There are a lot of battlefield control spells in the world of Faerun. These can include the spells ‘Fireball’ which of course does massive damage and also is something that can change the entire view of a battle. Thunderwave is another battlefield control spell that can be used during battles where you won’t just do some serious damage to the enemy, but it can also knock them back and actually change the course of a battle.
Thunderwave is a very interesting spell, and you can cause a lot of problems for your enemies with this spell. However, when do you use the spell? Who can use the spell? And what makes the spell so interesting for those who can use it? Here’s our Thunderwave 5e Guide to this spell.
What Is Thunderwave?
Here are the stats for the thunderwave spell, as told in the player’s handbook:
- 1 level evocation
- Casting Time: 1 action
- Range: Self (15-foot cube)
- Components: V S
- Duration: Instantaneous
- Classes: Bard, Druid, Sorcerer, Wizard
A wave of thunderous force sweeps out from you. Each creature in a 15-foot cube originating from you must make a Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 2d8 thunder damage and is pushed 10 feet away from you. On a successful save, the creature takes half as much damage and isn’t pushed. In addition, unsecured objects that are completely within the area of effect are automatically pushed 10 feet away from you by the spell’s effect, and the spell emits a thunderous boom audible out to 300 feet.
At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the damage increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 1st.
Breaking the spell down, we see that it is a first-level evocation spell that takes 1 action to cast. The range is centered on the caster and it expands outward in a 15-foot cube. It requires a verbal and somatic component and can be cast by a bard, sorcerer, druid, or wizard. The instant the spell is cast, any creature within the 15-foot cube (3 squares) needs to make a constitution saving throw. If they fail, they take 2d8 thunder damage and are pushed backward 10 feet.
If they manage to make the save, the 2d8 thunder damage is halved and the creatures are not pushed. If there are any unsecured objects within the 15-foot radius, they are pushed 10 feet away from you as well.
Finally, usage of the spell emits a thunderous boom, not unlike the thunder in the real world. The boom is audible from 300 feet of the caster. Now, if you upcast the spell, then the damage dice increases by 1d8 for every spell slot above first you use.
There’s a lot to unpack here with the spell, where first, its main draw isn’t the damage it causes but the effect it has. While 2d8 damage is pretty respectable and has the potential to kill an enemy if the dice rolls high enough, every enemy within 15 feet of the caster needs to make a CON save. If they fail the save, then they have pushed 10 feet away from you.
This is a perfect spell to use if you find yourself surrounded as a bard, druid, sorcerer, or wizard, and lack the spells needed to defend yourself in close combat. Pushing enemies away by 10 feet is often enough to give your character some breathing room or some room to run whenever they need it.
What About The Sound It Makes?
Of course, Thunderwave isn’t just about the pushing and the thunder damage, but also the loud boom that it makes. A thundering boom that is audible to 300 feet, so a pretty big distance away if you are casting this spell in an open field. Most of the time, the sound is purely cosmetic, but good DMs can make the use of the spell more realistic if they want to.
Maybe creatures that are sensitive to sound in D&D are vulnerable to the sound of a thunder wave, meaning that they will gain the deafened condition. As per the Player’s Handbook: A deafened creature can’t hear and automatically fails any ability check that requires hearing. This means that if your DM rules that any noise-sensitive monsters or characters become deaf for around after the use of the thunder wave spell, they will not be affected by spells or commands that require them to hear.
Additionally, having a massive boom of thunder, especially on a cloudless or normal day, can cause all sorts to come and investigate. If the spell is done in the middle of a town, then people might come to see what the problem is. If the spell is done in a monster’s castle, then you can bet that his guards will go to see why that sound was created.
If you are on a stealth mission and want your party to remain undecided, then this is not the spell that should be used. Even without a DM homebrewing the effects of the spell, it’s still going to be very loud.
Using The Push To Your Advantage
While most D&D games have you fighting in dungeons, open fields, or closed-off buildings, in some cases you could be fighting near a ledge. Airship battles, battles on cliffsides, and other battles that are fought at a great height can be a prime opportunity to use Thunderwave. This spell can be used if you want to maneuver enemies to be 10 feet away from a ledge, and then you can easily send them overboard.
This is a bit of a trick to pull off though, as you need to maneuver your enemies around and then make sure that they fail their constitution saving throw. For weaker and smaller enemies, this might not be a problem, but for larger foes, you might need to impose a disadvantage or otherwise damage their ability score before you try it out.
