house of the dragons

Monday 8:27am
I woke up with you on my mind.
You called me babe last night —
my heart is still pounding.

Tuesday 10:53pm
Today I realized we won’t work.
What we are is hurting her.
And I think she matters more to me than you do.

Wednesday 11:52pm
I broke things off with you today.
She barely said a word.
I’ve never regretted anything more than this.

Thursday 4:03pm
I shouldn’t have sent that message.
You shouldn’t have been so okay with receiving it.

Friday 9:57pm
I almost messaged you today.
I didn’t.

Saturday 8:49pm
I’m walking around town in search of alcohol.
They say that liquor numbs the pain of having a broken heart.
I want to put that to the test.

Sunday 2:32am
I heard you texted a girl you’ve never spoken to before.
I wonder if it’s because you’re trying to replace me.
I can’t help but wish you weren’t.
I thought I was irreplaceable.

—  a week with you on my mind, c.j.n.
Spellcasting Combat Narration for D&D

image credit: Ben Wootten

So I was gonna include this in my other article on narrating combat, but it proved far too lengthy, so I made this into part 2! 

Combat is easy to describe compared to narrating spell attacks. I ran into this problem last session when I was getting into detail telling the barbarian how they tore off an ogre’s head but then the druid just kept using Fire Bolt and I kept defaulting to “you shoot a bolt of fire at his face.” I’m going to try and vary things up with these lists and help everyone else in the process! I am organizing them by energy type.

Mode of Attack

Half of a spell’s attack is how the caster shapes their spell. The same spell can look very different with every casting if you have a creative DM. Feel free to switch it up each time it’s cast, or vary the same spell when cast by different characters of different classes.

Attack Words

Generic shapes and terms that will launch from the caster’s hand.

Helix, Spiral, Beam, Erratic, Mote, Bolt, Stream, Blast, Burst, Blade, Arc, Miasma, Cloud, Eruption, Wave, Cone, Missile, Rune, Glyph

Class-Based Ideas

  • Bard
    • Energy manifests from thin air a foot in front of their instrument as they play
    • Energy is shaped like ribbons of written music that ripples towards enemies
    • Several tiny motes of energy appear with each note sung or played. Each point of damage comes from a mote hitting the opponent (rolls a 4 out of a d6, 4 of the 6 note-motes hit)
  • Cleric
    • Energy falls from the sky or emerges from the ground as the cleric prays
    • Beam of energy originates from holy symbol
    • Spell attack should highlight that the cleric is granted their powers from a greater power, don’t have the energy come from their hand/finger. Have the energy come TO them, and then be thrown at the enemy.
  • Druid
    • Energy is shaped like an animal.
    • Energy rushes forth from the surrounding wilderness and zooms past the druid and toward the foe.
    • Much like Cleric, energy shouldn’t come from the caster. It should come from elsewhere before being thrown at the enemy.
  • Fighter (Eldritch Knight)
    • Energy blasts from their bound weapon pointed at the enemy.
    • Energy fires from their mouth as they yell.
    • Energy surrounds their weapon and is used in tandem with it (if close enough)
  • Monk (Way of Four Elements)
    • Literally just watch Avatar: the Last Airbender and do that.
  • Paladin
    • Most Paladin spells are smite-based, so they usually happen when an attack hits. Otherwise, let the energy come from a higher power like the Cleric.
    • Energy bursts forth from within the creature hit
    • Energy surrounds weapon right as the strike lands
    • Energy falls from the sky or erupts from the ground
  • Ranger
    • Honestly, most Ranger spells often seem a lot like man-made traps like Cordon of Arrows (arrow traps), Fog Cloud (smoke grenade), or Grasping Vine (slipknot trap). But otherwise, Play it like the Cleric where the energy comes from a higher power.
    • Energy takes the form of the Ranger’s animal companion or an animal they associate with.
    • Spells seem to cast automatically whenever the Ranger is in a tight spot, almost as if nature itself is protecting them. The Ranger gives an approving nod whenever this happens in thanks.
  • Rogue (Arcane Trickster)
    • Energy is always accompanied by a shimmer of glitter
    • The Rogue plays with the energy over their fingertips as they whistle before casting the spell.
    • Energy enchants one of the Rogue’s daggers and casts the spell by tossing the dagger at the intended location or target.
  • Sorcerer (Draconic Bloodline)
    • Energy takes the shape of a dragon of your bloodline.
    • Energy surges forth from your breath
    • All energy takes the shape of your bloodline dragon’s energy type, regardless of the actual energy type. For instance, a sorcerer of a blue dragon’s bloodline that casts Burning Hands or Cone of Cold keeps the energy type but shapes the fire and cold damage into the form of a bolt of lightning. 
  • Sorcerer (Wild Magic) 
    • Energy takes on many random forms, never under the full command of the Sorcerer.
    • Energy erupts from random places in the environment when the Sorcerer calls upon them.
    • Energy bubbles and fizzes with all energy types (but mostly the one called upon), as if a piece of Limbo was thrown at the enemy.
  • Warlock (Archfey)
    • Your energy shimmers with iridescent colors and showers enemies with sparks of glitter.
  • Warlock (Great Old One)
    • Your magic corrupts and twists the flesh of the target of your spell, regardless of the energy type.
  • Warlock (Fiend)
    • Energy takes the shape of the unholy symbol of your patron.
  • Wizard (Abjuration)
    • Energy shoots forth from your magical wards, arcing towards your enemies.
  • Wizard (Conjuration)
    • You conjure a short-lived elemental of the energy type you need. It soars at the enemy.
  • Wizard (Divination)
    • You weave the glowing threads of fate in the palms of your hands, tweaking reality to cast your spell.
  • Wizard (Enchantment)
    • You enchant an object to exude the energy and toss it at the enemy.
  • Wizard (Evocation)
    • I mean, you just sorta blast them. That’s what this school’s about.
  • Wizard (Illusion)
    • Your spell usually spawns two or three illusory copies. When the attack misses, the enemy simply managed to dodge the right duplicate.
  • Wizard (Necromancy)
    • Your energy takes the shape of a skull screaming as it flies toward the enemy
  • Wizard (Transmutation)
    • You transmute the energy out of the surrounding environment and fire it at the enemy

