New Spells Appearing in D&D's 'Xanathar's Guide to Everything'
Todd Kenreck: New spells are always exciting. I talked to Jeremy Crawford about these latest additions to Xanathar's Guide to Everything.
Jeremy Crawford: When we were putting together Xanathar's Guide to Everything, we wanted to include an array of new spells that would address some gaps we perceived in the spell lists of different classes in the game. And so each class from the Player's Handbook that is a spell casting class gets new spells in this book. And they cover an array of levels, different types of effects. Some are combat oriented, some are non-combat oriented.
When I sat down to work with Robert Schwalb, the designer who did a lot of the initial design on these spells, one of the things that we talked about wanting in the book was not only spells that would increase combat effectiveness or provide new tactical options for our spell casters, but we also wanted spells that would really serve a world-building purpose, that would create some interesting magical effects, not only for our player characters, but also for our non player characters. Here's an example.
The book includes, now, a way for a high level Druid to conjure up a druid grove, a magical druid grove with various defenses. There's another high level spell for Clerics, to summon forth a Temple of the Gods that is protected from dark intrusion. Wizards now have a very high level spell called the Mighty Fortress, where wizards can cause a massive fortress to rise up out of the earth and serve as a great defensive point for many days, actually.
And so these are examples of some of the neat world-building things we wanted the book to add. You're not going to cast a spell like Mighty Fortress in a fight. But that rising up of a fortress could end up being a banner moment in the campaign, either because a character in the adventuring group cast it, or because an NPC did. Because spells, unlike a lot of other material that players use, are as much a DM tool as they are a player tool, because NPC spell casters are now going to have access to the spells in this book.
And that includes some of these neat world-building spells, including ones like the Ceremony spell, which appeared in Unearthed Arcana. We actually previewed just a little sampling of these spells in Unearthed Arcana. I selected some of the cantrips and first level spells to show off, while our nd8 playtesters actually were seeing all the rest of the new spells.
And so one of them was the Ceremony spell, which again, is not going to increase anyone's damage output. It's not something you're going to cast in combat. But it, again, creates some nice world texture, if suddenly, you want to have a wedding ceremony or some other important life moment marked not by the normal types of rituals that characters would experience, but by one specifically suffused with magic that gives the participants in that ritual some kind of benefit for a time. Again, some more of this world-building.
We also wanted to hit some really kind of simple targets, like we want to make sure we have some more damage type options. So there is ... a great example of this is Clerics and Wizards and a few other classes get a new Toll the Dead cantrip, which also appeared in Unearthed Arcana, because we wanted to make sure, for Clerics in particular, there was a more sort of death-themed, shadowy-themed option to balance out Sacred Flame, because Clerics up to this point have really only had Sacred Flame as a damaging cantrip option. And we wanted to give Clerics more options. And so Toll the Dead is something that actually started out specifically as a Cleric cantrip. We ended up giving it to the Wizard, as well, and to a few other classes. Again, a great example of us filling in some gaps.
Another area where we'd done that kind of gap-filling is in the Player's Handbook, we didn't delve too deeply into summoning evil creatures. There are several spells in the Player's Handbook that can be used to do this. I mean, you can do it with the very high level spell Gate. And also, there are various ways, using the spells in the Player's Handbook, to trap a fiend or some other evil creature and then use the various spells to make that creature use your bidding.
But there wasn't a just sort of simple, straightforward way of, bam, this fiend is now here to serve me, which is ... This is actually an example of some design we did in the spell section almost more for NPCs than for player characters, although I think some player characters also will like to have these spells. And they include some demon summoning spells, and then also, a spell called Infernal Calling, which is specifically for summoning devils.
We split these two, because we wanted them to have a different feel. With Infernal Calling, you can bring a devil and have a chance of sort of negotiating with it. There's ... Appropriate to a devil's lawful nature, there's a chance it might turn out okay for you, even though, again, you are dabbling in dark powers.
The demon summoning is kind of a magical hot mess, and we did this on purpose, because demons are evil chaos personified. And there is a chance, when these demons show up, that you're not going to be able to control them at all. However, the spells make it so that you as a caster can protect yourself, so they won't attack you, but can create unholy chaos on the battlefield. So I think spells like this are going to be fun new tools for our player characters, but also might create some new terrifying moments for those characters when they see these spells used by NPCs.
The book also has some spells that deal more with psychic damage, because when looking at our spell options before, again, we saw that we could beef up that area a little bit. More spells that do radiant damage, and not all of it necessarily with a sort of divine, holy theme, because a lot of our radiant damage spells in the Player's Handbook tend to kind of have an Upper Planes feel to them, like you're calling some kind of holy light into a place and dealing radiant damage with that light. Sacred Flame is, again, a great example of that kind of theme attached to a spell.
We wanted, because traditionally ... and this goes back to 3rd and 4th Edition. You would have classes like the Warlock also dealing radiant damage, sometimes associated with strange stars and that sort of thing. So Xanathar's Guide includes a spell like Sickening Radiance, which is almost like the nuclear radiation spell where it actually ... it literally makes you sick as you take this radiant damage, and you're in this area of this strange, green light.
