Dispel Magic 5e

Choose one creature, object, or magical effect within range. Any spell of 3rd level or lower on the target ends. For each spell of 4th level or higher on the target, make an ability check using your spellcasting ability. The DC equals 10 + the spell’s level. On a successful check, the spell ends.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, you automatically end the effects of a spell on the target if the spell’s level is equal to or less than the level of the spell slot you used.

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 120 feet
Components: V, S
Duration: Instantaneous
School: 3rd-level abjuration

Player’s Handbook, pg. 236

Dispel Magic 5e

Dispel Magic: the spell that every spellcaster in Dungeons and Dragons (barring Rangers — sorry, Rangers) has access to. Which is a darn good thing, because having Dispel Magic ready on at least one party member is all but essential for any campaign.

Essentiality aside, Dispel Magic is very often misunderstood by players and DMs alike — let’s remedy that.

Who Can Cast Dispel Magic in 5e?

The following classes have Dispel Magic on their spell list:

The following subclasses get Dispel Magic for free:

What Does Dispel Magic Do in 5e?

Dispel Magic instantly ends any spell on a target creature, object, or magical effect of 3rd level or lower. For spells of 4th level or higher, you must make an ability check with a DC equal to 10 + the spell’s level. To do so, roll a d20 and add your spellcasting ability modifier; if it meets or exceeds the DC, Dispel Magic successfully dispels the spell (PHB 194).

Dispel Magic can also dispel multiple spells affecting an object or creature, however, a check will need to be made for each individual spell of 4th level or higher. It will automatically dispel all 3rd level or lower spells affecting an object or creature.

You can also upcast Dispel Magic — for each slot level above the 3rd, you can automatically dispel a spell of equal level. For example, upcasting Dispel Magic using a 5th-level spell slot will automatically dispel all spells of 5th level or lower; upcasting using a 6th-level slot automatically ends 6th-level spells or lower, etc.

Just for clarity, let’s look at an example scenario for each of the eligible Dispel Magic targets:

  1. Targeting an object. This is fairly straightforward, so long as no players try to stretch the meaning of the term “object” to include an entire building, ship, etc.

    Let’s say you run into a door that appears magically locked or a savvy companion spots a magical trap up ahead. You go ahead and target the magically-imbued object with Dispel Magic, and voila, the spell ends (so long as it’s 3rd level or lower, otherwise a check is necessary).

    This does not work on magic items like weapons and armor — they are not magical because of a spell, which is what Dispel Magic specifically works against. The same goes for other magical effects that are not caused by spells, like regional effects caused by a legendary creature.

    We’ll go into more detail in the rules section below, but basically, if it’s not affected by a literal spell or a magical trap, Dispel Magic will have no effect whatsoever on an object.

    Note that all spells of 3rd level (or whatever level you upcast Dispel Magic to) or lower on the targeted object will end with one casting.

  2. Targeting a creature. Targeting a creature is also straightforward, but many players fail to realize that a single casting of Dispel Magic targeted at a creature will end all spells of 3rd level (or whatever level you upcast Dispel Magic to) or lower on the targeted creature.

    For example, let’s say a creature is benefitting from Bless (1st-level spell), Fire Shield (4th-level spell), and Invulnerability (9th-level spell). You target the creature with Dispel Magic using a 3rd-level spell slot.

    Bless is automatically dispelled. For Fire Shield, you’ll make an ability check with a DC of 14. For Invulnerability, you’ll make an ability check with a DC of 19.

    One last thing to note: if a creature has both positive and negative spell effects on them, Dispel Magic will dispel all of them if you target a creature. So for this example, let’s say an enemy is benefitting from Bless but also caught in a Web spell that your Wizard pal conjured.

    If you cast Dispel Magic and target the creature, it will automatically end the Bless spell and free them from the Web spell.

  3. Targeting a magical effect. Targeting a magical effect is probably the biggest source of confusion around Dispel Magic. But it’s actually the most intuitive in most cases.

    When targeting a spell on a creature, it’s very straightforward: an enemy casts Bless on an ally, and you use Dispel Magic to remove Bless from that creature, stating specifically that you’d like to target the Bless spell on the creature rather than the creature itself (perhaps to avoid dispelling a debuff that your ally cast on the target).

    For other situations, it can get more complicated. Let’s say an enemy casts the Fog Cloud spell or summons up a Wall of Thorns. As long as the spell is within range, you can say “I target Fog Cloud” or “I target Wall of Thorns” with Dispel Magic. If successful, the entire spell ends.

    This gets tricky for a few reasons:

    #1 is that area of effect spells might be partially in range and partially out of range of Dispel Magic’s 120-foot limit. There’s no definitive ruling on this, but I think most DM’s agree that as long as 50%+ of the spell in question is in range, Dispel Magic works. Or Dispel Magic only dispels the spell effects that are within range — it’s a DM decision regardless.

    #2 is line of sight — what if the caster doesn’t have a clear path to the entirety of the target spell effect? Like the range question, I think common sense, consistency, and DM fiat are the keys to answering this question.

