When I was a child, I played a lot of games on my Gameboy Advance SP, and one of them was Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. It was a tactical RPG where you control your units on a battlefield.
You can move them in strategically advantageous positions and make them attack using weapons and cast spells. There were various classes, and one that I found myself getting pulled into was the Time Mage.
Time Mages can manipulate various aspects of time in the game, and I thought it was fantastic to control such an abstract concept. Later on, I found myself once again enthralled by the idea of a build in D&D inspired by Time Mages.
While the Haste spell quickens the movement and actions of six creatures, the Slow spell does the opposite. Striking a creature with it makes them more vulnerable to attacks because of how slow they can react.
Plus, they cannot effectively cast spells because of how slow they are. If you want a pseudo-Time Mage in D&D, picking Slow would be a logical choice, and this Slow 5e Guide will prove how useful it is.
Bottom Line Up Front: What is Slow in D&D 5e?
Slow is a level three transmutation spell you can find in the Player’s Handbook on page 277. This spell is a transmutation spell similar to Mending and Shape Water because it changes the temporal properties of a creature. Below are the crucial details about the Slow spell in D&D 5e.
- Level three transmutation
- Casting Time: one action
- Range: 120 feet
- Components: V, S, M (a drop of molasses)
- Duration: Concentration, up to one minute
How to Use Slow in D&D 5e
You need to slow down on slowing down your enemies because there are particular requirements that you must meet first. I talked about the typical requirements that a lot of spells have in common in my previous guides.
If you want an in-depth explanation of them, I advise that you read my guide on the Haste spell in D&D 5e because they are almost alike with only one main difference.
Both spells have a casting time of one action and require verbal, somatic, and material components. While the Slow spell needs a drop of molasses and the Haste spell needs a shaving of licorice root instead, you can disregard this difference if you have an arcane focus because it substitutes the need for material components.
Both spells’ effects can last for one minute if you can concentrate on them. I also detailed how concentration works in my Haste guide, so if you are new to the concept, read through my explanation there. The main difference between the two spells is their range; Slow has a range of 120 ft. while Haste has a range of 30 ft.
If everything is in order in terms of requirements, you can cast the Slow spell. As you wave your hands, speak the magic words, and use your materials to cast the spell, you do the following:
- Choose a 40-foot cube within 120 ft. of you. It will act as a selection pool where you can select your targets within it.
- Choose six creatures within the 40-foot cube. These six creatures will receive the effects of the Slow spell.
After choosing your targets, the spell will give them a chance to resist its effects. The following section details how the Slow spell works.
How Does Slow Work in D&D 5e?
A 40-foot cube emerges, and you choose six people within it to suffer the Slow spell’s effects. Follow the steps below to determine if your targets have become affected.
- Each chosen target makes a Wisdom saving throw. They roll a d20 and add their Wisdom saving throw modifier. If you are unsure about your target’s Wisdom saving throw, check their stat block if it mentions a modifier for it.
- Compare the Wisdom saving throw and your Spell Save DC. The Spell Save DC depends on the class; e.g., a Wizard’s Spell Save DC is 8 + their proficiency bonus + their Intelligence modifier. If the Wisdom saving throw is equal to or greater than the Spell Save DC, they succeed. Otherwise, they fail their Wisdom saving throw.
- If the target fails in their Wisdom saving throw, they become affected by the spell’s effects until it is over. If the creature succeeds instead, nothing happens.
- The affected target’s movement speed becomes halved. For example, a bandit with a walking speed of 30 ft. will now travel up to 15 ft. instead per turn.
- The affected target’s Armor Class reduces by two. For example, a bandit with 14 AC will have 12 AC instead until the spell is over.
- The affected target’s Dexterity saving throw reduces by two.
- The affected target cannot use reactions. Typically, reactions happen when a trigger occurs outside of the user’s turn. Spellcasters can cast some spells during a reaction. This spell removes that option altogether.
- The affected target can perform an action or a bonus action but not both.
- The affected target cannot make more than one melee or ranged attack. This restriction occurs regardless of their abilities or magic items.
- The affected target rolls a d20 if they cast a spell with a casting time of one action. This roll determines whether or not they can cast their spell.
- If the result is an 11 or higher, the target’s spell’s effects occur during their next turn. Furthermore, they must use their action during that turn to complete their spell.
- If the result is a ten or lower, the target’s spell is wasted. Thus, nothing happens.
- The affected target makes a Wisdom saving throw after the end of each of their turn. On a successful roll against your Spell Save DC, the spell’s effects end.