On-Hit

So if half of a spell’s attack is the shape and travel of the spell, the other half is when the spell hits. I organized this list by energy type, as different energies will do different sorts of things when they hit a creature. This is mostly a collection of interesting effects, colorful language, and examples.

Fire

  • Your bolt of fire singes their armor (burning cloth, blackening leather, discoloring metal)
  • A tiny bead of fire explodes on contact
  • Showers them with red sparks
  • Your attack leaves behind a billowing trail of smoke
  • A fast-travelling meteor of flame soars from the sky towards the enemy.
  • Your flames leave blisters and cracked skin in its wake.
  • Your fire blackens the enemy’s flesh

Cold

  • You freeze the moisture in the air into icy daggers that fall onto your enemy
  • You freeze the water in their blood to damage them
  • Their skin turns blue and numb
  • You literally hurl a snowball at them.
  • Your spell leaves them covered in a layer of frost
  • A buildup of ice covers where your spell hit. (it’s easily shattered once they move, though)
  • A blast of icy wind and rain leaves them shivering.

Thunder

  • A crack of thunder pummels your foe
  • A high-pitched, deafening shriek focuses itself on the target
  • A thin trail of blood races from the foe’s ears from a sound no one else can hear
  • The enemy falls to their knees cupping their hands over their ears, gritting their teeth
  • You buffet the target with waves of thunderous sound
  • The ground shakes with the force of your spell. Brittle glass objects nearby shatter.

Lightning

  • Lightning comes from the sky to smite your foe
  • You all smell the faint odor of ozone before a bright bolt of lightning streaks toward the target of your spell
  • Before your enemy can blink they are showered in electrical sparks followed by crippling pain
  • The enemy’s back stiffens as the powerful current of lightning surges through them
  • Your attack leaves a permanent web of lightning shaped burns all over one side of their body
  • Your blast of lightning causes their skin to rupture as it travels through their body

Acid

  • Your acid sizzles as it burns a new, unnatural color into their skin
  • The attack melts their flesh, leaving them permanently disfigured at the site of the spell
  • Your spell’s acid causes blue fire to burn where it hit their skin, and bleaches their armor and belongings
  • A rancid smell fills the foe’s nostrils as the acid bubbles on their bare skin, burning through the simple cloth of their shirt.