    #3 is invisibility, which we’ll get into in more detail below. But basically, being invisible does not mean being hidden. If you can somehow sense where an invisible creature is, you can target them or the invisibility spell with Dispel Magic.

Spellcasting Ability Modifiers:

Charisma: Bard, Paladin, Sorcerer, Warlock
Intelligence: Artificer, Wizard, (Arcane Trickster Rogue, Eldritch Knight Fighter)
Wisdom: Cleric, Druid, Ranger

Spell Level Dispel Magic DC
4th 14
5th 15
6th 16
7th 17
8th 18
9th 19

What Are the Rules for Dispel Magic in 5e?

The rules for Dispel Magic in DnD 5e are as follows:

  • Dispel Magic can dispel a specific magical effect caused by a spell. As long as you can perceive a spell (it has a persistent visible effect, you saw the spell cast, etc.), you can target just that magical effect on a target. This has been confirmed on Sage Advice.

    This is especially useful if you want to be surgical about dispelling a certain magical effect to tip the scales in your favor, without inadvertently tipping the scales back even by dispelling something that was helping you.

  • If a spell is dispelled from a creature, the spell may continue on other creatures. A different way of putting this is that you target one specific instance of a spell effect, not all instances of an effect caused by one spell.

    This is a continuation of the Sage Advice thread from above: just because you dispel a specific spell on one creature that you target, it doesn’t automatically end that spell’s effect on all targets it was affecting.

    For example, if an enemy spellcaster buffs three of their allies with Bless, you can cast Dispel Magic to remove Bless from one of those creatures, but not all three.

    A different way of putting this from the Sage Advice Compendium is “Dispel magic ends a spell on one target. It doesn’t end the same spell on other targets.” (SAC 18)

  • Dispel Magic only dispels ongoing spells, not other magical effects (except some magical traps). This Sage Advice response from Dan Dillon is very precise in its ruling: Dispel Magic “ends ongoing spells, not any other magic effect.” The one exception is magical traps, which explicitly mention rules for Dispel Magic disarming them (DMG 120-121).

  • Dispel Magic cannot target a spell if its effects are instantaneous. To be super explicit, another effect of the above ruling is that instantaneous spells cannot be targeted by Dispel Magic. As the Sage Advice Compendium puts it, “the effects of an instantaneous spell are brought into being by magic, but the effects are sustained by magic” (SAC 17).

    It’s very similar to how Detect Magic works in this respect; only the presence of continuous, active magic can be sensed/targeted.

    Basically, any spell with a duration or permanent effect can be targeted by Dispel Magic; the 1/4 of spells in DnD 5e that are instantaneous are not eligible targets for Dispel Magic.

  • Dispel Magic can end every spell on a target simultaneously, if you target a creature. We covered this in the section above, but here’s Sage Advice confirmation that Dispel Magic can end multiple spell effects on a target in one casting.

  • Dispel Magic cannot dispel magical effects on magic items. Sage Advice confirmation that, while Dispel Magic can target spells created by magical weapons, it has no effect on the magical weapons themselves.

  • Dispel Magic cannot dispel Druid’s Wild Shape or a Vampire’s Charm ability, etc. Again, because these aren’t spells (SAC 17).

  • Dispel Magic cannot dispel the effects of Channel Divinity. Say it with me: Not a spell.

  • Dispel Magic cannot dispel Abjuration Wizards’ Arcane Ward. Also not a spell.

  • Dispel Magic can target the Invisibility spell or an invisible creature if they are not hidden. This one gets dicey and, like all things involving invisibility in DnD, involves a bit of DM fiat to make functional. But rules designers have confirmed that a non-hidden invisible creature can be targeted and thus have their invisibility dispelled by Dispel Magic.

  • You cannot use Dispel Magic on a spellcaster to dispel a spell cast by that spellcaster. The context for this Sage Advice thread is the Banishment spell, but it applies across every spell. If a Wizard is concentrating on Fog Cloud, you don’t target the Wizard with Dispel Magic; you target the Fog Cloud.

  • You can target any creature or object you perceive with Dispel Magic, even if you don’t necessarily know if a magical effect is on the thing you target. It just might not do anything.

    The counterpoint to this is that you cannot target a magical effect unless you witnessed it being cast on the target, the spell’s effects are visible, or you’ve found a different way to detect/discern the presence of the spell’s effects.

  • Dispel Magic cannot be used to end creations of a spell like Animate Dead. Because Animate Dead is instantaneous and instantaneous magic can’t be targeted by Dispel Magic (SAC 17). However, a spell like Conjure Woodland Beings can be targeted by Dispel Magic because it has a continuous duration.

  • You can Ready Dispel Magic, but the magical effect of the spell has to come into existence before you can dispel it. So your buddy has to actually get hit by a spell before you dispel it (SAC 17-18).

