What Is Toll the Dead in 5th Edition of D&D and How to Use It?

What Is Toll of the Dead in 5th Edition of D&D and How To Use It?

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) combines classical fantasy elements with a RPG element that draws players into the characters and scenarios before them. So when you want to unleash death on creatures, Toll the Dead may tickle your fancy, but how do you use it?

Toll the Dead is best used as a primary skill that takes advantage of its increased damage against damaged enemies in areas where you won’t encounter much necrotic resistance.

Join me as we look at what the spell is, how best to use it, some clever strategies you can employ, and what characters can access. So grab your skulls and purple potions and let’s get into it.

What Is Toll the Dead in 5th Edition?

The flavor text from the Xanathar’s Guide to Everything states that the spell starts after pointing at a creature, at which point that creature must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw.

If they do not, they take 1d8 necrotic damage and if the target is missing any of its hit points, it instead takes 1d12 necrotic damage.

The spell’s damage will scale by increasing the die count from the fifth level, making for 2d8 or 2d12 respectively.

At the 11th level, the die count goes up again so that it is 3d8 or 3d12, and finally again at the 17th level for a 4d8 or 4d12.

This spell has the highest single target damage output of any cantrip.

Necrotic is the least effective damage type, with many monsters being resistant or immune.

What Is Toll of the Dead in 5th Edition of D&D and How To Use It? 800

Toll the Dead is generally seen as a good spell, although many players think it is overpowered. However, this is not the case for several reasons.

The first reason is that a weapon-based character can easily match the damage output as described above. There are also many other similar spells, like Eldritch Blast or Fire Bolt, which are going to be a lot better. It does depend on what you want your primary to be.

Due to the mechanics of Toll the Dead, consider getting a spell based on an attack roll to give you more diversity and variety in your attacks, giving you better coverage.

This spell also won’t add modifiers, is limited to one target and has a rather low 60 foot range.

Is Toll the Dead Any Good in 5th Edition?

Its advantages are that it has one more average damage per die rolled against targets who have taken damage, especially when compared to similar spells like firebolt.

Another reason why it is preferred in some situations is that against creatures with low wisdom or higher AC, it will hit significantly harder and more often.

When combined with certain strategies, Toll the Dead can be very effective. For example, if you’re partied with someone like a Hunter Ranger hitting targets first, that will always give you the d12 damage roll.

RELATED: 20 Best D&D Miniatures for Your Next Tabletop Adventure

To get the most out of it, always consider the initiative order. If you’re going to go first every time, you should have damage dealing spells ready, or some buffs for your party, or debuffs for enemies.

Consider also pairing it up with Bestow Curse and Cause Fear.

This spell is also perfect for characters that are casting spells that also have wisdom saves, so you can determine whether it’s worth your time to try those other spells on a particular character. Doing this comes at no cost to you, other than your action.

Who Can Use the Toll the Dead?

By default, the spell appears on the spell lists of the Cleric, Warlock, and Wizard.

Wizards with the subclass evocation are generally the best choice to get the most damage out of Toll the Dead, as at the sixth level you’ll access Potent Cantrip, which is going to allow your damage-dealing cantrips to still do damage even if you fail the Wisdom check.

If you multiclass into sorcerer from one of the above three classes, you can twin Toll the Dead for one point, and then cast a bonus action spell or quicken a different one.

Magic Initiate is also an option. You can learn two cantrips (beginner spells) of your choice from the Bard, Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, Warlock, or Wizard spell lists.

Otherwise, you can choose one first level spell to learn from that same list. There are some downsides to this, as while you can cast the spell once at its lowest level, you must finish a long rest before you can do this again.

Your spellcasting ability for these spells depends on the class you chose: Charisma for Bard, Sorcerer, or Warlock; Wisdom for cleric or druid; or Intelligence for Wizard.

About The Author