Greetings adventurers and dungeon delvers! The topic today isn’t flashy and eye-catching, but when applied in the correct circumstances can leave your enemies quaking in their boots!
While not as popular a school of magic as conjuration or illusion, this evocation spell certainly deserves attention! This is not aimed solely at beginners, as one might think, but also at long-time veterans.
This guide isn’t so much to explain Earth Tremor as it is to reveal the true essence behind the spell and give you second thoughts to catch your eye so that next time you’re looking at that spell list, you might consider picking it up!
What is Earth Tremor Spell?
Earth Tremor is a basic 1st level spell from the magical school of evocation. To start off, it can be learned by Bards, Druids, Sorcerers, and Wizards. It allows the caster to cause the earth to quake, making it difficult to move for any creature in the 10ft area of effect. To be clear, let’s take a closer look at what Xanathar’s Guide to Everything has to say:
You cause a tremor in the ground in a 10-foot radius. Each creature other than you in that area must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 1d6 bludgeoning damage and is knocked prone. If the ground in that area is loose earth or stone, it becomes difficult terrain until cleared.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the damage increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 1st.
Earth Tremor 5e Stats
|Casting Time||1 Action|
|Range/Area||Self (10-foot radius)|
|Classes||Bard, Druid, Sorcerer, Wizard|
For the beginners out there, this is a 1st level spell. This “spell level” is independent of your character’s class level and should not be confused. Depending on class, a character will get a certain level of spell slots which each have a level.
Earth Tremor is a 1st level spell and as such will cost 1 spell slot of the 1st level. It can be cast using a higher-level spell slot and if so, adds 1d6 damage die per level above 1st.
For example, if cast using a 4th level spell slot, the damage is increased to 4d6 (1d6 for the 1st level and an additional die per level after that.) Damage is applied to creatures in the area of effect who do not pass a save roll against Dex (the DC is determined by a base of 8 + the caster’s proficiency bonus + the caster’s spellcasting bonus).
Its Arcane Tradition, or school or magic, is evocation, which means that the caster is pulling or manipulating the natural energies within an object. This may come into play within certain spell suppression fields or flavorful roleplays, but in general, isn’t a major detail to always keep in mind (but it’s always worth having written down on your spell sheet!)
It takes a full action to cast, as most spells do, and it instantaneously activates its effects. This isn’t a delayed reaction or a sustained action. While it’s cool and interesting to cause the ground to shake, don’t be tempted to overplay the magnitude of what you’re doing.
Remember, the earth-rending ultra-magic is generally a higher spell level! As a full action, a caster using Earth Tremor would not be able to attack or use another spell, unless they had other feats or class features that allowed them to do so.
The range on Earth Tremor is something to keep in mind. While it is 10ft, it is a 10-foot radius the origin of which is the caster, and affects all targets within that zone. Earth Tremor is definitely a spell to be careful with, as it will be easy to friendly-fire if you’re not careful! Conceivably, this would mean it is a 20-foot spherical area, though the implications of that are best left up to individual DMs.
The components for this spell may be important, depending on your campaign. Some DMs run campaigns RAW (that is, Rules As Written) and are sticklers for the finer points of spells. As such, it’s important to notice that Earth Tremor has two components: Verbal and Somatic.
The Verbal component means that the caster must speak, chant, or invoke certain words to manipulate the magic. The Somatic component means that the caster must use fingers or hands to make signs; an important inclusion to this is that a caster must have a hand free.
If the caster’s hands are full (with say a staff), the caster would have to drop their weapon, cast the spell, and re-arm, which depending on your build may take a bonus action or more. This also means that a caster whose hands are bound or who’s gagged would not be able to properly cast Earth Tremor.
How does Earth Tremor spell work?
So now that the technical aspects are out of the way, what is Earth Tremor? Basically, it makes the earth shake. In doing so, it causes damage to the material components of the earth and causes the surface to crack, break, or buckle in a way that prevents easy movement if cast on open earth.
