I consider Eyebite a cool, but mechanically underwhelming spell for its level. I want to turn it into a balanced option. This question does not depend on if the original version is weak or not, I want to know if my new version achieves my outlined goals.

The classes to consider as users of the spell are: Bard, Sorcerer, and especially Warlock, who needs to choose it as a Mystic Arcanum, the only and unchangeable 6th-level spell they'll have.

The other spells to consider as comparison points specifically are: Hold Monster (similar effect on target at 5th level already, for Bard and Sorcerer up-castable to 6th level for 2 targets) and then as actual 6th-level alternatives, Mass Suggestion and Mental Prison (XGtE, p. 161), which also can be used to take enemies out of a fight, and for which Mass Suggestion has great utility use as well. I don't needs a comparison against the original version of Eyebite. You can also compare it to other spells up to level 6, if you think they're relevant for the same role.

The goal of the homebrew is to make Eyebite an equal contender, when the character reaches the point where they can choose these spells.

Does this Enhanced Eyebite, description below, meet the above goal?

Enhanced Eyebite

Level: 6th
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range/Area: Self
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration, 1 hour
School: Necromancy
Attack/Save: WIS Save

For the spell's duration, your eyes become an inky void imbued with dread power. One creature of your choice within 90 feet of you that you can see must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or be affected by one of the following effects of your choice for the duration. On each of your turns until the spell ends, you can use your action to target another creature. If you target a creature again after it has succeeded on a saving throw against this casting of Eyebite, the creature has advantage on its saving throws.

Asleep. The target falls unconscious. It wakes up if it takes any damage or if another creature uses its action to shake the sleeper awake.

Panicked. The target is frightened of you. On each of its turns, the frightened creature must take the Dash action and move away from you by the safest and shortest available route, unless there is nowhere to move. If the target moves to a place at least 90 feet away from you where it can no longer see you, this effect ends.

Sickened. The target has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks. At the end of each of its turns, it can make another Wisdom saving throw. If it succeeds, the effect ends. If it fails, it takes 2d8 points of necrotic damage.

When cast at higher levels: The distance needed for Panicked effect to end increases by 10 feet for each level above 6th. The damage done by Sickened effect increases by 1d8 for each level above 6th.

Notes: Changes to the original are highlighted for the benefit of those who know the original spell, even though comparison to the original is not what I'm asking. The duration is increased to give this spell more utility, and ability to last for several encounters. The range is increased to match Hold Monster. The damage is added to the Sickened effect, so it wouldn't be strictly inferior to Panicked, which also gives the same disadvantages with different and arguable much stronger conditions to end the effect. Scaling with level is added to keep the spell competitive at higher character levels. The ability to target the same creature again is given so the spell doesn't become useless if all enemies succeed at their saving throw, but disadvantage is given so that in most situation it'd still be better to do something else than keep spamming Eyebite at disadvantage.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you explain more what you think is underpowered about eyebite? I always thought it was pretty good \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Mar 24, 2021 at 16:55

1 Answer 1


Balancing a spell of this format well for all three of those classes isn't going to happen.

This spell as written is difficult to balance because certain of its features make it significantly more useful/powerful for some casters than others.

Warlock: Straight-up, it's not realistically possible to balance this for both Warlock and Sorc/Bard. Most warlocks go in for Eldritch Blast optimization, and those that don't have solid melee instead. That means that a warlock's non-spell standard actions are worth a lot more than those of the default Sorcerer or Bard. That makes any spell that wants to consume your actions for an entire fight (or perhaps a string of fights in quick succession) far less valuable for the warlock than for either of the other two. This sort of thing might still be useful situationally, except that level 6 brings it into Mystic Arcana territory, where the only reason you might want to take a spell that you won't want to use every single adventuring day is that you've found a spell that you can exploit for out-of-combat shenanigans that will increase your overall power. Enhanced Eyebite as written does not do either of those things. If you want a version of the spell that would make sense for Warlocks, my suggestion would be to take its power down a notch, but then have it consume bonus actions rather than standard actions.

Now, it's true that the original Eyebite also has this problem, but you explicitly weren't comparing to the original. As far as the Warlock is concerned, this is a poorly-formed spell. It doesn't offer the sort of thing that the warlock wants to buy.

Sorcerer: the extended duration makes balance a little weird here, too. In particular, extend Spell means that (under ideal circumstances) you can get almost double the benefit for 1 spell point. Extending 1 minute to 2 minutes isn't that big a deal. Extending 1 hour to 2 hours means that you can do things like get into a series of fights, take a short rest, and then get into another series of fights before your duration exhausts... unless you lose concentration.

