Chill touch 5e guide

The Ultimate Chill Touch 5e Guide: How Does it Work?

Spellcasters such as wizards and sorcerers are not proficient with martial weapons that can deal lots of damage on the battlefield. When it comes to combat, they instead rely on their spells for offensive and defensive measures. Not every spell deals damage; some DnD spells merely create illusions or assist in dealing more damage through other methods. Yet if they are creative enough and if they are in the right situation at the right time, they can turn any spell into a damage-dealing spell.

Still, spells level one or higher require spell slots to cast, and those are very limited for each long or short rest. You cannot always conjure a fiery blade through your enemies by casting the Flame Blade. Casters need to be very careful about when they should use their spell slots. As an alternative, they use cantrips instead.

Cantrips are spells that do not need spell slots, meaning you can cast them any time you want to. The downside would be that these spells are too weak or that they are merely for utility rather than for combat. But some cantrips stand out among the rest. Frostbite, Vicious Mockery and Thorn Whip are all good damage-dealing cantrips. Yet one cantrip in particular deals more damage than any of these: Chill Touch.

Compared to the mentioned cantrips, which deal 1d6 damage at most (assuming they are cast during level one), Chill Touch deals 1d8 necrotic damage. It also has other effects that the enemies can suffer from. If you have been eyeing this spell for quite a time now, this article will guide you to get a better grasp of the spell.

What is Chill Touch?

Chill Touch is a necromancy cantrip that can be found in the Player’s Handbook on page 221. Necromancy spells are spells that deal with the life force of creatures, whether it be giving life or taking it. Since it is a cantrip, it does not require an available spell slot to cast. Listed below is the key information of the spell. The next sections will talk about this information in much greater detail.

  • Chill Touch
  • Necromancy cantrip
  • Casting Time: 1 action
  • Range: 120 feet
  • Components: V, S
  • Duration: 1 round

How to use Chill Touch

Using Chill Touch is much like making a ranged attack since the spell makes a ranged spell attack. However, there are more requirements for it to work, which are listed down below.

  • You must have this spell in your spell list.
  • You must be able to speak freely in an audible voice since the spell requires the vocal component. So, if you are in a situation where you cannot speak due to spells that have silenced you, bondages that have covered your mouth, or any other method, then you cannot cast this spell.
  • You must be able to move your hands freely since the spell requires the somatic component. So, if you are in a situation where you cannot move your hands due to spells freezing your body up, bondages that have tied your hands, or any other method, then you cannot cast this spell.
  • You must cast this as an action on your turn.

When these requirements are met, you can cast Chill Touch by following the rules of a ranged attack. The steps below will guide you on how to use the spell with the spell’s properties already established.

  1. You must choose a target within 120 ft. of you since Chill Touch has a range of 120 ft.
  2. The DM then determines the necessary modifiers for the attack. For example, attacking enemies you cannot see with Chill Touch will give you a disadvantage on your attack roll. A target that is half-covered by something like a boulder or a tree will get a +2 bonus to their Armor Class (or AC) and Dexterity saving throws. More modifiers can be adjusted in this process.
  3. Finally, you roll your attack roll and calculate it alongside the necessary modifiers. Normally, the final attack roll would be a 1d20 + your proficiency bonus + your spellcasting ability modifier. The spellcasting ability modifier varies from class to class, so be sure to check the “Who can cast Chill Touch” section to find out what your class’ spellcasting ability is.

For example, a level one wizard with an Intelligence modifier of +2 casts the Chill Touch spell to attack an enemy they can see who is 90 ft. near them. Assuming that the wizard can freely speak and move their hands and that they have this cantrip available, the other requirement to determine would be the range. Chill Touch has a range of 120 ft., so it can hit this enemy who is only 90 ft. away from the wizard.

Since all the requirements are met, they roll a d20 for their attack roll and roll a 10. The Wizard class has Intelligence as their spellcasting ability, and level one wizards have a proficiency bonus of +2; so the final attack roll would be 10 (1d20) + 2 (your proficiency bonus) + 2 (Intelligence modifier), totaling 14. If the enemy has an AC of 14, then Chill Touch would hit them.

How does Chill Touch work?

Soccerer

When you succeed in your attack roll against a creature, you create a ghostly, skeletal hand near them. The hand clings to their target and deals 1d8 necrotic damage. Furthermore, the creature cannot regain any more hit points until the start of its next turn, making it a very useful spell against enemies who often heal or are planning to heal. The hand lasts for one round and continues to cling until then.

