Dissonant Whispers is an extremely powerful offensive 1st-level spell. It belongs to the Bard spell list as well as its subclasses.
Dissonant Whispers showcases the early-game power of a class newer players might think to be ‘boring,’ combined with its excellent roleplay compatibility and unreal damage.
The Player’s Handbook description is found below:
- Dissonant Whispers 5e
- Classes That Can Pick Dissonant Whispers
- Is Dissonant Whispers Good in 5e?
- Advantages of Dissonant Whispers
- Disadvantages of Dissonant Whispers
- When To Use Dissonant Whispers
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Thoughts
Dissonant Whispers 5e
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
The caster whispers a discordant melody heard by only one creature of their choosing that is in range of hearing them.
Upon hearing the whisper, the target is wracked with terrible pain, forcing it to make a Wisdom saving roll.
If the saving roll is failed, the target takes 3d6 psychic damage and is forced to immediately use its reaction (if available) to move as far as its current speed allows it, away from the caster.
Note: The target will not move into obviously dangerous ground, such as a campfire, pit, or off a ledge.
If the saving roll is successful, the target only takes half as much damage and allows it to stay in its current position without being forced to move away.
Note: Deafened targets will automatically succeed on the Wisdom saving roll.
At Higher Levels: When Dissonant Whispers is cast using spell slots of the 2nd level or higher, its damage increases by 1d6 with each slot level above the 1st.
Classes That Can Pick Dissonant Whispers
The traditional class able to choose Dissonant Whispers is the Bard, as they can pick it in their free selection of spells.
Most subclasses cannot access Dissonant Whispers freely. They must either be able to pick spells belonging to other classes (obtained when their subclass levels up) or have their spell list adjusted completely.
Is Dissonant Whispers Good in 5e?
Compared to spells in the Bard’s 1st-level spell list, Dissonant Whispers is part of the top.
It has devastating firepower while also being able to dictate a creature’s movements fully. So yes, it’s overpowered.
Advantages of Dissonant Whispers
Spells available at lower levels are usually frowned upon due to their overall lower stats, firepower, crowd control, versatility, control ability, etc.
But, when looking at Dissonant Whispers and its description, it seems like a mistake to classify the spell as 1st-level as it can easily be a 2nd or even 3rd-level spell.
When casting Dissonant Whispers, only the Verbal component is used. Players don’t have to gather different Materials or use Somatic gestures.
This limits the number of conditions players can have that will disable them from casting Dissonant Whispers. Increasing their value in a party or even shifting their battle tactics.
Great Damage (+ Damage Type)
It is seldom that low-level spells have serious damage. Most spells stick to using one or two die, sticking with lower numbers to make the spell deathly simple.
On the other hand, Dissonant Whispers doesn’t only have great damage (3d6 Psychic damage), it also has one of the best damage types (Psychic) in D&D.
Making it less likely for creatures to be resistant or immune to it.
Even though Dissonant Whispers doesn’t have the best scaling, players can be lucky it does.
Players can even go a step further and scale the spell while twinning it, increasing the number of creatures affected.
Disadvantages of Dissonant Whispers
Lacking Class Versatility
Dissonant Whispers is available only on the Bard’s spell list without using skills or feats. Whether or not this was a balancing act, it limits Dissonant Whispers’ influence in a D&D campaign to whether players chose the Bard class.
Countered by High Wisdom
Dissonant Whispers is countered by any creature with higher Wisdom than the caster. This halves the spell’s power while leaving the creature unaffected by the caster’s control.
Luckily for most players, the largest chunk of creatures in D&D come between Wisdom 10/11 (+0) and Wisdom 12/13 (+1). It leaves most creatures without a bonus to their Wisdom throws (if abilities aren’t used).
When To Use Dissonant Whispers
Even though Dissonant Whispers is extremely strong, it still has some mechanics that enable players to use it more effectively.
Players should still be careful of the odd deaf creature, as the spell doesn’t affect them.
Low Wisdom Creatures
Creatures with a low Wisdom are ranked from Wisdom 1 to 9, with the lowest bonus as (-5) and the highest as (-1). Ultimately leaving these creatures with a vulnerability that players can exploit.
Note: Creatures falling under Wisdom 10/11 (+0) and Wisdom 12/13 (+1) are also good targets for Dissonant Whispers.
Some of the most well-known creatures with low Wisdom are; Kobolds, Cyclops, Zombies, Ogres, Goblins (+ Goblin Boss), Werebears, Orcs, and even the mighty Tarrasque.
Opportunities of attack happen when a creature leaves or passes through another creature’s melee range, allowing them to perform a reaction.
This allows players to do anything from making another attack, casting a spell, buffing allies, sneaking, or minimizing damage from an incoming attack.
Force an Enemy’s Reaction
Players could cast Dissonant Whispers on an enemy mage; it forces them to use their reaction or take massive damage.
This makes it impossible for them to cast their reaction spells for an entire round.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Dissonant Whispers Fear-Based?
Dissonant Whispers doesn’t inflict a named status, which means it isn’t a Fear spell. The mandatory movement is a unique effect.
Does Immunity to Charm Stop Dissonant Whispers?
Similar to Dissonant Whispers being thought of as a Fear spell, it also doesn’t identify as a Charm spell. It puts the targetted creature under no specific condition, meaning it can target creatures immune to Charm.
Dissonant Whispers not only breaks the way players think of low-level spells but also shines a whole new light on how useful having a Bard is.
Its firepower, one-class availability, and creature control can also make it a tremendous roleplaying spell.
Maybe one day, there will come an evil Bard who rose to fame by using Dissonant Whispers as their tool to wreak havoc!