As you can see, this spell has a lot of effects on its targets. Many players tend to stay away from it because they find it too confusing; the reasoning is understandable but a bit sad.
If this guide has given you little insight into how this spell works, do not go away yet because I will provide you with a demonstration as to how it works in the next section.
Example Scenario for Using Slow in D&D 5e
They say, “slow and steady wins the race,” but I do not see a Steady spell anywhere in the Player’s Handbook. Welcome to Arthur’s Lab! This time, we will look into the Slow spell, a level three transmutation spell.
This demonstration aims to clarify the confusing parts of it by showing you how they work in orchestrated combat. Marshal, the Half-Elf Wizard, returns in this experiment.
We will be on the private island because the spell’s area is too large for the lab to demonstrate. On the large island are eight bandits that we “convinced” to participate. Marshal has this spell in his spell book, and he has the spell slot to cast it.
Note that casting Slow using a higher-level spell slot does not change the spell’s effects. Below are essential details about our participants in this experiment:
- Marshal the Half-elf Wizard
- Armor Class: 14
- Intelligence modifier: +3
- Proficiency bonus: +4
- Spell Save DC: 8 + Intelligence modifier + proficiency bonus = 8 + 3 + 4 = 15
- Movement speed: 30 ft.
- Armor Class: 12
- Wisdom saving throw modifier: +1
- Dexterity saving throw modifier: +2
Marshal Casts the Slow Spell and Chooses the Targets
As Marshal casts the spell using a level three spell slot, he must choose where the spell’s 40-foot cube emerges within 120 ft. of him. He chooses the area as shown below.
Since Bandit 2 (the bandit near the campfire) is outside the spell’s area, Marshal cannot choose him as a target. Marshal can choose six people as targets for the Slow spell. There are seven people in the spell’s area, so he cannot target everyone inside it. He chooses everyone except for Bandit 1 (the bandit on the boat by the shore).
The Bandits Do a Wisdom Saving Throw for Slow
Bandits 3 to 8 are being targeted by the Slow spell, so they must roll a d20 for a Wisdom saving throw or else they will be affected by its effects.
Everyone has a Wisdom saving throw modifier of +2, and their Wisdom saving throw must be equal to or above Marshal’s Spell Save DC of 15 (8 + Intelligence modifier of 3 + proficiency bonus of 4). Their results are the following:
- Bandit n: d20 + Wisdom saving throw modifier = Wisdom saving throw
- Bandit 3: 14 + 1 = 15
- Bandit 4: 12 + 1 = 13
- Bandit 5: 7 + 1 = 8
- Bandit 6: 9 + 1 = 10
- Bandit 7: 3 + 1 = 4
- Bandit 8: 17 + 1 = 18
Based on the results, Bandits 3 and 4’s Wisdom saving throws are equal to or greater than Marshal’s Spell Save DC of 15. Therefore, they successfully avoid the Slow spell’s effects. However, the rest of the targets suffer from the effects since they do not reach Spell Save DC.
Marshal Casts Acid Splash and Fire Bolt
The affected bandits receive a -2 on their Armor Class and Dexterity saving throw. To demonstrate, Marshal will cast Acid Splash on Bandit 4 and Fire Bolt on Bandit 5. Below is a summary of how both spells work.
Note that both spells have a casting time of one action, an instantaneous duration, and the verbal and somatic component requirements.
- Acid Splash (60-foot range): choose a target or two targets five ft. near each other. They must do a Dexterity saving throw; if they fail, they receive 1d6 acid damage.
- Fire Bolt (120-foot range): choose a target and make a ranged spell attack against them. A successful hit deals 1d10 fire damage, and flammable objects ignite.
Marshal casts Acid Splash on Bandit 4, and the following occurs:
- The bandit rolls a d20 for his Dexterity saving throw and gets a 14.
- His Dexterity saving throw modifier of +2 is added to the d20.
- His Dexterity saving throw equates to 16.
- His Dexterity saving throw is reduced by two due to the Slow spell’s effects.
- His final Dexterity saving throw is 14.
Bandit 4’s Dexterity saving throw of 14 is not equal to or greater than Marshal’s Spell Save DC of 15, so Marshal rolls for the Acid Splash’s damage. Bandit 4 receives five acid damage.
Marshal casts Fire Bolt on Bandit 5; he rolls a d20 for his ranged spell attack and gets a ten. The bandit’s Armor Class is 12, so Marshal’s Fire Bolt would have missed.
