When in doubt, play… euh feign Death! I love taking a deep dive into the more obscure and under-appreciated spells in the vast world of Dungeons and Dragons. Feign Death in 5e, in my opinion, is one of those spells.
In this guide, I will try to give both new and experienced players some tips on using this spell and give dungeon masters some story ideas to trick your unsuspecting players. I will answer some frequently asked questions about this spell at the end of the article, so make sure you read until the end!
If you enjoy reading about obscure spells or spells that are very underappreciated, you should check out my guide on Life Transference and how to use this spell!
What does Feign Death do in D&D 5e
Simply put, you touch a creature, NPC, or player character, and it gets put into a state that is as good as impossible to distinguish from being dead. The duration of this spell is about an hour, and the creature you touched will only be put out of this state if you touch it again and explicitly dismiss the spell. Of course, the creature can make a saving throw, so it does not take effect.
Feign Death is a spell from the necromancy school. It is a level 3 spell, and you need a casting time for a single action. You do need to touch your target since it has 0 range. When the spell has been cast, the target appears dead to everyone who does an outward inspection. Before 5e, you needed to have a pinch of graveyard dirt to cast the spell.
The target creature of your spell, of course, has a couple of status conditions. First, the target is blinded, so it can not see anything going on, and it is incapacitated, so it can not move. Thus the speed has dropped to 0. However, this does mean the target can still hear and feel what is going on.
Now here comes the interesting part. The target has resistance to ALL DAMAGE except for damage that is of a psychic nature. So when the creature or player you cast a spell on already has a status condition like poisoned, or you try to give it an (additional) status effect, it has no effect until the spell has ended.
Maybe you can already see how broken – and hilarious – this spell can be if you use it right. So if you are a DM, watch out for players who have read this guide.
Feign Death Uses
Some of you have probably glanced over this spell and thought, “Meh, who is ever going to use this?” Well, I will, and I do it all the time. Both as a DM and as a player, this is one of my favorite spells to throw a curveball into any plan.
Let me give you a couple of examples on how to use Feign Death:
Uses as a player
Faking your own dead – Pretty obvious that this is one of the ways you can use a spell with this name, but you might not have thought about how to do this exactly. When the spell is cast, you are immune to all damage. So you fall from a building and use the spell mid-air, and you will be completely fine.
- Creating a distraction: Nothing creates a distraction like one of the guests at a banquet dropping dead. You can make this even more powerful by pretending the food has been poisoned. Chaos will surely ensue.
- Surviving hostile encounters: Are you in a massive large-scale battle? Well, time to play dead! As a bonus, you are immune to damage while the spell has an effect, so even when they are just making sure you are really dead, you will survive.
- Avoid detection: If you can’t run, just lie among those who have been slain. Most enemies will assume you have died and won’t give you a second look. This use of Feign Death might not work if you are a famous hero, as your enemies might take your head as a trophy.
- Survive traps: In case you are in old ruins or a dangerous dungeon, you might stumble upon traps that you can’t disarm and that would almost certainly kill you. If you feign death, you can survive traps like poison clouds and arrows. Simply wait until the poison has dispersed and the arrows have been shot, and you will be all clear!
- Gather information: They say that the dead cannot tell secrets. It’s time to prove them wrong! If you play dead, it is much easier to eavesdrop. Enemies might spill the beans about a secret hideout, as they aren’t expecting anyone alive to be listening in on the conversation!
- Stalling: Feign Death can stop all your status conditions for an hour. This means that when one of your party members, or yourself, has a deadly status condition, you can just use feign Death to stall. The same goes for NPC’s you want to save. While the hour is running, they can not be damaged by poison, so you might be able to find the medicine you need to help the NPC.
Uses as a Dungeon Master
If you are a DM like I am, I am sure you will enjoy using this spell to surprise cocky adventurers; you think they have got your plans all figured out. It is a great spell to surprise your players or get them to have the wrong idea.
- Trojan Horse: The spell can be used as a kind of Trojan Horse. For example, give your players a quest where they can only bring the Death to a sacred temple to have them ritually cleaned and a proper burial. While your players will be on guard for anything alive, they will surely help out a group of poor adventurers (evil bounty hunters) that have met their end. Even more so if they just happen to have letters on them with a sad backstory.
- Scarring your party: Imagine your party passing through a bar, and all of a sudden you go, okay Player A makes a saving throw. If he fails, you simply pass him a note to explain he can still be aware of the situation but nothing more, and you tell the rest of the players, Player A looks totally dead.
- Tricking your players into ignoring you – is there a monster you just don’t want to say goodbye to? Then, if it has Feign Death, you can pretend it has already perished. This use is great if you love a good plot twist.
The downsides of Feign Death in 5e
Dungeons and Dragons wouldn’t be the same if there wasn’t a counter for (smart) players and DMs.
- Incapacitated – When you use the Feign Death spell on yourself, you are completely incapacitated. Your speed is zero, and you are blinded. However, you still know what is going on and can still hear. There is the possibility your enemy has a high perception and rolls a good check when he checks you out. If the enemy knows you are just faking it, you can’t escape, and they can just throw chain you up, throw you in the bottom of a lake, etc. You won’t take damage until the spell runs out, but you won’t be able to do much after that.