When an undead creature is hit with this spell, they also gain a disadvantage on their attack rolls against you until the end of your next turn. However, many undead creatures have resistance to necrotic damage. When the target of Chill Touch has resistance to necrotic damage, the damage dealt gets halved. In the case where the target is an undead creature with resistance to necrotic damage, their damage taken would get halved, but they will still have the disadvantage on their attack rolls against you.

Moreover, the spell’s damage increases over time as the caster levels up. By level 5, the damage increases to 2d8. By level 11, it increases to 3d8. Finally, by level 17, it increases to 4d8.

For example, a level 6 wizard casts Chill Touch against a Flameskull within range. They succeed on the attack roll and rolls for the damage. Since they are level 6, the damage would be 2d8 necrotic damage, and they roll a 10. Since the Flameskull has resistance to necrotic damage, the attack only takes 5 hit points from them. However, the Flameskull is an undead creature, so when they try to attack you, they have a disadvantage on their attack roll. Plus, the Flameskull cannot regain hit points yet until the start of their next turn.

Note that the level requirement is based on the character’s overall level, not the class level that gained the cantrip. So if you are multiclassing, you add up all your levels and base the increase of Chill Touch’s damage on that. For example, if a character with two levels in the Wizard class and three levels in the Fighter class has the Chill Touch cantrip, the spell’s damage would be increased to 2d8.

Who can cast Chill Touch?

Classes

Chill Touch is not a rare spell to encounter, as three classes have access to it as part of their available spell list. These classes are listed down below, along with their source and their spell attack modifier.

Classes that can cast Chill Touch Source Spell attack modifier
Sorcerer Player’s Handbook, page 99 Your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier
Warlock Player’s Handbook, page 105 Your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier
Wizard Player’s Handbook, page 112 Your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier

Subclasses

Slightly more subclasses can cast Chill Touch when compared to the classes. Overall, there are four subclasses listed below, along with their source and spell attack modifier.

Subclasses that can cast Chill Touch Originating Class Subclass Source Class Source Spell attack modifier
Arcana Domain Cleric Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, page 125 Player’s Handbook, page 56 Your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier
Arcana Trickster Rogue Player’s Handbook, page 97 Player’s Handbook, page 94 Your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier
Death Domain Cleric Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 96 Player’s Handbook, page 56 Your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier
Eldritch Knight Fighter Player’s Handbook, page 74 Player’s Handbook, page 70 Your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier

Both the Eldritch Knight fighter and the Arcana Trickster rogue gain access to the Chill Touch spell because they gain access to the wizard spell list as dictated in their Spellcasting subclass feature. For clerics who have chosen the Arcana Domain, they can gain Chill Touch as a cantrip to choose from the wizard spell list through their Arcane Initiate subclass feature. Clerics who have chosen the Death Domain can gain the cantrip by choosing it as their necromancy cantrip through their Reaper subclass feature.

Races

Elf 5e

Only one DnD race that is not from Unearthed Arcana sources can cast the Chill Touch cantrip, and that is the High Elf race. Its details are described below.

Races that can cast Chill Touch Racial feature allowing the ability Source Spell attack modifier
Elf (High) Cantrip (can choose Chill Touch as the cantrip of choice) Player’s Handbook, page 23 Your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier

Is Chill Touch good?

Chill Touch is an underrated cantrip that is actually really good to use. It deals more damage than other cantrips and it stops enemies from healing themselves for one round until the start of their next turn, which is essential if the enemy plans to heal themselves and you want the battle to end quickly. Plus, it is a ranged spell attack; keeping your distance against an enemy is no stranger for spellcasters.

In terms of damage, Chill Touch deals on average about four to five necrotic damage on their target. It has the equivalent damage range with a greatclub, battleaxe, longsword, rapier, and more, with bonus effects. By level 5, the spell deals on average nine necrotic damage; by level 11, between 13 and 14. Finally, by level 17, it deals an average of 18 necrotic damage.

The downside of this spell is that it has a good effect against the undead, but so many undead creatures have resistance and immunity to necrotic damage. When considering the Monster Manual alone, take a look at these stats:

  • There are 32 undead creatures of varying difficulty.
  • 11 out of those 32 undead creatures (i.e., 34.375% of undead creatures) have resistance to necrotic damage.
  • 10 out of those 32 undead creatures (i.e., 31.25% of undead creatures) have immunity to necrotic damage.
  • These two categories of creatures are mutually exclusive from each other. Thus, a total of 21 out of 32 undead creatures (i.e., 65.625% of undead creatures) have resistance or immunity from necrotic damage.
  • Accounting for all creatures, 13 creatures have resistance to necrotic damage.
  • 11 out of the 13 creatures (i.e., 85% of these creatures) are undead creatures.
  • Accounting for all creatures, 12 creatures have immunity to necrotic damage.
  • 10 out of the 12 creatures (i.e., 83.33% of these creatures) are undead creatures.

