Let’s talk spells. Today I want to introduce you to Brevard’s opalescent tentacles and chilling fog from Morgenstern’s Spellbook.
Why So Pushy?
Brevard was one of Rasmus Morgenstern’s few… friends may be too strong a word. Trusted and respected colleague, for sure. Brevard was a pushy fellow, and he didn’t like to get close to people — literally or figuratively. But, he spent much of his little social time with Rasmus. They shared a love of experimentation and would have long, often heated, discussions about magical “engineering”. Brevard and Rasmus also shared a disdain for the luminaries of the wizarding world. He always claimed his tentacle spell came first, but only in private company, and only after several drinks.
To update this spell to 5e status, I mostly needed to tweak the way it deals damage. The original description is a bit convoluted. The old 3.5e black tentacles spell required a grapple check to see if a creature entering the affected space would be grappled, be held in place, and take damage. I wanted to have opalescent tentacles deliver creatures out to the perimeter with that grapple. I also wanted them to take damage while being shoved around. By RAW, my original description of opalescent tentacles has anyone within the area of effect taking damage with no save. I think that is why I gave it a damage that was less than black tentacles on average. Even still, that seems a bit broken.
The new 5e black tentacles spell doesn’t have a grapple check, only a save to avoid damage. Seeing that made me rethink the order of operations of the old spell and notice the egregious damage problem. Now, when a creature first enters the space, the effect is basically the same as for black tentacles. It takes the same amount of damage and is Restrained on a failed save. But on subsequent turns within the area, it gets pushed out if it fails its save and takes decreased damage. I think the inconvenience of getting pushed back to the edge of the area warrants the 3-point (average) reduction in damage.
Brevard’s Opalescent Tentacles
4th-level conjuration [warlock, wizard]
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 90 feet
Components: V, S, M (a piece of cuttlefish tentacle)
Duration: Concentration up to 1 minute
Strange opalescent tentacles with a noxious oily sheen fill a 20-foot square in an area that you can see. The area need not be flat, but the large square must be anchored to the ground or floor by at least one 5-foot square. If placed where constrained by walls or other vertical surfaces, the 20-foot square will wrap onto those vertical surfaces and over to other horizontal surfaces if necessary. For the duration of the spell, these tentacles create difficult terrain.
When a creature enters the tentacled area for the first time on a turn, or starts its turn there, it must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or take 3d6 bludgeoning damage and be Restrained by the tentacles. A creature that starts its turn Restrained by the tentacles may make a Strength or Dexterity saving throw (its choice) at Disadvantage to attempt to escape the Restraint. On a failed save, the creature is shunted to the perimeter of the area of effect and forcibly ejected, taking 3d4 bludgeoning damage. You choose the edge of the square to which creatures are pushed when you cast the spell and that edge must be on the ground or floor.
At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, add 1 damage die (d6 or d4 as appropriate) for each slot level above 4th.
Like a London Fog
I always thought the 3.5e spell fog cloud was good for fluff, but not a very effective spell. At least not for its level. So I sought ways to improve its functionality. I’m also a fan of Victorian era fiction, like Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Depictions of those thick, damp, bone-chilling fogs are what inspired chilling fog. So, I simply added in some cold damage and made it slow down those inside. That may have been a little overpowered. Hard to say, as slow also seems to be an underused spell.
In updating chilling fog for 5e, I paid better attention to the damage guidelines for spells in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. It suggests 4d6 damage for an area of effect spell with a save for half damage. I wanted the sense of inevitable decline and weight that those pea-soup fogs carry. So, I took away the save, and cut the damage to 2d6. You go in; you get cold.
I still wanted to slow folks down, too, but the full effect of the 5e slow spell seemed a bit much. So, I used a Constitution save to mitigate a simple speed reduction. I dropped the cold damage to 1d6 to balance the effective spell level increase of that reduction.
In keeping with the 5e tendency to limit the breadth of spells across the class lists, I opted to make chilling fog a druid only spell. I thought about wizards as the class, since they are iconically the ones who muck about with energy. But the tie-in to nature was too on the nose to skip.
2nd-level conjuration [druid]
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 120 feet
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration up to 1 hour
You create a thick, damp, bone-chilling fog that fills a 20-foot radius sphere centered on a location you can see within range. The fog spreads around corners and its area is heavily obscured. It lasts for the duration or until a wind of at least 10 mph disperses it. Any creature entering the fog on a turn, or starting its turn within the fog, takes 1d6 cold damage and must make a successful Constitution save or have its speed reduced by half while in the fog.
At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, the cold damage increases by 1d6 and the effect radius increases by 10 feet for each slot level above 2nd.