These 5e spells scare me to death! Phantasmal force and therefore the phantasmal killer has scared many of the NPCs to death, anyway. These two spells are a number of the weird illusion spells within the game since they directly and aggressively assault the minds of other creatures, instead of creating a harmless, illusory sensation. These spells are a must-have for any illusionist wizard but also are broadly available to several different classes and subclasses. They’ll seem sadistic, but characters, who believe that evildoers deserve their comeuppance, or that the ends justify the means, will find a bevy of delightfully terrifying uses for these phantasmagorical spells.
There are two “phantasmal” spells in D&D: phantasmal force and phantasmal killer. In past editions of D&D, there have been many other phantasmal spells too, like a phantasmal thief, phantasmal injury, and phantasmal strangler. While these other spells haven’t been updated to D&D’s current edition, all phantasmal spells have something in common: they create an illusion so realistic and frightful that the target believes it’s capable of being harmed by it.
Phantasmal Force 5e
- Casting Time: 1 action
- Range: 60 feet
- Components: V, S, M
- Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
- Scales: No
- Casters: Arcane Trickster, Bard, Sorcerer, Wizard
Phantasmal force is the weaker of the 2 spells; a 2nd-level illusion spells available to bards, sorcerers, wizards, Arcane Trickster rogues, and warlocks of the Archfey and therefore the Great Old One. Simply, this spell allows you to craft an illusory object perceivable only by the target of the spell. As long as the spell lasts, the target interacts with the thing as if it were real, and justifies away any event that might suggest it isn’t real. If the illusory object is harmful, it can harm the target—dealing with psychic damage, of course.
The phantasmal killer may be a deadly spell that not only debuffs a creature with the potent frightening condition but also deals with psychic damage each turn until the target makes a successful saving throw and ends the spell. If your party is in a position to impose an obstacle thereon creature’s Wisdom saving throws, it’d never be ready to escape the nightmare you’ve woven for it!
Note that the phantasmal killer has some slightly confusing wording. Within the past, some people have posited that continued damage occurs albeit the target succeeds on the primary saving throw and resists becoming frightened. To clear up any confusion, the spell ends if a creature succeeds on any of its saving throws, including the initial save. Jeremy Crawford has confirmed that this was how the spell functions by rules-as-written. If you’re willing to introduce a house rule to your game, however, I might recommend removing the initial saving throw. This guarantees that the spell deals a minimum of 4d10 damage and frightens the target for one turn. Otherwise, in my opinion, this spell may be a bit too weak compared to other 4th-level spells.
That makes sense; the DM shouldn’t be expected to easily tell the caster the creature’s greatest fear since that’s beyond the purview of the spell. And besides, it’s easier and quicker for the DM to easily come up with a scary thing sort of a dragon or a clown with a knife than for the DM to inform the caster of the creature’s deepest fear, and then await the caster to return up with something suitably scary.