That, in turn, brings up another point of weirdness. Specifically, this is a spell of duration concentration (1 hour) that can only be used in combat. In order for that to be meaningful, you have to have multiple fights over the course of that hour (plausible) and you have to not lose concentration at any point along the way. Alternately, you fire it off once, you take a hit the next turn, you roll poorly on your CON save and the spell is gone. The value of the spell is extremely swingy on how long you can maintain concentration, to the point that the max duration is almost a sick joke. The one minute duration is... a bit more honest here, in some ways.

So... having said all of that... I suppose I will consider it as a spell for the non-melee Bard and/or non-extended-spell sorcerer, in comparison with your spell.

  • Mass suggestion has significant out-of-combat utility, but much of that utility is handled by the far lower-level Suggestion spell. It's also limited, rather dramatically, by the need to make your suggestion sound reasonable. It does not work on enemies immune to charm, it fails on save, and it fades (for each target) if you or your friends attack them. On the bright side, it only takes one action, affects up to 12 targets, and doesn't require concentration.

  • Upcast Hold Monster isn't really a "disable" spell. Burning a 6th-level spell slot in order to take a couple of enemies out of the fight for a couple of rounds until they successfully save again really isn't worth it. It's an "all my melee friends attack with advantage and get autocrits" spell.

The thing is... they each do one thing. Mass Suggestion can convince people not to fight (if they don't save) and is really far more effective if deployed before the combat. It also depends heavily on your DM's willingness to let you get away with paper-thin justifications. Hold Monster is party-dependent, but it mostly holds them down long enough for your Rogue/Barbarian/Paladin friends to eliminate them. If anything, the value to having two targets rather than one is that it make it much less likely that you'll whiff entirely.

Improved Eyebite, then, does lots of things, and you can keep doing them. It's basically replacing your cantrip attacks - which, if you're not a warlock, are not so great. If someone makes their save, you can hit someone else next turn, or even hit the first guy with disadvantage. Sleep, used properly, will let you take someone out of the fight indefinitely and/or let your rogue enjoy a hit of that autocritting sneak attack love. Sickened is for the guy you're attacking currently - it makes him far less effective for a round or two, and racks up some damage as well. Panicked is a great way to feed some of your allies opportunity attacks and/or get the target to run through damaging zones, and then takes a melee enemy out of the fight for multiple rounds. Alternately, if you can get him trapped in a corner so that he can't escape, he's going to be dealing with disadvantage on everything, and may actually be completely ineffective until you come get him.

For all of these things, as cantrip replacement, this is pretty juicy stuff. It basically lets the caster spend one spell and be able to do useful, effective things every round of a combat, thus saving other spells for other fights... except that it's worse than that now, because a duration of 1 hour means that it can reach over multiple combats, giving you lots of space spell slots to play with. Further, for the sorcerer specifically, since you're only casting the spell in the first round, you can use Quicken Spell metamagic to do this and dump out your other big spells as bonus actions (as long as you can maintain concentration)... and since it is possible to continue using it on people who've already saved once (even at disadvantage) it never really runs out of juice.

Conclusion: For a Sorcerer, this is seriously overpowered from a spell-slot efficiency standpoint, and they have the tools to exploit that efficiency. For a Warlock, it's weak from an action efficiency standpoint, and the fact that it's 6th level means that you can't really even use it as a situational spell. If you want a spell that's going to be balanced for both of those, you're going to need to rethink the whole "duration spell that give you a standard action power" part of things. Beyond that... you need to have pretty good protection for your concentration saves in order for this to have real value, but once you've done that, the hour duration and ability to reapply to the same target multiple times means that it's probably overpowered for bards, too.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Note about long duration: the main uses I was thinking of were first of all to have creepy eyes for a long time for social encounters, and especially the ability to put someone to sleep for a time that is meaningful outside combat. It probably needs an addition "except for successful sleep, the target becomes aware that you looked at it with evil eyes". \$\endgroup\$ Mar 24, 2021 at 19:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ So dropping duration to 10 minutes would maybe be an improvement, in your opinion? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 24, 2021 at 19:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @WakiNadiVellir check the last paragraph. I gave you a conclusion. It's OP for sorcs (especially because of quickened and extended spell) and still probably too weak to use for Warlocks. As for timing, dropping it back down to 10 minutes would remove some of the weirdness to it, and make it significantly less abusable for Sorcerors, at least. If you want to walk around with devil eyes outside of combat, I'd suggest either fluffing it as a side effect of an invocation or just having it as part of your character description. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Mar 24, 2021 at 19:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @WakiNadiVellir I feel like "put someone to sleep for significant amounts of noncombat time" is kind of outside of the intended use case of the spell... though I'll note that the sleep effect as written doesn't have a duration on it. If you intend that all of these effects break when concentration is broken, it might be best to say so. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Mar 24, 2021 at 19:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @WakiNadiVellir I've edited my conclusion a bit. Hopefully this is clearer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Mar 25, 2021 at 13:36

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