This spell is intended for a sort of anti-caster. I want to know whether this spell is in line with the other spells in the PHB. I'm not attached to the level of the spell. I'm ok with tweaking the level to balance the spell. If the spell isn't balanced, I want to know how to balance it.

This spell is intended to target a single caster for an extended period of time. While under the effect of the spell, the caster would have to make a concentration in order to cast a spell. It's similar to counterspell; however, it's designed for extended use as opposed to a momentary burst, and doesn't cause the spell slot to be wasted.

I'm thinking about making this a bard, sorcerer, or warlock spell. The classes it's for are not set in stone.

Harry’s Horrendous Headache

5th-level abjuration

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: S, M (a tiny jar with a mouse’s brain suspended in liquid)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute

Upon casting, choose one target within range. You wrack their mind with a headache rivaling the Nine Hells. If target is immune to psychic damage, the spell has no effect.

Until the spell ends, whenever the target attempts to cast a spell, it must a make a Constitution saving throw (as though to maintain concentration); any effect, such as War Caster, that applies to Constitution saving throws that you make to maintain your concentration when you take damage applies to this save. On a success, the target casts the spell without complication. On a failure, the target fails to cast the spell, but the spell slot is not expended.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ If the target fails to cast the spell, does he still use his action? \$\endgroup\$
    – James
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 5:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @James If the spell was using his action yeah. If it was his bonus action, that would be used. \$\endgroup\$
    – NeutralTax
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 12:48
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "For the duration of the spell or until your concentration is broken" - This is redundant. Since your spell requires concentration, the duration of your spell ends when your concentration is broken. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jan 31, 2020 at 10:26
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk-SEstopbeingevil: I mean "or until your concentration is broken" is unnecessary, because it's already covered by the previous part of the sentence. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jan 31, 2020 at 13:57
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @NeutralTax: For comparison, hex and hunter's mark say "Until the spell ends, [...]". Alter self says "[...] the effects of which last for the duration of the spell. While the spell lasts, [...]" Animal shapes says "The transformation lasts for the duration for each target." All of these are spells with a duration of "Concentration, up to [the spell's maximum duration]". There's no need to say "or until your concentration is broken" because all concentration spells last until concentration is broken or until the maximum duration of the spell has elapsed. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jan 31, 2020 at 14:02

6 Answers 6


Maybe not quite balanced, but a fantastic idea!

First of all, I love the concept of this spell. It's an idea whose effect logically matches its flavor description, and is an interesting way to majorly inconvenience a primarily spellcasting creature.

There are a couple of features I am confused by here. For example, I wonder if a character casts a spell with a longer casting time than one action, do they have to make this check on each of their turns? But these details are relatively minor. Again, it's a great idea.

That being said, there are a few reasons I consider this spell unbalanced.

It's probably too low level (Should be 6th)

This spell is in a rather rare category of "suck with no save" spells. The target is guaranteed to be influenced by this spell, and while it's possible that someone under its effects could successfully cast all of their spells, even the possibility that they could waste their turn at any given time is rather daunting.

One of the rare other examples of such spells is Otto's Irresistible Dance (PHB, p. 264).

6th-level enchantment

Casting Time: 1 action Range: 30 feet Components: V

Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute

Choose one creature that you can see within range... Creatures that can’t be charmed are immune to this spell. A dancing creature must use all its movement to dance without leaving its space and has disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws and attack rolls. While the target is affected by this spell, other creatures have advantage on attack rolls against it. As an action, a dancing creature makes a Wisdom saving throw to regain control of itself. On a successful save, the spell ends.

In a lot of ways, your proposed spell is similar to the above spell. Both spells mainly influence one broad category of characters (your spell influences caster's while Otto's influences martial characters), both give an additional d20 to rolls that could cause it to fail (disadvantage in Otto's case, concentration in yours), and both have no saving throw.

Naturally, there are some differences between the two spells. For example, your spell doesn't influence the defense of the target, while Otto's does (by giving advantage on attacks against the target and imposing disadvantage on Dex saving throws): however, some casters rely on spells for defense, such as Counterspell or Shield, which your spell could impair. Also, your spell doesn't influence the target's mobility, but it also doesn't give any opportunity for the target to end the spell early (other than causing the caster to stop concentrating). On the other hand, your spell will cause the target to waste their entire turn for failing one "concentration check", while most higher-level targets get multiple attacks and could counter the disadvantage by gaining advantage.

