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I have designed this spell:

Quicken Shadows

5th level necromancy

Casting Time: 1 action

Range: 90 ft

Components: V S

Duration: Instantaneous

Classes: Wizard, Sorcerer, Warlock

The shadows of your enemies are animated and turn against their owners. Choose up to ten humanoids that you can see in range. A shadow (CR 1/2) appears in an unoccupied space next to them and immediately begins attacking them. The shadows take their turn on your initiative count, immediately after your turn ends, including this turn. These shadows disappear if their owner is killed. Also, if their owner is killed, no new shadows rise from the corpse. If the shadow loses track of its owner, it behaves as would a normal Shadow. If you cast this spell again, any Shadows created previously by you using this spell disappear.

At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 6th level or higher, you can target one additional creature for each slot level above 5th.

I currently have it listed as 5th level. Is this appropriate? Similar 4th level spells only summon 4 CR 1/2 creatures, while this one can summon up to ten. But this one can only summon Shadows. Also it can only summon one per enemy.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not a balance evaluation, but nitpicking the effect: is the intent that the shadows only attack the creature they're attached to even if they have the opportunity to attack other creatures (such as by an opportunity attack)? What happens if the affected creatures run away from their shadows? \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Mar 1 at 12:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, most summoning spells specify the initiative state of the summoned creatures (either acting on their own rolled initiative as individuals/a group, or relative to the caster's initiative). You should clarify on what initiative the shadows will act. \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Mar 1 at 12:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Carcer The intent is that the shadows only attack the creature they are attached to. They will attempt to chase them down. \$\endgroup\$ – Nacht Mar 1 at 22:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm confused about the name. It awakes / summon shadows, not quickens them. It is not doing anything I would expect from a spell with that name. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Mar 1 at 22:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Animate would be friendlier to international audience, to non-native speakers. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one not knowing alternative meanings of quicken. Of course, if you will try to publish it, your publisher will probably take care of such things anyway. And if you are not publishing, to can turn it into a learning experience ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Mar 2 at 7:47
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5th level seems right for your spell

I think it’s appropriate for the spell to be higher than 4th level, due to it summoning many more creatures than, say, conjure minor elemental, which as you say only summons up to four CR 1/2 creatures. However it’s worth noting that to double the number of creatures requires upcasting that spell at 6th level.

From a damage perspective, the guidelines in the Dungeon Master’s Guide recommend 8d6 damage for a 5th level spell that has multiple targets and does half damage on a save. For one which does no damage on a save - or in this case, the equivalent of an attack roll by the summoned creature, which does no damage on a miss - the DMG says to increase this by 25%, so 10d6.

A shadow only has one attack, Strength Drain, which deals 2d6+2 damage. Each shadow might reasonably be expected to last a few rounds or more, thanks to their special traits and multiple damage resistances, and in any case most combats don’t last many more rounds than that, so each Shadow is likely to deal less than 10d6.

But then there’s the secondary effect of Strength Drain, which reduces the target’s Strength score by 1d4, with no save to avoid it. That’s a strong secondary effect - and something I don’t think any spell duplicates. (Enlarge/Reduce and Ray of Enfeeblement are probably closest; both are 2nd level spells that don’t also deal damage.) I’d think this more than makes up for the lesser damage.

There are limiting factors too: the damage is not dealt all at once, making it less powerful; and the caster cannot necessarily summon the maximum number of shadows - that depends on the number of targets who are present, which will most often be fewer than ten. That’s especially true since it also only works on humanoids (thanks kiviiri for reminding me of this). And, as the OP has pointed out, Shadows have disadvantage when in direct sunlight. These restrictions make the spell of situational use, though humanoids are one of the most commonly encountered types of enemies in most campaigns. The limitations remove any doubt that the spell should be 6th level, but I think it’s still powerful enough to be 5th level.

...but to make sure, it needs some more detail

Whether it’s entirely balanced will also depend a bit on some more specific wording, as Carcer has suggested in their comments. When the creatures act, and how long they last, since as currently written the summoned shadows last indefinitely if they or their “owners” are not slain. (This raises all sorts of questions for what happens if an encounter ends without all the targets dead - a likely scenario in the best case for using the spell, a fight with ten or more humanoid opponents!) These are important factors that will alter how much damage they can do before they die, as well as significant narrative effects of the spell, which should also be taken into account. I would suggest clarifying that and presenting a more finished version for further analysis.

And test it at the table! Give it to a player and see if they want to spend a 5th level spell slot on it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Another big limiting factor for this spell is that Shadows have disadvantage when in sunlight, so it will not be very effective against enemies in sunlight. Which is pretty on-brand for my intent actually. \$\endgroup\$ – Nacht Mar 2 at 4:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nacht-ReinstateMonica yes - that’s true! Even more situational. I’ll add that in as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Guybrush McKenzie Mar 2 at 5:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're missing a huge difference between conjure minor elemental and this spell and that's that this one isn't concentration. There's a weird mechanic in there to prevent you from casting it more than once, but that does open this spell up to weird gimmicks like simply casting it and going invisible for basically risk-free damage. This kind of spell feels like it should be a concentration spell, I can't think of any spell that summons a whole bunch of new enemies that isn't concentration. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Mar 2 at 7:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Theik I hadn't even thought about concentration. That's a pretty big point. Although... A lot of other summoning spells that require concentration give you control of the creature until you lose concentration, at which point you lose control. This spell doesn't give you control ever, so maybe it's okay? \$\endgroup\$ – Nacht Mar 2 at 22:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nacht-ReinstateMonica Do you really need control, though? They attack your enemies unless they lose track of them, which is a pretty big if. It's not "hey this dangerous demon will attack your enemies, but if you aren't careful it might also attack you", it's "these guys will attack your enemies, except in the rare case where they can teleport away or become invisible". \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Mar 3 at 7:19

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