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.
Generic shapes and terms that will launch from the caster’s hand.
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)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Energy takes the shape of the unholy symbol of your patron.
Energy shoots forth from your magical wards, arcing towards your enemies.
You conjure a short-lived elemental of the energy type you need. It soars at the enemy.
You weave the glowing threads of fate in the palms of your hands, tweaking reality to cast your spell.
You enchant an object to exude the energy and toss it at the enemy.
I mean, you just sorta blast them. That’s what this school’s about.
Your spell usually spawns two or three illusory copies. When the attack misses, the enemy simply managed to dodge the right duplicate.
Your energy takes the shape of a skull screaming as it flies toward the enemy
You transmute the energy out of the surrounding environment and fire it at the enemy
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.
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
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.
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 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
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.
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
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.
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.
I dare you to tell another story from the apartment
ALRIGHT BOYS GIRLS AND EVERYONE WHO THINKS THE GENDER BINARY IS FOR SQUARES IT’S STORY TIME.
Today, we’re going to talk about the time Paul’s desire for superior firepower turned into a mini arms race that ended with me setting Eric on fire with a homemade flamethrower.
No, Matt Boomer, you sexy motherfucker, I am not kidding you. Let’s begin with some details.
So when I was at the University of Iowa, several people, including myself, bought Nerf guns for impromptu battles in the hallways when we had free time. Mostly this was all good, clean fun, except for two of the guys down the hall, my roommate, and I.
We all thought, rightfully so, that factory built Nerf guns are bullshit. They’re weak, darts are too fucking light, the barrels cause too much friction, which makes them inaccurate and slow, and you have to re-cock them after each shot. That’s some fucking bullshit right there. So we fixed it.
We bought new, higher tensile springs. We bought PVC pipe and lubricant. We put BBs in the tips of our darts, and my roommate and even put in a second spring to automatically cock the gun, essentially turning them from bolt action pieces of shit into semi-automatic friendship-ruiners.
So when I moved back to Chicago, and into the apartment, I obviously brought my Nerf guns (my roommate gave me his when we moved out), and I obviously attacked my roommates the first opportunity I had. OBVIOUSLY this led to everyone buying Nerf guns and modifying the shit out of them.
However, some of us were terrible shots, so certain measures had to be taken to make it possible for them to keep up. Brad practiced in his room every day, Josh built an extended clip for his gun, and Kyle bought the fucking Vulcan and built a 600 dart belt for it because he decided aiming is for people who can’t fire 6 darts a second (he modded it for doubled firing speed using a small car battery and replaced mechanics).
And then there was Paul.
Paul was fucking terrible. Like almost so bad it couldn’t be for real. He once tried to ambush me coming around a corner from 2 feet away and missed by a good 6-7 inches. He literally could have slapped me and he missed. Whatever moving on.
So Paul decides to solve his aim problems in the most Paul way possible: online shopping. He bought 500 foam pellets for a marshmallow gun, two dozen foam discs, and a motherfucking t-shirt cannon.
You see, Paul, much like Kyle, decided aiming was for lames. So he would pour foam pellets into the cannon until it was half full, slip in a disc to keep them from falling out, then shotgun people in the face. I was his first victim and boy let me tell you that shit is terrifying.
So Paul became the big dog in the house during Nerf battles, and the rest of us found ourselves unable to compete. So we all escalated in our own insane ways. Eric and I, the former champions, modified our guns to fire faster, Brad added an extended magazine to his gun, Kyle built a harness so that he could shoot his fucking stupid fucking bullet-storm piece of shit while moving. Josh booby-trapped various parts of our apartment. Suddenly, we were all better than Paul again, so he decided to step his game up.
He started making paper cartridges that would explode open once fired. Suddenly, he could actually fire multiple times a minute, which meant once again, he was at the top. It didn’t help that our reluctance to shoot back out of fear of getting shot was allowing him to take his time, therefore drastically improving his aim.
So we stepped up again. I smooth out the cocking mechanism on my guns, improving my firing speed even faster. Eric adds more weight to his darts, making them heavier and faster and much more painful. Kyle buys a bigger battery, newer parts, and he perfects his belts, which increases his firing speed to 12 darts a second.
