True Strike is often considered as a poor or at least very situational cantrip, as is also discussed in the question Why would I ever cast True Strike?. The consensus seems to be that its biggest issue is the action economy: It uses a "full" action, you need to keep concentration, and you only benefit from it on your next turn. However, the answers in the linked question also show that there are indeed situations in which this can be very useful. I really like the flavor of these scenarios: The epic fight against the BBEG in which a caster puts all of their focus into that one crucial blast that just MUST hit (for whatever strategic reason). I would like to see this in more games, but players hardly ever pick True Strike.

Assuming that players would like to have access to True Strike for the purpose of such a scenario, the main problem is its high opportunity cost: Most characters get only few cantrips, so choosing a cantrip with such situational benefit is not very attractive. If it were a 1st level spell, it would even get a bit weaker in the sense that it now would consume a spell slot, but accessing it can be much less of an investment: A wizard could learn it (maybe find it and copy it into their spellbook), and prepare it only on the adventuring day when they expect to fight against the BBEG.

Since the cantrip does not scale with the character level, changing it to a 1st level spell wouldn't need any further mechanical adjustments. Hence my question:

Would it be balanced to change True Strike from a cantrip to a 1st level spell in order to encourage players to choose it at all?


Super weak for a 1st level spell, primarily for action-economy reasons as detailed in other answers which I won't repeat. Definitely go read them.

Compare Zephyr Strike (XGE) for a 1st level spell that gives advantage on a future attack. It has to be a Weapon attack (so not usable for boosting a high-level spell's chances), and is Ranger only, but is otherwise vastly better than True Strike. You choose which attack, and it does extra force damage (1d8). And is only a bonus action and has other benefits.

1st-level transmutation
Casting Time: 1 bonus action
Range: Self
Components: V
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute

You move like the wind. Until the spell ends, your movement doesn't provoke opportunity attacks.

Once before the spell ends, you can give yourself advantage on one weapon attack roll on your turn. That attack deals an extra 1d8 force damage on a hit. Whether you hit or miss, your walking speed increases by 30 feet until the end of that turn.

Classes: Ranger

Being limited to Ranger-only lets it be stronger, but still this is the kind of power that would be appropriate for a 1st-level spell. It's the same sort of mechanic as spells like Searing Smite, except with those you concentrate until you actually hit.

Note that it is still concentration, otherwise could be combined with concentration spells.

An any-class version of this could still be a bonus action, so you could Cantrip + True Strike on one turn, then benefit from it on the next turn. But that might be overpowered for high-level casters; I don't recommend actually doing that. If you want to try adjustments like that, you're on your own as far as balancing that homebrew.

Keep in mind that 18th level wizards can take a 1st and 2nd level spell to be cast at-will, via the "spell mastery" class feature. A first-level spell that gives advantage on attacks including cantrips could boost their no-resource damage significantly against high AC targets. Of course, so would 2nd-level Flaming Sphere (to use your bonus action on later turns) + Cantrip, or spamming 2nd-level Shatter on multiple targets, if they used their 2nd-level spell mastery for damage instead of 1st.

But with a spell slot, a high-level wizard could cast Bigby's Hand or similar to give them something very useful to do with their bonus action every round instead of this spell.

Other classes with access to a homebrew 1st-level True Strike will have their own balance considerations. This point about wizards should be enough to make it clear that balance is non-trivial. The fact that True Strike is such garbage most of the time might be a sign that the designers couldn't find a way to make it stronger without making it too strong for some cases.


No - it would make the issue(s) worse.

The problem with True Strike is its horrendous use of action economy, not that it requires a "cantrip slot", so-to-speak. On top of that, it requires concentration, which is a scarce resource already, at least for full-casters.

The few use cases where it's somewhat worthwhile, i.e. Rogues trying to get a sneak attack or casters not wanting to miss a powerful spell with an attack roll, are not improved by making the spell a level 1 spell instead of a cantrip. Except maybe that wizards get limited cantrips, but theoretically unlimited level 1+ spells, but there's still the cost of a level 1 slot and 1 of their limited number of prepared spells that would probably be much better used for Shield.

Suggested changes to make the spell more viable (without being overpowered) in the situations you mentioned:

Based on my experience with 5e, I would suggest that you do the following (all changes are assuming that the spell stays a cantrip and would not be a 1st-level spell):

  • remove the concentration requirement and
  • increase the range to 60 feet so it's more useful if you're fighting ranged

These modifications would make it more viable for casters trying to land a powerful spell, in addition to making it more useful for knife-throwing rogues. In order to buff rogues with this spell further, you could also change it so it works on other creatures' turns, not just on "your next turn" - thus allowing attacks made with the rogue's reaction to land a sneak attack.

