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This spell is intended to be used by a mad mage my players are going to encounter, who's "spells" are all practical items that mimic the effects of magic. This will ironically be the only magic he knows, and the players will find a scroll of this spell in his lab.

Jar of Bees
3rd-level conjuration
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 20 feet
Components: V, S, M (a sealed clay jar)
Duration: Concentration, 1 minute

You throw a jar full of angry bees, stinging and chasing the target. Make a spell attack against the target. On a hit, the target takes 1d10 slashing damage as the jar shatters against them, and they are surrounded by the swarm of bees. While surrounded by the bees, the target has disadvantage on concentration saving throws, attack rolls, and ability checks. At the start of their turn, the target must make a constitution saving throw or take 4d4 piercing damage, or half as much on a success. The bees can move up to 30 feet in a straight line on a turn: if the target moves more than 30 feet, the bees will choose a different creature within 10 feet. If their are no creatures close enough, the swarm disperses.

Classes: Bard, Druid, Ranger, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard

My comparison spells were Spirit Guardians and Fear; the damage is lower than spirit guardians, which is made up for by the extra effects and no saving throw. I intended for the damage to match a Swarm of Insects (Wasps). Fear has some similar effects, but no damage. I felt this spell still allows the creature to make attacks, and it is easier to end the effects of the spell (no saving throw to escape), which justified the added damage.

I like this spell because it could potentially make a chain of people trying to escape the spells effects, with the person concentrating deciding whether letting their ally take damage is worth the opportunity to pass the effect on to an enemy afterwards.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hello, beees! \$\endgroup\$ Aug 31, 2021 at 1:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why piercing damage rather than poison damage? I know they've got pointy stingers, but unless these are huge friggin' bees, the actual pinprick from the stingers is not the real danger (without venom, it's more annoying than dangerous). I'll grant, swarm of insects uses piercing damage, but if we're talking bee stings, I'd change the damage type. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 31, 2021 at 3:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @shadowranger Swarm of insects with the Wasps variant still uses piercing, even though the venom may be more likely the cause of damage. I just went with that. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 31, 2021 at 7:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Another spell for comparison is the 5th level spell Insect Plague (which does a lot more damage; has a much larger range and is AoE - but different, and arguably less impactful debuffs). Jar of Bees seems more powerful than Cloud of Daggers and less powerful than Insect Plague, so I think 3rd level is a good starting point. One thing I'm not quite sure about from the description though: When does the swarm actually move? Are they following the currently targeted player on their turn (and potentially chaining a lot of movement per round?!), or do they have their own initiative? \$\endgroup\$
    – F1000003
    Aug 31, 2021 at 13:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowRanger Balancing a spell is meta-gaming. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 1, 2021 at 14:44

2 Answers 2

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The spell is probably balanced

As you said, the spell Spirit Guardians (PHB p.278) is quite a good comparison because it is also a 3rd level spell that does consistent damage against someone in a particular area during Concentration and the damage is also halved if the target succeeds on their save. Here are some strengths and weaknesses of your spell:

Strengths:

  • Disadvantage on concentration saving throws, attack rolls, and ability checks. This is really strong and the main effect an enemy will want to avoid.
  • Hard to avoid in the right circumstances, like narrow spaces and if the target has a low movement speed. I see a strong synergy with slowing magic.

Weaknesses:

  • What happens if the spell attack doesn't hit? Is the spell slot wasted? If so, this is a real weakness for a Concentration spell.
  • The spell doesn't have an increase in effect if cast with a higher spell slot.
  • The spell ends if the last target moved more than 30 feet and there is no other creature in 10 feet of them so creatures with a high movement speed can easily outrun it if there is enough space.
  • The duration is 1 minute as opposed to 10 minutes (Spirit Guardians)

Some things in your spell are also unspecified but this may be nitpicky:

  • How much space do the bees occupy?
  • If there is an ally within 10 feet of the bees, is it possible that the bees choose them?
  • Do you mean "if the target is more than 30 feet away" or is only the amount of feet moved relevant?
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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1, but I'm not sure that "no upcasting" is strictly a weakness. It means that having the spell may be less useful at high levels, and that we don't have to worry about the balance of the upcast version, but it's not a weakness. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phoenices
    Nov 17, 2021 at 18:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Phoenices you are right, it is not "strictly" a weakness but since it is a Warlock spell and the "Spirit Guardian" for instance can be upcasted I figured I should mention it as one \$\endgroup\$
    – Lit Pit
    Nov 17, 2021 at 19:03
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Balance isn't important for spells used by NPCs

Quite an interesting spell. It does not appear to be broken, I agree with your comparisons. However I question the need to think about balancing it in the first place.

Usually when we talk about balance we are talking about fairness, we are worried that one player will become more powerful than other players, disproportionately to their skill level. For example we would be wary about giving a +10 sword to one player, because that would make them considerably more powerful than other players.

Since this spell is for an NPC, the concept of balance is irrelevant

Neither is it important for limited use consumables

You mention that you will be leaving some spell scrolls for the party. In my experience as a DM players tend to treat items as shared resources of the party, even if one character ultimately pulls the trigger. This is amplified if an item is powerful, for example a Necklace of Fireballs is treated with great reverence by the entire party and it generally becomes a shared decision as to when to use it.

The worst case is the party cast a slightly overpowered spell a handful of times. This isn't worth worrying about.

If your party could acquire an indefinite or at least a large supply of these scrolls, then you should worry about balance. Since you didn't indicate this is a possibility in your question, I think you don't need to worry about balance for the scrolls either.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I have a wizard in the party, they copied the spell into their spellbook. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 8, 2021 at 4:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JonAristotle Ah, probably too late to worry about balance then. Just leave it as is, any attempt to change it now will be far worse than any balance implications. Have they used it much? Idk if you knew/intended this from the start but the wizard wouldn't normally be able to do that, so this changes the question considerably and you may want to edit that in to the question as it's very important! \$\endgroup\$ Nov 8, 2021 at 5:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 because there was no attempt to actually answer the question of balance for this spell. Even though this attempted a frame challenge, I don't think it was satisfyingly done. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rubiksmoose
    Nov 8, 2021 at 14:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JonAristotle Wizards can copy Wizard spells they find, homebrew spells are not on the Wizard spell list. That's quite salient information to the necessity of balance! But I agree with your overall conclusion that there are no balance problems with the spell, but that does change the validity of the frame challenge. That said, I'm interested to know if they've used it much, it's a cool spell, would love to hear a story of them getting a big chain effect! \$\endgroup\$ Nov 9, 2021 at 6:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MagicalItemSmith A homebrew spell can be absolutely be a wizard spell, a cleric spell or a warlock splle: it is up to the creator (DM or player) to decide to which class list(s) the new spell belongs to \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Nov 9, 2021 at 9:34

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