So Paul steps up to take advantage of his improved aim and buys something called a Pucker Chucker which basically is a t-shirt cannon except it shoots foam pucks. This means we can’t just shoot at him from the other side of the apartment anymore, so we all step up again. I modify the rail on top to make aiming easier, Eric modifies his grip to make it more comfortable, Kyle and brad modify their barrels to make them more accurate, and Josh jumps on board the crazy train and builds a goddamn under barrel cherry bomb launcher.
And this is where shit starts to spiral out of control.
Brad starts making smoke grenades, Kyle solves his weakness against close quarters combat by using his battery to create a cattle prod to keep people back. Eric breaks the head off an old golf club to use the shaft as a weapon, I put pins in the tips of all of my darts, and Paul realizes that the Pucker Chucker can also shoot real hockey pucks after he steals my bucket of pucks from my room.
So it escalated a couple more steps but I’m going to leave them out partially out of a desire to keep moving forward and partially out of shame anywhoozle when we pull out our final contraptions and modifications that day we shifted from light-hearted fun that was a bit too far to literally combat. Josh had a sword. I don’t know where he got it from.
That battle was terrifying. Our normal fights were like an hour, two hours tops, then we would clean up, get together in the living room with some beers, and laugh about what happened. Honestly we should have known this was going to happen because when we did this after our previous fight, the laughter was less “haha remember when I shot Josh in the butthole? Classic.” and more “haha remember when I missed your face with that puck? Next time I won’t miss.”
So we somehow get into a battle again and this time things go south quickly which is bound to happen when you have a dude in a speedo swinging a sword around while rolling fireworks down the hall. It was literally chaos. There were fireworks and homemade smoke grenades and Kyle made the electrical current in his cattle prod too strong and it was too close to the muzzle of his Vulcan so every few seconds you would just see a flaming dart wiz past and I built a fucking flamethrower and I don’t know what the fuck is going on so I’m just firing it in the general direction of Josh to keep him the fuck away. At some point Brad barricades himself in his room, and so we all run back to our rooms and hide.
We do this for three days. THREE DAYS. I missed classes. We all had junk food in our rooms, and private bathrooms, so that’s what we sustained ourselves on for three fucking days. I, however, try to eat healthy, so I ran out of food almost immediately. After not eating for a day and a half, with food literally less than 50 feet from where I was hiding, I decided that I was willing to risk a trip to the kitchen.
So here’s something important about our apartment: I was the only one who knew how to cook. I had tried to teach the others, but all that had accomplished was several kitchen fires. This meant when Eric also ran out of food, he knew the only way to get a meal was to make peace with me. So he had snuck down the hall to my door, intent on asking me for help.
I did not know he was there.
So when I opened the door and saw a crouching figure in the shadows nearby, I assumed, I think justifiably, that it was the guy who had been swinging a sword at all of us the last time I saw him. So I pulled the trigger on my homemade flamethrower, only to see Eric’s horrified face illuminated by the flames for a split second before they hit his torso.
Luckily, I was using a scavenged fuel source (computer screen cleaner), so the flames were weak, but still fire is fire and fire fucking hurts. So Eric is rolling on the floor with first degree burns on his stomach and chest, and I’m freaking out because Eric is my friend and I just set him on fire, so there is now a lot of screaming coming from the hall.
Now, to lighten the mood slightly, here’s a personality test. You hear the sounds of fire, followed shortly by screaming coming from the hall outside your room. What do you do?
Do you assume the crazy sword guy has finally snapped and is going to kill you all, so you climb out the window onto the fire escape? Congratulations, you’re Brad.
Do you hear the cries of pain and grab a first aid kit before sprinting into the hall to help? Hey! You’re Kyle!
Do you hear the flames so you sprint into the kitchen to grab the fire extinguisher? You are Paul.
Do you come out into the hall to see what’s going on but also bring your sword just in case you have to stab someone? You are Josh and also mentally unstable please put your sword away.
