Up to three creatures of your choice that you can see within range must make Charisma saving throws. Whenever a target that fails this saving throw makes an attack roll or a saving throw before the spell ends, the target must roll a d4 and subtract the number rolled from the attack roll or saving throw.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, you can target one additional creature for each slot level above 1st.
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V, S, M (a drop of blood)
School: 1st-level enchantment
Who can cast Bane? Bards and Clerics have Bane on their class spell lists. Grave Domain Clerics and Oath of Vengeance Paladins have Bane on their expanded class spell lists and always have it prepared, and Undead Warlocks have access to it on their expanded class spell list.
Bane is one of the strongest 1st-level spells in DnD 5e. In 5e’s bounded accuracy system, Bane provides a more powerful debuff than it may seem.
If you’re a player considering adding Bane to your arsenal, this article will cover exactly how it works, the best ways to use it effectively, and rules related to the Bane spell. I’ll also talk about a frequent topic of discussion: what’s better — Bane or Bless?
How Does Bane Work in 5e?
Bane forces three enemies within 30 feet to make Charisma saving throws. Targets who fail have -1d4 (2.5) on attack rolls and saving throws until the spell ends.
In a system of bounded accuracy, where every -1 is equivalent to -5 percentage points chance to hit/pass a saving throw, Bane represents a -12.5 percentage point decrease to incoming damage and a +12.5 percentage point increase to saving throw-based spells and abilities to land.
You can upcast Bane for +1 target per slot level above 1st.
How to Use Bane in 5e
Here are a few ways to use Bane in DnD 5e:
Set up spellcasters (and Monks). The absolute best case for Bane is setting up an allied spellcaster before they use an AoE spell that deals damage or shuts enemies down, like Fireball or Hypnotic Pattern. Helping these spells land and/or deal full damage can make for a huge swing in a fight that’s more impactful than casting your own damage/control spell.
This doesn’t just go for spellcasting allies, either. Any ally with a critical ability that forces a saving throw, like a Monk’s Stunning Strike or a Battle Master’s Menacing Attack, will benefit greatly from debuffing the target with Bane first.
Reduce incoming damage. Now, you’ll notice I used the term “-12.5 percentage points” chance to hit earlier; that’s not the same as -12.5% chance to hit; it’s more like 7-18% damage reduction, with smaller damage reductions at later levels. But since most campaigns don’t go too deep into the late game, Bane’s damage reduction is usually worth 10% or more from enemies making attack rolls.
Note that Bane has no effect on abilities that force your party to make saving throws, so it’s not a good option against spellcasters/creatures who rely on these types of abilities rather than straight-up attack rolls.
Eat up Legendary Resistance. One of the best applications of Bane is using it on high-level, high-challenge foes with Legendary Resistance (the monster ability to automatically succeed on a saving throw after failing it). A monster only has so many uses of LR, and Bane is a cheap way to eat away at these.
Either the DM uses LR on Bane, or suffers a substantial negative effect as long as the spell lasts. And if that -1d4 to their saving throws causes them to fail another, more important saving throw, well, they’ll likely have to use LR on that instead. For a 1st-level spell slot, Bane is perfect for this role, especially since many high-level creatures still have poor Charisma modifiers and are likely to fail their save against it.
Use it on targets with high health. The biggest drawback to Bane (and many other debuff spells) is that affected creatures might die before it becomes relevant. Which begs the question, “why not just attack the target(s) instead of debuffing them?”
It’s a fair question and a reason not to target low-health minions with Bane in most situations. Instead, apply it to a creature that’s likely to fight for at least 3 rounds of combat, multiplying the value of the negative attack roll and saving throw modifiers.
Combine it with other debuffs. Stuff like Cutting Words (-1d8 on an attack roll or saving throw), Mind Sliver (-1d4 on next saving throw), or even Vicious Mockery (disadvantage on next attack roll) all pairs well with Bane. It might be overkill, but if it’s a long fight with a challenging foe, this setup can pay off in spades.
Use a saving throw-based cantrip. Minor tip, but if you’re casting Bane as your only leveled spell for a fight (especially in the early game), having a saving throw cantrip, like Toll the Dead or Vicious Mockery, as your mainstay damaging ability will increase the long-term value of Bane.