Does The Push Knock Enemies Prone?
This is a question that gets asked a lot, but it can be answered with the most common of D&D spell pieces of wisdom ‘A spell does what it says, nothing more.’ Since nowhere in the thunder waves description does it say that the spell knocks enemies prone whenever they are shoved, it does not do so. Instead, it merely pushes the enemies away from you but leaves them still standing.
Think of the thunder waveless as a wall of force that sends enemies flying, but rather like a gust of wind. Whenever you get hit with a powerful gust of wind from out of nowhere, you might not fall over but you will certainly step backward a few feet.
Check out this guide to learn how flying works in DnD 5e.
Additionally, another question that rises is whenever your enemies get pushed into a wall or other object as a result of the thunderwave spell. If you push an enemy back 10 feet and they slam into a wall, then you probably aren’t going to do a ton of damage to them. It’s up to the DM what happens, and most DMs will work with their players to come up with a narrative solution.
A goblin hitting a wooden wall is going to behave very differently than a giant hitting a stone wall, but if a pushed creature collides with an object, it’s up to the DM to see what happens. This ruling also occurs whenever a loose unsecured object files towards a creature. For example, let’s say a goblin that was 5 feet away from a bard was hit with the Thunderwave spell and failed its save. Additionally, a pot that was right next to the goblin was thrown backward as well.
In most cases, DM’s might rule that neither item collided with one another, but if a second goblin is in the path of the pot and got hit, then that could count as an improvised attack with improvised weapon damage. Again, it’s up to the DMs and the players on how they want to play with this, and a lot of communication, once a player has Thunderwave in their arsenal, goes a long way.
Can I Use Thunderwave Outside Of Combat?
Thunderwave can be a very cool spell to use outside of combat, even though it doesn’t have a ton of utility. You could use it as a distraction, casting the spell and then moving your party away from the area. Whenever monsters or other foes come to investigate the sound, then you can ambush them.
Thunderwave can also be cool to use when it comes to intimidation as well, as causing a massive boom and sending objects flying is a great way to underline your point. Just make sure no one is inside your 15-foot cube whenever you cast the spell. Otherwise, you can fling objects around and make as much noise as your spell slots allow before it runs out.
Question: Does Thunderwave affect allies?
Answer: Since wizards, bards, and druids tend to be in the back of the combat line when it comes to the order of combat, they might be standing next to some of their allies. If those allies are within the 15-foot square when the spell Thunderwave is cast, then they too must make the constitution save and take damage. They will also get pushed 10 feet as well if they fail the save, which can really mess up a battle plan!!
So if you are standing directly in the middle of your allies, maybe you shouldn’t cast this spell until everyone gets clear. Even if you want to propel an ally an extra ten feet towards an enemy, you probably won’t be greeted with too much enthusiasm for the idea thanks to all the extra damage that can happen.
Question: How do I make casting Thunderwave fun?
Answer: Thunderwave has you emitting a huge shockwave towards the enemy, complete with pushing effects and a loud boom. How can you look at that spell and not have fun with it? It requires a verbal and somatic component, so your character will need to say or do something while casting the spell. Maybe a bard makes a twang on his lute and sings the word for thunder in his native language. A Druid might chant words of power and bang his staff on the floor.
The character might make some massive arm movements and mime flinging their enemies, or maybe even some magic tendrils of lightning will come with the thunder, zapping enemies and forcing them backward.
Finally, some subclasses such as the Eldritch Knight Fighter and the Tempest Cleric have access to the ability as well.
It might be pretty interesting to have your cleric channel the power of the storm itself into their spell or to have your fighter bang on his shield and have that shockwave send enemies backward. How your characters’ cast magic is dependent on them and their background, but lean into this and you can make the casting of a pretty cool spell even more fun!
Question: Are Any Enemies Immune to Movement?
Answer: No, there aren’t any enemies that are immune to movement entirely, but some enemies might be harder to move due to their bulk. If you are trying to use Thunderwave on a dragon, it is going to be much harder to move than a kobold warrior. This is represented by the monster’s constitution score, which is often higher on bigger creatures.
For RP reasons, the constitution represents their resistance to being moved against their will. Like how in the real world, if you moved to shove a toddler and then a 300-pound man, one would be much easier to move than the other due to the radical changes in balancing and strength. While no enemy is immune to movement and even the hardiest monster can fail a CON check, you should take the size of the monster you are moving into account before trying to cast the spell.