacting detail, change its memory of the details of the event, or create a memory of some other event.
You must speak to the target to describe how its memories are affected, and it must be able to understand your language for the modified memories to take root. Its mind fills in any gaps in the details of your description. If the spell ends before you have finished describing the modified memories, the creature’s memory isn’t altered. Otherwise, the modified memories take hold when the spell ends.
A modified memory doesn’t necessarily affect how a creature behaves, particularly if the memory contradicts the creature’s natural inclinations, alignment, or beliefs. An illogical modified memory, such as implanting a memory of how much the creature enjoyed dousing itself in acid, is dismissed, perhaps as a bad dream. The GM might deem a modified memory too nonsensical to affect a creature in a significant manner.
A remove curse or greater restoration spell cast on the target restores the creature’s true memory.
Modify Memory has a lot of spell text, but a lot of players immediately assume it’s a pretty straightforward spell: you charm the target, play with its memories, and then it’s done. But there’s some interesting stuff you can do with Modify Memory!
Casting it on a creature within range allows you to completely change the target’s perception of a recent event. Don’t want an NPC to remember the conversation you just had? Erase it from their mind—or better yet, alter it so that it’s more in your favor.
At first, Modify Memory can only be used to affect memories from the past 24 hours. But once you start using Modify Memory with higher-level spell slots, you can alter memories from further and further in the past—up to 7 days ago (6th level), 30 days ago (7th level), 1 year ago (8th level), any time in the target’s past (9th level).
These memory modifications don’t have much use in combat, but they can be insanely useful for negotiations, for gradually influencing a target’s behavior, or for “rewinding” an event that didn’t go your way.
As long as the modified memory is plausible and realistic, it will become the target’s new truth. Imagine how powerful that can be.