Fix-It DM: True Strike (5e)

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.

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

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!


One Comment on “Fix-It DM: True Strike (5e)

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