  • Dispel Magic can end Mirror Image without a roll for targeting. Mirror Image is a spell that allows the caster to roll and possibly let its duplicate be targeted by an attack instead of the caster. Dispel Magic isn’t an attack, and even if it were, you can still target the specific Mirror Image magical effect.

  • Dispel Magic cannot stop a ritual or readied spell. Because there’s no magic to dispel yet.

  • Permanent magical effects can be dispelled. As long as they’re caused by a spell. This includes things like Teleportation Circle — so sad.

  • Dispel Magic cannot dispel conditions caused by a spell. For example, if you’re blinded by a Color Spray spell, Dispel Magic can’t remove that condition. That’s what Lesser Restoration is for (and Greater Restoration and Remove Curse, for other situations).

  • Dispel Magic can end Globe of Invulnerability. But it won’t affect magical effects inside the barrier (SAC 18).

cultist vs. cleric mini dispel magic 5e

How Do I Use Dispel Magic in 5e?

It’s tough to give specific use-cases for Dispel Magic since, by definition, it’ll always be used reactively. But here are some general tips to make the most of it:

  1. Prioritize persistent spell effects that are not tied to concentration. Concentration spells can be potent, but they can also be ended another way: by smacking the spellcasters who are concentrating on them.

    For this reason, Dispel Magic is better used on spells that don’t require concentration and thus can’t be removed otherwise. Fire Shield is the common one that springs to mind.

  2. Getting past magical locks and puzzles. Sure, the Knock spell can get past Arcane Lock for 10 minutes, but it also makes a rather loud and attention-attracting noise. Dispel Magic is also good for shutting down magic traps, getting past wards, and simplifying magic-based puzzles.

  3. Reveal invisible (but not hidden) creatures. As we covered above, Dispel Magic can be a good response to creatures benefitting from the Invisibility or Greater Invisibility spell. Once you know their location, they’re as good as…visible.

    Bonus points if you’re a Sorcerer using Twinned Spell to uncover two invisible targets at once.

  4. Reveal/dispel illusions. Dispel Magic is particularly good at instantly getting rid of pesky illusions. Simulacrum, anyone?

  5. Prioritize targets with multiple spell effects. The more spells you can end with a single casting of Dispel Magic, the more pronounced the action economy advantage you’ll gain. It’s incredibly satisfying to watch the boss who just went full Super Saiyan go back to normal power levels (way under 9000).

  6. Identify spells before casting Dispel Magic. Xanathar’s Guide to Everything provides rules for identifying spells using an Arcana check with a reaction or action (XGtE 85). This can be a useful first step before you decide whether or not to cast Dispel Magic, especially if your DM is a stickler for keeping enemy’s spells a secret.

Who Can I Target With Dispel Magic 5e?

You can target creatures, objects, or magical effects with Dispel Magic. However, Dispel Magic only has an effect on spells and magical traps. Magical effects caused by anything that is not a spell or magical trap cannot be dispelled by Dispel Magic. This includes magical items that are not magical as a result of a spell.

Is Dispel Magic 5e a Good Spell?

Yes, Dispel Magic is a great spell. In most scenarios, the worst-case casting of Dispel Magic negates one enemy spell, evening out the action economy and dealing with a continuous threat.

In prime scenarios, Dispel Magic can create a huge swing in power levels. Getting rid of multiple buffs on an enemy creature, removing the Haste spell from a valuable target, or dispelling a few nasty debuffs on your ally can make a big difference in a fight.

Outside of combat, Dispel Magic is even more essential. Some puzzles, traps, and means to access loot are much more easily remedied with a good old Dispel Magic prepared.

Dispel Magic 5e DM Tips

There are two worries for DMs with Dispel Magic: players who use it too much and players who never get to use it at all.

For the first camp, we recommend using the rules to help you out. If players are nullifying the spell effects you’ve set in your dungeon, your solution is simple — change them to regional effects that aren’t tied to a specific spell.

Instead of using the Arcane Lock spell to keep a treasure chest locked, instead make it a magical effect that only responds to another magical item.

Basically, if you have an important plot point that’s tied to a magical effect and you don’t want it nullified by Dispel Magic, make sure you don’t use a spell for that function.

Other the other side, there are players who feel like they wasted a 3rd-level spell known by picking up Dispel Magic. To remedy this, make sure you employ baddies who use potent persistent spell effects to encourage Dispel Magic as the optimal spell choice in response.

Or set up more magic traps in your next dungeon, or even set some Guards and Wards that continuously have to be dispelled as players make their way to the boss’s inner sanctum.

Dispel Magic is a really well-designed and satisfying-to-use spell — make sure you give your players plenty of chances to use it without making it the answer to every problem.

Simple Dispel Magic 5e Spell Text

Dispel Magic: (3rd-level abjuration, 120 feet, V/S) Choose one creature, object, or magical effect. Any spell of 3rd level or lower on the target ends. For each spell of 4th level or higher on the target, make an ability check using your spellcasting ability. The DC equals 10 + the spell’s level. On a successful check, the spell ends. | Automatically ends spells of equal or lower level of spell slot used to cast.