There are a lot of spells in Dungeons and Dragons that seem useless at face value. When you’re a min-maxer, you want to take the most powerful spells right off of the bat. Why would you take a 1d6 cantrip when a 1d8 cantrip exists? Of course, there are other factors to consider when looking at the spells and how they might be useful in many situation-specific scenarios. Word of Radiance happens to be one of these spells.
When compared directly to a spell like Sacred Flame, at face value, it doesn’t seem all that impressive. However, in specific situations, the spell we’re featuring in this Word of Radiance 5e guide might just save your butt. It allows you to be close to your enemies without gaining disadvantage or giving them advantage on their Constitution saving throw.
Furthermore, if the rules are bent just a bit to allow Paladins to gain access to the spell, Word of Radiance can do some serious damage. As a player, all you have to do is figure out a way to manipulate the mechanics to your benefit.
Even if this spell is confined to Clerics, Word of Radiance undoubtedly helps break Clerics away from the heal bot stereotype and help them flourish into full-fledged fighters. Word of Radiance may not be the most useful spell in Dungeons and Dragons 5e, but it is one of the best Cantrips to utilize in abusing the mechanics of D&D.
Found in Xanthar’s Guide to Everything, Word of Radiance is an Evocation Cantrip. It instantly affects the five feet around you, requiring only a holy symbol for you to speak your Word of Radiance. Every creature around you must make a Constitution save against your Spell Save DC in a five-foot range.
On a fail, they take 1d6 Radiance damage. This spells damage increases by 1d6 when you hit level 5, level 11, and level 17. If a creature succeeds on its Con saving throw, they take no damage.
This spell is only available to Clerics.
What is Word of Radiance?
Word of Radiance is a Cantrip, allowing you to take it from the beginning of your campaign. This spell is found in Xanthar’s Guide to Everything, so you may want to make sure that your Dungeon Master is comfortable with using spells from expansions to the Player’s Handbook. Not every table utilizes expansions like Xanthar’s Guide to Everything, so have a chat with your DM before taking this Cantrip.
Once you have the A-Okay from your DM, go ahead and use this spell without hesitation and demolish your enemies within a five-foot radius around you. For materials, this spell requires the verbal component of your divine word and your Holy Symbol as a focus. Once your holy word is spoken,
you erupt with a burning radiance in a five-foot range. Every creature of your choice within that range has to succeed on a Constitution saving throw or take 1d6 radiant damage. If they succeed on their Con save, then they take no damage.
The damage of this Cantrip increases by 1d6 when you hit certain levels. At level five, the damage of Word or Radiance becomes 2d6. At level eleven, the damage becomes 3d6. Finally, at level seventeen, the damage becomes 4d6, allowing you to do a maximum of 24 points of damage without ever expending a single spell slot.
Considering that Word of Radiance is a cantrip, this spell can be taken right from the beginning. As soon as you make your character and select your spells, you can take Word of Radiance and use it with reckless abandon.
What is Xanthar’s Guide to Everything?
For those unfamiliar with the expansions to Dungeons and Dragons 5e, Xanthar’s Guide to Everything falls into this category. Written by the Wizards RPG Team, Xanthar’s Guide to Everything is a rule expansion for Dungeons and Dragons 5e. It was first released in November of 2017, offering dozens of new subclasses, a plethora of new spells, racial feats, and backstories.
Xanthar’s Guide to Everything also offered Dungeon Masters a new way to utilize traps and magic items and a way to manage downtime activities. The standard cover of Xanthar’s Guide to Everything sports the Beholder, Xanathar, and his beloved fish pet, who unfortunately remains unnamed.
This rules expansion doesn’t fundamentally change the game, nor does it affect the mechanics of how Dungeons and Dragons 5e is played. Instead, it offers more content in an official capacity, allowing those who are not comfortable with home brewing or who aren’t familiar with balancing homebrew to expand their games beyond the Player’s Handbook.