In addition to causing damage to all targets within a given area, if cast on an area with loose dirt or stone, it also creates a zone of difficult terrain, which is the more important aspect of the spell.
There are many high-damage 1st level spells out there, but veterans of Dungeons and Dragons will know that battles often come down to more than just raw damage. Encounters require ingenuity and cunning, and man, has Earth Tremor come in to save the hides of many an adventurer!
Earth Tremor spell applications
Anyone familiar with games will know this phrase, but for those that are more used to the table-top variety of gaming: crowd control refers to effects that reduce the movements of units. This can be through slows (slowing down the overall movement), silences (preventing casting), or even snares/roots (stuck in one place) or stuns (unable to complete any action).
Earth Tremor is more akin to a slow as the area of difficult terrain it creates reduces character movement speed to half in the zone of effect. This creates many opportunities for other party members to kite or keep their distance while applying long-range damage to targets.)
Area Support or Suppression
As a natural extension of Earth Tremor’s CC (crowd control), it is a spell that can be readily used for area support. If cast in a crucial junction or area of the battlefield, it can easily give advantage to your party.
Imagine this: You cast it as a choke point and move away from the zone. Now, as enemies are running through the choke point, their speed is halved and they take twice as long to move toward your party.
This gives ample opportunity for your party to apply long-range damage, set up more complicated combos, or properly position themselves to take advantage of the situation.
Imagine the encounter is going south and your party has determined that a tactical retreat would be best. As your party is running away, the enemy is running after you just as quickly.
A cunning caster may hang back, cast Earth Tremor, and continue the retreat, buying extremely valuable time for the whole party to escape and maybe even giving additional pause to their pursuers!
Truly an important disengage tactic!
What classes can use Earth Tremor?
As written, the basic classes such as Bard, Druid, Sorcerer, or Wizard can take Earth Tremor as soon as they have access to a 1st level spell slot. In addition, there are some subclasses that don’t normally cast spells that can gain access to Earth Tremor. These classes include the Fighter and the Rogue.
A 3rd level Fighter can take the Eldritch Knight archetype, which gives them access to Wizard spells. Likewise, a 3rd level Rogue can take the Arcane Trickster archetype and gain access to Wizard spells.
Especially for a highly mobile class like a Rogue that can make up for the difficult terrain, it would be a useful tool to add to their kit.
Is Earth Tremor spell good?
While it may not be for everyone and may not be a spell that needs to be taken in every situation, it is definitely a spell worth consideration.
As previously stated, most Dungeons and Dragons veterans would be quick to point out that damage is not everything, which definitely favors Earth Tremor as it is fairly low damage in comparison to other 1st level spells.
However, the utility of it is definitely worth having for those edge cases when the party is in danger and needs a little extra crowd control to successfully navigate a dangerous encounter.
Should everyone take it? No.
Would it be an excellent tool to have just in case? 110% y-e-s!
Earth Tremor Spell FAQs
Can I use Earth Tremor anywhere/on any surface?
Going strictly by the Rules as Written, Earth Tremor could potentially be cast on most surfaces. There’s no prescription that precludes stone, rock, wood, clay, etc. The only restriction is on the generation of difficult terrain.
The text says that an area of difficult terrain is generated only on surfaces of loose dirt or stone. Depending on the DM, that could be interpreted quite strictly (no loose dirt, no stone, no difficult terrain) or more loosely (the wood splinters or the marble cracks and buckles and creates an area of difficult terrain.
Before making any plans, be sure to check how the DM would interpret the text.
Corrie is a passionate writer who draws inspiration from his love of medieval-fantasy and epic science fiction. His obsession with D&D and epic battles shines through in his work, as does his appreciation for authors like Laura Resnick and Marion Zimmer Bradley, whose works ignited his imagination and love of books. You can find Corrie at any given time engrossed in a rewatch binge of Voyager or rolling new characters for the creative joy of it!