Ray of sickness is a 1st-level offensive spell falling under the Sorcerer and Wizard spell lists.
This spell is a great low-level attack spell. Its damage output shouldn’t be ignored, as failing the saving roll can take a chunk out of your health points.
The Player’s Handbook specifics are as follows:
- Ray of Sickness 5e
- What Does Ray of Sickness Do?
- So Is Ray of Sickness Good?
- Drawbacks to Ray of Sickness
- Optimizing Ray of Sickness
- Final Thoughts,
Ray of Sickness 5e
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V, S
When cast, a ray of rancid greenish energy lashes out toward a creature within range. The target takes 2d8 poison damage on a hit and must perform a Constitution saving roll.
If the saving roll fails, ray of sickness will poison the target until the end of your next turn.
At Higher Levels: If you cast ray of sickness using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the damage increases by 1d8 for each slot level above the 1st.
What Does Ray of Sickness Do?
Ray of sickness is a simple spell to understand but could confuse some newer players.
Your target takes 2d8 poison damage on a hit and must make a Constitution saving roll. If the saving roll fails, ray of sickness will then poison the target until the end of your next turn.
It, therefore, deals flat 2d8 poison damage while having the chance to poison the target. This flat damage is then increased by using a spell slot of the 2nd level or higher, meaning it can scale quite well.
But should you wait for it to scale?
How Do I Use Ray of Sickness?
Casting a ray of sickness takes one instantaneous action and doesn’t require the caster to be concentrated.
Its range is decent for a low-level spell that can force a saving roll.
No extra material components are needed to cast this spell making it especially simple for newer players.
Players can simply use ray of sickness by making a ranged spell attack against a creature of their choice. When hit, the creature takes the 2d8 poison damage and is forced to make a saving roll.
If you want to use this spell at higher levels, increasing your spell slot levels will increase the damage.
Just remember to think carefully before investing everything into certain spells. When leveling up, there are always better spells that players will then unlock.
So Is Ray of Sickness Good?
Looking at the spell, it is reasonably obvious that its poison effect, simple casting components, and Constitution saving roll are all it has going for it.
The spell slot scaling isn’t that poor until you realize that other spells like Eldrich Blast, Chaos Bolt, and Witch Bolt are available at the same level. Their damage types and overall offensive capabilities far surpass ray of sickness in most situations.
Successfully hitting your target will mean they are now poisoned (if their saving roll fails, the poison effect lasts until your next turn). Enemies affected by poison will have their attack rolls and ability checks disadvantaged until the poison subsides.
Great Low-Level Spell
Even though ray of sickness does have scaling spell slots, it is most useful in the early stages of your campaign.
The disadvantage created by the afflicted poison, ease of use, and decent damage make it especially good against humanoids (due to poison immunity being less prevalent in humanoid races).
You should, however, consider switching it out when reaching a higher level as many higher-level alternatives shadow ray of sickness.
Twinning Ray of Sickness
Ray of sickness meets all the requirements to be twinned effectively (players can target only one creature, while it doesn’t have the range of ‘self’).
Twinning ray of sickness enables you to potentially debuff two enemies with one spell, all possible with a first-level spell slot and one sorcery point.
Note: Metamagic (the ability to twist and adapt spells) is unlocked for sorcerers at their 3rd level.
Drawbacks to Ray of Sickness
Ray of sickness isn’t as good as many spells at its level or even below it. The main concerns, however, are its damage type and comparison relative to other low-level spells.
While its average damage of 9 isn’t bad, it isn’t great for a low-level spell. Its damage type is poison (when looking at resistance and immunity numbers) which is identified as the worst damage type in the game.
Why Is Poison Ranked So Low?
Poison doesn’t have as many creatures resistant to it, enabling it to deal damage more reliably. This sounds great but don’t forget about the immunities.
More than one hundred creatures are immune to poison. Even if you get lucky against some creatures, the odds of facing a creature immune to poison are too high.
Ultimately, even using nonmagical weapons and fire damage will be more reliable than poison damage.
Ray of Sickness Uses a Constitution Saving Roll
Unfortunately, even this spell’s best addition also falls short of greatness.
When looking at the stats of many creatures in D&D, most eligible targets (around 75%) have their Constitution as their highest average stat(15)-making even the forced Constitution saving roll a bad gamble.
Optimizing Ray of Sickness
If you want to use ray of sickness, I recommend modifying it accordingly.
Using it at a higher spell level will increase the damage and the difficulty of the Constitution saving roll for targets.
Feat Spell Sniper can double the range ray of sickness while players can do the same with other similar spells. You ultimately increase the range to 120 feet, making you a poisonous sniper.
Even though this spell seems quite useless in most cases, it can still be considered helpful if used against the correct targets.
Doubling its range, increasing its Constitution saving roll, and using it to poison targets can all help your party in unique ways.
Creating your unique playstyle is what D&D is all about. Even if the spell is statistically underwhelming, it can still be advantageous if players become creative in different situations.