That being said, I haven't tested these changes, but I'm fairly certain that they would not make the spell overpowered - on the contrary, it's still a very situational spell that I personally likely wouldn't pick; but at least it's not a steaming pile of **** anymore. The reason why it's still not overpowered is that the main issue - the bad use of action economy - still persists. The changes would only improve the spell in other aspects, so that the action economy is the only issue left (that I can think of right now), and not one of many.

Changing the action economy to use a bonus action would certainly improve its usability as well, but that would probably be overpowered unless you keep the concentration and you keep the spell's trait of not working on the turn that you cast it (and even then it might easily be overpowered - barely any cantrips are castable with a bonus action, and with good reason).

Any of the aforementioned suggestions have not been tested by myself and rely purely on my existing expertise with D&D 5th edition. Before implementing any of these changes permanently in a regular campaign, be sure to playtest them in a session or two, and tell your players that the changes may be subject to, well, change. Otherwise, they might cause players to base character choices such as feats (or more, if you implement the rules before session 1) on the modified rules. Naturally, such players could easily be pissed later if you decide to revert the change for being overpowered.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch yes, precisely. Casters normally don't have anything to do with their bonus action if they're casting a leveled spell (= spell level 1+) with their action, meaning that this cantrip would give them free advantage on leveled spells. In addition, even if they only cast a cantrip with their action (such as firebolt), they can get pretty much free advantage on that cantrip's attack roll. There are exceptions of course, such as casting Magic Stone, Misty Step, sorcerers casting a quickened spell, or (multiclassed) rogues taking the Disengage action - but generally, the BA is left over. \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Sep 15 '20 at 20:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ What about making it a level 1 spell and a bonus action? You could use it to give advantage to cantrips exchange for a first level spell slot \$\endgroup\$ – Yuval Amir Sep 16 '20 at 9:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @YuvalAmir that would remove the issue of being able to cast it indefinitely, except for high-level wizards (shouldn't be a problem there though, other 1st-level-spells are also powerful if castable at-will). That modification is pretty far off from the original version, though, so I can't say how well it would be balanced. If you decide to playtest a modified version, please leave your feedback here ^^ It may also be a good idea to open a separate question if really want to homebrew the spell with feedback from the community. \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Sep 16 '20 at 11:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Changing it to be a bonus action means the other spells cast, using your action(s), can only be a cantrip(s). So it wouldn't give them free advantage on levelled spells at all. \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Sep 17 '20 at 0:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @illustro having established that making the cantrip a first level spell would make it even worse than it already is, I based my proposed changes on the spell continuing to be a cantrip. In which case it would indeed give more or less free advantage on any leveled spell (or cantrip for that matter) that is cast using an action. And like I said to Yuval Amir, making it a first-level spell cast with a bonus action equals two major changes at once, which I can't judge without either thinking about it more extensively or playtesting it. \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Sep 17 '20 at 0:53

This Is Worse

The big drawback of picking True Strike as a cantrip is that casting it takes up a turn, during which you cannot do anything else besides bonus actions, and during which you could instead cast a spell and then another spell the next turn.

As a first level spell, you are now not only casting it and spending your action, you are also spending a 1st level spell slot. Something you can only do a limited number of times per day, and for some classes you have to memorize in place of other more useful spells.

It's Also Significantly Worse Than Most 1st Level Spells

Not to mention, it is now competing for spell slots with 1st level spells, which include:

  • Bane - Gives a penalty to enemy attacks and saving throws on a failed Charisma save
  • Burning Hands - Deals 3d6 Damage or half on a failed save to all creatures in range
  • Charm Person - Gain an ally for an entire hour
  • Chromatic Orb - 3d8 damage of any type you choose to one creature on a hit
  • Command - Make one person do literally anything you can ask them to do with one word
  • Cure Wounds - Heal an ally (VERY useful!)
  • Disguise Self - Look like anyone, a great spell for bards
  • Faerie Fire - Grant advantage (remember - that's what True Strike grants) on all attacks against all creatures that fail their save and reveal invisible creatures
  • Grease - Disable most melee-based enemies in a wide area of effect
  • Healing Word - Heal an ally with a bonus action
  • Magic Missile - Automatically do damage to any creature
  • Sleep - Knock opponents out - which at low levels can end an entire battle.

Note that two of these spells grant advantage on a foe or more than one foe while providing additional benefits, and that one of these spells is just guaranteed to hit automatically. And that damage dealing spells with a saving throw still do damage even if the creature passes their save.

