When creating a Spellcaster character, there are three main options for spells that can be added to a player’s spell list; Damage, Buffs, and Utility. Many utility spells within Dungeons and Dragons can be used to change things around or generally be used in ways that benefit the party without directly injuring or helping anyone.
One of my favorite spells that do not require a component is the Prestidigitation spell. It is a cantrip that is known for being quite versatile. While it does not deal damage, there are quite a few possibilities and the utility is great. If you are a creative player and your DM has a ton of non-combat encounters for you in stock, then Prestidigitation is well worth considering.
Although a minor magical spell, Prestidigitation 5e, as the subject of this article, has plenty of uses that the caster can use to choose the options.
What is Prestidigitation 5e: mechanics and requirements
- Casting time: 1 Action (6 Seconds)
- Level: Cantrip
- Range/Area: 10 ft
- Target: Area within range
- Components: Vocal and Somatic
- Duration: 1 Hour
- Classes: Artificer, Bard, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard
This spell is a minor Magical trick that novice spellcasters use for practice. You create one of the following Magical Effects within range.
- You create an Instantaneous, harmless sensory Effect, such as a shower of sparks, a puff of wind, faint musical notes, or an odd odor.
- You instantaneously light or snuff out a Candle, a torch, or a small campfire.
- You instantaneously clean or soil an object no larger than 1 cubic foot.
- You chill, warm, or flavor up to 1 cubic foot of nonliving material for 1 hour.
- You make a color, a small mark, or a Symbol appear on an object or a surface for 1 hour.
- You create a nonmagical trinket or an illusory image that can fit in your hand and that lasts until the end of your next turn.
If you cast this spell multiple times, you can have up to three of its non-instantaneous Effects active at a time, and you can dismiss such an Effect as an Action.Roll20 and DnD Player handbook
Advantages and drawbacks of Prestidigitation 5e
- Multiple different uses for the spell
As mentioned in the beginning section of the article, this spell has multiple uses that the caster can employ for any reason that they choose.
In fact, there are six different things the spell can do, meaning the spell’s usefulness is widened because of just how many things can be done with it.
This also means that a player can become more creative with the options they have since each option on their own could have a wide range of ways that they could be implemented into a situation they finds themselves in.
- Multiple effects of the spell can be active at once
When the caster uses this spell for any reason, they can actually cast it up to three times for three different options of the spell’s abilities to be active at the same time. This again widens the uses the spell can have during a campaign since the combinations can be mixed and matched for various purposes.
Although not all of the uses will be written here, a healthy amount of them will be placed in the “Best Uses” section to show how versatile this spell can be.
- The spell functions as a cantrip
As with many spells that are considered minor magical abilities (at least in terms of the flavor text describing the spell), Prestidigitation is considered a cantrip within the spell list of the classes that can add it to their spell list.
This means that a player could cast this spell whenever they wanted, without limiting factors on how many times they can actually cast it.
- There is no physical material requirement for casting
Many cantrips that exist throughout DnD do not require a physical component for casting the spell; Just the vocal and somatic portions are required.
Prestidigitation is no exception to this, as it also does not need a physical component to be able to cast it. This frees the player from having to track down components to be able to cast a spell to stockpile before leaving on any quest that may exist in the campaign.
It also aids in freeing the number of times the caster can use the spell, giving them more chances to use it and in turn more freedom to use the spell in their own creative ways.
- Promotes outside-the-box thinking
Prestidigitation has many different effects that can be freely chosen by the caster when using it. Since the caster can choose up to three different effects of the spell to be active at a single time (through three castings of the spell), the player can come up with all kinds of ways of being able to use this spell.
This is also reinforced by how the effects are written in published media, giving those who read the effects the chance to interpret the effects and their abilities in many different ways that could be utilized throughout any situation that could call for the spell to be cast.
- Almost all spellcasting classes can take it.
One might have noticed how many spell-casting classes can actually take this spell. The Prestidigitation spell is indeed available for almost all of the base game spellcasting classes to be able to take or at least the ones that are primarily focused on spellcasting.
Yes, some would benefit from this spell that does not have access to this spell such as the Druid or Cleric. Still, the spell having this wide range of classes that can add it to their spell list means a higher chance for a player to decide to add it to their spell list, thus increasing its usability.
- The incredibly short range of effect
Although this spell is not a combat spell, the 10 ft range can still feel incredibly limiting to some players with certain ideas that could have required a longer range than the spell allows.
The spell does still allow for the player who casts it to be able to use it in a variety of ways, but the short range means that some ideas could have been utilized for a combat encounter, as will be explained in the “Best Uses” section of the article, would have to be adapted to work with the rang for completely abandoned out of concern of the casters safety.