- Touching – If you as a player try to use this spell, you will need to get close to your enemy. This is because you will need to touch the target for it to have an effect. If you are a wizard with a low AC and health, this could be quite a challenge.
- Length – The spell takes an hour to resolve. So if your target wants to stop the spell, it needs to wait an hour. This could be a bit too short for your plans to resolve fully. You also can not stop the spell without touching the target again. These are two aspects that make the spell a liability in some cases.
- No healing – When the feign death spell is active, you can not heal the target of the spell. Your target will have no reaction to spells like healing power or close wounds. However, you can still time your non-burst healing spells to activate the moment that the spell wears off. This way, you can quickly heal your target when the spell has worn off and save him or her.
The requirements to use Feign Death in D&D
To determine what you need to be able to cast the spell, I am using the player’s handbook as a source. This is your main source for the rules on spells and other cool things. However, there is quite a lot you can interpret so and such. The final arbiter of the rules is going to be your DM, so make sure you have one that knows how important it is to not be too strict with the rules but also doesn’t do whatever he wants.
1. Spell list
To use this spell, you need to have it in your spell list. You can do this by having it in your class’ spell casting feature, as a racial feature, or as part of the background of your character.
2. Feign Death is a level 3 spell
To cast the spell, you need to have a spell slot of level three or higher available for you to use. When you opt to pick a spell slot higher than level three, the spell can become more powerful. In this case, the duration will last longer. So you won’t be able to play super Death.
3. Speak freely
The spell has a verbal component, so you will need to be able to speak the words. Your voice needs to be audible, that does not mean you need to shout, but just normal talking noises are fine. Your mouth can not be restricted due to a magical spell, nor can a physical element stop your lips and vocal cords if you want to use the spell.
4. Use your hands
Feign Death also has a somatic component. That means you need to be able to use your hands when you want to cast the spell. Your hands can not be restricted by anything physical or magically. You will need to be able to use your hands freely enough to make gestures.
5. Touch the target
As mentioned, you need to touch your target. Some DM’s will tell you you need to actually touch the skin of the target, and others are fine with you just touching the clothing or armor. This will depend almost fully on what your dungeon master sees as touching. It might be a good idea to clear this out with your DM before you start.
6. Have an action turn
You need to be able to cast an action when it is your turn. So this isn’t a bonus action or a movement action.
Final thoughts: Is Feign Death a good spell in 5e?
Yes and no. The spell is great if you can find a niche for it to use. However, the spell can cause quite some chaos if you can use it right.
Imagine yourself at a party, and you cast feign Death on one of the guests just when he is drinking from his cup. If you have timed it well, you can cause quite some chaos. But, of course, besides incapacitating your enemies, you can also pretend that you are dead or your allies are to shake off any enemies or to plot something that your foes won’t suspect.
Maybe I am a little bit biased, but just like create bonfire this spell is absolutely underrated and fantastic as a 5e Dungeon Master. Not many people know of the existence, and it has a ton of potential for elaborate stories. You can pretend a villain has died due to the party’s interference and have him pop up later, or you can make your party seem to be the bad guys when they are a bit too violent, and you have your antagonist cast feign Death on innocent civilians.
The possibilities are limitless if you think hard enough!
FAQs about Feign Death
Question: What classes can use Feign Death?
Answer: If you don’t count Homebrew classes, three classes can use feign Death in Dungeons and Dragons: Clerics, Wizards and Druids. The Cleric class is one of these, even though they are not very well known for their ability to use necromancy-like magic. The spell can be used too by the druids. It is advised that you learn the spell if you are playing as this class and enjoy role-playing. , and finally, the wizard class has access to learning this spell.
Question: What are the effects of Fencing Death?
Answer: The target of your spell is incapacitated and is as good as impossible to distinguish from someone who is actually dead. Moreover, the target can not move and can not take damage. It is also impossible to inflict any additional status conditions. However, it is also impossible to heal the target. The spell lasts for up to one hour, and to stop it; you need to touch your target again.
Question: How long does feign Death last?
Answer: The spell lasts one hour. However, you can stop the effect of the spell by touching the target again. Since the spell is not a concentration spell, you can not stop the spell before the one hour is up if you can’t touch the target. This is the same amount of time a short rest would take if you are not using catnap 5e to speed it up. As a DM you can give your players the benefits of having done a short rest if they were under the influence of this spell.
Question: Can Feign Death be used as a bonus action
Answer: No, you will have to use this spell as a normal action. So you can not use it as a bonus action. The spell will cost you one action to cast, so you won’t be able to use another action to cast another spell. So as an example, you can still use a command to control your undead army if you did cast animate dead the turn before since that requires only a bonus action. However, the spell itself requires you to do an action, so you can not raise zombies and skeletons in the same turn.
What spell besides Feign Death 5e do you think is (very) underappreciated in DnD? Let us know here in the comments, and we will make sure we write a great article about it! In our Dungeons and Dragons blog we are always looking for amazing spells and monsters to discuss. If you like combat spells, our guide on Agonizing Blast might be just what you are looking for!