Do you have that one barbarian in the party that takes too many risks? Is there an NPC that needs to stay alive no matter what? Then, death Ward 5e is probably just the right abjuration for your Cleric or Paladin.
Justin, our expert DM with over 20 years of experience, will discuss the mechanics and best uses of Death Ward in 5e Dungeons and Dragons. Both Players and DMs will get a ton of helpful info for their campaign with his easy-to-understand tips and tricks.
What is Death Ward 5e, and how does it work
- Casting time: one action
- Level: 4th level abjuration
- Range: Touch
- Target: A creature
- Components: Verbal and Somatic
- Duration: 8 hours
- Classes: Cleric and Paladin
You touch a creature (an NPC, an ally, a party member, etc.) and give it protection against death. When this creature would go to 0 HP due to it taking damage, it drops to 1 hit point instead. This is only the case for the first time; the creature would drop to 0 hit points.
If your target is hit by a spell that has an effect that would kill it instantly, but without it dealing damage, the effect is negated. The target lives, and Death Ward 5e ends.
Death Ward’s advantages and drawbacks
- Powerful effect: Death Ward is mighty if you know how to use it correctly. It is a free pass from any powerful attack. If you have a bunch of cultists loading up their spell to strike, you can take the damage with the protection of Death Ward.
- Free to use: I love spells that don’t use material components. Because you don’t need a component, it is cheap to cast. Unlike spells like Circle of Death, which will cost you at least 500 gp a piece.
- One-time use: If you are in a barrage of missiles or attacks, you will survive the first time you drop to 1 hit point, but you will die right after with the second hit.
- Touch: You must be within touch distance to cast the Death Ward on the target. So you can not save someone standing 10 feet away from you and about to get hit by an arrow of an axe to the dome.
Best uses for Death Ward 5e
1. Protect witnesses
Do you have an NPC who can not die due to the valuable information they have? Have you captured an enemy henchman who would rather die than spill the beans? Death Ward in DnD is one of the most valuable spells to keep those who are fond of dying alive. If your witness gets shot by a crossbow from afar, he won’t die but will survive clinging to life.
Did your witness die anyway? You might like: Speak with Dead 5e, mechanics, and best uses.
2. Tanking massive attacks
Are you expecting to be hit with an influential ace up the sleeve attack? Then Death Ward is an excellent safeguard against this. If your enemy depends on a powerful hit to shake up the battlefield dynamics and the odds of victory, using this safety is great to throw a wrench in their plans. It is also a great way to protect weaker NPCs or players.
3. Annoying your players
If your players have a habit of celebrating too soon, Death Ward 5e is a fantastic way to mess with them. Imagine the villain surviving the ‘finishing blow’ with just one hitpoint and then getting healed by spells like Vampiric Touch. Your players will never take a victory for granted again!
Another great spell to trick your players is Feign Death!
Advice and final thoughts
There are a lot of interesting mechanics, attacks, and effects in Dungeons and Dragons that can end your character or that beloved NPCs. If your Cleric has Death Ward and knows when to cast it, you can save yourself a lot of stress.
You won’t have to fear a boss with one-hit-kill attacks anymore, and you will be able to protect who you want for at least one attack. Also, thanks to the fact Death Ward is free to cast, you don’t have to start budgeting and can use it whenever you want to.
|Powerful effect: Protects against powerful attacks.||One-time use: Only protects from the first instance of dropping to 1 hit point.|
|Free to use: Does not require material components.||Requires touch range to cast.|
|Useful for protecting valuable NPCs or witnesses.||Limited in range and cannot protect distant targets.|
|Effective for tanking massive attacks.|
|Can be used to surprise or challenge players.|
Building a Cleric? Then these guides are a must-read for you!
Death Ward FAQ
How can I know if Death Ward protects an NPC?
You can use Detect magic to find out if a spell-like Death Ward protects the target of your attack. That way, you can avoid getting surprised by the target if it does survive the supposed finishing attack.
How can you dispel a Death Ward?
To dispel a target’s Death Ward, you will have to bring the target to 0 hit points, which will trigger the spell and dispel it. Another option is to use dispel magic to stop the magical effect before it can trigger. Note: Remove Curse 5e will not work to dispel the enchantment.
Is Death Ward 5e worth it?
If your party likes to take risks or if you want to make sure you don’t lose a PC or an NPC, then Death Ward is undoubtedly worth picking on a Cleric. On the other hand, if your party does not take a lot of risks and has a better safe than sorry policy when it comes to hitpoints, you might want to prioritize a healing spell instead or a long-range attack.