Toll the Dead spell in DnD 5E explained

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What is Toll the Dead?

Toll the Dead (XGtE, p. 169) is a necromancy cantrip, mainly available to Clerics, Warlocks, and, Wizards. It requires a vocal and somatic component and takes one action to cast. When cast, a creature within 60 feet must make a Wisdom saving throw, taking 1d8 necrotic damage on a failure, or 1d12 necrotic damage if the creature is already missing any hit points. On a success, the creature takes no damage.

At 5th level, the damage increases to 2d8/2d12 respectively, and further increases at 11th level to 3d8/3d12, and at 17th level 4d8/4d12.

Is Toll the Dead a good spell?

It’s an excellent damage cantrip, thanks to the combination of being a Wisdom saving throw, and the easily met condition to increase the damage dice to d12s. Necrotic is applicable against enough creatures that this spell will be a reliable choice in most encounters.

It is worth noting, however, that as levels increase and Magic Resistance and Wisdom saving throw proficiency becomes more common amongst monsters the relative effectiveness of this spell will likely decrease. Overall, this cantrip will serve you well throughout your career when your spell slots run low or need to be reserved for more important tasks.

How can you get Toll the Dead?

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:

  • Cleric – As part of their spell list, Clerics can choose this spell as one of their 3-5 cantrips.
  • Warlock As part of their spell list, Warlocks can choose this spell as one of their 2-4 cantrips.
  • Wizard – As part of their spell list, Wizards can choose this spell as one of their 3-5 cantrips.
  • Arcane Trickster (Rogue Subclass) – This Rogue can choose spells from the Wizard spell list, and can choose Toll the Dead as one of their cantrips as early as 3rd level.
  • Eldritch Knight (Fighter Subclass) – Similar to above, this Fighter subclass can choose spells from the Wizard list and can choose Toll the Dead as one of their cantrips as early as 3rd level.
  • Divine Soul (Sorcerer Subclass) – With access to the Cleric spell list, this Sorcerer can choose Toll the Dead as one of their many cantrips.
  • Blessed Warrior (Optional Paladin Fighting Style) – This optional class feature from TCoE allows the Paladin to use their Fighting Style feature to gain two Cleric cantrips, one of which can be this spell.
  • Magic Initiate (Feat) – You can take Toll the Dead as one of your two cantrips if you choose Cleric, Warlock, or Wizard as the spell list for the feat.
  • High Elf (Race Option) – When you choose this elven race option, you can choose any cantrip on the Wizard spell list.
  • Half-Elf Sun/Moon Descent (Variant Race Option) – This variant half-elf option from the SCAG allows you to trade the Skill Versatility feature for a Wizard cantrip, similar to the high elf above.

How to roleplay the Toll the Dead spell

Need some help roleplaying the Toll the Dead spell? Here are some examples to help you out:

  • As the Cleric chants the incantation, a somber bell tolls in the distance, its mournful peal echoing through the battlefield. The sound seems to concentrate on the target, and the air around them begins to hum with a strange, discordant energy. Suddenly, the sound crescendos into a deafening cacophony, and the target howls in agony as dark energy tears through their body.
  • The Cleric points a bony finger at the target and whispers a dire word of power. The air around them begins to thicken and constrict, squeezing the life out of their body. They clutch at their throat, gasping for air, as the spell drains their very essence.
  • With a flick of their wrist, the Cleric summons a spectral hand that reaches out to the target. As it touches them, a bone-chilling cold courses through their veins, freezing them in place. They are trapped in a moment of pure terror as the hand continues to sap their vitality, leaving them weakened and vulnerable.
  • The Cleric’s eyes glow with an otherworldly light as they intone a dark hymn. The ground beneath the target begins to shake and crack, as if the earth itself is rising up against them. They stumble and fall, their bones rattling in their flesh, as the spell crushes their very being. 5. The Cleric raises their holy symbol high and calls out to their deity for aid. A beam of searing light pierces the sky, striking the target with a blast of divine energy. They are left smoldering and writhing on the ground, their body wracked with pain as the spell burns away their life force.

Hopefully, this article gave you some valuable information without a splitting headache. If you’re interested in this powerful offensive cantrip, then check out our Warlock guide, or if you’re interested in researching other spells then check out our spells section, good luck out there adventurers, until next time, ask not for whom the bell tolls!

What DnD 5E book is Toll the Dead from?

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything (XGtE).

What does Toll the Dead do in 5E?

It forces the target to make a Wisdom saving throw, taking 1d8 necrotic damage on a failure or no damage on a success. If the target has already missing hit points, then the damage is 1d12, rather than 1d8.

Who can cast Toll the Dead in 5E?

Clerics, Warlocks, and Wizards can choose this cantrip, but there are many other ways to get it. See the article above for full details.

Expert Editor-in-Chief