In summary, undead creatures have higher chances of being resistant or immune to necrotic damage than compared to all the other creature types. However, it might make up for it because of the disadvantage Chill Touch grants on its undead opponents. And still, Chill Touch is a great spell to use when not versing the undead because of it being a cantrip and dealing fairly high damage. So if you are not planning on going against undead monsters, consider taking Chill Touch with you.

Chill Touch comparison with other spells

Chill Touch vs Ray of Frost

As seen in the comparison below, both of these spells have many similarities: Chill Touch and Ray of Frost (from the Player’s Handbook, page 271) are both cantrips with the same required components, the same number of targets, and the same way of dealing damage. They deal the same amount of damage albeit different damage types. However, Chill Touch has more range (double than that of Ray of Frost) and has more additional effects.

When choosing between them, it boils down to what type of damage you want to deal since they deal the same amount of damage. Statistically, in the Monster Manual alone, 68 creatures have resistance or immunity to cold damage, while there are only 25 creatures that have resistance or immunity to necrotic damage. There are no creatures that are vulnerable to necrotic damage, but there are three that are vulnerable to cold damage. Still, it depends on your campaign on what creatures you think will face.

  Chill Touch Ray of Frost
Spell level and type Necromancy Cantrip Evocation Cantrip
Casting time 1 action 1 action
Range 120 ft. 60 ft.
Components V, S V, S
Duration 1 round Instantaneous
No. of targets One One
How damage is dealt Ranged spell attack Ranged spell attack
Damage amount and type 1d8 necrotic damage 1d8 cold damage
Additional effects Target cannot regain more hit points until the start of their next turn.

 

If the target is an undead creature, it gains a disadvantage on attack rolls made against the caster until the end of the caster’s next turn.

Target’s speed is reduced by 10 ft. until the start of the caster’s turn.
Damage increase By level 5, 2d8 necrotic damage.

 

By level 11, 3d8 necrotic damage.

By level 17, 4d8 necrotic damage.

By level 5, 2d8 cold damage.

 

By level 11, 3d8 cold damage.

By level 17, 4d8 cold damage.

Chill Touch vs Frostbite

Necro

Frostbite (from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, page 156) has similar properties with Chill Touch, such as being a cantrip, having the Vocal and Somatic components, and the number of targets. However, Chill Touch is a necromancy cantrip dealing 1d8 necrotic damage while Frostbite is an evocation cantrip dealing 1d6 cold damage; the latter deals less damage. Furthermore, they have different ways of dealing damage.

Similar to choosing between Chill Touch and Ray of Frost, the type of damage is taken into account. For the statistics of creatures having resistance, immunity, or vulnerability to necrotic and cold damage, refer to the previous section. However, it is important to note that Chill Touch deals more damage than Frostbite. So, Chill Touch has an advantage on this front. On another note, Frostbite deals damage during a failed Constitution saving throw, so if you feel like your enemies have a weak Constitution ability or if your spell save DC is very high, it is better to go for Frostbite.

  Chill Touch Frostbite
Spell level and type Necromancy Cantrip Evocation Cantrip
Casting time 1 action 1 action
Range 120 ft. 60 ft.
Components V, S V, S
Duration 1 round Instantaneous
No. of targets One One
How damage is dealt Ranged spell attack Failed Constitution saving throw
Damage amount and type 1d8 necrotic damage 1d6 cold damage
Additional effects The target cannot regain more hit points until the start of their next turn.

 

If the target is an undead creature, it gains a disadvantage on attack rolls made against the caster until the end of the caster’s next turn.

The target gains a disadvantage on their next weapon attack roll before the end of their next turn.
Damage increase By level 5, 2d8 necrotic damage.

 

By level 11, 3d8 necrotic damage.

By level 17, 4d8 necrotic damage.

By level 5, 2d6 cold damage.

 

By level 11, 3d6 cold damage.

By level 17, 4d6 cold damage.

