[RPG] Is this homebrew life-stealing melee cantrip unbalanced


I started thinking about a variant of a melee attack cantrip like booming blade that would allow you to regain some lost health. The cantrip I came up with is this:

Evocation cantrip
Casting time: 1 Action
Range: 5 feet
Components: V, M (a weapon)
Duration: Instantaneous

As part of the action used to cast this spell, you must make a melee attack with a weapon against one creature within the spell's range, otherwise the spell fails.

On a hit, the target suffers the attack's normal effects, plus 1d4 necrotic damage. The target makes a Constitution saving throw against your spell save DC. On a failure, you heal for an amount equal to the necrotic damage dealt. On a success, nothing else happens.

The spell's damage increases as you reach higher levels.

The necrotic damage increases by 1d4 when you reach 5th level, for a total of 2d4 damage. This damage increases by 1d4 at 11th level and again at 17th level.

The issue with this cantrip is that the DMG (p. 284) clearly says that a cantrip shouldn't offer healing.

So the question is if

  • a low extra damage/healing output,
  • a Constitution saving throw
  • and the possible addendum of resolving the weapon attack damage first, as to prevent the PC from abusing it on wildlife and easy targets

are enough to make it balanced?

Best Answer

It's probably unbalanced.

Let's take a look at what other things allow you to gain hit points at first level:

  • Cure Wounds (requires a spell slot and action, restores 1d8 + change).
  • Healing Potion (costs 50 gp, requires an action, restores 2d4+2).
  • Goodberry (requires a spell slot and action, restores 1 hp per action for 10 additional actions).
  • Healing Word (requires a bonus action and spell slot, restores 1d4 + change).
  • False Life (requires an action and spell slot, gives you 1d4 + change temporary hit points).
  • A short rest (requires an hour of inactivity, costs your only hit die, restores about half your HP).

A cantrip that lets you use the same action to both make an attack and also heal up to 4 hp is certainly more powerful than any of these options for 1st level characters.

A cantrip that lets you heal for even 1 hp would be strictly superior to a Short Rest, so probably even that would unbalance the game a little.

As you've written this spell, it should be at least a 1st level spell.

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