Clever Cantrip Uses: Eldritch Blast (DnD 5e)

It’s just an eldritch blast. How creative can you really be with this spell? You have to basically break the game somehow to make it “clever”, right? 

Eldritch blast has become the joke of warlocks, in that it’s basically their only default attack. But, in the same vein, you could argue that a fighter and a rogue also only really have one attack: melee attack with sword/dagger. You could be just as dismissive and say that the ranger only has one attack: shooting a bow.

“When looking at how to be creative with eldritch blast, it feels more like asking: how do you be creative with any attack?”

Each class has a fundamental attack that they are always able to make. At the end of the day, the warlock rolls a 1d10 for damage in the same way as the fighter with a longsword. The difference is in how you get to that dice roll.

Here are some things to focus on to help get creative with eldritch blast and, by comparison, really any attack. 

Utility

Change the type of damage to something else. For example: Fire/Frost/Psychic/Air Blast. This isn’t to say to grant the ability to change the type at will, but to permanently change the spell for future use. With your DM’s approval, these can be better fit for your character and still be balanced for your game. 

Change the form of the attack. Just like how you can use a katana with longsword stats, you could replace the blast with a beam, bubble, flare, etc. It’s still doing the same thing in terms of mechanics, but it changes how it is described. Plus, Eldritch Bubble just sounds hilarious. 

Some may argue that the game has been thoroughly tested to be balanced already, and it has, which includes the paramount rule that the DM is to arbitrate how some mechanics can (or should) change to be more fun.

Narrative

I cast eldritch blast. I rolled a 17. Does it hit?”

Vs

“Nate tightly grips the bracelet, collects a handful of magical dweomer into their hand, and then throws it at the target, moving through the air past my allies, lighting up the room with a purple color. The attack has a 17 to hit.”

No, don’t do this for every single attack. The point is that, when making an attack, ask “how” and “why” the attack is happening. This should help you decide a quick and flavor-filled narrative to make the attack interesting.

And while not every attack needs this, it can certainly make things a little more interesting every once and awhile. It is by asking “how” and “why” that you can best see when to do this. 

How?

  • Reaching the target – How does the attack get to the destination? Does it pass by anyone or anything of interest? Could it affect them in anyway?
  • Emerging from the player – How does the character create the spell? What kind of spell focus are they using? Are they using a wizard book? Wand? Inner magic? Are they using components? Are they invoking the name of a God?

Why?

  • Emotional reaction – Is there a personal reason why the character might be emotional during this attack? For example, exceptionally angry or sad? Afraid or impulsive? Completely indifferent or incredibly anxious?
  • Investment – How much does this encounter mean to the character? Is this just a passing trivial encounter? Just another random battle with a nameless enemy? Or the penultimate confrontation with someone who the character has had a lifelong conflict with?

You shouldn’t have to stop and ask all these questions for every attack, but by thinking about these ahead of time it will become habitual. It helps to engage and think about how and why your character is acting in order to better role play them, which in turn helps you to better tell their story too.

Story

As the DM, you too can use cantrips and simple actions to queue story. Not every action should elicit a story of grand adventure, but it is possible that any action could.

  • Upon casting the spell, include a roll to spur a memory that can cause an emotional reaction in the attack, giving disadvantage or advantage depending on the response.
  • What is the vocal component being used to cast the spell? eg. Which God are they invoking? What language? Where did they learn the spell? Could this reveal any background to others hearing it? Would any other NPCs nearby react to that?
  • What is the somatic movement that the character is using to do this? Could it describe something about them or their emotional state? eg. Are they tired? Determined? Angry? Sad?
  • Collateral damage. If the attack misses, what does it hit? What are the consequences of that? For example: is the roof collapsing now? A bystander hit? A secret passage revealed?

Emotions, acting as the window to your own personal story, can be told in any action, even the most simple.

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