Priests imparting a little spiritual “oomph” to a warrior’s weapons is an age-old trope of fantasy. And while D&D offers any number of spells and spell-like effects that meet that description, there are a few spiritual enhancements that stand out as particularly helpful in combat. So, let’s take a closer look at one such spell in D&D 5E – Bless.
What is 5e Bless?
The 5E spell Bless is a 1st level enchantment spell on the cleric list. The stats of Bless are as listed below:
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V, S, M
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
Classes: Cleric, Paladin
When casting Bless, the caster selects up to three creatures within range. For the spell’s duration, those targets receive a 1d4 bonus on each attack roll or saving throw. If cast using a 2nd level or higher spell slot, one additional target can be added for each level of the spell slot above 1st.
The spell has a lot of good things going for it. For only being 1st level, it offers quite a lot of potential benefit. Remember, the 1d4 bonus is on each attack roll made while the spell as active, which could go for as long as a minute – longer than most combats will probably last.
Even at one strike per round, that’s 10 times the bonus will apply to each target. Add in the possibility of multiple strikes (for fighters of sufficient level) or bonus actions such as the additional strike offered by the Polearm Master feat, and that bonus can come into play several times a round. Not to mention buffing the targets’ attacks of opportunity, which can come in very handy if your party has mastered the kind of teamwork that makes such attacks more common.
And as mentioned, the spell also gives the same bonus to saving throws on the targets – and, just as with attacks, that bonus applies no matter how many saving throws happen during the spell’s duration. If you’re fighting an enemy whose attacks can invoke saves, such as a spellcaster using spells like Web or Thunderwave, or a creature with a special attack like the troglodyte’s stench or a cockatrice’s bite (not to mention more straightforward attacks like a dragon’s breath weapon), such a recurring bonus could be a lifesaver.
On the downside, the spell requires concentration. Not only does that block out out other potential concentration spells the cleric might cast during the duration, like Shield of Faith or Magic Weapon, but it leaves the spell vulnerable to a failed concentration roll if your cleric gets involved in melee and takes a hit.
But a couple of facts mitigate this drawback. First, the spell can target any three creatures in range – meaning the caster can designate themselves as a target, thus getting the attack and saving throw bonuses for themselves.
Second, a concentration check is, per the Player’s Handbook, a Constitution saving throw – meaning the cleric would get the 1d4 bonus on his roll to maintain the spell that’s giving him the 1d4 bonus.
Of course, depending on the makeup of your party there might be three front-line fighters the cleric would want to prioritize over himself. Or there might be another caster who needs the potential buff on concentration more than he does.
The question of who on the party should get the benefit of Bless is a calculation you have to make at the casting. It’s a matter of who you have in your party, what their abilities are, who you’re facing, and who’s most at risk of having their effectiveness reduced without the buff that Bless provides.
So, maybe the cleric will include himself in the spell and step up with a combination of melee attacks and other, non-concentration spells. Maybe he’ll hang back from melee and work in a more supportive role while maintaining Bless for his comrades. Or possibly he’ll just rely on his own Constitution being strong enough to make the concentration rolls a reasonably safe bet, and still step to the fore while maintaining Bless.
No matter how you decide to best use it in any given situation, the spell’s good points make it worth casting, especially right at the start of combat to get the benefit for as many combat rounds as possible (with a duration of as long as a minute, you’re in no real danger the spell will run out while melee is still raging). And with only the cost of a 1st level slot, there’s no reason not to have Bless available for any encounter where the benefits can be put to best use.
Who Can Cast Bless 5e?
Obviously, a spiritual buff with a name like Bless just screams “cleric”, which is of course why it’s on the cleric’s spell lists. But while they’re the most common casters of Bless, they’re not the only class with access to it.
Paladins, as holy warriors, also have Bless on their spell lists. And while the need for concentration in a class that normally functions as a front-line fighter might make it a questionable choice, it’s still a viable pick – see above about the caster targeting himself to buff their own concentration roll, which makes even more sense when the caster is likely one of your primary melee fighters.
Bards can access Bless through the Magical Secrets ability either at 10th level or, for bards of the College of Lore, at 6th level – and in the case of bards, it’s a decent enough pick. While a number of the bard’s own spells require concentration, which would put them in conflict with Bless, more popular tricks like Inspiration and Vicious Mockery do not, giving the bard ample ability to provide additional support while maintaining Bless.
