[RPG] Why would I want to use a Level 1 spell at higher levels if Cantrips are better? Or am I missing something


At higher levels especially Level 17 (which is where most cantrips get their last upgrade) I noticed does a lot more damage than level 1 spell slots.

For example Poison Spray compared to Thunderwave.

  • Thunderwave (Level 1) does 2d8 damage on a success unless using higher level spell slots
  • At level 17 Poison Spray does 4d12 which is significantly higher.

I'm pretty new to DnD but if I don't want to use higher spell slots would it not be better to just stick with Cantrips which can be used infinitely.

If so are these low level spells mainly for lower level characters?

Best Answer

There are several reasons for using Thunderwave over Poison Spray.

  1. Range: Thunderwave affects everyone within a 15 foot cube - this is potentially 9 creatures (more if there are some flying above or tunneling below). Poison Spray affects 1 creature.
  2. Damage Type: Some things are resistant or immune to different types of damage. Thunderwave is infinitely better against a creature immune to poison.
  3. Save effects: A creature that saves takes no damage from Poison Spray but still takes 2d8/2 from Thunderwave.
  4. Miscellaneous: The push effect from Thunderwave is nice, especially if it will push creatures off a 200 foot cliff - 2d8 + 20d6 is better than 4d12.

This type of comparison can be made for any spell/cantrip combination.

That said, low level damage spells are usually used by low level casters; even though they can scale by using a spell slot they are generally sub-optimal when compared with a spell specifically for that level. For example, Burning Hands can do 5d6 fire damage using a 3rd level slot, however, Fireball can do 8d6 in a bigger area at a greater range.

For this reason, a spellcaster will usually "trade up" by memorising different spells (Cleric/Wizard) or swapping out known spells (most others). Low level spell slots are then used for utility spells like Detect Magic, Shield etc. with damage dealt by cantrips and higher level spells

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