Imagine you have a warlock who just needs to know a little more about magic. He’s searching for some ancient spell lost to the ages of time. You as the DM would like to give him this spell, but you don’t want to make something too powerful, or too underwhelming.
Here is a simple method that will help you tweak and balance your homebrew D&D Spells. We will primarily be looking at 5th edition.
Determine What the Spell Does
This can be taken a few different directions. Perhaps your player wants some specific ability. Maybe they want an additional attack spell that is more situational than their existing spells. Try to come up with some effect that may be very useful for certain situations, but a very poor choice in others. You are trying to give your players another tool to work with, not a multi-tool that does everything!
Perhaps your campaign has a specific theme you are trying to convey, in this case, homebrew a spell that would make sense in your world. A dark Lovecraftian world may contain many dark secrets and spells that have minor (or major) negative effects that come with casting very powerful spells. When you create a spell in this way you can tell the players a little more about world. Use it as a fun context clue to tell them more about your story.
Example – Necromantic Tether
For the purposes of this article I will be creating a spell called Necromantic Tether. A Warlock spell that can grapple an enemy at range and automatically deal damage each round that they use their action to continue the spell. You can see the full spell details here on Homebrewery.
Necromantic Tether allows you to make an attack against a single target. The target takes 2d4 necrotic damage on hit. If the target is size medium or smaller the target becomes grappled. The target can use its action to make a strength or dexterity save against your spell save DC to escape the grapple and end the spell. The spell is concentration up to one minute, if you may use your action to automatically deal damage and continue the grapple (if they haven’t escaped).
At higher levels the damage dice increases to 2d6, 2d8, 2d10, and 2d12. Higher levels also allow larger creatures to be grappled.
Compare It with Existing Spells
To balance your homebrew spell, look at a few existing spells. Balancing your spells against what is already available will help keep them in check.
For Necromantic Tether we will be looking at 3 spells in the D&D Players Handbook
- Witch Bolt – This is a 1st level attack spell. It does damage on hit, then if the caster uses their action to continue the spell on their following turns, it deals automatic damage. This is a concentration spell for up to 1 minute. The damage is a d12 and increases by slot level.
- Hold Person – 2nd level concentration spell that allows the caster to paralyze a humanoid
- Hold Monster – 5th level concentration spell that allows the caster to paralyze any creature
Our spell is most like Witch Bolt in that it deals constant damage, and the caster must use their action to continue the effects. We don’t want Necromantic Tether to replace Witch Bolt so we will keep our damage below a d12. We do offer the ability to grapple which adds good utility. Grapple is like the Hold spells however grappling doesn’t paralyze the target. The target can still use actions, it simply can’t move. This makes me more comfortable about putting the spell at a lower level than the others.
As the spells increase we bump up the damage and increase the size of the monster that can be grappled. This brings them more in line with the Holding spells.
Post it Online
Nobody is more cut throat than the open internet. Post your ideas online and ask for feedback. There is always somebody who knows a little more than you. Let people hit your ideas around. I’ve found that most communities are good about critiquing ideas you post online. Don’t worry too much if people say your idea is bad. You’ll usually have a few comment gems that really teach you about the systems your modifying. Here are 2 good D&D communities for hombrew content.
r/DnDHomebrew is a good place to post your work in progress questions and ask for feedback.
r/UnearthedArcana is a good place to post your more polished pieces.
Probably the best way to understand how powerful a spell can be is to test it in your own campaign. The function of the spell will determine its usefulness. All campaigns have a different mix of exploration, combat, and social encounters. A powerful attack spell may be overpowered in a combat heavy campaign while just fine in a more social game.
If you don’t want to give the players access to the ability outright, give it to one of your NPCs. Perhaps a friendly Wizard, or some enemy the players have been tracking. This will give you the ability to use the spell within the context of your game but still let you tweak things if they seem too powerful or too underwhelming.
- Determine what the spell does
- Compare it with existing spells
- Post it Online
- Playtest it
I hope this guide helps you create your own D&D Homebrew Spells!
Thanks for Reading,