Hello, Dungeon Masters and adventurers! Today, I am taking a closer look at a pretty underused spell in DnD 5e: Earth Tremor. It is a level 1 spell from the Evocation school. A magic school we have not discussed yet on this blog and is one of the rarer schools if we take a look at popular spells in Dungeons and Dragons.
This guide is aimed at beginners of the games and people who want to know more about Earth Tremor and how to use this spell. I am also going to include a list of uses for Dungeon Masters and Players to give you some suggestions on how to use this spell.
What is Earth Tremor
Earth Tremor is a spell that is part of the Evocation School of Magic, which is one of the 8 different schools in the DnD universe. This school is known to put a focus on the elements and create powerful elemental effects with them. Other great examples of evocation school magic are Bitter Cold, Searing Flame, and Rolling Thunder. Mages who are schooled in evocation are often working for the military, serving as artillery. You can find this info in the Players Handbook, starting from the second edition onwards.
First-level spell slot
This is a spell you put into the first-level slot. So you will have access to it around level 3 of the character. The casting time is 1 action and it has a range of 10 feet. You do not need a material component for this spell. Just verbal (v) and somatic (s) are enough to use this magic.
Instant bludgeoning damage
The duration is instantaneous and the damage is Bludgeoning! Keep that in mind as a DM, because a lot of beginner DM’s start to apply earth damage, which is of course incorrect. Targets who want to protect themselves from falling prone due to this spell must make a DEX save.
A great source to find more about this spell is from the Official Wizards Elemental Evil Player’s companion.
How does Earth Tremor work
When you say the magic words (V) and do they wizardly hand signs (S) you cause a strong tremor in a 10 feet area in a 10 feet range. Every creature, except for you, must now make a Dexterity saving throw. So, your party members and allies will also need to make this DEX Save if they are in the range of the spell.
What classes can use Earth Tremor 5e
There are four classes that are able to use the Earth Tremor spell in DnD. These classes are the Druid, the Bard, the Sorcerer, and the Wizard.
Earth tremor is an okay spell to have as a Druid, but there are three spells with more utility at that level. Those spells are (in my opinion) Entangle, Faerie Fire and Goodberry. All of these will make your Druid a lot more useful in actual combat.
Unlike some others, I do think Earth Tremor is one of the better spells for a Bard to have. It really works pretty well due to the verbal component from a roleplaying perspective. The two spells that are better for Bards are Healing Word and Dissonant Whispers.
The sorcerer has a massive array of spells to choose from. Earth Tremor is somewhere in the middle of the pack. Much more interesting spells are Magic Missile and Chaos Bolt due to the long range capabilities. Though, Earth Tremor can be useful if you want a close combat spell to make enemies prone.
I have never picked Earth Tremor for a wizard, but I wouldn’t mind picking it for my next campaign. This is not a spell for optimized builds, since the Wizard Class has at least 5 level 1 spell that is clearly better. However, the spell just is a lot of fun and can cause quite a lot of laughs if you hit your own party with it.
How to use Earth Tremor: Top 3 uses
There are quite a few best uses for Earth Tremor I have come across in my own campaigns. I have also seen quite a few players share interesting experiences online, concerning how to use the spell. I have picked the three best uses for this spell and put them here so you have a reference for your next campaigns.
|Top Uses of Earth Tremor||Description|
|Preventing enemies from escaping||Deals damage, knocks enemies prone, and creates difficult terrain to prevent fleeing. Effective against lower-level mobs.|
|Aiding your melee warriors||Knocks enemies prone, aiding melee fighters. Risk of hitting allies if positioned poorly.|
|Escaping from enemies||Can be used to escape, but risks hitting allies due to its radius. Consider other options for safe retreat.|
1. Preventing enemies from escaping
The best use, by far in my opinion, for Earth Tremor in 5e is to prevent an enemy from escaping. When you cast the spell, you not only deal damage but also knock your enemies prone while making the terrain difficult. All of these factors are great for stopping creatures that cannot fly from getting away.
I think this spell is most powerful when you are able to cast Earth Tremor while fighting a mob of lower-level enemies. You can knock a lot of them prone due to the large range of the spell, and there are bound to be a few that fail the DEX save.
2. Aiding your melee warriors
The most common way you will use Earth Tremor, if you pick the spell, is to help your melee warriors. This is because Earth Tremor knocks your enemies over and forces them to make a DEX save. Then the melee warriors can swoop in and start finishing off those monsters that are prone.
There are two problems with this approach. First, as a magic user – who generally has low hit points and armor – you will need to go to the front of the line and try to get as many enemies around you as possible or get as close as possible. Second, if your warriors are too close to you, they can be hit by the spell as well.
For another spell that might help out your melee warriors without taking this much risk, check out my Magic Stone 5e Guide: How it works and uses!
3. Escaping from enemies
I do like to use Earth Tremor to run away from enemies, but I just don’t think it is the best use for the spell. Let me explain. If you want to use Earth Tremor for this purpose, your Wizard, Sorcerer, Bard or Druid will have to stand in front, or in the middle of the pack of enemies you want to get away from. If they don’t, you are going to make to hit your own party members due to the radius of the spell.
Downsides to Earth tremor
You can hit your allies with the spell
One drawback of using the Earth Tremor spell is that it can accidentally hurt your friends. While it’s great for damaging enemies and throwing them off balance, it affects anyone within its range, including allies. The powerful vibrations can make it hard for your friends to stay steady and avoid getting hurt. To avoid causing unintended damage, you need to be careful and aim the spell precisely.
You can´t go near frontlines to aim
Another issue with this is that classes like the Wizard and Druid with a low AC, just shouldn’t be anywhere near the front lines. Even more so when the enemy you are fighting is so strong you have to run away.
You have to traverse difficult terrain too
Another downside of using this spell, is that you are in the center of the circle to run away. That means, even though you do not need to do a DEX save, you still have to traverse some difficult terrain. This in no way means the spell is worthless, or even bad to use it for this purpose, but it just isn’t the optimal use.
That being said, Expeditious Retreat is a much better spell for this purpose. If you are a Dungeon Master that wants to send out a surprisingly strong monster at your players, check out the Crag Cat in 5e!
How good is Earth Tremor
The vast majority of the players consider Earth Tremor to be a bad spell that is easily overshadowed by the alternatives at that level. While I agree with that assessment from optimization of your character point of view, there are some clever uses that make it a nice spell to have in your arsenal.
My favorite use is to give enemies a very hard time escaping or reaching something or someone. Thanks to the effect of Earth Tremor – knocking enemies prone in quite a large radius – you can really mess with the action economy of your targets.
While this is a niche use, I do think it is great from a roleplaying perspective. As a Dungeon Master, I often make my monsters run away, because why would they want to die in vain?
Earth Tremor 5e FAQ
What is the range of Earth Tremor?
Earth Tremor has a range of 10 feet. This range is a circle with you in the middle. You are not affected by the spell. However, your allies are affected by it, so they will be damaged and will need to make a DEX save if you cast the spell. A range this short means you will need to be quite close to the enemy to cast it.
What classes can use Earth Tremor 5e?
There are four classes in the official version of DnD that can use Earth Tremor. These classes are the Druid, the Bard, The wizard and the sorcerer. All of these classes have the ability to learn this level one spell.
What saving throw is Earth Tremor?
When the earth breaks up after you have cast the spell Earth Tremor, all creatures within a range of 10 feet will need to make a Dexterity saving throw, including your allies and party members within range. Creatures that fail this DEX save are now knocked on the ground and prone.