- Non-damaging spell: No matter what effect the caster chooses to alter or create, the spell does not do any sort of damage. This includes manipulating the temperature and fire.
- No Use In Combat: Even though this spell itself is instant, there’s no point in using the spell in the midst of combat. It doesn’t do damage nor does it affect the enemy in any sort of way.
- Minimal Effects: The effects of the spell won’t play a huge role in any type of encounter. Any of the available perks the caster may try to gain from the spell are practically insignificant and won’t make much of a difference to the player’s surroundings or creatures around it. Think of it like a small magnet on the fridge- it’s doing something, but not much.
Best uses for 5e
1. Cleaning armor and clothing for the caster and party members
A clean set of clothes is something that everyone enjoys wearing, especially when the party just came out of a messy situation. However, cleaning the clothes by hand can be rather time-consuming in any situation, regardless of how long the party has before they have to continue their quest or make their way down the road to the next town.
Prestidigitation could be used in this instance to remove the time needed to clean one’s clothes and/or armor, with a simple casting of the spell being able to remove all of the dirt, blood, or whatever else happened to get onto their clothes without any water or cleaning supplies required.
2. Lighting small fires for various non-harmful purposes
When traveling, many things require fire to assist in whatever is needed. Either from setting up a campfire to rest by for the night, a candle to help with one’s late-night reading, or a torch to help traverse darkened cave areas that would otherwise be impossible to traverse due to the darkness.
Using Prestidigitation for these could help in the listed ways above, as trying to use fire-based damage spells for such purposes could accidentally harm or even kill a friendly character that just happened to be caught in the radius of the fire spell that was cast.
3. Aiding in cooking
As with cleaning one’s armor or clothing as previously mentioned, cooking a meal for the party while they are resting at a camp can be quite a time-consuming process depending on the meal being cooked.
With that in mind, Prestidigitation can help cook a meal quickly, saving on that precious time that could otherwise be used in other affairs, such as training or keeping watch for hostiles nearby. It could also be used to help keep food fresh by chilling it using the same effect for the spell.
4. Keeping players warm or cool in extreme environments
In a similar mindset to the previous use of the Prestidigitation spell, The spellcaster with this spell could use the same effect to keep themselves warm or cold, depending on the environment.
This could be especially helpful in environments where certain beings would be unable to survive due to the extreme temperatures of the environment, such as a Volcanic Wasteland or a Frozen Tundra.
If the Dungeon Master allows it, the caster could also extend this to other player characters, giving them the same warmth or cooling power of the prestidigitation spell in areas that would kill them from eventual hypothermia or hyperthermia respectively.
5. Distracting enemies during or before combat.
While this spell is not really meant to be used during a combat encounter, there is one use that can be thought of for a player with this spell to utilize during a combat encounter, or even before one has begun.
By using the spell to create a harmless sensory effect, such as a gust of wind or an odd noise, the caster could draw an enemy away from a certain area to allow the party to sneak past them or get the jump on them with a sneak attack.
The only problem with this usage is it would be hindered by the short range that the spell has, meaning the caster would be possibly caught by the hostile when using the spell for this purpose. As such, it’s recommended that once the distraction has been made, the caster moves away from that area to avoid getting caught and to tag along with the rest of the party.
Sometimes, when puzzles get a little difficult or if it needs a little magic, this spell can help with it. It can alter fire, create a mark, a sensory effect such as sounds or smells, and even change the temperature a bit. There may be tricky puzzles within dungeons that need this spell or something along the lines of the spell.
For example, some doors need a way to stimulate some sort of element such as fire or air in order for them to open. When DMing and creating puzzle-based encounters, I often find my players finding use in the Prestidigitation spell to create whatever is needed to “fill in the blanks” for the puzzle. Or perhaps in order to keep the door open, they need a small trinket for a statue to hold. Naturally, the spell will only last an hour but as long as the party doesn’t plan on staying long, everything should turn out okay.
7. Fire or Temperature
If there’s a light that’s a little too dim or no light at all, why not light a campfire? There will be a lot of occasions in which lighting will not be available and the people with no darkvision may have a bit of difficulty navigating through the darkness. Without any components or using any spell slots, this spell can help with that. This also helps in worlds or regions with extreme climates.
For example, if the party is in a freezing tundra, the caster can use this spell to light a fire and warm up their armor (they can only warm up nonliving objects, but this is a loophole within the spell) to keep themselves warm. Once again, the spell would only last an hour so it wouldn’t be optimal for camping out- it’s more for a pitstop.
8. Weird Distractions
The details within the effects of this spell are oddly specific and I feel could work as a weird distraction towards small things. For example, if a rogue wants to steal from an evil merchant that the party knows, perhaps they would have them make a weird and strange distraction like a puff of wind or a weird smell. Since it would be so sudden and left-field, the merchant would of course be curious to what is going on.
