Old D&D Spell Sticks to Snakes Reborn for 5E D&D — Cast Down Thine Staff!

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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 previous editions clerics and druids could channel divine power to cast sticks to snakes and thereby transform ordinary sticks into — wait for it — snakes. Back in those days of yore many spells could be cast inversely too and this was one such spell with the amazing ability to transform dangerous snakes into, you guessed it, sticks. (It could also be used to counterspell sticks to snakes.) This spell from the Alteration school of magic, what would now be transmutation, became known for much more than frightening folks with miracles straight out of sacred texts. Quarterstaves, arrows, axe hafts, spear shafts and more were juicy targets to transform into wriggling reptiles. Dave felt nostalgic for this oldie but goodie and felt it would be fun representing in for 5E D&D, so here it is for you to drop right into your own games.

Casting sticks to snakes for 5E D&D

Before any rando sticks before slithering snakes or vice versa here’s a fun fact. In first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons there isn’t any stats for the snakes created by sticks to snakes. The 1E AD&D Monster Manual includes an entry for snakes but none the fit the parameters of the spell. Admittedly we didn’t do a comprehensively exhaustive search but we did look through the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide and MM and found no appropriate snakes within those pages. Second edition AD&D does describe the snakes on the other hand.

Another fun fact: longtime Nerdarchy community member, writer and artist Eli Arndt got in touch with us after the video went up that Nerdarchy already created sticks to snakes for 5E D&D! Several years ago now I uncovered a document buried in the Nerdarchy archives with all manner of new spells and character options, Dungeon Master resources and lore about a place named Crawl Wood. We dusted off what was discovered in this archive, polished it up and collected what we found into Secrets of the Vault: Lost Lore Vol. 1. The version of sticks to snakes discussed in the video differs significantly from what you’ll find in Lost Lore, which you’ll find below. If you’re interested in exploring more of Crawl Wood remember when you sign up for Nerdarchy the Newsletter you receive a special coupon code worth $9.99 so you can snag Lost Lore and find something else to go along with it (Lost Lore Vol. 2 maybe?) here.

And one more fun fact. Sticks to snakes already “officially” exists for 5E D&D. In Volo’s Guide to Monsters one of the Unusual Abilities you might slap onto a yuan-ti is an action called Sticks to Snakes. Available only to abominations or malisons this Recharge 6 action allows the yuan-ti to transform a pile of sticks, arrows or similar sized pieces of wood into a swarm of poisonous snakes. The swarm acts as an ally of the yuan-ti and obeys spoken commands for one minute before it transforms back into the sticks from whence it came.

Sticks to Snakes

4th-level transmutation (cleric, druid)

Casting Time: 1 action

Range: 60 feet

Components: V, S, M (scales of a snake)

Duration: Concentration, 1 hour

You target any amount of lengths of wood in a 10 ft. area you can see within range, transforming it into snakes. Some examples are torches, planks, spears, arrows, axe handles, bows, and tree branches. If the item is worn or held by a creature they can make a Wisdom saving throw to avoid the effect of the spell on the items. Choose one of the following options for what you transform the wooden objects into:

  • One giant constrictor snake
  • One swarm of poisonous snakes
  • Two giant poisonous snakes
  • Eight flying snakes

The snakes are considered fey. They disappear if reduced to 0 hit points or when the spell ends. The snakes are friendly towards you and anyone you deem friendly. Roll initiative for the snakes as a group, which has its own turn. They obey any verbal commands given by you (no action required by you). If you do not give any commands the snakes defend themselves from harm and threats from hostile creatures, otherwise they take no actions.

The GM has the snakes’ statistics.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using certain higher-level spell slots, more creatures are created:twice as many with a 6th-level slot and three times as many with an 8th-level slots.

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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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