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What spell level would you say this spell should be?

I initially thought 3rd by comparing it to blur, which only affects the caster, whereas this gives disadvantage to multiple creatures no matter who they attack.

On the other hand, it's more or less like a 'reverse' faerie fire, which is only 1st level.

On the third hand (!), I've currently written that a creature may repeat the save to end the effect (which you can't do against faerie fire - a spell that I do think is pretty powerful for 1st level anyway).

(Constructive criticism welcome - I just thought I would try and expand the repertoire of illusion spells).

Shifting Shadows

LEVEL 3rd
CASTING TIME 1 Action
RANGE/AREA 120 ft (30 ft )
COMPONENTS S, M (a silken veil)
DURATION Concentration 1 Minute
SCHOOL Illusion
ATTACK/SAVE WIS Save
DAMAGE/EFFECT Control

You create a pattern of shifting shadows within a 30-foot cube within range. All creatures within the area when you cast the spell must make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save a creature suffers disadvantage on all attack rolls as the shadows flit about their heads in a distracting manner. A creature may repeat the save at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on a success.

Any creature within the area has advantage on Stealth checks.

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1 Answer 1

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Probably level 2

The benchmark to compare against is Hypnotic Pattern. Same area, same save, same range, same duration, also concentration, same component types, both illusion, but it does not allow for resaves and fully incapacitates its targets.

It may be that Hypnotic Pattern is on the strong side, but with both filling exactly the same niche, and pattern so clearly superior, I would put this at level two instead.

Hypnotic Pattern has an escape clause in that damaging or a helper spending an action frees the creature, but in most combats I have experienced with it, targets end up standing around in stupor to be slaughtered in a series of readied action mob attacks after the main combat against those who saved is finished.

Triangulating from the bottom up, Bane is a level 1 comparison for imposing a malus to attacks via concentration for 1 minute on 3 creatures. It's not perfect as various details differ, but it's a reasonable stand-in. The DMG (p. 249) advises to count cube spell areas of effect in theatre-of-the-mind as if they affected size / 5 creatures, so 6 creatures for Shifting Shadows. Bane affects half the number creatures, and they cannot escape by resaving or just leaving the area, so this level one effect delivers more than half the power of yours1.

Overall, I think this is a strong level 2 effect.


1 Bane scales with a target per level. Discounting a level for resaves, this would point at level 3, but I think scaling is more costly than what it is worth compared to a standalone spell, as you pay for the flexibility it provides

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    \$\begingroup\$ The final clause of hypnotic pattern is probably worth mentioning and it is a substantial limiter on the spell not found here (I don't think it invalidates your answer, but it bears mentioning) \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Commented Jun 18, 2022 at 11:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think some more comparisons to existing spells can't hurt, specifically faerie fire as it was mentioned in the question. Bane, a 1st level multi target debuff spell, might be a good candidate too. \$\endgroup\$
    – anon
    Commented Jun 18, 2022 at 12:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pepijn, yes, Bane is the one I would also pick, it is one of the few real mass debuffs, even if it is -1d4, instead of disadvantage. I added it. I saw that you also suggested using Hypnotic Pattern, we seem to share a lot of the same instincts here. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 18, 2022 at 16:07

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