It's debatable whether the differences are equivalent, but I think they're very close. All things considered, I'd say that this spell is pretty much equivalent to Otto's Irresistible Dance. But that begs the question of why it is a full level below it.

Is one level such a big deal? (Yes)

The difference between a 5th and 6th-level spell slot is very significant. Not only is it available two levels earlier(Level 9 vs Level 11), but 5th-level spell slots can be used twice as often for most of a caster's career (as full casters only gain a second 6th-level spell slot at level 19). So I'd recommend bumping this spell up to 6th-level or lowering its power somehow (such as by giving the target the option to spend an action to make a Wisdom save to attempt to end the spell). This is especially significant as you're considering giving this spell to Sorcerers and Warlocks. These two classes can get a large number of 5th-level spell slots (through Sorcery Points or short rests respectively).

Other than that, I think this spell is great. It fills a significant hole in the current system, for a spell to inconvenience casters between Counterspell and Antimagic Field. It's clever, fun, and worthwhile. Bump it up to a 6th-level spell, and you should be all set.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jan 31, 2020 at 10:20

This is probably Appropriate as a Third Level Spell

I'm going to compare this spell to spells like counterspell and sleet storm because I think they're the most relevant:


3rd-level abjuration
Casting Time: 1 reaction, which you take when you see a creature within 60 feet of you casting a spell
Range: 60 feet
Components: S
Duration: Instantaneous

You attempt to interrupt a creature in the process of casting a spell. If the creature is casting a spell of 3rd level or lower, its spell fails and has no effect. If it is casting a spell of 4th level or higher, make an ability check using your spellcasting ability. The DC equals 10 + the spell's level. On a success, the creature's spell fails and has no effect.

Counterspell, Player's Handbook, pg. 228

Sleet Storm

3rd-level conjuration
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 150 feet
Components: V, S, M (a pinch of dust and a few drops of water)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute

Until the spell ends, freezing rain and sleet fall in a 20-foot-tall cylinder with a 40-foot radius centered on a point you choose within range. The area is heavily obscured, and exposed flames in the area are doused.

The ground in the area is covered with slick ice, making it difficult terrain. When a creature enters the spell's area for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there, it must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, it falls prone.

If a creature starts its turn in the spell's area and is concentrating on a spell, the creature must make a successful Constitution saving throw against your spell save DC or lose concentration.

Sleet Storm, Player's Handbook, pg. 276

So let's do a compare/contrast of two spells that Wizards of the Coast valued as 3rd level spells. To start with, counterspell targets only a single spell, whereas sleet storm targets potentially many spells within 1 minute, on any caster that stays within the affected region for the duration. And that 40 feet radius is no joke! Turning the area into Difficult Terrain, a spellcaster caught in the middle of it is basically forfeiting at least 2-3 chances to lose any concentration spell they are maintaining.

Sleet storm, however, has no effect on instantaneous spells, or spells that otherwise do not require concentration. Both, however, probably prevent an enemy spellcaster from reacting though: counterspell because of how terminating it is (only stopped by another counterspell or failing a spellcasting check against a higher level spell) and sleet storm because of the obscured vision it creates in its radius (which will block many spells that require line of sight). But counterspell has no effect on spells which are already active, whereas disrupting those spells is sleet storm's raison d'etre.

So now, comparing with your spell, which

  • could target spells for up to 10 rounds
    • but, only targets a single spellcaster, unlike sleet storm which could potentially target dozens
  • works on any spell being cast, although like counterspell has no effect on spells already being maintained
  • unlike either counterspell or sleet storm, spells disrupted by this effect do not waste spell slots
    • This is really important! If this forced a spellcaster to use up spell slots like counterspell does, this would probably be a more obvious contender as a 5th or 6th level spell!
  • like sleet storm, is itself a concentration spell that could be disrupted

So because it eats up a spellcaster's action economy, but otherwise doesn't consume their resources like those other spells do, I think you can plausibly argue that the spell deserves to be treated as 3rd level.