Compare all of this to True Strike, which takes your action for a turn and grants you advantage on your next attack. It just doesn't stack up.

Also You Can't Cast It With Other Spells As Effectively Now

As a Cantrip, you can cast True Strike alongside any other Bonus Action spell in the same turn - there aren't that many bonus action spells, but Clerics (with Magic Initiate) and bards could possibly use Healing Word and then cast True Strike in the same round. And Sorcerers could use Quickened Spell to cast True Strike and one other Standard Action spell.

With True Strike as a 1st level spell, you would now have to make it the Bonus Action spell and you would only be able to cast another cantrip on your turn (which wouldn't even benefit from True Strike - since you only gain the advantage from it on your next turn).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Cleric's don't get true strike in their spell list. And some of your first level spell comparisons also aren't available to those who can cast true strike \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 15 '20 at 13:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Just to be clear here, this is not an exhaustive list of spells better than True Strike would be as a 1st level spell. I left out most non-PHB spells, Reaction spells like Shield and Absorb Elements, AC-increasing spells like Mage Armor, other utility-spells like Comprehend Languages, and multiple other damage-dealing spells that are better. And only a small handful that are actually on par or worse than true Strike. \$\endgroup\$ – Zibbobz Sep 15 '20 at 13:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch You are right about Clerics not getting the spell though, so I removed Guiding Bolt from the list. \$\endgroup\$ – Zibbobz Sep 15 '20 at 13:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Comparing it to the best spells IS entirely valid, because that is what it is now competing with. Why have another spell which is just going to be ignored in favour of faerie fire? \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Sep 15 '20 at 14:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Comparing it against the best spells is the only fair comparison, because it has to now compete for spells known/memorized with most of the spells listed. If we were comparing it to, say, Witch Bolt is, in my opinion, an unfair comparison, because it's a spell that you wouldn't have take anyways, and saying "oh, it's only slightly worse than this other spell" isn't really the basis for a good comparison. \$\endgroup\$ – RevanantBacon Sep 15 '20 at 15:21

How would that help?

Switching from a limited cantrip selection to a limited spell selection seems to be semantics. The only class that it isn't as limiting is the wizard, but they will still have to choose to prepare it over other spells.

Whether using a limited spell selection or cantrip selection seems academic, except that the cantrip remains in-combat resource free. Someone who wants to pick it, will still need to utilize a limited resource (spell choice or preparation choice AND spell slot usage) in order to use it.


The "problem" with True Strike is action economy, not limited selection

You are assuming that True Strike is a potentially good cantrip choice that is constantly overlooked because there are too many better cantrips to choose from. However, this is misunderstanding the problem. The problem is that most of the time, True Strike is worse than useless. For any at-will attack, casting True Strike on one turn and then making an attack with advantage on the next turn is substantially worse than just making attacks without advantage on both turns, for reasons that have been covered extensively elsewhere. In other words, you're trying to address the issue of True Strike's opportunity cost at the time of spell selection, when the real opportunity cost of the spell is the action used to cast it. This opportunity cost means that even if the spell were given to you for free (i.e. zero opportunity cost for spell selection), you still wouldn't use it most of the time.

Almost the only time that True Strike is useful is when you have an attack that consumes a limited resource and want to maximize the probability of hitting. In this case, attacking once with advantage may be substantially better than attacking twice without advantage. (Or the latter may not even be an option.) The most common case for this would be high-level spells with attack rolls, such as the use of Plane Shift to banish a creature. Casting True Strike as a prelude to an offensive Plane Shift could very well be justified. Since high-level spell slots are much more limited than low-level ones, the balance implications of requiring an additional 1st level spell slot to use such a combo are minimal, and if anything are a nerf to any character who might otherwise be able to cast the 2nd spell as a bonus action to pull off the combo in a single turn.

In short, True Strike is only useful to a character who specifically builds around it, and even completely eliminating the opportunity cost of selecting it won't change that.


This doesn't fix anything.

The trouble with true strike isn't whether it takes up a cantrip or known spell slot; the problem is that it's only rarely of any use.

In a basic combat scenario, you could use one turn to cast true strike, then next turn roll two d20s to see if you hit and deal damage. Or alternatively, you could make a basic attack (or cast a cantrip) on two consecutive turns, each time rolling a d20 and dealing damage on a hit. In either case, you roll two d20s and deal damage on a hit, but with basic attacks/cantrips, you have a chance of dealing damage twice, won't lose concentration on the spell if you take damage in the meantime, and aren't locked into a single target that might die or escape before your next action.