And sorcerers with the Divine Soul origin from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything have access to cleric spells like Bless. For a sorcerer, though, the value of Bless is a little less clear since it’s competing with spells from the sorcerer’s own list that require concentration like Witch Bolt at 1st level, or a number of appealing 2nd level spells like Maximilian’s Earthen Grasp.
What’s Bless 5e Look Like?
All too often, when talking about spells, players and DMs alike only pay attention to the mechanics of the spell like range, damage, and area of effect, without giving thought to the look of the spell being cast. But Bless is an excellent chance to add a little flavor to a combat.
For instance, the spell could manifest simply as a swirling glow encapsulating the affected creatures. Or a glowing symbol of the god could appear on the chests or over the heads of the chosen recipients.
To give more elaborate flavor, the spell’s power could appear in more direct ways – a Bless cast by a priest of Torm, whose symbol is a gauntlet, might see a phantasmal gauntlet appear and guide the hand of the recipient with each attack, or manifest in logical ways to boost saving throws (shielding the recipient for Constitution saves, pushing them to one side on Dexterity saves, etc). For the nature god Silvanus, the spell might manifest as phantasmal forest creatures appearing as needed to supply benefits in whatever creative way the cleric and/or DM can think of.
For bards, the Bless might take the form of musical notes floating in the air, or images from whatever story or song the bard chooses, such as heroes from a classic myth. Sorcerers might manifest Bless as bands of crackling energy or glowing arcane symbols. As long as it doesn’t start to bog down the combat, little bits of detail like this can add style, humor, and excitement to a run-of-the-mill combat.
Bless or Bane?
A counterpart spell to Bless, called Bane, is also available on the cleric spell list. Unlike Bless, however, it’s not on the paladin’s spell list, though it is among the 1st level spells for bards. Like Bless, it is also accessible to sorcerers of the Divine Soul origin.
Bane’s effects are similar to Bless, except that, instead of a 1d4 bonus to the designated allies’ attacks and saves, Bane causes a 1d4 penalty to the designated enemies’ attacks and saves. Unlike Bless, which takes effect automatically, Bane requires the targets to fail a Charisma save.
While on their face, the two spells would seem to have roughly similar impacts on a combat, in terms of crunchy statistics-math. In practice, it breaks down to which spell will affect more rolls in your favor. If you have a few fighters on your side able to do more than one attack per action, the bonus of Bless could come into play more often. If the raw number of attack rolls is likely to be greater on the other side, however – such as fighting opponents with the multiattack trait – Bane would have the greater impact.
Likewise, Bless would be of greater use when dealing with enemies that have magical or other attacks that involve saving throws, since it gives your side more occasion to use and benefit from that bonus. Or if you have casters who need the bonus on their concentration rolls. If you’re the one dealing out attack with saving throws, you’ll get more punch from casting Bane.
And bear in mind that Bane allows a saving throw, so the math of whether one or more of your targets might resist its effects has to be factored into your calculation of its potential benefit. Granted, Charisma is one of the less common saves among creatures, second only to Intelligence, but it still puts the odds of success at something short of the 100% rate that Bless can boast.
Of course, there’s also the option to not choose between them at all. As already mentioned, Bane appears on the bard spell list – so why not have your bard cast Bane on opponents while your cleric casts Bless on your party? That makes for a one-two punch that can really shift the balance in a combat.
Bless Spell Alternatives
As a 1st level spell, Bless is readily accessible. That said, even an upper-level cleric only has so many spell slots. So, what options allow you to get the benefits of Bless without using the spell itself?
One of the easiest ways is just to carry the spell in a scroll version. A Scroll of Bless is a common item, with an average price of about 120 GP, making it a reasonably affordable addition to any party’s inventory. And packing along a few scrolls for emergencies lets you free up your spell slots for healing while still getting the benefits of Bless when needed.
A second, but rarer and more expensive way is a Potion of Heroism. Granted, the potion doesn’t affect three (or more) individuals the way Bless does. But it not only offers the drinker the benefits of Bless, but those benefits go on for a full hour – time enough for multiple combat encounters. Not only that, but the potion also gifts the drinker with 10 bonus hit points for the duration. And of course, the magical effects of a potion don’t require concentration from the drinker or anyone else, freeing up your casters to cast at will.
Bless Your Party!
Just about any party could benefit from casting Bless. But in the hands of an organized party that already knows how to optimize their talents – who knows which parties will best benefit from the buffs it can offer, and in which combats it’s used to best effect – Bless can heavily tilt the odds in your favor. And when all it costs is a 1st level slot, there’s no excuse for not having it in your quiver.