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Previous questions confirmed that Hex can last through multiple encounters (assuming my warlock's concentration doesn't get broken by a club to the head or the like) and at higher levels even through a short rest.

My question is how targeting Hex works when trying to keep it up for extended periods of time.

Can I just cast it on nothing and keep it up until a valid target presents itself or is an initial valid target required?

Then later, does changing the target of the Hex require that the original target is brought to 0 HP?

Once the initial target dies does the spell stay active even if I don't immediately choose a new target?

My suspicion from reading the spell is that it needs an initial target, but then from that point on I can just keep it up after that target dies until it either expires or a new target presents itself. Is this correct?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm unclear as to your question. Is the real question whether or not Hex needs an initial target? Or are you confused as to what happens after it's been cast in terms of retargeting? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Nov 21, 2017 at 21:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ The main question is really just if the initial target is required, but I was looking for some clarity on retargeting and keeping it up without a target too. Nick Brown's answer is exactly what I was looking for. \$\endgroup\$
    – tinydoctor
    Nov 21, 2017 at 22:31

3 Answers 3

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It must be cast on a creature and can stay active beyond that encounter

So long as you can keep concentration, meet the original requirements of casting the spell, and the previously cursed creature has been dropped to 0 HP, you can use a bonus action to curse a new creature. No requirement to keep it active (just concentration) or for it to be the same encounter.

Hex
You place a curse on a creature that you can see within range.
[...]
If the target drops to 0 hit points before this spell ends, you can use a bonus action on a subsequent turn of yours to curse a new creature.
- PHB 251

Confirmation

Harbinger of Doom
If Concentration is unbroken, is it intended for 3rd+ lv Hex to be cast once & persist thru multiple encounters in a day?

Jeremy Crawford
Yes, that's intended.

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By RAW you need a valid target to cast the spell initially. For casters that recover spell slots after a long rest, there is little benefit to casting it ahead of time, since it is a bonus action to switch vs initial cast.

I can see why a Warlock (or other class which can recover spells slots on a short rest) might want to cast it before a short rest and recover their spell slot though. I don't think this is possible without DM permission to ignore the requirement for a target though (which is reasonable to grant).

Once the initial target dies, the spell remains active while you concentrate on it. As long as their is no current victim, you may move your curse to another victim. I don't see any reason why the subsequent turn must be within the same encounter (or even within an encounter, though moving the curse may trigger a fight).

You may not change the target of the hex unless the target drops to 0. There is not even a provision for it running away. You would have to recast hex to affect a new target.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for clarifying. This is roughly what I expected. It's still limited, but definitely more flexible than I've been playing my hexes, especially when I gain a level and get access to those 8 hour hexes. \$\endgroup\$
    – tinydoctor
    Nov 21, 2017 at 22:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Concerning your second point, a more "primal" warlock could precast hex on a scarab or other critter. Assuming the critter is carried or worn by the warlock (such as in a small cage off his belt or hanging from a leather cord around his neck), the warlock could use his free item interaction to crush it, then use his bonus action to transfer the hex. Finding a suitably small critter shouldn't be too hard in most natural environment. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dungarth
    Nov 22, 2017 at 1:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure of any rules against cheese like this (killing pets, helpless critters) to get a bonus, but I wouldn't allow it in my games. I would prefer to just allow hex to be precast without a target to prevent the need for this (it still has to be moved after all and then it must have a target). However, I would never allow it for spells which grant temp hit points or other bonuses. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nick Brown
    Jan 10, 2018 at 19:22
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TL;DR - You can pre-cast hex prior to encountering an enemy by targeting a harmless bug (a "creature you can see") and crushing it later using your free item interaction.


My suspicion from reading the spell is that it needs an initial target, but then from that point on I can just keep it up after that target dies until it either expires or a new target presents itself. Is this correct?

As long as you can maintain concentration, yes. Previous answers did a good job of explaining this.

However, it is still possible to cast hex in advance in certain scenarios. The hex spell requires that you target a creature you can see within range, not that the creature be a monster from the Monster Manual. As such, you could technically cast your spell on an insect, which you keep on your person in an accessible fashion. For example, you could wear a small cage or canvas pouch on a cord around your neck, or maybe tied to your belt.

A single trapped insect shouldn't require an attack roll to kill. You grab the pouch ans squeeze, which should be well within the range of actions that can be performed with your free item interaction (see PHB, p.190). In fact, some of the actions listed as permitted seem more difficult in nature:

  1. Fishing a few coins from a pouch.
  2. Grabbing a potion from your backpack.
  3. Removing a ring from your finger.

And so on. All of these require you to grab something and then perform the action. Killing the insect in the pouch only requires you to grab the pouch, so it should definitely be possible. Your GM might disagree, however.

If your GM does agree, this means that you can catch a grasshopper or something, hex it, then put it in a small pouch that you carry. You then take a short rest to get your spell back, and you can go adventuring. Once you encounter baddies, assuming you are still concentrating on the spell, you can use your item interaction on your turn to grab the pouch real hard. The bug dies, allowing you to use a bonus action to target one of the baddies with your hex. You then use your action as you see fit.

In most natural environments, finding an insect or other suitable critter should be pretty easy, perhaps requiring a DC10 or lower survival check (you're not trying to find enough insects to feed yourself for a day, only a single one to use as a "spell component"). This has the added benefit of looking very warlock-like, too, crushing critters to curse your enemies.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ May 3, 2018 at 15:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ You don't need the container, or to worry about free action squishing-- you can just kill the bug the instant after casting hex. You can reassign the hex at any time following the death of the target, not only at the moment of its death. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 30, 2021 at 14:20

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