True strike could theoretically make sense in the rare case that you have sneak attack and want to set up for it, and you can't just hide or get an ally near the target for some reason. It could possibly be of use if you have disadvantage and want to cancel it out, but again, you might as well just attack twice unless there's a specific reason you can't deal with disadvantage, like for example because you're trying to make a sneak attack.

Probably the only solidly good reason to use true strike is if you're a full caster and you're about to throw a spell attack with one of your highest level slots, so you really don't want to miss and waste it. In that case, it can make sense to cast true strike and grab a defensive position for one turn -- you still risk losing the spell if you take too much damage, but at least an enemy strong enough to be worth your best spells is unlikely to go down or flee (and if it does, you still won the fight and didn't waste too much effort), and rolling twice to hit with a limited resource like a spell slot isn't something you can replicate by rolling twice with standard attacks.

But making true strike a level 1 spell doesn't address any of the issues and doesn't make it easier to use in the few cases where it might make sense. If you made it level 1 and did something else, like making it a bonus action to cast and it affects your next attack roll (rather than your first attack next round) or something, that might possibly push it into the 'make sense' category for more than the one "my best spell" scenario.


The easiest, most balanced way to make a True Strike available to spell casters who eschew choosing it as a cantrip is by making it available to them on a spell scroll.

Cantrip spell scrolls are a great way to add more versatility to a spell caster. (Cantrip scrolls are listed as common magic items can be really quite handy.)

Demonstrating the worth of a spell

Most folks agree that True Strike isn't such a great spell, but as a DM, you see how it might be (which I assume means you would put the party into situations where it would be).

Here's how I've persuaded players about the utility of a spell they discount as useless.

I've used spell scrolls in situations like this, where I try to encourage players to branch out a little from choosing the same character options in campaign after campaign.

I'll provide the spell scroll (say, Message) as treasure. If the party tries to sell it, I tend not to allow them to find any buyer. (I've had people low-ball them, like offering 1GP -- and the party still accepts the offer. So now, no buyer at all.)

Then, when the party is in a situation where casting Message would really help, I let them squirm a minute and then remind them they have the scroll.


An Alternate Solution

Many other answers have already addressed the problem with making it a 1st level spell, but I wanted to put forward another solution - perhaps the one that requires the least homebrewing, and is least likely to risk unbalancing things in any way:

Simply make the cantrip a bonus cantrip for all classes that have access to it.

This means that those characters will always have it as an option, and thus when a scenario arises that they would benefit from it, they may actually use it. As a bonus cantrip, it doesn't leave anyone having to make a decision in which it is being compared against other cantrips for limited spots. It's situational enough that it isn't overpowering the characters of those classes in any way, but when it does come in handy, it can make for moments of awesome.

And because it's a bonus cantrip, nobody is worse off than they otherwise would have been.

The only time that I can see that it could be more than a way to help encourage a "moment of awesome" is the boosting of the chance of succeeding with a high level spell. In this situation, it's risking wasting the entire turn (due to Concentration and the chance of losing concentration), it doubles the time required for the spell (to two turns), and it's limited to only the spell attack (as opposed to saving throw, etc) type spells.

There are very few high level spells that use spell attacks, so it would mostly be for lower-level spells (and upcasting of such spells, when the PC is a higher level). It also can only be used for a single target, and becomes a wasted turn if the target moves into a position that is out of range, or for any other reason is no longer a suitable target. Or if the best move to use changes to one that won't benefit.

In short, it's formally a cantrip but it's really just a trade-off, risking wasting the turn in order to boost the chance of hitting somewhat, which might mean better use of a limited resource (spell slot, for example), but is likely to be no better than a level-boosting cantrip (such as Eldritch Blast or Ray of Frost). But in those rare moments where it enables something awesome, it's worth having as an additional option.

Note that this is specifically for a DM who wishes to encourage use of a highly situational cantrip because they "really like the flavor of [such] scenarios". It is not a general solution for all campaigns, or a suggestion for a change in the official rules.

Although the specific case of True Strike isn't at play in this anecdote, my character (an LG Warlock) in one of the campaigns I am in was given a cantrip for free, specifically to encourage its use specifically in certain contexts that the DM really liked the idea of. In that case, it was a protection-focused cantrip, because situations where you simultaneously need to try to protect someone and deal with a threat more directly can be interesting. It was a situational cantrip, which mostly doesn't impact play, but when the right situation arises, makes things more interesting and fun.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Sep 18 '20 at 2:06

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