Bolstering yourself with a necromantic facsimile of life, you gain 1d4 + 4 temporary hit points for the duration.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, you gain 5 additional temporary hit points for each slot level above 1st.
Casting Time: 1 action
Components: V, S, M (a small amount of alcohol or distilled spirits)
Duration: 1 hour
School: 1st-level necromancy
Player’s Handbook, pg. 239
False Life 5e
When it comes to staying alive at low levels, there are few preventative spells as good at the job as False Life. Let’s go over how False Life works and how good it is throughout a Dungeons and Dragons campaign.
Who Can Cast False Life in 5e?
The following classes have False Life on their spell list:
The following subclasses get False Life for free:
And the following Warlock subclasses have False Life on their expanded spell lists:
Warlock (The Undying) (SCAG 139)
Warlock (The Undead) (VRGtR 30)
What Does False Life Do in 5e?
False Life grants the caster 1d4 + 4 (6.5 average) temporary hit points for up to 1 hour, with no concentration requirement. For each spell slot level above the first, False Life grants an additional flat +5 extra temporary hit points.
What Are the Rules for False Life in 5e?
The rules for False Life in DnD 5e are as follows:
Temporary hit points do not stack. “If you have temporary hit points and receive more of them, you decide whether to keep the ones you have or gain new ones. For example, if a spell grants you 12 temporary hit points when you already have 10, you can have 12 or 10, not 22” (PHB 198).
Even if this particular rule didn’t exist, “the effects of the same spell cast multiple times don’t combine” (PHB 205). So no, you cannot cast False Life on yourself multiple times to stack huge amounts of temporary hit points.
Temporary hit points do not count as hit points. For the purposes of resisting certain hit-point-dependent spells (Sleep, Power Word Stun, Power Word Kill), temporary hit points do not raise your current or maximum hit points; “they are completely separate from your actual hit points” (PHB 198). Sage Advice confirmation for good measure.
How Do I Use False Life in 5e?
Here are a few ways to use False Life in DnD 5e:
Cast it before combat. False Life has two huge advantages: an hour duration and no concentration requirement. Combined, this means you can usually start a fight with False Life’s temporary hit points already applied, thus saving you an action in combat.
Get it on your Bladesinging Wizard. This subclass will ultimately get the most utility out of False Life, since they’re involved in melee combat all the time.
However, any gish-type character build will see extra benefit from False Life.
Get the Fiendish Vigor Eldritch Invocation (PHB 111). This Warlock invocation allows you to cast False Life on yourself at well as a 1st-level spell, without expending a spell slot. And with the Eldritch Adept feat, any character can pick this up (TCoE 79).
Ditch it at higher levels. False Life’s temporary hit points represent a significant multiplier on your normal hit points at low levels (1-4). But once your character starts facing off against dudes who have much higher damage per round than 6.5, False Life becomes less and less worth the spell slot.
That being said, if your other 1st-level spells similarly fall off in utility at higher levels, False Life can be a not-useless way to burn those slots pre-combat for a bit of extra safety.
However, a major limitation of this invocation is that it’s stuck at 1st-level (6.5 average temporary hit points), which becomes markedly less useful as you level up.
Who Can I Target With False Life 5e?
You can only target yourself with False Life in 5e.
Is False Life 5e a Good Spell?
Yes, False Life is a good spell at the early tier of play (levels 1-4) and an okay spell at the early-mid tier (level 5-8). It becomes noticeably worse at higher levels where the temporary hit points it offers becomes proportionally less useful to players’ total hit point pools.
Still, a 1-hour, no concentration defensive buff is very tempting. And at early levels, the Fiendish Vigor Eldritch Invocation can guarantee that you start off every combat with 6-7 temporary hit points, no spell slots required — no small thing when your regular hit point pool is under 20.
For Warlocks with access to False Life, Armor of Agathys is usually the better option, offering slightly fewer temporary hit points but also coming with automatic retaliatory cold damage against attackers. It too has a 1-hour duration with no concentration requirement. (As a rule reminder, the two can’t stack!)
At higher levels, False Life is still worth using if you have no better use for your 1st-level spell slots, as it’s basically a free defensive buff. But if you find the utility is outstripped by other 1st-level staples (Shield, Absorb Elements, etc.), then you can ditch it entirely.
False Life 5e DM Tips
I only have one time-saving tip for DMs around False Life. If a player has the Fiendish Vigor invocation, you can just always assume they start combat with their temporary hit points — no need to make them announce it every time.