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Toll the Dead 5e Spell

Toll the Dead 5e Spell

The Cleric points his finger at the hulking hobgoblin clutching its side from the last attack. The ringing of a bell sounds as the hobgoblin looks around, frantically trying to find the source of the noise. Then, a searing pain as its life force drains from its already wounded body. The hobgoblin sinks to its knees and keels over, unconscious, as the party cheers in victory.

For whom does the bell toll? With this spell, it tolls for thee!

What is Toll the Dead Spell?

The spell’s text from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything reads: You point at one creature you can see within range, and the sound of a dolorous bell fills the air around it for a moment. The target must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or take 1d8 necrotic damage. If the target is missing any of its hit points, it instead takes 1d12 necrotic damage.

The spell’s damage increases by one die when you reach 5th level (2d8 or 2d12), 11th level (3d8 or 3d12), and 17th level (4d8 or 4d12).

Toll the Dead 5e Stats

Casting Time1 Action
Range/Area60 ft
ClassesCleric, Warlock, Wizard
ComponentsVerbal, Somatic
Duration Instantaneous

How Does Toll the Dead Work in 5e?

Under normal circumstances, Toll the Dead works like almost every other damage-dealing cantrip: you force an opponent to make a saving throw. If they succeed, they take no damage. If they fail, they take necrotic damage. It scales like a normal cantrip, too. Where things get a little weird is that foes missing hit points suffer more than healthy ones.

Your best bet with Toll the Dead is to target enemies that your friends have already taken a chunk out of. Compared to other damage-dealing cantrips, Toll the Dead doesn’t do anything special or extra for completely healthy enemies, so you should save it for people who have already lost some hit points.

With 1d8 of damage, it’s an average of 4 points of necrotic damage. With 1d12, that average increases to 6. That might seem negligible at first, but by the time you hit level 17, you’re looking at the difference between 16 and 24 points of damage on average, with maximum damages of 32 and 48, respectively.

Will that make all the difference with CR 17 foes? Maybe not, but you want to do as much damage as you possibly can.

Is Toll the Dead a Good Spell?

Toll the Dead can do more damage per use than any other cantrip in Dungeons & Dragons. That’s very appealing to most people, especially Clerics.

Clerics are essentially support players and have plenty of solid options for their bonus actions, like Spiritual Weapon, Healing Word, and Spirit Shroud. With a bit of managing, they could even use their bonus action to attack a foe, a la spiritual weapon, and then follow it up with Toll the Dead.

Game Cows Tip: Remember, you can’t cast a leveled spell as both your action and your bonus action. If your bonus action is a leveled spell, your action must be a cantrip.

Even Warlocks and Wizards can benefit from Toll the Dead. Warlocks might not want it if they choose something other than Pact of the Tome (which grants three extra cantrips) because they have so few known cantrips, but Wizards should have no problem fitting Toll the Dead into their spell load out.

Unlike almost every other spell, Toll the Dead becomes better when you have a lower initiative roll because the damage increases so much with injured enemies.

Fortunately, spellcasters aren’t exactly known for their high Dexterity scores, so if you want a solid staple to fall back on when you can’t afford to spend any more spell slots, it’s hard to go wrong with Toll the Dead.

Which Classes Can Use Toll the Dead?

Toll the Dead is available to Clerics, Warlocks, and Wizards. Divine Soul Sorcerers have access to the Cleric spell list, so they would also have access to the spell.

When to Cast Toll the Dead

Toll the Dead is designed to do more damage against enemies that are weakened. It’s best to target enemies that have taken at least a little bit of damage. 

For Clerics and Wizards that start a fight, their first spell should be a different attack spell or buff. In the second round of combat after an enemy has taken damage, then it’s time to use Toll the Dead. 

Avoid casting Toll the Dead on creatures with a high Wisdom since they’ll take zero damage on a successful Wisdom save. 

If you’re a Warlock or Wizard you’ll have access to the spell Bestow Curse. Bestow Curse is a good option to cast on your first turn of combat to curse your target. The curse can give them Disadvantage on Wisdom Saving throws and also deals Necrotic damage. After being cursed they’ll be much more susceptible to Toll the Dead. 

Who Should Take Toll the Dead?

Since 3 classes naturally have the option to choose Toll the Dea we’re going to look at those 3 specifically and which subclass should choose Toll the Dead. 


Clerics are primarily healers. There are a few different subclasses that they have that focus on damage dealing, but for the most part, their role in the party is going to be healing and buff based. 

All clerics will find a use for the Toll the Dead spell. It’s an easy way to boost their damage-dealing capacity and since it’s a Cantrip it will always be available. 

As great as the spell is it’s even better when combined with the Death Domain (Subclass). The Toll the Dead spell pairs perfectly with the Death Domain’s abilities.

Their Reaper ability allows Toll the Dead to target an additional enemy within 5 ft. That’s a potential of 24 damage on one turn as a level 1 character. 

The Death Domain further improves Toll the Dead with their level 6 ability, Inescapable Destruction. Inescapable Destruction negates a target’s resistance to Necrotic damage which is one of the few downsides to Toll the Dead. 


Warlocks don’t get a lot of utility out of Toll the Dead. 

Their class is typically built around their Eldritch Blast Cantrip and they have abilities specifically designed to improve their Eldritch Blast. The Warlock is honestly better off taking a Cantrip that provides an effect or buff over another damage-dealing Cantrip since Eldritch Blast is the better of the two. 


Wizards have a lot of spells to choose from, and if you want to go a little darker then Toll the Dead is a great spell. It may compete with your other damage-dealing cantrips like Fire Bolt or Ray of Frost. It’s best just to pick one type of damage to focus on instead of choosing multiple cantrips to deal with different damage types. 

Evocation Wizards will find Toll the Dead especially useful. Their level 6 ability, Potent Cantrip, forces the target to take half damage instead of no damage on a successful Wisdom save. 

Best Feats for Toll the Dead

  • Magic Initiate
  • War Caster

Magic Initiate lets a character choose 2 Cantrips from Bard, Cleric, Druid, Warlock, or Wizard. 

If you choose Cleric, Warlock, or Wizard picking up Toll the Dead will give you one of the highest damage Cantrips in the game plus another one of your choice. This can easily round out your character.

War Caster is another great Feat for Toll the Dead. The main bonus it offers is allowing you cast Toll the Dead as your opportunity attack.

Toll the Dead 5e Faq

What does Toll the Dead 5e do?

Toll the Dead is a damage-dealing Necormany Cantrip that forces a target to make a Wisdom saving throw. If they fail the Wisdom saving throw then they receive 1d8 necrotic damage. If the target is missing any hitpoints (not at full health) they instead take 1d12 necrotic damage. 

Is Toll of the Dead a good Cantrip?

Toll the Dead is one of the highest-damage Cantrips in the game. It’s a great spell for players that always want a damage-dealing spell in their arsenal. 

Toll the Dead is an especially good spell for Clerics that don’t have as many damage-dealing spells early on. 

Is Toll the Dead a Warlock Spell?

Yes. Toll the Dead can be found as a Cantrip on the Warlock spell list in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. 

In addition, it can also be found on the Wizard and Cleric’s spell list. 

Is Toll the Dead loud?

Toll the Dead is not specified as being loud or quiet. It is entirely up to the DM how loud it is, but it’s generally thought that it has a similar decibel level as a shout or someone talking loudly. 

It’s loud enough that people in the vicinity can hear the spell, but it shouldn’t alert people outside of the immediate area that the spell has been cast.

Toll the Dead Spell 5e DnD