101 5th Level Spells Delivers the Goods…All 101 of Them

November 17th, 2010 by Billy Gibbs

Rite Publishing’s 101 Fifth Level Spells is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a collection of 101 fifth level spells. That’s a lot of spells, so I’ll describe some of the Wizard/Sorcerer spells this time through; divine casters are next time.

Those of you who have played Pathfinder or D&D 3.5 know that there are a few balance issues with spell casters at certain levels, at least with regards to the rest of the party. The fighter’s amazing axe skills can tend to get overshadowed by the wizard yelling, “Save or DIE!” every round. Knowing this, I went into this collection of spells wary of what might be inside. The answer is fun stuff, but some of them will require DM discretion.

Therefore, the only solution is to test it on my players first. Kinetic Force is the first of these that I tested out. It’s essentially an upgraded magic missile that hits for 1d6+1 per missile, one missile per level, and bull-rushing the victim 10 ft. on a failed save. Oh, and if they fail the fortitude save by five or more, they also get knocked prone. This also happens if they hit a wall or another person. If they hit a person, that person gets bull-rushed as though the original target had initiated it. If I’m reading that right, a level nine wizard could hit the plate mail Fighter with nine of these, deal 9d6+9 damage, and potentially bull-rush him and anyone behind him 90 ft. How’s that for a boss fight? Sadly, the spell didn’t perform to its highest potential in my testing, but it was still scary. The big question is whether or not this is better or worse than Cloudkill, the spell I will be comparing the wizard spells to for balance. The verdict: probably not, though it is a lot more fun for both sides. I really like it for use as a big bad’s spell, because Cloudkill just seems unfair and the biggest thing I’ve learned about having caster bosses be fun is that you can’t let the party get into melee on them or it’s over fast, so giving the boss something to move the party around can let him rearrange the battle field a bit more to his liking. I think more casters will be using this in future campaigns.

Crystal Spray is one of those spells that give DMs nightmares. A minimum 25 foot cone of save versus teleported to a random plane. That’s just, wow. Like, there goes the Big Bad, man. It’s sad because he really tied the campaign together. The upshot is that as the DM you can dictate the dimension he gets sent to, and what happens when he gets back. Readers are probably beginning to grasp that as a DM I worry a lot more about the game balance than many players would. Most of my campaigns do not reach the levels where fifth level spells become relevant. Part of that is time, and part of it is because the spells can get rather crazy. This spell I wouldn’t mind putting in an artifact for a plot device, but having this spell lurking in the player’s list means that every boss is effectively a will save or just fudge to immunity. The upside is that for a long running campaign you can have teleported victims always go to the same plane, where they can go all Superfriends on the PCs at a later time. Good spell. Definitely better than Cloudkill in the short term, but so good that it really needs DM approval, and he will probably use it against you later.

One of my favorite spells in 101 5th Level Spells is Redefine the Tools of War. This is a spell that allows you transmute one weapon, armor, or shield into a different weapon, armor, or shield with the same properties as the original. Don’t want to throw away that greatsword’s benefits but are tired of using both hands? Redefine it. DMs using random loot tables and cooking up axes when you really want a greataxe? Redefine it. Is it better than Cloudkill? Not in the slightest, but it’s probably more utility, and utility is fun.

There are quite a few spells in this collection that do all sorts of magicky things like Vacuum Ball, which creates a sphere of airless space, or Megalomania, which convinces the target he’s much more awesome than he actually is. Washout creates an instant tsunami, which is definitely better than Cloudkill, and gives you a chance to go nuclear if everything else fails. It also indicates the trouble of balancing spells at high levels. How much help is the rest of the party when that one guy can just wash all the troubles away? I love having spells that do things other than just damage of various elements, but that poses such an issue of balance that I’m not sure I want to let my players touch it for fear of every problem getting solved by the guy in robes. I’m more inclined to let the damage spells be used by players because as DM it’s easier to quantify and plan around damage output. A player with a tsunami is harder to predict, but could lead to the PCs dealing with the consequences of flooding the dungeon, the town, and the whole valley. This brings back to my motto of RPG addition lists of any kind. Variety is good, but be picky about what you allow, and be sure to test it on your players first.

Come back next time when I handle the divine spells in here, including one that may neglect the need for 8 hour rests.

You can acquire your own pdf of 101 5th Level Spells from DriveThruRPG.

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