However, due to the Slow spell’s effects, we reduce two to his Armor Class, making it ten. Since the ranged spell attack is a ten, it reaches Bandit 5’s AC. Therefore, the Fire Bolt hits.
Bandit 5 Cannot Cast Absorb Elements as a Reaction
Bandit 5 is a spellcaster, and he knows Absorb Elements, a level one spell that he can cast as a reaction. The spell’s details are as follows:
- Absorb Elements: You can cast this spell as a reaction to taking acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder damage. You gain resistance to the damage you receive until the start of your next turn, and your melee attack during that turn gets an extra 1d6 damage of the same damage type.
Normally, Bandit 5 could cast Absorb Elements as a reaction to Marshal’s Fire Bolt. However, the Slow spell prevents its affected targets from making a reaction; therefore, he cannot cast Absorb Elements. Marshal rolls for the spell’s damage, and Bandit 5 receives eight fire damage.
Bandit 6 Moves and Attacks
It is Bandit 6’s turn, and he moves forward. However, because of the Slow spell’s effects, his movement speed is 15 ft. instead of 30.
Normally, Bandit 6 can use his action to attack with a short bow and bonus action to heal himself via the Second Wind class feature that Fighters have. However, because of the Slow spell, he can only use either option, not both. He decides to use his action to attack with a short bow, but he misses.
Furthermore, he normally can make an additional action to attack using the Action Surge class feature that Fighters have. However, the Slow spell prevents this option again because affected targets cannot make more than one melee or ranged attack in one turn.
As Bandit 6 ends his turn with a missed short bow attack, he rolls a d20 for his Wisdom saving throw because affected targets roll for it to determine if they escape the Slow spell’s effects. He rolls an eight, and we calculate his Wisdom saving throw as the following:
- Wisdom saving throw = d20 + Wisdom saving throw modifier
- Wisdom saving throw = 8 + 1
- Wisdom saving throw = 9
Nine is less than Marshal’s Spell Save DC of 15, so Bandit 6 still suffers from the Slow spell’s penalties.
Bandit 7 Succeeds in Casting Fire Bolt
It is Bandit 7’s turn. Surprisingly, he can cast spells, and he casts Fire Bolt on Marshal. According to the Slow spell’s effects, an affected creature who casts a spell with a casting time of one action must roll a d20. If their roll is an 11 or higher, their spell takes effect during their next turn. Plus, they use their action during that turn to finish the spell.
Going back to Bandit 7’s attempt at casting Fire Bolt, he rolls a d20 and gets a 15. Therefore, Bandit 7 uses his action this turn to cast Fire Bolt, but the attack occurs during his next turn. His turn ends, and he rolls a Wisdom saving throw to determine if he can break free from the Slow spell.
After calculating his d20 roll and the appropriate modifier, his Wisdom saving throw is an 11. Thus, the Slow spell’s effects remain on him.
Bandit 6 Fails his Fire Bolt but Breaks Free from the Slow Spell
It is now Bandit 6’s turn, and he can also cast spells. He casts Fire Bolt on Marshal. He rolls a d20 and gets a nine. Therefore, Bandit 6’s Fire Bolt is a failure; nothing happens, and his spell is wasted. His turn ends, and he rolls a Wisdom saving throw similar to Bandit 7.
However, his Wisdom saving throw equates to 16, which is higher than Marshal’s Spell Save DC of 15. Therefore, he breaks free from the Slow spell’s effects, and the remaining affected creatures are Bandits 4, 5, and 7.
Bandit 7 Finishes his Fire Bolt
For brevity, we will skip to Bandit 7’s turn. He uses this turn to finish the Fire Bolt spell he cast during his previous turn. He rolls for his ranged spell attack and gets a 14. His roll is equal to Marshal’s AC of 14; therefore, his Fire Bolt hits Marshal.
Marshal receives two fire damage thanks to Bandit 7’s attack, and since he received damage, he loses concentration on the Slow spell, effectively ending its effects.
Who Can Cast Slow in D&D 5e?
Two classes (Sorcerer and Wizard) and five subclasses (Arcane Trickster Rogue, Clockwork Soul Sorcerer, Eldritch Knight Fighter, Arctic Land Druid, and Order Cleric) have access to the Slow spell. Furthermore, level five Warlocks can cast the Slow spell through the Eldritch Invocation known as Mire the Mind.