So again, there's a lot of nice flavor here. The book includes a Find Greater Steed spell for paladins, so they can summon an even more powerful mount to their side. We now include a spell for creating a homunculus. It's funny. People, when they first see the Create Homunculus spell and they see how level it is, they're, I think, going to actually be baffled at first, because they're going to think, "Isn't the homunculus just like a familiar? Why is this such a high level spell?"
And the reason is you can have a homunculus in addition to a familiar, but the other reason is when you have this homunculus companion, you can see through its eyes, and you can do so no matter where the homunculus is on your current plane of existence. In other words, it's like an always-on Scry. And so when we made it, at first ... and this was a spell I wrote. At first, I had it much lower level. And then, I suddenly realized, "Oh my God, this is basically an always-on Scry." And so it's like, this needs to at least be as high level as Scrying.
And there's also a neat element with the homunculus that you can feed it some of your health, but then there's danger, because you can beef up its hit points at the cost of your own. And so it also has this kind of classic, folkloric quality to how it works.
The book also includes spells that we originally introduced in Princes of the Apocalypse. There are a number of elemental-themed spells in that book that we wanted to reintroduce, largely because Princes of the Apocalypse was mostly purchased by dungeon masters. And of course, we also gave those spells away for free on our website, but we thought, good to integrate those spells in with these other new spells to give people a whole sort of new buffet of spell options.
And also, because many of the spells we wrote specifically for Xanathar's also had the Princes of the Apocalypse spells in mind. And so in a way, I sort of feel like the Princes of the Apocalypse spells are finally coming home to be in a holistic spell chapter that deals with many things beyond elemental-themed magic. This, also, inclusion will help our Adventurer's League players who use the Player's Handbook Plus One rule, because now all of those spells are going to be here in this book with other options they might be using.
The spells from Princes of the Apocalypse that reappear in this book ... some of the spells have been revised, and in some cases, we've expanded which classes are getting those spells. So there are a few spells that, in Princes of the Apocalypse and the Elemental Evil that maybe only one class got that now, several classes get. And when it comes to revision, in most cases, we've just clarified things in the spells. But in a few places, we've also enhanced the spells, because there were a few of the spells that just weren't quite hitting their marks, and so we improved them.
I could go on and on because of the number of different spells that I'm excited to see in play, not only because of the effects they have, but also just because of the stories that are going to arise because of seeing these spells in play. One of these is ... there's a spell called Crown of Stars, where ... it's another high level spell. And this was, again, something else we wanted to do in the game, is bring in some more high level options. The spellcaster summons this crown of stars that orbits around their head, and the spellcaster can cause the stars, at various points, to shoot out at people. And I just think it's a kind of wonderful image.
Also, another spell I'm looking forward to seeing in play is Danse Macabre, which is basically the fast version of Animate Dead. Animate Dead basically creates one or more undead pets for you that are kind of wandering around. Danse Macabre allows you, just in the middle of a fight, to cause corpses around you to just rise up as skeletons or zombies and fight on your behalf. One of the differences between the two spells, besides the fact that one has a much faster caster time than the other, is Danse Macabre is a concentration spell. So you can basically ... while you can concentrate on it, you can have these undead minions suddenly pop up.
And again, I think some of our necromantically-themed player characters are going to sort of lick their lips, ready to cast this spell. But then, also, again, groups are going to have to face NPC spellcasters who are suddenly raising up their not only dead opponents, but even their own dead allies right back up to fight as zombies and skeletons right in the middle of a fight. So again, I think that's going to create some tense, exciting moments.
Todd Kenreck: Is it okay if I ask what happens when that concentration is broken? Are the undead suddenly free, or do they fall?
Jeremy Crawford: So when ... and with Danse Macabre, when the spell ends, those zombies and skeletons return to being inanimate corpses. So they're not suddenly let loose as undead, and that's another difference between Danse Macabre and Animate Dead. Animate Dead actually turns this corpse into an undead creature. Danse Macabre basically is like funneling magical energy into the corpse, making it temporarily undead until the spell ends, in which case it just goes back to being inert.
Todd Kenreck: And this is a Warlock spell, as well?
Jeremy Crawford: Yes, Warlocks will have access to Danse Macabre. And again, in contrast to the fact that they do not have Animate Dead. So we also, in this book, include a number of spells that are for our characters like the Eldritch Knight and Warlocks with the Pact of the Blade and others. Spells that are about magic use in melee. Zephyr Strike is one. Shadow Blade is another, where you cast this spell and conjure forth this sword made out of shadow itself, and you can wield that in battle. And so again, there's a little bit of ... there's something for everyone when it comes to our spellcasters.
Todd Kenreck: You can find all those spells and a whole lot more in Xanathar's Guide to Everything on dndbeyond.com by clicking on the link in this video description and earn preorder bonuses, as well. I'm Todd Kenreck. Thank you for watching.