With this spell, you can let out your inner witch by using bad words and cursing a creature to bring it only bad luck.

Bestow Curse Spell Details

Found In: The Player’s Handbook (p.218)
Available to: Bard/Cleric/Wizard
School: 3rd-level Necromancy
Casting time: 1 action
Range: Touch
Duration: 1 minute (concentration)
Components: verbal, somatic

You can curse a creature in one of several ways by touching it as your action. To avoid being affected by the curse, the creature must pass a Wisdom saving throw.

When you cast the spell, you can choose one of the curses listed below, or you can work with your DM to come up with a different effect, as long as it isn’t stronger than the options listed (your DM has the final say).

The curse effect lasts as long as the spell does or until the target is hit with a spell to remove curses.

Curse options:

  1. You can make the creature you’re targeting have a disadvantage on ability checks and saving throws made with any one of its ability scores when you cast.
  2. You can make the creature roll at a disadvantage when it attacks you.
  3. You do an extra 1d8 necrotic damage to the target for every attack or spell that hits it.
  4. You can make the target fail a Wisdom saving throw before it can act at the start of each of its turns. If it doesn’t make the save, it can’t do anything.

When this spell is cast at a higher level, the following things happen:

Spell Slot LevelSpell Duration
4th10 minutes
5th or 6th8 hours
7th or 8th24 hours
9thUntil dispelled

Also, if this spell is cast with a spell slot of 5th level or higher, the person casting it doesn’t have to keep concentrating on it.

What Does All This Mean?

Due to the different spell effects you can choose when casting Bestow Curse, it can help a spellcaster in many different kinds of fights.

The effect can’t be changed once it has been chosen. And any other spells cast on the same target, even by another spellcaster, would cancel out the first one.

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The last thing on the list is the most important.

This spell can be cast without requiring concentration, which is a huge benefit that spellcasters should always think about if they have a 5th-level spell slot open.

But the fun part of the spell is that you and your dungeon master can work together to make a custom curse.

Custom Curses

A good way to decide between different curse effects is to look at what other spells of the same level or lower can do.

If a spell’s effect was like that of a higher-level spell, it would change the way the spell works and could set a bad example.

Some ways the target could be hurt by a curse are:

  1. Inability to speak (or making a constitution-saving throw each turn to be able to)
  2. slowed down to half their normal speed.
  3. Not being able to sleep for the whole time (useful as the duration is extended with higher level casting)
  4. Change how you look (maybe get a pig’s head like in A Midsummer Night’s Dream).
  5. To see other people as something different.
  6. Add 1d4+10 years to the creature’s age.
  7. A level of fatigue
  8. A flaw from the table in the Dungeon Master’s Guide causes madness.

Who Gets It?

This spell is for bards, clerics, wizards, warlocks, Oathbreaker paladins, and Conquest paladins (via the Sign of Ill Omen invocation).

But a Divine Soul sorcerer, Eldritch Knight fighter, or Arcane Trickster rogue could also pick it up.

Bestow Curse is a good spell to choose when you have slots for 3rd-level spells or 5th-level spells.

Bestow Curse: Pros?

This is one of the few spells in the game that can remove a buff.

So, if you like to play by debuffing, it is a must-have.

Putting a saving throw at a disadvantage for more than one round is very powerful and hard to do in other ways. But the effect that stops a creature from doing anything if it fails iin ts Wisdom save could be even stronger.

If a boss creature has a low wisdom score, this spell could be used to end the fight.

As a touch spell, it also meets the requirements to be cast through a familiar by using its reaction.

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This is a good way to keep you from getting hurt.

Another important thing is that the effect that makes the character weak can be chosen to have the most effect at that time, especially if your DM lets you make a custom curse effect.

The best thing about this is that you don’t have to concentrate if you cast the spell at the 5th level.

So many strategic moves are now possible that wouldn’t be possible without more casters and good teamwork (see further in this article for some ideas).

Downsides

Bestow Curse’s biggest drawback is also its biggest benefit: to get the most out of the spell, you have to use up a 5th-level spell slot.

Which is sometimes better used on a 5th-level spell like Animate Objects, Contagion, or Wall of Force.

Also, if you’re a soft wizard or bard and you don’t have a familiar, getting into the range of touch might not be where you want to be.

Roleplay

We have a long history of cursing people, so we have a lot to learn from.

You can add flavor to the effects of a spell in many ways, such as by making the creature give off a bad smell that makes Charisma checks and saves harder.

You could also give a creature bad luck by giving it a disadvantage when it attacks, making it slip every time it swings.

As part of the touch part of the spell, you could give it a witchy feel by pulling out a hair or getting a drop of blood from the person.

Calling down a curse by using the power of a warlock’s patron god is another great way to make the spell fit with its theme. There are a lot of choices!

How To Use Bestow Curse?

There are a lot of good ways to use it. And the fact that it stops a creature from acting is a very appealing effect.

But when possible, it’s best to use it with another spell from an ally that makes the target weak (or from yourself if you cast at the 5th level to avoid concentration).

I’ll list a few good combinations here, but the focus will be on lower-level spells because they are used more often in the game.

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One good strategy is to use Wisdom checks and saves as the spell effect and an additional spell that requires a regular Wisdom saving throw, such as:

  1. Tasha’s Hideous Laughter (1st level spell that leaves the creature prone and unable to take action)
  2. Crown of Madness (2nd level spell which lets you pick who the creature attacks on its turn)
  3. Hold Person (2nd level spell that paralyzes a creature, meaning free critical hits).

Alternately, you may focus on Constitution checks and saves to ensure failure in concentration tests and render them vulnerable to potent spells like Blindness/deafness (2nd level spell that kind of accomplishes what it says) and Contagion (5th level spell that inflicts a grim disease).

A creature that enjoys grappling is a good candidate for Strength checks and saves, or for setting up an attack with a spell-like Maximilian’s Earthen Grasp (2nd level spell that can restrain and crush a target).

Bane, a level-1 spell, makes a nice complement to this item.

This will ensure that the target creature not only has a disadvantage on a specific saving throw but also has to remove a d4 from its roll and its attacks, greatly reducing its chances of succeeding.

Ideas For DMs

Bestow Curse is a wonderful spell to establish a plot hook for a party.

Put a 9th-level curse on one of your party members early on by having the big scary boss do it. And thus, the search is on for someone who can break the curse.

It could also be useful for developing the history of a playable character or non-player character.

The opposing creatures, notably the hags and those in conjunction with them, enjoy this one as well.

The storytelling potential with this spell is great. Discuss ideas with your DM as you go through the campaign, or even before starting.

The Big Picture

Because it opens up so many possibilities for both strategy and roleplay, bestow curse is one of my favorite spells.

As if that weren’t enough, you can cast it without focusing your mind, which increases its power even further. But once you put it to use, you’ll understand why it’s so wonderful.

Therefore, leave the house and start swearing.


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