Classes that can Cast Slow in D&D 5e
Sorcerers and Wizards can slow down their enemies through the Slow spell. Since it is a level three spell, these classes would need at least a level three spell slot.
They have two level three spell slots starting at level five, which increases to three upon reaching the next level. Below are the class sources for the Sorcerer and Wizard alongside their individual Spell Save DC.
Classes that can cast Slow
Spell Save DC
|Player’s Handbook, page 99
|Eight + your Charisma modifier + your proficiency bonus
|Player’s Handbook, page 56
|Eight + your Intelligence modifier + your proficiency bonus
Alternatively, Bards can have this spell thanks to the Extended Spell List from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. If you are unaware, the mentioned source grants the classes a list of spells that are considered a part of their spell list. Therefore, a Bard can have this spell, but it is up to your DM if they allow this variant.
Subclasses that Can Cast Slow in D&D 5e
Five subclasses can get the Slow spell, as shown below. Included in this table are some critical details, such as their Spell Save DC and subclass source.
Subclasses that can cast Slow
|Subclass Feature for Slow
Spell Save DC
|Player’s Handbook, page 97
|Player’s Handbook, page 94
|8 + your Intelligence modifier + your proficiency bonus
|Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, page 68
|Player’s Handbook, page 99
|8 + your Charisma modifier + your proficiency bonus
|Player’s Handbook, page 74
|Player’s Handbook, page 70
|8 + your Intelligence modifier + your proficiency bonus
|Player’s Handbook, page 68
|Player’s Handbook, page 64
|8 + your Wisdom modifier + your proficiency bonus
|Order Domain Spells
|Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, page 31
|Player’s Handbook, page 56
|8 + your Wisdom modifier + your proficiency bonus
The Arcane Trickster Rogue and Eldritch Knight Fighter gain the power to cast spells. According to their Spellcasting subclass feature, they acquire spells from the Wizard spell list, and since Slow is part of the Wizard spell list, they can have it.
However, the Arcane Trickster Rogue can only get enchantment and illusion spells, while the Eldritch Knight Fighter can only get evocation and abjuration spells.
The Slow spell is a transmutation spell, but they gain the power to acquire spells from different schools of magic at particular levels only, specifically levels 3, 8, 14, and 20. So, they can get the Slow spell upon reaching these levels.
Although the Clockwork Soul Sorcerer can typically get the Slow spell since it is part of the Sorcerer spell list, their Clockwork Magic subclass feature grants them the chance to get it as a Wizard spell.
According to the rules of Clockwork Magic, they can replace an existing spell with an abjuration or transmutation spell from the Sorcerer, Warlock, or Wizard spell list. Thus, Slow can qualify as such a spell.
A Druid in the Circle of the Land has the Slow spell always prepared thanks to their Circle Spells subclass feature, but it does not work for every Druid. Accordingly, they associate themselves with a land type where they became a Druid. If they connect themselves to the Arctic, they gain the Slow spell when they reach level five.
Similarly, Clerics in the Order Domain has the Slow spell always prepared thanks to the Order Domain Spells subclass feature. It gives them a list of spells that are always prepared, and Slow is one of them.
They get the Slow spell at level five, and it does not count toward their prepared spells. This rule is the same for the Druid in the Circle of the Land (Arctic).
If you allow Unearthed Arcana content in your game, you can also try the Cleric in the Protection Domain since they gain this spell as a Protection Domain Spell.
Eldritch Evocations that Can Cast Slow in D&D 5e
At level two, Warlocks gain the power to use forbidden knowledge to cast magical effects, which are known as Eldritch Invocations. Mire the Mind is an Eldritch Invocation that allows Warlocks to cast the Slow spell using one of their spell slots. Furthermore, Warlocks can use Mire the Mind again only after finishing a long rest.
Creative and Useful Ways to Use Slow in D&D 5e
The Slow spell may seem confusing at first glance, but it is incredibly straightforward; it makes your enemies slowly move that they receive drawbacks to their attributes like Armor Class and Dexterity saving throws.
However, casting it at the wrong time can lead you to troublesome situations, especially if you cannot cast it yet again. Thus, here are some great reasons to use the Slow spell in D&D 5e.
- Weakening spellcasters
- Disabling multi-attacks
- Hindering fast enemies
Weakening Spellcasters Using Slow in D&D 5e
All spells have component requirements, whether it be verbal, somatic, or material. However, spellcasters under the effects of the Slow spell move and talk slower; thus, they become ineffective in casting spells.