So Kyle comes out and he and I start administering first aid and luckily through a combination of the weakness of my fuel source, how quickly I stopped the flames, and the quickness of our treatments, Eric only gets some first degree burns on his torso. Paul puts out the last of the flames, Josh decides he doesn’t want to stab anyone today, and Brad decides that the lack of screaming is a good thing and he comes inside. I spend the next hour apologizing profusely while cooking everyone dinner, and we decide that hey we should probably have some rules for our Nerf fights to prevent this from ever happening again.
So we all eat, we establish rules about modifications and ammunition, and at the end of it all, we grab some beers, head into the living room, and tell Josh he needs to get rid of the sword seriously dude where did you get that from?
Polo, Jess, and I went out to a (near) ghost town Centralia; it’s about 2.5 hours from my house. We expected it to be a whole little town with abandoned shops and the whole 9; but we still found some cool spots (including the destroyed graffiti highway).
On the trail we were on we came across a broken monitor and I thought we should definitely try out a smoke grenade in it and use it for a photo prop! It was my first time shooting photos with a smoke grenade and I thought these came out pretty well considering that.
I really enjoyed that day and loved spending time with friends exploring new places none of us have been.
The air in the
cellar was stifling as humidity rose from the damp stone walls. The
old castle’s dungeon has long been abandoned, its iron bars
destroyed and rendered useless. However, there was someone of value
underground even at a time like this.”
“Of course. Got
The reply came from
an indisposed looking superior officer who hastily brushed up his wet
The Survey Corps
were training outside when it started pouring so heavily that the
thick fog even blurred out the color of their smoke grenades. The
unit leader who was overseeing the march fired a star-shell stopping
everyone. The orders were for each squad to go take shelter from the
rain in the abandoned buildings nearby.
understand the ins and outs of how this works.”
“It wouldn’t be
a big deal if it was just my squad, but the whole Survey Corps branch
is out on this training march… Catch my drift?”
A young man by the
name of Eren sat hugging his knees, looking downwards in the dimly
lit dungeon which was once divided by iron bars.
cause unnecessary distress for the squads that distrust my ‘Titan
Exactly. Levi, the
superior officer holding the light, turned towards him.
Eren was still in
his rain gear. He looked like a puppy abandoned on the side of the
road. Rain drops were dripping off him and his ever-present frown was
even worse than usual.
sake… He looks like a damn beggar from the Underground City. He’s
no longer who he used to be, he’s lost a lot and now he’s just
dragging himself to wherever he’s told to go. Guess being called
‘humanity’s hope’ is taking a toll on him.”
After a deep, long
sigh Levi gave a swift order.
“Take off that
drenched raincoat and hand it over. I’ll set it to dry by the fire
unclasped his rain gear and squeezed the excess water out of it
before handing it over to Levi. Eren’s cold, trembling hand didn’t
go unnoticed. Levi called out to his standby soldiers upstairs.
let him in the pits of despair like this.”
“Petra! Take Oluo
and come keep an eye on Eren.”
Petra came down the
stairs and saw Eren slouched, looking downhearted, while Levi
obviously had no idea how to handle it. She made sense of the
situation fairly quickly.
Are we keeping him locked in the dungeon until the rain stops? That’s
temporary solution. Hange’s going to check whether the castle’s
structure is sturdy enough to contain Eren’s Titan transformation…
Once I get the confirmation, I will allow Eren to go out.”
news. I hope you walk free soon. Your teammates are here as well.
Would you like to see them?”
“They are? I want
to, but I’m not sure how they feel…”
delighted to see you! You’ve been training in different squads for
a while now.”
Levi turned around
to leave. After hearing Petra’s cheerful words of encouragement he
was convinced once again that he did the right choice by picking her
to be a soldier in his squad.
“Come on, quit
moping around. The weather’s depressing enough.”
As he was climbing
up the stairs Levi turned around and took in Eren’s slightly more
The son of a Texas sharecropper and was part Yaqui Native American and part Mexican, young Benavidez grew up an orphan, poor, and dropped out of school in the 7th grade. He was labeled a ‘dumb Mexican’ through his early years.
He enlisted in the Army National Guard in 1952 and 3 years later moved to the Regular Army. He married, joined the 82nd Airborne Division and was jump qualified. He later went into Special Forces training and was accepted into the 5th Special Forces Group and Studies and Observation Group SOG.