Mess with concentration saves. This one’s a bit niche, but it’s hard to affect an enemy spellcaster’s concentration check (a Constitution saving throw). Bane is one of the only ways to do it, and if you use it before an ally uses, say, Magic Missile for multiple checks in a row, this is a very worthwhile tactic.
What Are the Rules for Bane in 5e?
The rules for Bane in DnD 5e are as follows:
Bane combines with other negative modifiers. “The effects of different spells add together while the durations of those spells overlap,” so as long as you aren’t trying to stack Bane with Bane, you’re all good. (PHB 205 + Sage Advice).
Bane does not prevent a critical hit. “If the d20 roll for an attack is a 20, the attack hits regardless of any modifiers or the target’s AC. This is called a critical hit” (PHB 194). The “regardless of any modifiers” part is important; Bane (and other such negative modifiers) never prevents a 20 on an attack roll from hitting (and dealing critical hit damage).
However, nat 20s on saving throws are still reduced (and can thus fail) as a result of Bane.
Bane affects death saving throws. “If all saves are affected by a thing, death saves are affected” (Jeremy Crawford). Since Bane affects all saves, it affects death saves.
Who Can I Target With Bane 5e?
You can target any three enemies you can see within 30 feet of you with Bane. The targets don’t have to be within 30 feet of each other; only within 30 feet of you.
Is Bane 5e a Good Spell?
Yes, Bane is a good spell in 5e. If not for Bless, it might even be a contender for best 1st-level spells in the game. Yes, that’s how powerful affecting bounded accuracy is in DnD 5e.
For starters, it targets Charisma, the 2nd-lowest average ability score of creatures in 5e’s monster books (10.62; +0 modifier). Even with this, you’re likely to only hit 2/3 creatures with Bane on average.
But still, reducing incoming damage by ~10% and increasing the likelihood of powerful save-or-suck spells (Banishment, Hypnotic Pattern, Entangle, Web, etc.) landing and changing the tide of battle in significant ways. Or just hitting harder with Fireball.
The big downside of Bane is the eternal question of action economy: Are you better off just attacking an enemy than casting Bane? Because -1 enemy works out to no incoming attacks instead of -2.5 on attack rolls, and death is the ultimate debuff/control effect.
The minor downside of Bane is its short range. If you’re trying to play a backliner, being within 30 feet of the targets you hope to hit with Bane might be a challenge.
But it is nice that targets don’t get repeat saves on later rounds; if it lands, it lands. Something that makes it phenomenal for eating up a difficult foe’s Legendary Resistance charges; it’s likely to hit since Cha is such a weak modifier, and these creatures won’t want -1d4 on attack rolls and saving throws.
Bane 5e Compared to a Bless
I’m on record in my Bless article saying that Bless is superior to Bane, and I’ll stand by that opinion. Bless gives +1d4 to 3 allies attack rolls and saving throws; the exact reverse of Bane.
However, there’s no save involved with Bless; it just automatically buffs 3 allies. Even if all else was equal between the spells, that works out to +50% effect, since Bane is likely to only land on 2/3 of enemies, not 3/3.
But Bless affecting allies has other benefits; they can choose to get the most out of its effect, whereas you have no control over whether the DM even attacks with a Bane-afflicted target or uses a saving throw-based ability instead.
I’ve also seen the argument that Bless is better because preventing your party from failing saves is usually more valuable than helping your party land save-based abilities/spells. I don’t 100% agree with this.
Sure, sometimes it’s true, but it’s situation dependent. For example, say you’re up against a Lich whose whole stat block depends on save-based spells and abilities. Bless might seem like the obviously superior choice.
But if you’re trying to help your group’s Monk land Stunning Strike on that same Lich, preventing all of its abilities (not just reducing their chance to hit), then you can definitely make a case that Bane is the superior spell.
I’ll say this as a shorthand: Bless is better for parties that are heavy on attack rolls and fighting against enemies that force saving throws, while Bane is better for parties that are heavy on saving throw-based spells/abilities and fighting against enemies who make attack rolls.
As a final note, I love Bane on Bards; it fits with their support role in an excellent way and is extremely satisfying to use in caster-heavy groups. And Bards don’t even get Bless, so there’s no conflict of whether you’re playing “optimally” by choosing Bane.