The spell’s damage increases by 1d6 when you reach 5th level (2d6), 11th level (3d6), and 17th level (4d6).
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V, S
School: Evocation cantrip
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, pg. 156
Frostbite is a straightforward damaging cantrip with a decent rider effect. I’ll go over just how it works, as well as a few good ways to use this in a character build or party.
I’ll also compare it to the other damaging/utility cantrips available to casters.
Who Can Cast Frostbite in 5e?
The following classes have Frostbite on their spell list:
No subclasses get Frostbite for free.
What Does Frostbite Do in 5e?
Frostbite forces a target within 60 feet to make a Consitution saving throw. If it fails, it takes 1d6 (3.5 average) cold damage and has disadvantage on the next weapon attack roll it makes before the end of its next turn. If it passes the saving throw, nothing happens.
Like most damaging cantrips, Frostbite’s damage increases by one die at 5th (2d6, 7 average), 11th (3d6, 10.5 average), and 17th level (4d6, 14 average).
What Are the Rules for Frostbite in 5e?
The rules for Frostbite in DnD 5e are as follows:
Immunity to cold damage does not grant immunity to Frostbite’s rider effect. In other words, even if you cast Frostbite on an Ice Giant, if it fails its saving throws, it will still have disadvantage on its next weapon attack.
This Sage Advice thread confirms that’s how it works for Ray of Frost, and it’s safe to assume this ruling applies to all other spell-specific conditions.
Frostbite’s rider effect only applies to weapon attack rolls. Not spell attacks. Note that unarmed strikes are considered weapon attacks (PHB 149; SAC 5, 13).
Frostbite’s rider effect only applies to one weapon attack. So if you target a creature with multiattack, they’ll only have disadvantage on their first attack roll.
How Do I Use Frostbite in 5e?
Here are a few ways to use Frostbite in DnD 5e:
Help limit the damage your party takes. Frostbite’s best application is giving disadvantage to hard-hitting creatures who attack with weapons.
This can be useful for ensuring that your frontline takes less damage overall, which ultimately helps save resources throughout a long dungeon crawl.
Frostbite is also a good option if you, the caster, are involved in a 1v1 fight with a bruiser who you can’t get away from. With disadvantage, you might be able to avoid getting hit without being forced to use Shield.
Pick up the Elemental Adept feat (PHB 166). 123 creatures in DnD 5e’s main sourcebooks are resistant to cold damage — Elemental Adept allows you to ignore cold resistance entirely. It also ensures that any 1 you roll for damage die becomes a 2 instead.
If you’re planning on going all out with cold spells, this is a very solid feat to pick up on your caster.
Consider the target’s Constitution modifier. Frostbite’s biggest weakness is the saving throw it uses. Constitution is the highest average ability among creatures in DnD 5e’s main sourcebooks (15 average, +2 modifier).
Still, that’s just an average. Plenty of creatures who make weapon attacks have below-average Constitution modifiers, which you can figure out through perusing the monster sourcebooks or trial and error.
Is Frostbite 5e a Good Spell?
Frostbite is a mediocre spell. At early levels, it’s a solid utility cantrip that can reliably reduce incoming damage.
However, it gets worse as the game goes on, chiefly because Constitution modifiers scale faster than your spell save DC. Especially on the spell’s best targets (hard-hitting creatures who make weapon attacks usually also have high Constitution modifiers).
Plus, 15% of DnD 5e’s creatures are resistant to cold damage, and another 4.6% are immune to it.
All that being said, every caster with access to Frostbite also has access to cantrip-swapping (if you’re using Tasha’s rules), so you can always start the campaign with Frostbite and then switch it for a different cantrip at higher levels.
Frostbite 5e Compared to Vicious Mockery, Ray of Frost, and Mind Sliver
Many Bards were salty when Frostbite came out. “What’s this,” they cried, “a cantrip that does exactly what our unique cantrip, Vicious Mockery, does, and does +1 average damage to boot!?”
Well fear not, Bards of 2017, because Vicious Mockery remains the superior cantrip, despite its lower damage. For starters, Vicious Mockery effects all attacks, not just weapon attacks. Plus, psychic damage is one of the least resisted/immune damage types in 5e.
Ray of Frost
If you’re a class that has access to Ray of Frost and Frostbite (Sorcerer, Wizard, Artificer), and you’re hoping to build a frost-themed character, you might wonder which cantrip is best.
Ray of Frost deals more consistent, higher damage (1d8, attack roll instead of Con save), but has an inferior rider effect (-10 movement speed).
In my opinion, Frostbite is slightly more useful at early levels, but Ray of Frost’s better damage (and better damage scaling) will make it more attractive at mid- to higher-tiers.
Finally, Mind Sliver, the cantrip from Tasha’s that Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards have access to. Mind Sliver deals equal damage to Frostbite (1d6), but it’s psychic damage, a much rarer immunity/resistance in 5e. Plus, it’s rider effect is incredibly strong — -1d4 on the target’s next saving throw.
Unless your party is made up of exclusively martial classes and you’re the only spellcaster, Mind Sliver is much, much better than Frostbite. Even if you are the only caster, the ability to buff your next saving throw-based spell is still quite strong.
In my opinion, Mind Sliver is always the stronger choice. And if your heart is set on being a frost mage, you can always ask your DM to reflavor Mind Sliver to Mind Freeze. If you make it cold damage, you’ll essentially nerf the spell, so a DM probably won’t have a problem with it.
Frostbite 5e DM Tips
We didn’t mention a few things in the rules section because they’re incredibly niche. One is whether or not Frostbite interacts with the Heat Metal spell in any way. RAW, the two spells definitely do not interact.
However, if players want to do some cool armor-shattering antics or counteract a Heat Metal spell on an ally, you can choose to reward their creative thinking.
The other one that comes up with frost spells all the time is whether they can be used to cool players down while suffering from heat-induced exhaustion and the like. I personally love this kind of thing and tend to allow it; at the price of taking 1d6 cold damage, of course.
Simple Frostbite 5e Spell Text
Frostbite: (Evocation cantrip, 60 feet, V/S) Target must make a Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, target takes 1d6 cold damage and has disadvantage on the next weapon attack roll it makes before the end of its next turn. | +1d6 at 5th, 11th, and 17th levels.