You touch a creature, and that creature must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or become cursed for the duration of the spell. When you cast this spell, choose the nature of the curse from the following options:

  • Choose one ability score. While cursed, the target has disadvantage on ability checks and saving throws made with that ability score.

  • While cursed, the target has disadvantage on attack rolls against you.

  • While cursed, the target must make a Wisdom saving throw at the start of each of its turns. If it fails, it wastes its action that turn doing nothing.

  • While the target is cursed, your attacks and spells deal an extra 1d8 necrotic damage to the target.

A remove curse spell ends this effect. At the DM’s option, you may choose an alternative curse effect, but it should be no more powerful than those described above. The DM has final say on such a curse’s effect.

At Higher Levels. If you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, the duration is concentration, up to 10 minutes. If you use a spell slot of 5th level or higher, the duration is 8 hours. If you use a spell slot of 7th level or higher, the duration is 24 hours. If you use a 9th level spell slot, the spell lasts until it is dispelled. Using a spell slot of 5th level or higher grants a duration that doesn’t require concentration.

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Touch
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
School: 3rd-level necromancy

Player’s Handbook, pg. 218

Bestow Curse 5e

Bestow Curse is a spell with as many applications as your imagination. We’ll get into how the spell works at a base level, as well as plenty of popular player-made curses.

Who Can Cast Bestow Curse in 5e?

The following classes have Bestow Curse on their spell list:

  • Bard

  • Cleric

  • Wizard

The following subclasses get Bestow Curse for free:

  • Paladin (Oath of Conquest) (XGtE 38)

  • Paladin (Oathbreaker) (DMG 97)

Warlocks can also cast Bestow Curse via Eldritch Invocations starting at 5th-level, if they choose the Sign of the Ill Omen.

What Does Bestow Curse Do in 5e?

Bestow Curse forces a creature you touch to succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or be cursed for the spell’s duration. The spell lists four possible curse option that the caster can choose from:

  • Disadvantage on ability checks + saving throws with one ability score

  • Disadvantage on attack rolls against you

  • Make a Wisdom saving throw at the start of each turn; on failing, waste action for that turn and do nothing

  • +1d8 necrotic damage on-hit for your attacks and spells

Additionally, players are free to create an alternative curse, as long as the DM agrees that the curse’s effect is equally powerful to the curse options listed above. (Jump to popular alternative curse options)

Finally, Bestow Curse can be upcast in a rather unique way among DnD 5e’s spells. Bestow Curse’ duration changes, as well as its concentration requirement:

  • 3rd-level slot: Concentration, up to 1 minute

  • 4th-level slot: Concentration, up to 10 minutes

  • 5th-level+ slot: 8 hours (no conentration requirement)

  • 7th-level+ slot: Until dispelled (no conentration requirement)

What Are the Rules for Bestow Curse in 5e?

The rules for Bestow Curse in DnD 5e are as follows:

  • Bestow Curse can’t stack with itself (even an upcast version). “The effects of the same spell cast multiple times don’t combine…instead, the most potent effect….from those castings applies while their durations overlap” (PHB 205).

    Even if each caster were to choose different curse effects, they’re still the same spell. In terms of which effect is “most potent,” it’s usually determined by upcast level. That said, players/DMs are free to work out which curse is “most potent” in the moment if the curses are of equal level.

  • Dispel Magic can remove Bestow Curse. Bestow Curse is a magical effect that causes a curse effect. This magical effect is continuous and has a duration. It is therefore a valid target for Dispel Magic, as is the cursed creature themselves.

    Likewise, a Detect Magic spell can sense a Bestow Curse spell.

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How Do I Use Bestow Curse in 5e?

Here are a few ways to use the standard curses of Bestow Curse in DnD 5e:

  1. Consider your allies’ abilities (Curse ability score). Things like Dexterity saves for a powerful Fireball follow-up, Strength saves for grapples/shoves, and Wisdom saves for follow-up control spells all come to mind.

  2. Pop enemy spellcaster’s concentration more easily (Curse ability score). Curse an enemy spellcaster’s Constitution, and they’ll have a tough time concentrating on their most powerful spells.

  3. Follow up with big control spells (Curse ability score). Many control effects (Hypnotic Pattern notwithstanding) have continuous saving throws/ability checks to break free of the spell. Using Bestow Curse before casting one such effect is a great thing to do with an ally spellcaster.

  4. Use it in 1-on-1 fights (Curse attack disadvantage). The attack disadvantage curse is fairly poor, but if you find yourself in a 1v1 fight, it can be just the thing to tip the odds in your favor.

  5. Take a powerful enemy out of the fight (Curse actions). Action economy is the name of the game when it comes to DnD combat. Curse the big bad with the 40-65% chance to nothing each turn (and passing the save doesn’t end the effect early), and you’ll have a much easier fight on your hands.

  6. Pair with Extra Attack and multi-hit spells (Curse +1d8 necrotic damage on-hit). Just like the standard Hex and Hunter’s Mark tricks — attack more, hit more, trigger bonus damage more.

  7. Cast if via a familiar from the Find Familiar spell (general strategy). The “Touch” range of Bestow Curse can be annoying, but the familiars you cast via Find Familiar can deliver Touch spells for you — from a distance of up to 100 feet.

And here are a few common alternative Bestow Curse ideas:

  1. Target emits a foul odor (Disadvantage on Charisma checks and easier to track)

  2. Reduced movement speed

  3. Inability to inhibit speech/lie (or perhaps take psychic damage otherwise)

  4. Irrational phobia of something

  5. Donkey ears, rotting flesh, scaly growths, other physical deformities

  6. Rapid aging

  7. Inability to smell, taste, or touch/feel

  8. Nightmares, hauntings, paranoia, false mindreading, etc.

  9. Temporary loss of short/long-term memory

  10. Sunlight/moonlight sensitivity

  11. Inability to wear/hold metal

  12. Inability to speak (warning: OP when upcast)

  13. Chance to fail speaking, dependent on failed Intelligence check (more balanced)

Let your imagination run wild, but keep in mind what other spells are available at 3rd-level.

Also keep in mind that some 1-minute, concentration-dependent curses are totally balanced and fine, but become broken when you can upcast the spell for day-long durations with no concentration requirement.

Is Bestow Curse 5e a Good Spell?

Yes, Bestow Curse is a good spell — as long as you choose the right curse.

For example, the +1d8 necrotic damage on hit is quite bad when you consider 1st-spells like Hex and Hunter’s Mark. And the disadvantage on attack rolls against you can be good in select situations, but it’s usually easy for the enemy to just ignore it and attack someone else instead.

However, cursing ability checks and saving throws is quite powerful in the right situations and good teamplay. And giving a creature a persistent 40-65% chance to do nothing with their turn can be incredibly strong.

Especially since even a successful saving throw doesn’t end the effect early — quite unique among control effects in Dungeons and Dragons 5e.

As for alternative curses, I can’t really speak on how good they are — that’ll depend on your DM.

Bestow Curse 5e DM Tips

It’s hard to know what to allow because some custom curses are fine at a 1-minute duration limited by concentration, but quickly become OP at higher levels when the spell’s duration increases and the concentration requirement drops.

My main tip to DMs running custom curses is to err on the side of caution, but try things out. If you’re uncertain about how powerful a curse will be, let your player know that you’ll let it work for now, but reserve the right to alter it in the future.

Then, let it play out for a session or two. If it doesn’t stand out as OP or a game breaker, and the player is having fun with it, you’re good to go. But also let the player know that you might revisit the curse once it gains upcast potential — most players will be more than willing to work with you on this.