However, that doesn’t make these rule expansions perfect in every way, and there are often ways in which these rule expansions can be improved or built upon. Books like the Player’s Handbook, Xanthar’s Guide to Everything, and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, should be treated as stepping stones rather than hard-lined rules.
What is the School of Evocation?
The School of Evocation is one of the many schools of magic within Dungeons and Dragons 5e. This school of magic allows you to create powerful elemental effects.
Considering that there isn’t a school that focuses specifically on divine magic, the School of Evocation is the best fitting for the Word of Radiance cantrip. Although Divine Spellcasters and Divine magic exist within the world of Dungeons and Dragons as a specific category, there is no school of magic that it can find itself comfortably rooted in.
When you consider that divine magic often stems from a deity, this starts to make sense. When their powers expand outside the mortal boundaries, it would hardly make sense for a school of magic to contain everything they can do, even in a general sense.
Instead, deities gift their most devoted followers with their own magics, allowing them to pull from all schools of magic without a specific emphasis on one or the other – at least until you get into the subclasses for divine spellcasters.
Who Can Use Word of Radiance?
Unfortunately for all the magic users out there, especially Paladins, this spell is only available to Clerics if you’re following the rules. If not, I see absolutely no reason why a Paladin couldn’t utilize Word of Radiance. After all, both classes use divine magic to their advantage, and there are literally zero reasons why a Paladin shouldn’t have access to this spell. However, if you are a stickler for the rules and insist on using the spell exactly as it is written, whether for the sake of keeping order or because you’re not the biggest fan of homebrew, there are ways to get around this strict class-based confinement.
In order to get around the rules without homebrewing anything, as a player, you will need to take a Feat in order to take this Cantrip on as your own. A much more direct route is to take a level in Cleric, but for many, this move doesn’t make sense character-wise or story-wise. Instead, an easier workaround is to take a Feat
This may require a slightly longer wait time, but it’s an easy way to get your hands on some Cantrips you’re lusting after. Is this move really worth it in the end? In my opinion, not really, but it depends on who you are and what your play style is.
The easiest Feat to take to gain access to Word of Radiance would be Magic Initiate. This Feat allows you to take two cantrips and a first-level spell. Assuming that you take this Feat fairly early on in your campaign, this can be an absolute game changer and, for the time being, make you a slightly overpowered spell caster – or a melee fighter who can also sling spells like Word of Radiance.
What is a Cantrip?
If you’ve gotten this far and you still don’t know what a Cantrip is, I give you both congratulations, and I am deeply confused by you. Regardless, what follows is a quick rundown of what a Cantrip actually is and how it functions.
Cantrip is the lowest-level spell available to spell casters. They are often the most basic spells and usually have the smallest impact when actually utilized. Where some higher-level spells would dice your enemies into small pieces, a Cantrip would be like poking them with the tip of your knife.
Typically they do small amounts of damage, allowing for spellcasters to attack without expending spell slots. This allows spellcasters to keep up with long-haul melee classes like the Fighter and the Barbarian.
Your damage may be minimal with attack Cantrips, but it lets you conserve your spell slots for more important moments. In the case of Clerics, this usually ends up being for healing spells.
Is Word of Radiance Good in 5e?
Honestly, Word of Radiance is about average for an attack Cantrip. It’s one of the least versatile Cantrips available, and without seriously thinking outside of the box, it’s difficult to figure out how it can be used outside of battle. The other main attack Cantrip for Clerics, Sacred Flame, arguably has more use than Word of Radiance. Not only does it deal 1d8 in damage, but it is also a ranged spell.
Unfortunately, you can’t lob Word of Radiance down a dark tunnel in an attempt to illuminate it for a brief moment as you could do with Sacred Flame. However, that’s not to say that Word of Radiance is useless in the face of Sacred Flame.
Sacred Flame fails in one crucial aspect of battle – ranged attacks have disadvantage when a target is within melee range or when your target is prone. In this light, Word of Radiance allows you to get much closer to your targets without the disadvantage imposed by the rules of ranged attacks.