Accordingly, these spellcasters must roll a d20 when they cast a spell. If their roll is an 11 or higher, their spell succeeds, but if their roll is lower than 11, their spell fails.
Furthermore, a successful spell’s effects activate during the next turn. It is a beneficial tool if you are fighting spellcasters since there is a 50% chance that their spell will fail.
Plus, it does not matter what level their spell is; everything depends on the flip of a coin (or the roll of a d20). Then, if they succeed, it takes longer for their spells to take effect, giving you more time to prepare against them.
Disabling Multi-attacks Using Slow in D&D 5e
Numerous beasts in the world of D&D can attack multiple times; across the various sources, up to 1036 out of 2814 monsters (around 36.8%) can attack multiple times in one turn.
For example, the ape, a beast with a 1/2 Challenge Rating, can make two fist attacks in one turn. With Slow, you can prevent a lot of unnecessary damage, especially if you are facing multiple enemies that can multi-attack.
The Slow spell forces its targets to make only one melee or ranged attack no matter the circumstances. It is a potent ability because it stops multitudes of abilities no matter the monster’s Challenge Rating.
Plus, affected creatures cannot use reactions too. Therefore, they cannot make opportunity attacks. You can exit a flank safely because of the lack of opportunity attacks!
Hindering Fast Enemies Using Slow in D&D 5e
You have found the beast that, according to rumors, has extremely valuable claws. Killing one can net you a fortune, and your party desperately needs the funds. However, you realize that the beast is too fast for anyone to catch up.
A handy spell to have in these kinds of scenarios is the Slow spell. If the beast becomes affected by it, the spell halves the beast’s movement speed.
Furthermore, you can force the beast to move even slower by making it prone; according to the rules of D&D, standing up from being prone costs half of your movement speed.
For example, if the beast’s movement speed is 40 ft., the Slow spell turns it into 20 ft. Then, if the beast is prone, they need to use ten ft. to get up, leaving it with only ten ft. left. Slow is genuinely an effective tool to hinder movement.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Do You Need to See Your Targets for Slow in D&D 5e?
Answer: No, you do not necessarily need to see someone to target them using the Slow spell in D&D 5e. As long as your target is in the spell’s area and you know where your target is, you can choose them.
For example, you cannot see an invisible target, but you still know where they are due to other attributes such as footsteps. If you do not know where your target is, you can try guessing where they are.
Question: Can Haste Cancel Slow in D&D 5e?
Answer: Yes, the Haste spell cancels some effects of the Slow spell in D&D 5e, although not everything is balanced. A creature under the effects of both spells will retain its original movement speed and Armor Class.
However, they can only make a single melee or ranged attack per turn due to Slow. They gain an extra action thanks to Haste, but they cannot use it as a second attack option. Then, they have an advantage on Dexterity saving throws thanks to Haste but receive a penalty of -2 due to Slow.
Question: Which is Better Between Slow vs Haste in D&D 5e?
Answer: It depends on the situation, particularly on how many enemies you are facing. If you are facing multiple enemies, Slow is the better option because it can affect various creatures, whereas Haste only affects one target.
Slow is also the better option if the enemies have multi-attacks. However, if you need to succeed on Dexterity saving throws, or if you need to move quickly, Haste is the better option.
Question: Does Slow Effects Stack in D&D 5e?
Answer: No, the Slow spell’s effects do not stack in D&D 5e when cast multiple times by multiple spellcasters. In the Player’s Handbook, on page 205, it states that the effects of the same spell do not stack; this rule applies to the Slow spell.
Conclusion: Is Slow a Good Spell in D&D 5e?
The Slow spell is a highly-rated spell in D&D 5e among many players, and I agree. It is a handy tool for crowd control. It is convenient when you are surrounded by enemies for a lot of reasons.
For example, you can safely get away from multiple enemies around you without worrying about opportunity attacks since targets under the effects of the Slow spell cannot use their reaction.
However, you have to be mindful as to which enemy you will cast it upon. Targeting enemies with high Wisdom scores can be difficult because they can easily succeed in the Wisdom saving throw to evade Slow.
Although the spell’s area is quite large, you still need to be careful in finding the right time to cast it. Make sure that your enemies are close enough to each other that you can target them with Slow.
If I were to pick between Slow and Haste, I would pick Slow. It can stop multi-attacks and reactions. It can make spellcasters weaker.
However, I am a bit sad that casting it using a higher-level spell slot would not make it more powerful. Although, I do understand that it is inherently a powerful spell. Slow is easily one of my top three level three Wizard spells.