Poison

  • You spew a poisonous cloud from your mouth at your opponent
  • A spectral viper or insect is flung at the opponent, biting them and filling them with magical venom
  • Your index and middle finger each grow a poisonous fang which you sink into your opponent’s arm (melee range spell attacks only)
  • The enemy’s mouth fills with a foul tasting liquid which forces its way down their throat

Necrotic

  • Your target’s flesh bubbles and boils as a black ichor sputters from the spell’s origin
  • The foe’s flesh festers with magical disease as boils and wounds quickly cover the affected area
  • A skeletal hand wriggles free from beneath the earth, flying towards the target
  • An incorporeal undead shrieks as it flies from your finger toward the enemy to deliver the spell’s effect
  • Black energy swirls around your arm before launching towards the enemy as if it had a life of its own
  • Your iridescent blue magic enters the target’s body and afflicts their soul, making them momentarily dazed as their eyes glaze over.

Radiant

  • A holy light shines from the skies to harm your target, regardless of time of day or obstructions
  • A halo of radiant energy surrounds your head and blinds the target as they gaze upon it
  • Enemies that aren’t of your alignment hear the whispers of your deity moments before being enveloped in a blinding white light
  • The foe’s eyes and mouth emit warm light and they howl in pain
  • A blade of radiant energy slashes through the victim, leaving a trail of blinking motes of light in its wake
  • The enemy’s skin blisters from the raw positive energy surging through them

So essentially this whole post was a creative writing assignment for myself, but I hope that it gives you guys new creative ideas for new spells or new ways to describe existing spells! They don’t much affect the mechanics of the spell at all, so most DMs I suspect will be fine with most of these descriptions if you want your character to cast spells a certain way.

Newt Scamander aesthetic 💛

Looking back, I can’t remember the truth. I blew everything out of proportion so I could feel the hurt and betrayal and write about it in vivid detail. It was my own method of torture. My own undoing; and I enjoyed every second of it.
—  c.j.n.
Bard Week: Magically Musical Equipment

I decided to come up with a bunch of bard-friendly or bard-specific magic items since bards don’t get much love in terms of treasure other than generic weapons or that short list of magic instruments that just cast spells. These are at least unique or interesting, but some are a bit “out there.” If you are a loose DM and your players like having a laugh, these items are perfect for you.


Accelerating Wardrum

Uncommon, requires attunement by a bard

This Behir skin stretched over a black wooden drum can be beaten as a bonus action once per round. Doing so moves a creature the bard chooses to be moved one step ahead in the initiative order.

Rapier of Harmony

Very Rare, requires attunement by a bard

A thin silver +1 rapier that hums when swung. The wielder can use a bonus action to make a Performance check. On a result of 16 or higher, the rapier vibrates and creates a tone that harmonizes with the wielder’s voice. The next attack deals bonus damage equal to the bard’s CHA modifier.

Resounding Scimitar

Rare, requires attunement by a bard

Whenever a creature fails an attack roll against a bard wielding this gleaming white scimitar with a wavy hilt and pattern, the bard can use their reaction to whack the creature’s weapon with the scimitar and cause a loud, grating noise to deal 1d6 thunder damage to the attacker if they fail a DC 14 CON saving throw.

Song of Activation

Special (Song)

A specific song that when played, will activate known magical items or runes in the world. [Use this song as treasure that can progress the plot, almost like finding a key to the next room of a dungeon. Think of learning a new song in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time]

Song of Prestidigitation/Thaumaturgy/Druidcraft

Special (Song)

A specific song that when played, can mimic the effects of a Prestidigitation, Thaumaturgy, or Druidcraft spell, respectively. [A song that can be learned by a bard that is relatively harmless to the integrity of your campaign’s storyline]

Biting Words

Special (Words)

Powerful words that the bard can speak with their magic to deal 1d6 cold damage at a range of 60 ft. This damage increases by one die at 5th, 11th, and 17th levels. [basically a new cantrip for bards that deals more damage than Vicious Mockery but doesn’t impose disadvantage]

Orb of Radiant Song

Common, requires attunement by a bard

Much like a Driftglobe, but only produces light while the bard is singing. [It has slightly less uses than a Driftglobe thanks to negating attempts to move silently with it lit, and its attunement restriction, so it’s meant for the very early game.]

Backup Golem

Rare, requires attunement by a bard

A tiny golem or animated object that comes to life only when the attuned bard is performing. The golem gives the bard advantage on its Performance checks as it embellishes or harmonizes with whatever the bard does for their performance.

