Sooner or later, everyone comes to a make-or-break die roll, one on which everything hinges. And when those rolls happen, you’re going to want all the help you can get.
So, let’s take a look at one of the ways that help can come, at least for ability checks. Here is a quick look at the 5E cantrip Guidance.
What is Guidance?
First, the stats for the D&D 5E spell Guidance:
Casting Time: 1 action
Target: One willing creature
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
Classes: Artificer, Cleric, Druid
The caster touches one willing creature. As long as the spell is active, that creature can buff any single ability check (but not attack rolls or saving throws) by rolling 1d4 and adding the result. This roll can happen either before or after the roll for the ability check itself.
Who Can Cast Guidance?
This cantrip appears on the spell lists for Clerics and Druids, as well as Artificers (Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything). In addition, the cantrip is accessible to Bards via their Magical Secrets ability, or to Pact of the Tome Warlocks or Divine Soul Sorcerers.
The Good and the Bad
The biggest benefit of any cantrip is unlimited casting without expending spell slots. Anytime the party finds itself in need of an ability check, the caster can throw Guidance to give a small buff to their odds.
On the downside, attack rolls and saving throws don’t benefit from Guidance. The cantrip also requires concentration, taking other such spells off the board until the bonus is used or until the spell expires.
Guidance also isn’t universally applicable. Searching a room, for example, takes longer than a minute, so a nitpicky DM might question whether it could benefit from such a short-duration buff.
And it’s a standard action rather than a reaction, so it has limited use for unexpected situations. You can’t buff a sentry’s perception to detect an intruder you don’t know is coming unless you’re going to stay up all night casting Guidance every minute.
There are other practical constraints on the spell, such as buffing a fellow party member’s attempt to haggle or negotiate when the person they’re trying to win over is standing right there watching you try to hocus-pocus the situation. Likewise, sneaking while something is casting a spell with verbal components next to you is . . . tricky.
Can You Use Guidance on Yourself?
Short answer: yes, you can. Any spell with a range of “touch” can be cast on oneself, barring exceptional circumstances that prevent you from touching yourself (such as being in a gaseous form, for example).
Can You Benefit from Multiple Castings of the Guidance Spell?
Could two Clerics cast Guidance for the same ability check and double the bonus, or at least give the higher of the two rolls? Unfortunately, no – bonuses from spells don’t stack in that way in D&D 5E.
If one bonus is higher (say, 2d4 instead of 1d4), then the higher bonus would overwrite the other. Otherwise, only one casting of the Guidance could apply, so only a single die would be rolled.
Guidance vs Bless
How does Guidance stack up to another buff spell – the Cleric/Paladin 1st level spell Bless? Like Guidance, it is a concentration spell lasting up to 1 minute. But Bless offers far more during that minute.
Bless can target three creatures instead of just one. And while it doesn’t offer a bonus to ability checks, Bless allows a 1d4 bonus to each saving throw or attack roll made during the spell’s duration. Unlike Guidance, it takes a 1st level spell slot (or higher, to target more creatures), but the benefit it conveys over that of Guidance is worth the cost.
Guidance vs Bardic Inspiration
Let’s also compare Guidance to the Bardic Inspiration ability. Unlike Guidance, Bardic Inspiration offers a 1d6 bonus (and higher for bards of 5th level or greater), which the target can use for any one roll during the duration.
Bardic Inspiration is also a bonus action rather than a standard one and doesn’t require concentration to maintain. It also lasts up to ten minutes, and the bonus can be applied to a saving throw or attack roll as well as an ability check. But, unlike cantrips, Bardic Inspiration isn’t unlimited – a Bard can only use it a number of times equal to their Charisma modifier before taking a long rest.
Guidance vs Teamwork
Of course, the other option is for the caster (or another comrade) to forego spellcasting altogether and just lend a hand. The Help action allows any character to aid another on an ability check as a standard action, giving them advantage on the roll so long as the check happens before the beginning of your next turn.
Advantage on a d20 roll confers the equivalent of a +3 to +5 bonus on average. Compared to the average +2.5 of Guidance, Help gives a slightly better bonus without requiring concentration.
Guidance or Not to Guidance?
It’s hard to find fault in a spell that doesn’t take a spell slot, but Guidance just doesn’t measure up to some of the other options. Granted, if you’re not in an urgent situation, it’s a free 1d4 to the roll to pick a lock or think back through one’s knowledge of Religion to identify an idol or ritual.
It’s just that, with better options available, Guidance shouldn’t necessarily be your first choice unless you really need to conserve spell slots or uses of Bardic Inspiration. Even then, a simple Help action, if the DM rules it applicable, will likely do more for you. When none of those options are available, however, having a little Guidance is better than nothing.
No, you can’t. Multiple castings of the same spell don’t multiply the bonus, nor would you roll multiple dice and just take the highest one. Only a single 1d4 would apply to any individual roll.