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Nerdarchy > Dungeons & Dragons  > Play Your Next 5E D&D Game with Snakes on the Brain and Cast Snake Magic Spells
5E D&D yuan-ti snake magic spells

Play Your Next 5E D&D Game with Snakes on the Brain and Cast Snake Magic Spells

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Hey folks! Dungeons & Dragons has a long history of really cool spells and Nerdarchy recently went over one of my all time favorites — sticks to snakes — updating it for fifth edition D&D for a second time (once in a recent video and several years before through Lost Lore). This all got me thinking of other old spells I came across in my decades playing D&D. I started looking through old supplements and Dragon Magazines and realized there had been a good number of snake themed spells uncovered from several sources, notably the 3.5E D&D’s Complete Arcana and two issues of Dragon Magazine (Nos. 235 and 330). There are plenty of other snake spells out there but these three sources provided a good sampling of serpentine arcana from previous editions. I have done my best to update them to 5E D&D standards and language. After these updated spells I included a few original spells of my own creation to bring some new among the old. Many of these old spells are likely intended for a Dungeon Master to use against adventurers but, like most spells there is no reason they can’t be used by player characters. I hope you find these spells useful for your adventurers or monsters in your 5E D&D games.

Snake magic of the scaly folk for 5E D&D

Dungeons & Dragons is full of monsters and other enemies of all sorts but along with dragons, demons and the undead one commonly repeated theme is snakes. From the archetypal snake threat of the yuan-ti to the enigmatic naga or demons like the marilith, snakes are everywhere in the game. Like any creature of wit and intellect these entities devise their own magic, formulating spells drawing upon their own scaly nature. Some of these spells often trade hands between the scaly folk, spreading them across the world. At times they even find their way into the hands of those with smoother, less resilient flesh.
In this post I’m looking at spells from an article in Dragon Magazine No. 235. Most of the spells originally assumed the caster had scales to begin with but I have altered the text of the spells to allow them to be used by any spellcaster.

[NERDITOR’S NOTE: Details gleaned from the original versions of these spells offer additional flavor, rules and restrictions but don’t always connect very well with a 5E D&D design philosophy we believe is held by the official team and certainly by Nerdarchy. Including suggested restrictions isn’t something we aim to do. Likewise some spell details go beyond the scope of either the spell itself or more broadly Fifth Edition in general. For this reason portions of the spells have been omitted. Other details like notes on certain creatures likely to employ such magic remain in the descriptions as an aid for Dungeon Masters.]

5E D&D yuan-ti snake magic spells


2nd level transmutation (cleric, druid, sorcerer, warlock)

Casting Time: 1 action

Range: Touch

Components: V

Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes

You touch a creature and their body grows scaly barbles — long, semi-flexible spines — granting it a +2 bonus to AC for the duration. In addition the creature’s unarmed strikes deal 1d6 piercing damage. A creature that grapples the target takes 1d6 piercing damage at the start of its turn.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd or 4th level, the damage increases to 2d6. When you use a spell slot of 5th level or higher, the damage increases to 3d6.

Locathah in particular are especially fond of this spell.


3rd level transmutation (cleric, druid, sorcerer, warlock, wizard)

Casting Time: 1 action

Range: 30 ft.

Components: S

Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes

Choose a willing creature that you can see within range. Until the spell ends, the target can alter its coloration to match the surrounding area and blend in with the terrain. For example if the creature swims in a bed of kelp they develops frond like extensions over its body, or if moving through a cave they appear mottled and bumpy.

All of these physical changes make the creature nearly impossible to notice. The creature has advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks for the duration. In addition, the spell offers some protection from divination magic. If the target is targeted by any divination magic or potentially perceived through magical scrying sensors, the creature can make an opposed Dexterity (Stealth) check against the DC of the divination magic, remaining undetected on a success.

Sahuagin and locathah shamans often cast this spell on the tribe’s scouts before they embark on a mission.


3rd level transmutation (cleric, druid, sorcerer, warlock)

Casting Time: 1 round

Range: Touch

Components: V, M* (scale from a creature of medium size or greater, which the spell consumes)

Duration: 1 hour

You convert a single scale into a weapon that counts as magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage. In addition you choose acid, cold, fire, lightning, poison or thunder when you cast the spell. The weapon you create deals an addition 1d8 damage of the type you chose on a successful hit. The length of a scaleblade is dependent on the size of the creature whose scale is used as the material component, as noted in the Scaleblade Table. At the end of the spell’s duration, the scaleblade loses its magical properties and remains a nonmagical weapon.

Creature SizeWeapon
Large or GreaterGreatsword

Using these snake themed spells in 5E D&D

Introducing these snake themed spells into your 5E D&D game can be as simple as having serpentine foes cast them during encounters with adventurers. Other possibilities include taking the form of secrets hidden in obscure tomes or waiting in lost cities where these spellcasters reside. The spells from Dragon Magazine No. 235 are not intended to be game changing or highly utilitarian but they do offer some great options for spellcasters looking for a theme. A druid snake enthusiast or a serpentine sorcerer are very evocative concepts as is a cleric whose deity is either serpentine in nature or likes to throw around snake imagery as the expression of its Divine Domain.

Next I plan to delve into a new sort of snake magic from Dragon Magazine No. 330 where we learn about snake foci and a host of new spells utilizing living snakes as their focus. We recently started a Community Spotlight on our weekly Nerdarchy the Newsletter and we want to know what you’re up to around your gaming tables. Do you play a snake themed spellcaster or other character in your 5E D&D games? Did you find inspiration from one of our videos, website posts or products? Let us know! Comment on this post, tag us on social media or send us a message and share your stories and images. We love making all sorts of content for you and we want to hear about your adventures too. You get a special coupon for $9.99 when you sign up for the newsletter too. If you want to grab your own copy of this great mini you can grab a copy here.

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Eli Arndt

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Eli Arndt grew up and resides in Washington state. After a chance encounter with Dungeons & Dragons at the age of 8, he has been a lifelong fan of role-playing games of all sorts. Deeply interested in history, anthropology, and archaeology, he enjoys creating grounded game worlds and he dabbles in writing adventures, building monsters and running far more game than he really should. He has also worked as a designer, sculptor and producer of miniatures and love to talk about little toy soldiers and crafting scenery. With a gaming family, he has a special interest in teaching the hobby to others and helping players and GMs grow and develop in the hobby.

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