9. Messing with NPCS
A good example of this would be having brunch with a snobby, and picky noble. Would the party like to give him a hard time and make his food taste like trash? Or maybe you’d like to extort the noble and claim that you cooked the most delicious food? Personally, this is a personal favorite and what most DMs see the spell used for- interacting with NPCs.
From my experiences, this spell can go miles for tricking NPCs into thinking a certain way about a party member. Another good example of this would be to disguise themselves. The spell cannot physically change the appearance of anything, but it can make objects cleaner or dirtier. A common uses of that effect would be to make the caster seem as if they are dressed as a noble with clean clothes or perhaps more ruggish to get into the shady parts of a city.
Advice and final thoughts
Overall, I believe that this spell can be used as a wonderful utilitarian instrument whenever the player needs it.
Personally, it’s a great spell to use out-of-combat or for puzzles within dungeons. It gives a lot of physical playground to play around with and if the DM is okay with it, the player is free to experiment with the spell as well.
It’s also a good spell to use against NPCs who are not threatening, but need some sort of magic amusement. Within combat, though, the spell is practically useless. The spell has a lot of quirks to it, so if spell is best in the hands of a creative mind trying to “break the system,” or simply challenging the DM to what they can and cannot do (within the DM’s respectful boundaries, of course).
Sure, a caster could choose to do the actions that the spell is capable of by themselves without it, but using the spell makes the time required for such acts to be completed shorten to such a degree that it’s a blink and you’ll miss it action.
Allowing the player to use this spell helps them focus their time on other more important items that would otherwise be put off to handle the actions that this spell does seamlessly. As the writer of this Article, I’d say to any player building a spellcaster character to pick this spell up as a wide-ranged utility spell to use for a campaign.
Prestidigitation 5e FAQ
Could Prestidigitation 5e be used to clean or purify any dirty/poisoned food or water?
There are spells that can be used that are specifically meant for this, mainly “Purify food and drink”. However, if the Dungeon Master allows someone to use the spell in this way, then it can be done. It is best to ask the Dungeon master first before fully going through the spell action to use it in this manner, however.
Are there any spells Prestidigitation 5e can be used in tandem with?
Minor Illusion, on some occasions, can be used to work side by side with this spell. Such an example is if a player is trying to bug someone with an imaginary fly buzzing around their ear. Although Prestidigitation could not make the noise the fly would make, it could cause small gusts of wind or pressure to make someone think the fly was there.
Can Prestidigitation be used to change someone’s skin color?
No; Alter Self or Disguise Self would be one of the spells a player would need to look for if they are wanting to do something like this.
Can Prestidigitation in 5e help with Temperature Effects?
Since the spell can manipulate fire or small puffs of wind, I would say yes if the player is creative enough to figure out how to use those elements to manipulate the temperature. However, the spell only lasts for an hour, so even if they were to light a fire, for example, the fire would only last for one hour before they would have to cast it again. Otherwise, they can also do it through the regular spell by “chilling, warming, or flavoring up to 1 cubic foot of nonliving material.” As stated previously, a way to get around this is by warming up armor that a single character is wearing and having the character wear said armor. Some DM’s though, may not see this as a method that could dismiss the effects from any sort of weather hazards such as cold or fire damage from extreme climates.
Can it clean items?
The spell does say that it can clean or soil an object. However, the duration for it, once again, is only an hour. That being said, if a character were to clean or make something dirty, then the cleanliness or dirtiness will go away once the spell’s duration has passed.
Can Prestidigitation change your appearance?
No, this is not possible. While the caster can create temporary, hallucinatory marks on their body, Prestidigitation will not change anything else such as eyes or hair color. However, the spell does allow the caster to change the appearance of an object. For example, one can make their clothes look like they’re in pristine condition or make it as raggedy as possible.
Can it flavor the food?
While the appearance and texture of the food will not change, Prestidigitation can alter the taste of the food. This may come in handy with food that may not be as appetizing that a character may not want to eat or convincing an NPC that their character is the greatest cook known to man. Make sure that they eat the food within the hour that Prestidigitation is cast or the caster would have to recast the spell in order to change its flavor again.
How does the non-instantaneous effects of Prestidigitation 5e work?
I found myself being quite confused with the non-instantaneous effects as well. After a bit of researching and asking around fellow DMs, though, I have found that the wording done by the creators of the spell became a little blurred together, causing the confusion. Basically, the non-instantaneous effects stated within the spell is talking about are the effects that change the temperature of an object, creating a non magical trinket or illusory image, and making a color, mark, or symbol appear on an object. The rest are practically instant.