Fix-It DM: True Strike (5e)

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Picture Credit: Johnathan Chong

Last time on Fix-It DM we took a look at Witch Bolt; next up is True Strike!

To put it bluntly, with so many ways to get advantage, deciding to spend an entire action and a turn’s worth of concentration to get advantage with this spell is dramatically underpowered. This is especially true given the extremely short range of the spell: a mere 30ft.

I am not suggesting that advantage is bad, I am pointing out that getting advantage via this spell is generally a bad idea. It is generally useful to counter a scenario where you are at disadvantage within range, like if you’re countering a displacer beast’s displacement ability for example, but in many cases the spell is extremely limited. The math always suggests that you should use True Strike for every single spell attack where the DC is higher than DC11 + Spell casting modifier. But the practical reality is you should try to get advantage differently in those situations if it’s really needed.

To paraphrase a good summary from one of my research articles:

Every time you start thinking of an occasion where that in itself would be good, it runs into one of the restrictions on the spell. Like:

“It’s awesome with witch bolt!” – no, sorry, concentration.
“If I’m a sorcerer I can Quicken it and use it with a powerful spell.” – no, sorry, it explicitly says your next turn.
“It’d be great for an Eldritch Knight” – well, it has somatic components so no shield or two-handed weapon for you.
“I can use it to negate range disadvantage” – not unless your weapon has a base range of less than 30 feet, you can’t, because you cast it at a specific target within 30 feet.

In every situation** that a caster is going to use True Strike, they are better off using a spell that requires an opponent to save, attempting the spell twice, or a more powerful cantrip at disadvantage.

**Worth pointing out that two class builds are an exception for True Strike being situational at best, arcane tricksters version of the Rogue Class and most Sorcerer Builds where you quicken True Strike as a bonus action when you don’t need the concentration between turns. But that’s a very specific subset of classes to make this spell useful

So here’s an alternative that beefs up True Strike to be a far superior spell; the changes are highlighted in bold:

True Strike:
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 40 feet
Components: S
Duration: Up to 1 round

You extend your hand and point a finger at a target you can see in range.
Roll a ranged spell attack. You send a magic bolt of energy to probe the target, dimly highlighting the area it hits.

On success your probe penetrates the targets mind granting you a brief insight into the target’s defenses, dealing 1d4 psychic damage. You gain advantage on your first attack roll against the target, provided that this spell hasn’t ended.

On a failed attack, on your next turn, you gain advantage on your first attack roll against the target, provided that this spell hasn’t ended.

Research:
I browsed a few forums and subreddits looking for input, here’s three highlights
One Thread -Buffing Brainstorm
Two Thread – Why Eldritch knight likes True Strike
Three Thread – The Number Crunching of Extra attack vs Advantage

Summary:
I’m going very hard to buff this spell without dramatically hurting the spells negative aspects. It’s still a solid boost; this cantrip now has a chance of 1d4 of psychic damage, which is a pretty solid damage type. It’s now a divination version of vicious mockery, frostbite and guiding bolt all in one. Though in a twist, instead of being a typical all-or-nothing cantrip, the effect is maintained if you hold concentration: useful if you’re conserving spells.

As mentioned in the spell text, the idea is when you attack you send basically a magical probe that has the potential to damage an enemy in addition to setting you up for a future attack. Even if the ranged spell attack fails, I would flavor the description of that failure as either the creature shakes off the magical probe or even perhaps that the bolt hit the armor and now illuminates the target in a similar way to the description for guiding bolt.

I increased the range slightly to make the spell more useful in a chase scenario, so it’s just a little more flexible. Since I have a rogue in my party I wanted to avoid boosting the range any more than 10 feet.

I was very tempted to have the spell use 1d6 to trade of a damage buff given it has a fraction of the range compared to vicious mockery and is still shorter distance than many other cantrips. But again, I avoided the idea since tricksters and sorcerers would be able to dramatically capitalize on the changes to the spell.

Keep in mind that this buff doesn’t address many of the situations that make this spell less useful: it still needs concentration, it’s still short ranged, and it still only applies to the first attack for your next turn. But because the cantrip is potentially doing damage I think it offsets some of the wasteful nature if the spell doesn’t end up granting advantage.

Lastly, as a personal note, I like the idea in my setting that casters are more strictly regulated to certain schools of magic. One of my setting’s concepts makes learning each school of magic is almost as complicated as learning how to be fluent in different, disconnected languages (English and Chinese, for example). As such, for divination wizards (NPC or otherwise), True Strike is the only ranged cantrip, does no damage, and is barely is doing anything to help the party.

Look forward to feedback from the community, roll on!

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6 Comments on “Fix-It DM: True Strike (5e)

  1. The biggest problem with the spell is you lose an action to gain advantage on a single action. Mathematically, it is a zero sum result. Better fix is change casting time to “bonus” and make it level1 so that you don’t have unlimited uses.

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    • Not feeling that idea, I know some people want it to be the next attack ( instead of attack on your next turn ), and some people think it should just be a bonus by my issue with those solutions in combination with yours is that levels 1-5 those spell slots are extremely valuable and few people would spend one on this

      for constructive criticism in continuing your bonus action approach however, you could do that but keep in mind the limit on spells cast as a bonus action. You’re hard pinning that if you use this lvl 1 spell bonus action, you can only use a cantrip for the main action.

      I’d suggest you still consider some damage with the cast,

      I like that it’s a cantrip, I just feel like it needed to be a cantrip more like vicious mockery (a beloved favorite to many)

      Like

  2. Ooo actually if you like the idea of making it a level 1 spell, then I’d suggest you make the advantage last longer than 1 turn, maybe something like the first attack from all attackers, or just a personal advantage for a series of turns

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  3. Dealing damage is kinda the opposite of the spell intention. It is a pure buff along the lines of faerie fire. The are a couple of better ways to fix it, IMO.

    First is related to action economy, second is class feature or feat.

    Under the first would be one of the following:
    – changing it to extend the concentration to up to 1 minute, but keeping it at 1 action You gain advantage for 1 minute on attacks to a single foe while concentrating.
    – changing the casting time to bonus action but allowing a save by the target.

    …either one of these could warrant it becoming a 1st level spell (especially the first variant)

    The other option it to get rid of this entirely and make it the cost of a feat:

    When you take this feat you increase your attack ability (Dex, Str, Int, etc) by 1 and gain a bonus action: you can designate a target and gain advantage on your next attack to that target. You have a number uses equal to your attack ability modifier which recharge at your next long rest.

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    • Interesting ideas, but then benefit of this is if you know the original true strike all of those aspects are true

      You just now also deal damage potentially

      Like I state in the article a divination style guiding bolt

      Thanks for commenting

      Like

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