If you’re within range of your target and you are attempting to get the jump on them with a surprise round, Word of Radiance might just be the perfect attack. It’s much harder to see coming, considering that it requires so few components, and it allows you to be close to your opponent without a chance of missing them. It’s just up in the air as to whether or not they can succeed on the Constitution save required.
If you enjoy playing your Cleric on the front lines of battle rather than from a distance, Word of Radiance is undoubtedly the better choice for an attack Cantrip.
Abusing the Game’s Mechanics
Now is the time when we question if there’s a way to abuse the mechanics of the game, especially as a melee fighter. Unsurprisingly, the answer is yes. As previously pointed out, if one were to take the Magic Initiate Feat, then one would theoretically be able to gain access to Word of Radiance without being a Cleric or taking a level in Cleric.
If you have at least two levels in Fighter, you gain access to Action Surge, allowing you to make one extra action per short and long rest. If you have five levels in Fighter, you gain an extra Attack. Pair this with Action Surge, and you can make three attacks in a single round, plus your bonus action.
Bare minimum, you’re level five at this point and had access to the Magic Initiate Feat at level four. This means that Word of Radiance now does 2d6 damage. It may be compelling just to strike your enemy with your weapon, likely dealing anywhere in the realm of 1d6 to 1d10 damage at this level, plus whatever your strength or dexterity score adds to your weapon. However, if you’re facing off against an opponent who takes extra damage from radiant damage, Word of Radiance’s damage is doubled without them even having to roll a natural one on their Constitution save – this gives you the potential to deal 24 damage to them.
Take that and cast this Cantrip three times with your two Attacks and your Action Surge, and now you have the potential to deal at least 72 points of damage in a single round. For any foe, this amount of damage from a lower leveled character is absolutely absurd.
Question: Is Word of Radiance a Bonus Action?
Answer: No, and there really isn’t any way to turn a cantrip, or any spell, from an action attack into a bonus action. However, if you were to take a feat like war caster, you could potentially use word of radiance, and any other spell, as a reaction.
QUESTION: HOW MANY CANTRIPS CAN A CLERIC PREPARE?
Answer: Clerics start with three cantrips. At level four, they can have four cantrips, and at level ten, they gain access to a fifth cantrip. However, it’s important to keep in mind that clerics cannot prepare cantrips. Although they have access to their entire spell list, they do not have access to every cantrip in the book. Similar to all other magic casting classes, once you take a cantrip as a cleric, you cannot change it.
QUESTION: WILL CASTING A CANTRIP END MY CONCENTRATION SPELL?
Answer: To put it simply, no, casting a non-concentration cantrip, like word of radiance, will not end a spell with concentration. The only way to end a spell that requires concentration is to drop your concentration; cast another spell that requires you to concentrate; or take some damage and fail your constitution saving throw or your concentration check, and subsequently be forced to drop your spell.
Word of Radiance isn’t the perfect spell, but what spell is? It’s limited to the Cleric class, and unless you bend the rules just a bit, it can seem a bit useless. It best suits Clerics who enjoy being up in the front lines or fighters who want to deal a bit of radiant damage if need be. However, if those fighters want to gain access to this radiant damage Cantrip, they’re going to have to forgo their Ability Score increase to take the Magic Initiate Feat.
Personally, this spell would best suit Paladins, but it isn’t possible for them to gain access to this spell without bending the rules or taking the Magic Initiate Feat. I can perfectly understand why this spell was limited to Clerics only, considering that Clerics have access to about one attack cantrip, compared to other spell caster classes, who can expand beyond a single attack cantrip usually.
Regardless, it’s a starting point to begin moving Clerics out of the heal-bot role that so many seem to confine this class to. I too am guilty of often thinking of a Cleric as a heal bot, but for many players, this can grow tiresome and often push many players into abandoning their healers in favor of much more thrilling classes.
One spell at a time, however, we can slowly give Clerics more room to be fighters rather than locked-in healers.
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