Chill Touch vs Fire Bolt

Fire Bolt (from the Player’s Handbook, page 242) is another evocation cantrip similar to Ray of Frost and Frostbite, but this time it deals fire damage instead of cold damage. Furthermore, Chill Touch and Fire Bolt have similar range and components, as well as the method of dealing damage. Yet Fire Bolt deals more damage.

Overall, if we disregard the damage type, Fire Bolt wins regarding the amount of damage it deals; it is much higher compared to Chill Touch. However, Chill Touch has useful additional effects on its target. Thus, it depends on the player on what they think is important: a cantrip that deals high damage or a cantrip that deals lesser damage but has effects that handicap the target.

As for damage type, based on the Monster Manual alone, more creatures have resistance or immunity to fire damage (81 creatures) than necrotic damage (25 creatures). In that case, Chill Touch wins. However, more creatures have a vulnerability to fire damage (9 creatures) than necrotic damage (none). As for vulnerabilities, Fire Bolt wins.

  Chill Touch Fire Bolt
Spell level and type Necromancy Cantrip Evocation Cantrip
Casting time 1 action 1 action
Range 120 ft. 120 ft.
Components V, S V, S
Duration 1 round Instantaneous
No. of targets One One
How damage is dealt Ranged spell attack Ranged spell attack
Damage amount and type 1d8 necrotic damage 1d10 fire damage
Additional effects The target cannot regain more hit points until the start of their next turn.

 

If the target is an undead creature, it gains a disadvantage on attack rolls made against the caster until the end of the caster’s next turn.

A flammable object hit by this spell ignites if it is not being worn or carried by anyone.
Damage increase By level 5, 2d8 necrotic damage.

 

By level 11, 3d8 necrotic damage.

By level 17, 4d8 necrotic damage.

By level 5, 2d10 cold damage.

 

By level 11, 3d10 cold damage.

By level 17, 4d10 cold damage.

Chill Touch vs Toll the Dead

Toll the Dead (from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, page 169) is quite a unique cantrip. It deals the same amount of damage as Chill Touch at first, but when a certain condition is met, it increases to 1d12 necrotic damage. The condition is that the target must have already lost any of their hit points. They also have different methods of attacking and different ranges, with Toll the Dead being the lesser one.

They both have the same damage type, so it is out of the equation in comparing which is better. Toll the Dead is good if you have a high spell save DC or if the enemy has a low Wisdom ability. Furthermore, Toll the Dead deals more damage when the enemy has already been damaged before and has lost hit points. Therefore, Toll the Dead might be the better choice here.

  Chill Touch Toll the Dead
Spell level and type Necromancy Cantrip Necromancy Cantrip
Casting time 1 action 1 action
Range 120 ft. 60 ft.
Components V, S V, S
Duration 1 round Instantaneous
No. of targets One One
How damage is dealt Ranged spell attack Failed Wisdom saving throw
Damage amount and type 1d8 necrotic damage 1d8 necrotic damage; if the target has already lost hit points, 1d12 necrotic damage
Additional effects The target cannot regain more hit points until the start of their next turn.

 

If the target is an undead creature, it gains a disadvantage on attack rolls made against the caster until the end of the caster’s next turn.

None
Damage increase By level 5, 2d8 necrotic damage.

 

By level 11, 3d8 necrotic damage.

By level 17, 4d8 necrotic damage.

By level 5, 2d8 or 2d12 necrotic damage.

 

By level 11, 3d8 or 3d12 necrotic damage.

By level 17, 4d8 or 4d12 necrotic damage.

FAQ

Question: Is Chill Touch a cantrip?

Answer: Yes, it is. Chill Touch is a necromancy cantrip.

Question: How much damage does Chill Touch deal?

Answer: Chill Touch deals 1d8 necrotic damage and deals an additional 1d8 when reaching certain levels. At level 5, the damage is increased to 2d8; at level 11, it is increased to 3d8. Finally, at level 17, it is increased to 4d8. Note that the level is based on the overall character’s level, not the level of the class the cantrip came from.

Question: What is the range of Chill Touch?

Answer: Despite having the word “touch” in the spell’s name, Chill Touch does not actually have a “touch” range. Instead, it has a range of 120 ft., which is 24 squares in battle maps considering the standard size for each tile is 5 ft.

Question: Does Chill Touch deal cold damage?

Answer: Despite having the word “chill” in the spell’s name, Chill Touch does not actually deal cold damage. Instead, it deals necrotic damage. Chill Touch really is a misleading spell!

Question: What does Chill Touch do on Undead?

Answer: When Chill Touch is cast against an undead creature, it gains a disadvantage on attack rolls against you.

Scroll to Top