I'm also going to suggest that you remove the sentence about War Caster from the description, just because it's non-ideomatic to reference specific feats in a spell's description. Describing the Saving Throw as "A Constitution Saving Throw, as though to maintain Concentration" is enough to qualify the effect for the "Advantage to Saving Throws to maintain Concentration" that War Caster allows. A direct reference to the feat here just clutters up the spell description.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Although I stand by my answer, I wanted to say that this is an excellent answer and well-argued! The only part I'd recommend changing is the last paragraph. War Caster doesn't always give a bonus to maintain Concentration on spells: it gives " advantage on Constitution saving throws that you make to maintain your concentration on a spell when you take damage" (PHB, p. 170, bold added). I definitely see your point about the part on War Caster being a bit cluttered, but it's worth noting that it does add something significant to the spell. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 18, 2021 at 19:15

It's too high of a level and not worded right, but it's a good first to third level spell

The spell takes your action to cast and requires concentration and allows a save and only affects casters and doesn't waste spell slots. The most similar spell, in my mind, is Counterspell but that spell is a reaction and wastes the opponent's spell slot and always works (no save). Your spell can cause more turns to be wasted than Counterspell but in most combats it is not going to-- most combats don't last very long and mages-- both you and the enemy-- are generally priority one.

I would rebalance the spell slightly, making it end if an opponent gets far enough away from you if I wanted it to be a first level spell. I would probably go this route so that the spell is available via magic initiate.

Without some way to end the spell early besides hitting the caster, I would have the spell be second level. It is good, but not good enough to justify being any higher than that-- any difficult to escape DoT spell would have a similar effect in most campaigns I play in, and those usually effect an area and deal damage.

Certainly the spell is no better than Counterspell and cannot thus be higher than third.

This answer assumes you address issues like the effect on multi-turn spells and on casters not immune to psychic damage but not possessing a Constitution score in a reasonable way.

  • \$\begingroup\$ There are also similarities to Slow here, which is also a 3rd level spell (but gives some other very useful abilities, too, which this spell does not.) \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 19:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you provide some examples to show why it would go at the level you say? \$\endgroup\$
    – NeutralTax
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 19:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ What do you mean by not possessing a constitution score? \$\endgroup\$
    – NeutralTax
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 19:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NeutralVax I would be happy to add examples except I'm not sure what you mean by that. Do you mean examples of comparable spells (like counterspell, but with more examples like slow perhaps)? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 19:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ I mean sentient magic items sometimes cast spells (or, at least, I've encountered a sentient magic item spellcaster in 5e before in a campaign) and those don't typically possess physical attributes so Concentration Checks for them are weird (the DM ruled its a Cha check instead). If you run into a situation like that (you might not) and you come up with an unreasonable ruling-- casters without constitution autofail the save, for example, then the spell might become differently balanced, depending on how often that ruling can come up. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 19:37

You are using what will likely be a high-level spell slot to force concentration saves for a caster. This could be any full caster class. Maintaining the spell requires Concentration, and there is no way to remove the effect other than a Dispel Magic or similar. It isn't a Condition, so condition removal effects won't help.

Let's compare to other similar spells

Counterspell: 3rd level, but requires multiple uses and the caster's complete action to cast.

Otto's Irresistible Dance: 6th level, affected by charm resistance and immunity. Concentration. Forces disadvantage on Dex saves and attack rolls. Give other attackers advantage. Can attempt remove the effect by making a Wisdom save on their action.

Eyebite: 5th level. Wisdom save or Asleep until damaged or shook awake, Panicked (frightened and running away until 60 feet away) or Sickened (disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks with every round Wisdom save at end of turn to remove the condition)

Power Word Pain: 7th level, Con save or no effect and affected by Charm resistance or immunity. Affects a creature up to 100 HP (which is Wizards & Sorcerers up to pretty high level, other classes less so). Movement limited to 10 feet, and target also has disadvantage on attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws, other than Constitution saving throws. Finally, if the target tries to cast a spell, it must first succeed on a Constitution saving throw, or the casting fails and the spell is wasted.

We can assume that the target is of similar level, so let's say Level 13 or higher, so the spells that we attempt to prevent the target from casting will be from Save or Suck AOE spells like Hypnotic Pattern, Banishment, and similar with a Spell Save DC of 18 or so. Also prevented are serious damage spells like Chain Lightning (6th Level, 10d8 to up to 4 enemies with Dex save for half) or Disintegrate (10d6 +40, save for 0).

Also, this spell will have a similarly high Spell Save DC or 18 or so (more if aided by Magic Items), rising with additional proficiency. It targets Constitution, which is not a proficient save for any full caster class without War Caster or Resilient Constitution. That makes this spell hard to beat. Most casters will have +2 Con, maybe +3. So the enemy's spell will fail 80% of the time (assume 18 Spell save DC, +2 Con). That is stronger than the 5th and 6th level spells above in my opinion. It's closest to Power Word Pain (no HP restriction, no save to avoid, but only affect spellcasting).