In '65 he was sent to South Vietnam serving as an advisor to the South Vietnamese Army and stepped on a land mine during a patrol and medical evacuated to the States. The doctors there determined that he would never walk again, but Benavidez showed them by conducting his own physical therapy at night to regain his ability to walk by crawling on his elbows and chin to a wall beside his bed, he would prop himself up against the wall and try to lift himself without physical assistance, but was cheered on by his fellow patients. It took a year of painful exercise, but in July '66 Benavidez walked out of the hospital, yes-walked, with his wife beside him and requested to be sent back to Vietnam.
It was granted in January '68.
On 2 May of that year, a 12-man Special Forces patrol comprised of 9 loyal Montagnards and 3 American leaders were engaged and quickly surrounded by an estimated 1,000 North Vietnamese Army soldiers. Hearing their frantic calls on the radio for help Benavidez ran for the helicopter and climbed on board armed only with a knife.
The landing zone was hot, but he’ realized that all the patrol members were either dead or wounded and unable to make it to the helicopter and ordered his helicopter to a nearby opening and jumped into it with a medical bag to take care of the wounded. So began a six-hour firefight. In his run to make it to the casualties Benavidez was wounded in the leg, face and head by enemy fire, but he doggedly continued, found the team members and rallied them to keep fighting to hold the enemy at bay to allow a medevac to occur.
He took smoke grenades and hurled them at the enemy in the tree line to direct close air support. When a helicopter came in, Benavidez picked up and carried off 6 of the patrol one by one to the helicopter. When they were on board he took a rifle and ran with the helicopter as it flew along towards where the other members were giving protecting fire from the NVA. When the patrol leader was killed, Benavidez managed to reach his body and recover classified materials, but was wounded again by enemy fire in the abdomen and shrapnel in his back. At that moment, the helicopter that was about to save them all was hit, the pilot killed, and it crashed into the LZ.
Benavidez ran back to the wreckage and pulled the dead and wounded and the others from it and set up a perimeter giving them hope with encouraging words and distributing ammo and water. The enemy fire was intense with automatic weapons and grenades coming from all sides. Using a radio, Benavidez began calling in close air support with gunship runs to allow another rescue attempt. He was hit again by a bullet through his thigh while dressing a wounded man.
A second helicopter came in to take them and the sergeant began taking them onboard, after taking one man and was carrying another, an NVA popped out and clubbed the sergeant in the head. Benavidez grappled with the enemy soldier and stabbed him in the head with his knife with enough force that it became stuck in the soldier’s head and couldn’t be removed.
When the last of the wounded were on board the sergeant saw two NVA rushing the helicopter, but the door gunners couldn’t engage them. Taking a rifle he gunned them both down. He made one last run around to gather and destroy the last of the classified material before boarding the helicopter. It was here when his adrenaline stopped and the serious nature of his wounds became known.
He received 37 puncture wounds, his intestines were out of his body, blinded by blood, a broken jaw, and shrapnel in his back he was thought to be dead with the helicopter touched down at base. He was pronounced dead by a doctor when he couldn’t feel a heartbeat, but the sergeant showed him by spitting in the doctor’s face. He recovered from his many injuries, but he wasn’t awarded the Medal of Honor. Instead, he was given the Distinguished Service Cross.
His friends clambered for this to be addressed, but Congress declared that too much time had passed and they needed eye witnesses to his actions. In 1980, Benavidez’s radioman, Brian O'Conner, provided a 10 page testimony about the firefight and was severely wounded in the same fight and thought to have died from his wounds, but he was alive and saw the news report on the news while vacationing in Australia. With his testimony the Review Board upgraded the Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor. On 24 February 1981 President Ronald Reagan bestowed the Medal of Honor to Master Sergeant Roy P. Benavidez to go with his other medals including;
5 Purple Hearts Defense Meritorious Service Medal Meritorious Service Medal Army Commendation Medal Good Conduct Medal with one silver and one bronze service loop Army of Occupation Medal National Defense Service Medal Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal Vietnam Service Medal with four campaign stars Vietnam Campaign Medal Presidential Unit Citation Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Texas Legislative Medal of Honor Combat Infantry Badge Master Parachutist Badge Army Special Forces Tab.