Dissonant Whispers spell in DnD 5E explained

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What is Dissonant Whispers?

Dissonant Whispers (PHB, p. 234) is a 1st level enchantment spell, which is only natively available to Bards. It only requires a vocal component and takes an action to cast, targeting a creature within 60 ft. If that creature fails a Wisdom saving throw, it must immediately use its reaction, if it has one available, to use its movement to move away from you, taking 3d6 psychic damage at the same time. If the creature succeeds the Wisdom saving throw, then it takes half the amount of damage and doesn’t flee. A creature won’t move into terrain that is obviously dangerous, such as running off a cliff or into a fire, and must be able to hear you to be affected, so deafened creatures pass their save automatically.

If you cast this spell with a 2nd level or higher spell slot, the psychic damage increases by 1d6 for every level above 1st. For example, a 3rd level casting of Dissonant Whispers would deal 5d6 psychic damage.

Is Dissonant Whispers a good spell?

Simply yes, but its true value is really dependent on your party and the battlefield composition at the time. Dissonant Whispers presents a lot of value for a single 1st level spell slot, giving you a decent amount of damage as a rider to the main effect and half damage as a consolation prize. By making a monster flee, you are at minimum buying your party a little breathing room and denying the monster the full utility of its movement speed.

To unlock the full potential of this spell you will need to leverage the opportunity attacks that it creates, certain classes are better at this than others, such as a Rogue with Sneak Attack, or a Paladin with Divine Smite. This will depend on your party, but by communicating and planning with your fellow PCs, you can deliver an immense amount of damage to the fleeing target on a reaction. Doing this well can entirely destroy certain boss fights, but it is dependent on many factors, making this spell a little difficult to rate in isolation.

How can you get Dissonant Whispers?

If the idea of this magical companion interests you, then don’t worry! There’s a surprisingly long list of ways you can grab this great spell:

  • Bard – The only class to get this spell on their core spell list, the vocal-only nature and mind game theme of this spell makes it ideal for Bards.
  • Aberrant Mind (Sorcerer Subclass) – This Sorcerous Origin gains Dissonant Whispers as part of its Psionic Spells feature.
  • Great Old One (Warlock Subclass) – Although not a given, these Warlocks can choose Dissonant Whispers as a spell known thanks to their Expanded Spells feature.
  • Magic Initiate (Feat) – By choosing Bard as the class spell list, you can choose Dissonant Whispers as the spell you can cast once per day, along with two Bard cantrips.
  • Fey Touched (Feat) – Dissonant Whispers is eligible for the 1st level spell you get with this feat as it’s an enchantment spell, getting Misty Step alongside it is excellent value.
  • Strixhaven Initiate (Feat) – By taking the Prismari or Silverquill colleges for this feat you can choose a first level spell from the Bard list, including Dissonant Whispers.

How to roleplay the Dissonant Whispers spell

Need some help roleplaying the Dissonant Whispers spell? Here are some examples to help you out:

  • As the battle rages on, the Bard raises their hand and focuses their mind, calling forth a wave of dissonant whispers that surround their enemy. The target recoils in pain, clutching their head as the Bard’s voice pierces their mind. The whispers are like a swarm of angry bees, relentless and unyielding, until the target falls to the ground, unable to continue the fight.
  • The Sorcerer stands tall, their eyes glinting with magical energy as they focus on their foe. With a whisper, they unleash a barrage of dissonant sounds that surround their target, twisting and turning around them like a serpent. The enemy staggers, their movements becoming jerky and uncoordinated, as if their mind is no longer their own. With a final burst of energy, the sorcerer’s spell overwhelms their target, leaving them vulnerable to attack.
  • The Bard sneaks up behind their enemy, their blade at the ready. But before they can strike, they whisper a few words that send a surge of dissonant energy coursing through their foe’s mind. The enemy recoils in pain, dropping their guard just long enough for the Bard to strike a devastating blow. As they slip away into the shadows, the Bard can hear their enemy’s anguished cries echoing in their mind.
  • The Warlock stands at the edge of the battlefield, their hands raised in arcane gestures. With a sudden burst of energy, they unleash a torrent of dissonant whispers that sweep across the enemy lines. The sound is overwhelming, like a thousand voices screaming in unison. The enemy’s ranks are thrown into chaos, their minds filled with confusion and fear. It is only a matter of time before the wizard’s allies can capitalize on their weakened state and secure victory.

Hopefully, this article didn’t give you a splitting headache and make you run for the hills. if you’re interested in making multiple enemies run in terror with this spell, then check out our Sorcerer guide, or if you’re interested in researching other spells then check out our spells section, good luck out there adventurers, until next time, remember to make friends with the Rogue and Paladin!

Does Dissonant Whispers trigger opportunity attacks?

Yes! It triggers opportunity attacks as the creature is using its own movement speed to move, rather than being pushed by the spell.

Can Sorcerers use Dissonant Whispers?

Some, only the Aberrant Mind Sorcerer subclass gets access to the spell natively, but any Sorcerer can access it through a variety of feats, see above for details.

How long does Dissonant Whispers last?

If the target fails their Wisdom saving throw, then they must immediately spend their reaction to move away from you. Once this reaction has been taken the spell no longer affects the creature.

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