Sassy Friend

Uncommon

A tiny totem or charm that is shaped like a mask. When the wielder attempts to make an Insight check to determine if a creature is lying, the Sassy Friend charm animates temporarily with a backhanded comment, which it says aloud (whether or not the creature was lying). This decreases the DC to determine any lie by 1. This bonus does not stack with itself or other Sassy Friends.

Sassy Friend (Greater)

Rare

 A Sassy Friend charm that can also cast Zone of Truth once per day, centered on itself.

Nolzur’s Marvellous Pigments

Very Rare

This is an item that many bards would love to use but people always forget it exists. Whatever you paint becomes real! As long as it isn’t magical.

Cloak of Dancing

Rare, requires attunement by a bard

A bard who dances while wearing this audacious red cloak can fascinate nearby creatures, affecting them in a manner similar to an Enthrall spell, once per day. The bard need not concentrate on this effect, and in fact may make a Performance check against the onlookers’ Insight checks any time during the cloak’s Enthrall effect to animate the cloak and sneak out of it as it continues to dances and enthrall its audience.

Horn of Calling

Uncommon

An iron-bound animal horn acts as a magic megaphone that amplifies the volume of noises that pass through it. The Horn of Calling can also cast Whispering Wind once per day.

Cursed Collar of Tongues

Rare

A golden lace choker that allows the wearer to speak any language, but never quite what they intend to say. Whenever the player wishes to speak, the player says what they intend to say and then the DM blurts out what they inevitably say instead. A DC 20 Insight check will determine what exactly is wrong with the victim and a DC 18 Insight check will allow the player to get their true message across to a character. The player must overcome a CHA save to avoid having their next sentence bastardized by the DM. Each successful saving throw deals 1 psychic damage to the wearer as it the collar fights back against their efforts. The collar cannot be removed except by repressing its magic long enough to remove it, or by casting a Tongues or Comprehend Languages spell upon it along with a DC 15 Arcana check.

Death Whistle

Very Rare

A small bone whistle carved with symbols and imagery of death. The whistle, when blown, casts Circle of Death centered on the whistle. The DC for the spell is equal to the blower’s spell save DC. Once used, the whistle crumbles to dust as its shrill, eerie note echoes into the distance.

Ribbon of Hyucks

Rare, requires attunement by a bard

When this purple ribbon with white polka dots is worn by a bard, whenever the bard makes a pun, all creatures within earshot that understand the wordplay must make a DC 11 CHA save or take 1 psychic damage. This ability can only occur once per round and does not discriminate friend or foe.

Crossbow of the Fartongue

Rare, requires attunement by a bard

This crossbow is fitted with a cone at the end of the barrel, and a scope that is sculpted to look like a mouth’s opening. The weapon allows the wielder to bestow their ammunition with a noise or verbal message of their choosing not exceeding 10 words. This noise plays once when the imbued bolt hits, but then its magic fades. The crossbow can be used to relay information at a distance, create a distraction, or mislead other creatures. If the wielder wishes for the noise to be an explosion, the ammunition deals 1 bonus Thunder damage on hit to all creatures within 5 feet of where the bolt hit. An explosion noise can be heard up to 600 ft. away. The crossbow is dotted with holes and can actually be played as a wooden flute when not in use as a combat weapon.

Cloak of Deflection

Rare

This garment appears to ebb and sway of its own accord even without any wind. The wearer of this iridescent blue cloak may spend their reaction to deflect a single, nonmagical missile targeting them to another creature within 60 feet of the wearer. If the new target of the attack’s AC is equal to or less than the original attack roll, the attack hits the new target and the attacker rolls for damage as normal.

Book of Dreams

Uncommon, requires attunement by a bard

The cover of this book is made with soft leather and is bound with spider silk string and rare bird feathers. The tome is blank, but when a story is told by someone attuned to it, illusionary imagery appears hovering above the book, acting out what the storyteller describes. In addition, when a story puts someone to sleep, the storyteller may allow the book to display and act out the sleeper’s dreams, which usually somehow tie in to the story that was being told. It can be useful for coaxing information out of friendly people without their knowledge.

4

When I was a child, an uncle asked what gift I wanted for my name day. I begged him for one of you. “It wouldn’t even have to be a big dragon,” I told him. “It could be little like me.” Everyone laughed like it was the funniest thing they had ever heard. Then my father told me the last dragon had died a century ago. I cried myself to sleep that night. But here you are.