It's not a crazy effect, and is actually a good creative use of a spell slot. We need to be careful about balance, though. At 5th level casters get more of them, at 6th or higher, fewer and only one as a Warlock. Easily swapped in for divine casters when desired.


I could easily make this a 7th-level spell. I might even pick it if choosing spells and thought that I would face high level casters often.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Would you recommend making greater restoration or lay on hands cure this? \$\endgroup\$
    – NeutralTax
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 22:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the Paladin's Cleansing Touch and a Greater Restoration should work. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 2:08
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ Counterspell doesn't require an action to cast-- it's a reaction. Otto's dance also costs the target their action and all their movement each round, including the round they save successfully. Power word pain is literally just a massively better version of this spell so I'm not sure where you get 7th level from. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 7:11
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Sorcerers are proficient in con saves \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 7:12

Let's compare "Harry's Horrendous Headache" to sleet storm.

Harry's Horrendous Headache (HHH) is 5th level, and should probably be lower. Sleet storm is 3rd level. Sleet storm could be very damaging to a group of spellcasters. As any point with in 150ft of you, that you choose, in a 40ft range from that point, has the same effects as HHH and makes it difficult terrain with the possibility for someone to fall prone. HHH targets one caster, and if they are immune to psychic damage, they are unaffected.

Now, by this logic, either HHH is too high a level, or sleet storm is too low. I'm assuming WoTC was right with their judgment.

So, you could either leave it has it is and make it first or second level, as a third level spell seems more powerful than it, or you could make HHH stronger, such as removing the psychic damage immunity=doen't work, or making the spell do #d# psychic damage.


I am surprised that nobody mentioned this, but to me the best spell to compare this to is the third level spell bestow curse because it has the following option to choose from:

While cursed, the target must make a Wisdom saving throw at the start of each of its turns. If it fails, it wastes its action that turn doing nothing.

This seems very similar to your spell effect if the target is a full caster. If he fails the saving throw, he wastes his action. On a successful saving throw the spell does not end. Also both have 1 minute concentration duration.

Let's look at the differences:

  • bestow curse has touch range while your spell has 60 foot range. This is an advantage for your spell. Especially as it is concentration, you want to be away and not get hit, not in touch range.
  • bestow curse affects any actions not only spells so it is way more effective on not full casters. Depending on the enemy distribution in the camping this can be a big advantage for bestow curse.
  • your spell also affects spells cast as bonus action or reaction. Big Advantage for your spell. This equalizes a bit against the previous point, because often half caster classes like paladins or rangers have bonus action spells, so this way your spell is more usable against these enemies.
  • your spell does not allow an initial saving throw. Big advantage for your spell. This allows bestow curse to fail about half the time (I don't remember where I have that figure from but I remember that was a nice approximation for saving throws).
  • wisdom vs concentration check. I think this is sort of equal. Many casters are wisdom based so have good wisdom for saves. On the other hand many casters work on their concentration saving throws to keep concentrating on spells.
  • bestow curse has multiple curses the caster can choose from. I think this is a small advantage, as I haven't seen the other options used so much.

Evaluating the advantages for each spell I'd say your spell is more powerful and should definitely be of a higher level than bestow curse. So level 4 or more.

Its hard to say how much higher. The next best spell I know of would be dominate person at Level 5. It is also concentration 1 minute and single target. However this spell does allow a saving throw at the start. Assuming your allies and the enemies do not attack this person there are no further saves. Dominate person will not only prevent the target from taking actions against you (without another save) but also make it fight for you.

This is harder to compare to your spell but I'd say your spell should not be higher than dominate person. Dominate person is just too much better.

Based on this information I'd say your spell is a level 4 or level 5 spell.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I like the comparison, but I don't think that my spell has the advantage compared to bestow curse for half casters. half casters like paladin are more likely to use their action for attacking. \$\endgroup\$
    – NeutralTax
    Commented Feb 1, 2020 at 2:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NeutralTax it doesn't have advantage against half caster, it has advantage in the sense that it also prevents spells as bonus action and reaction. \$\endgroup\$
    – findusl
    Commented Feb 1, 2020 at 8:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NeutralTax this nullifies a bit that it is only effective against full casters, because that can also be used against half casters. But that is not an advantage for your spell. It is merely slithly reducing the strong advantage bestow curse already has against your spell against not full casters. \$\endgroup\$
    – findusl
    Commented Feb 1, 2020 at 8:48

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .