Old D&D Spell Death Knell Reborn for 5E D&D — It Tolls for Thee!

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Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted examine an old spell and give it the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons treatment. In a previous edition death knell gave clerics the ability to siphon the life force of dying creatures to heal themselves, boost their Strength and empower their spellcasting. Whoa! The nasty necromancy spell does some heavy lifting for a 2nd level spell and while planning the video we discussed how this was a great spell for Dungeon Masters to add to enemy spell lists. Tracking dying NPCs and monsters isn’t something I did and I don’t recall anyone I ever played with doing it either, so the part about touching a living creature with -1 or fewer hit points sort of suggests this is the design intent of the spell. At any rate, Dave and Ted enjoyed talking about death knell so after you hear what they have to say we’ll lay it down for 5E D&D so you can drop it right into your own games.

Casting death knell for 5E D&D

Before getting down to business it’s worth nothing Death Knell shows up already in 5E D&D…sort of. The recent Unearthed Arcana 2020 — Subclasses Revisited presents the Phantom Roguish Archetype and at 17th level they gain a class feature with the same name. But it’s not official so the story of this spell is I’m still gonna call it death knell.

If you dig creepy necromancers and undead stuff you might add death knell to your own spell list or one of the denizens of the Death Pit. You can check this out and if you sign up for Nerdarchy the Newsletter you’ll get a coupon code and pick up Death Pit FREE here.

Death Knell

2nd level necromancy (cleric, warlock)

Casting Time: 1 reaction, which you take when a creature other than a construct or undead you can see within 5 feet of you dies.

Range: Touch

Components: V,S

Duration: Instantaneous

You draw forth the ebbing life force of a creature and use it to fuel your own power. When a creature you can see within 5 feet of you dies, you gain 1d8 temporary hit points, and your weapon attacks deal 1d4 extra damage for 1 minute. In addition, the next spell you cast before the end of your next turn is cast as if you used a spell slot one level higher.

At Higher Levels. You gain an additional 1d8 temporary hit points, the extra damage from your weapon attacks increases by an additional 1d4 and the next spell you cast before the end of your next turn is cast as if you used a spell slot one additional level higher for every two slot levels above 2nd you use to cast this spell.

For D&D Beyond users I created death knell using their homebrew tools and made it public. Unfortunately I couldn’t figure out how to implement the third effect of the spell. If you know what kind of modifier this would be using the DDB homebrew tools let me know! You can check it out and add it to your collection here.

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Nerditor-in-Chief Doug Vehovec is a proud native of Cleveland, Ohio, with D&D in his blood since the early 80s. Fast forward to today and he’s still rolling those polyhedral dice. When he’s not DMing, worldbuilding or working on endeavors for Nerdarchy he enjoys cryptozoology trips and eating awesome food.

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