I’ll be straight up with this one: bane is one of my favorite spells in all of 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Discovered when I played my bard, bane was one of those spells that looked like it could be situationally good, and turned out to be incredibly powerful. The fact it is so much more effective in-game than it appears in book just made me love the 5E bane spell all the more.
So just how good is the bane spell?
The 5E bane spell is one of the strongest low level spells in 5th Edition D&D. This spell can affect multiple creatures, adding a punitive d4 to every attack roll and saving throw. Bane can be learned by clerics and bards, other classes will need a feat to add it to their spell list.
Why is bane so strong as a spell? There are actually multiple reasons. You know how some spells look great but then don’t work well in-game? Bane is the opposite.
The 5E bane spell looks underwhelming on the page but then does serious havoc in-game. Read on to learn more about one of my favorite bard spells!
How Does Bane Work in DnD?
Directly from the Player’s Handbook (p.216):
BANE: 1st-level enchantment spell
- Casting Time: 1 action
- Range: 30 feet
- Components: V, S, M (a drop of blood)
- Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
Up to 3 creatures of your choice that you can see within range must make Charisma saving throws. Whenever a target that fails this saving throw makes an attack roll or a saving throw before the spell ends, the target must roll a d4 and subtract the number rolled from the attack roll or saving throw.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level of higher, you can target one additional creature for each slot level above 1st.
Bane is only available to clerics and bards from a class spell list, however feats like Magic Initiate or Fey Touched can allow players in other classes to learn this spell.
At first level the bane spell force up to three enemies to make a charisma saving throw. For each one that fails, for every single attack roll or saving throw they must roll a d4 and subtract that number until the spell ends.
For every level above one, another enemy can be added meaning at 5th level this hits 7 enemies at once.
This is super powerful and it’s not just in-game experience that has shown us how much this spell can turn a battle, but the math backs it up, too. Ironically this is a spell that is super powerful at low levels, powerful at middle levels, and powers UP at high levels again.
And we’ll get into the math and situational math that explains why the bane spell is so awesome, but here’s the TL;DR of why bane should be on your short list of spells to pick up!
Why 5E Bane Is Such a Good Spell
- Hits multiple enemies even at a base level
- Most enemies have a terrible charisma score – making them far more likely to fail (This was confirmed in this awesome blog post by Wizard of the Tavern which showed that at low levels the average enemies failed this save 70% of the time)
- A d4 off every attack and saving throw for the entire battle is a massive disadvantage to the enemies
- Affects their ability to attack you AND avoid certain attacks
- Bane scales up with levels allowing you to potentially kneecap a LOT of enemies at once
For a low level spell the ability to kneecap an entire enemy squad is huge, and since the d4 affects them, even if they get to your bard to try to break concentration, they are at a minus d4 to even hit you.
That’s built-in protection against concentration being broken on top of everything else. That’s very good and an underrated aspect of this spell. If the average enemy at low levels is +4 to hit and your AC is 14, that means a 10 or higher hits. That’s a 55% chance.
Bane can shift the chances of an enemy hitting you from 55% to 35%. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
Why Is a D4 a Big Deal?
Because of the versatility of what that d4 affects. It affects every type of save, and every single attack roll. There isn’t just one type of save that now has a d4 subtracting from it, all of them do: Dexterity, Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Constitution – they have that negative d4 on all of them.
This doesn’t sound like a lot on paper, but it’s a lot in game. Especially since these will always potentially take numbers off a successful roll or borderline successful roll.
The number of times where once all modifiers were figured out an enemy just hit by one or two, and then the bane penalty die roll undid it, was amazing. Granted, at our table it felt on the high side compared to math over the long-term, but it just goes to show that the spell can punch above it’s weight.
Add in a successful Vicious Mockery to give disadvantage on top of a d4 and the enemies trying to screw up your day are going to have a very hard time of doing anything.
How Does Bane Scale?
This is a Catch-22 type of question.
The Argument for 5E Bane Scaling Badly at High Levels
The immediate answer is that it is less effective because the enemies faced at higher levels in most campaigns can have high charisma, sometimes scary high charisma.
This means on average that bane will hit far fewer enemies at high levels because they will make their saves. That means it doesn’t scale well because if the spell doesn’t hit, then it doesn’t do any good.
This is the biggest disadvantage of bane at high levels.
The Argument for 5E Bane Scaling Great at High Levels
However when bane hits, it tends to be incredibly effective at high levels. Players get better armor, better spells, and while enemies get stronger even modestly armored upper level characters tend to have an AC of 16-19. Plenty of martial players have ACs in the 22-26 range.
That means very few rolls will hit the actual player. When a DM must roll a 16 to have any chance of hitting, a bad d4 roll cuts down the chance of getting hit by 25% while the average roll will turn half of hits to misses. That’s crazy good.
Because of this there’s the argument that the bane spell actually gets stronger at high levels because of average character’s AC and improved magic (harder saving throws for enemies) thus shortening the window for how many rolls hit and making that d4 even more effective.
