I'm trying to decide between Cause Fear and Hideous Laughter for my Dwarven Great Old One TomeLock who has just reached second level. I've chosen a non-melee build for my character, (trying to avoid Eldritch Blast spam), and I've take Eldritch Mind and Mask of Many Faces as my second level invocations. I don't think they would make a difference though.
Currently the group is split in to two groups: My character, who has teamed up with the Sorcerer and the Thief; and the other group which comprises of a druid, and a fighter. The group being split up may change at some point.
I've already discussed this choice with my group, and I'm leaning one way, but I wanted to open the question up, to see if I'm missing anything.
Here are the main points of comparison between the two spells I've noticed:
|Comparison point||Cause Fear||Hideous Laughter|
|Components||Verbal||Material, Somatic, Verbal|
|Condition imposed||Frightened||Prone, Incapacitated|
|Negated by||Constructs, Undead, Frightened immunity||Intelligence scores of 4 or less|
|Scales with level?||extra targets||no scaling|
It looks like the key differences in favour of Cause Fear are Range, Components, Conditions imposed and scaling. The only thing that Hideous Laughter might have over Cause Fear is that it would effect Constructs, Undead and misc other creatures with immunity to being frightened (a summary of which can be found on Reddit). I don't know how many of those would also not be effected because they have an intelligence of 4 or lower (a table of which can also be found on Reddit)
The conditions imposed may or may not swing either way, I can't tell.
RPGBOT.Net also pegs them both at three stars on the wizards spell break down (the only full class that has access to both), but for the Great Old One gives the 1st level spells from the expanded spell list four stars. For Cause Fear, under the warlock spells break down it says:
[Unlike with Hideous Laughter] targets are able to attack (albeit with Disadvantage) and cast spells, and resistance/immunity to fear is common.
Under the review of Hideous Laughter, for wizards:
The best comparison at this level is to Cause Fear, which doesn’t hinder foes as much as Hideous Laughter, but they also don’t get another save whenever they take damage.
Without directly involving designer intent, it feels weird to have a spell on to the Great Old One's expanded spell list that would seem objectively worse (unless the conditions imposed by Hideous Laughter are that much better/more appropriate to play style) than one they get by default.
So that begs the question, in what situation is knowing the Hideous Laughter spell better (e.g. most rounds of enemies actions wasted, or similar) than Cause Fear, especially (but not solely) at lower levels? I'm looking for either play experience, or some other critical factor I'd missed about the spells.
n.b. I'm completely ignoring how each spell is flavoured, as I'm hoping I could either justify or reflavour either spell to fit my character's theme.