The truth is that it kind of balances out. You will hit fewer enemies with the effects of bane at high levels, but those effects will generally be much more devastating.
And if you happen to find a large group of enemies with terrible charisma, a high-level cast of bane can open up the flood gates for your party to turn the tide of battle.
Is Bane the Best Low Level Bard Spell in 5E DnD?
There might be some arguments about this, because bards have a crazy good spell list, but honestly based on my experience with bane as a player bard and as a DM in 5E, I’d say that bane is the best low level bard spell in 5th Ed.
Bane is a spell that doesn’t look overpowered on paper but when you see how often it changes the course of combat, or how it can affect multiple enemies at the same time, and how it lasts through the entire battle…well it’s hard to deny that among low level spells bane has to be considered one of the strongest.
Especially for bards.
This spell is a better fit for bards versus clerics based on the average build, and is also a great pick up for feats like Fey Touched or Magic Initiate.
Since many clerics are built to provide healing for the party while tanking, bane remains a powerful spell but might need to be replaced by something that regains HP for the group, especially if the cleric is the only healer in the party.
However, bane remains a viable spell for the cleric class especially for those players who love building devastatingly effective clerics who aren’t based on providing healing for the party.
Since bards like to strike and stay out of the line of fire while providing battlefield support, there are less opportunities for the concentration to be broken, which is a positive.
Add in charisma as their big casting stat for the save, and how very few enemies have a high charisma score, and bane hits a surprising amount of the time for a low-level spell. The in-game consideration of that shouldn’t be ignored.
Since the spell hits multiple enemies, in the right situation if the DM rolls really well in round one, it’s still worth another cast in round two to take a second crack at it or pick off the enemies who got lucky in turn one.
Why is the 5E bane so good?
Is Bane or Bless Better in 5E?
The bane vs bless debate for 5th Ed D&D is a tough one and I get it. Bless is another very powerful spell and there’s good reason for bless fans to be as passionate about that spell as I am about bane.
So how do we determine which is better in the bane 5E vs bless 5E debate? A lot comes to playing style of the party, what they need, the playing style of the player, and I’d argue class.
There are those who disagree with me, and that’s fair as there are so many different builds of clerics and bards, but a good starting rule of thumb is:
- The bane spell is better than bless for bards in 5E
- The bless spell is better than bane for clerics in 5E
This does change based on specific builds, but the buff and heal cleric bless makes a lot of sense while bards are all about battlefield control and the more mischievous nature of their class battering the enemies also makes sense.
Now if you’re more about buffing the party, go with bless. If you’re about making enemies less efficient go with bane.
There’s also a very good argument that bane has more of an effect on lower levels because of the very low charisma most enemies will have then, but that bless scales better because it adds to what your party can do as they get better and better.
How to Get the Spell Bane in 5th Edition D&D
While this spell has limited access to starting classes, there are actually several ways to acquire access to it.
- Start as a Cleric or Bard, each has immediate level 1 access to these spells
- Multi-class into at least 1 level of bard
- Multi-class into at least 1 level of cleric
- Take the Magic Initiate Feat
- Take the Fey Touched Feat
The Fey Touched feat allows for a 1st-level spell from the school of enchantment to be taken, while the Magic Initiate Feat allows cantrips & a first level spell from bards or clerics.
These two feats technically make bane available to any character, but it is going to synergize with some better than others. In theory there could be magical items in the future that could give access to bane, or feats that do the same, but right now that’s the full list of non-homebrew ways to learn the bane spell in 5th Edition.
Wait I Thought Bane Was a God in D&D?
That is actually a pretty impressive pull of lore on your part. Most players are not aware of this, and certainly not many newer ones. I thought this was a really weird random Google suggestion that was completely off-topic but nope, Bane the god exists in D&D lore and in the greater Forgotten Realms Mythos.
If you’re not talking about the spell, then you’re talking about Bane the Black Lord, who is officially a quasi-deity or lesser deity versus a full-blown pantheon god.
The best two resources I’ve found on the god Bane are the following here.
Bane the God has not been stated out for 5E but has been stated out for 3.5. He is a cruel Deity often associated with war, destruction, evil, and cruelty.
The spell bane has nothing to do with the deity Bane and vice-versa.
So Is Bane Worth the Spell Slot?
In my experience bane is one of the best low level spells in the game for bards, and a very solid choice for clerics, as well. For players picking up a feat to learn a first level spell, bane is a great pick if you’re looking for battlefield control that can afflict multiple enemies.
Some spells look really strong but then don’t do a lot when put in real game situations. Bane is the opposite. Bane looks average to low level good on paper but then in-game it makes an incredible amount of difference.
What is most unusual about this setup is how bane starts fading a little at mid-level as many low level skills do, but it becomes stronger once again in the late game against non-charismatic enemies, which outside of dragons will be a lot of them.
Bane is 100% worth the spell slot and can be a game changer at all levels of the game.
Bane is the type of 5E spell that can be the bane of the DM’s existence and keep an adventuring party standing strong while appreciating the sheer number of close calls that the bard has saved them from.
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Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.