You touch one willing creature. Once before the spell ends, the target can roll a d4 and add the number rolled to one ability check of its choice. It can roll the die before or after making the ability check. The spell then ends.
Casting Time: 1 action
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
School: Divination cantrip
Player’s Handbook, pg. 248
Guidance is a wonderful cantrip in the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons. But it’s not without its head-scratching moments for new players and DMs wondering why just how Guidance is meant to work.
This article will cover both the “rules as written” of Guidance, as well as practical advice for DMs and players looking to make Guidance feel more narratively and mechanically satisfying.
Who Can Cast Guidance in 5e?
The following classes have Guidance on their spell list:
Artificer (TCoE 12)
No subclasses get Guidance for free.
However, Divine Soul Sorcerers have access to the Cleric spell list, giving them access to Guidance (TCoE 50).
What Does Guidance Do in 5e?
Guidance gives a creature you touch +1d4 on one ability check of its choice makes in the next minute. It can choose to add this bonus before or after rolling for the check.
Guidance requires concentration to maintain.
What Are the Rules for Guidance in 5e?
The rules for Guidance in DnD 5e are as follows:
Guidance has no affect on attack rolls or saving throws. The Sage Advice Compendium clarified that attack rolls and saving throws are not “basically specialized ability checks” (SAC 10).
It even uses Guidance as an example, explicitly stating that it only affects ability checks, not attack rolls or saving throws.
Guidance can stack with Bardic Inspiration. “The effects of different spells add together while the durations of those spells overlap” and “different effects stack if they don’t have the same name” (PHB 205, SAC 3).
Guidance can’t stack with itself. “The effects of the same spell cast multiple times don’t combine” (PHB 205). If you have two Guidance spells cast on you, you still only roll 1d4; you don’t “get to roll two bonus dice” and pick the higher of the two (PHB 205).
How Do I Use Guidance in 5e?
Here are a few ways to use Guidance in DnD 5e:
Use it when you’ve got time. Pretty much any time you or an ally have a slow-paced, unpressed ability check, there’s no reason not to cast Guidance. This means you’ll be using Guidance a lot for exploration-type activities, but not so much for social- or combat-focused tasks.
In my experience, Guidance really shines for helping with puzzles, dungeon investigation, and general exploration.
Consider the duration of the task. Guidance only lasts one minute, so unless its feasible (and in character) to repeatedly cast Guidance every minute (which requires a verbal component and touching the target), it doesn’t really work with long-term tasks.
In other words, skills like Stealth, Investigation, and Perception are unlikely to benefit from Guidance at most tables. Instead, bust out Guidance when an ally has to do something really quick, like jump across a chasm, bust open a tomb, or pick a lock.
Predict when ability checks are imminent. While some DMs are generous, most won’t allow you to add Guidance to an ally once they’ve already called for an ability check.
As a player with Guidance prepared, it’s up to you to determine when an ally might need help with a task they’re considering and to apply the spell before they formally declare what their character is doing.
Combine it with the Help action. The Help action gives an ally within 5 feet advantage on an ability check (PHB 192). It’s not always feasible (the task needs to actually benefit from two people working together), but when it is, it’s a great thing to do.
Advantage and +1d4 on an ability check should all but guarantee success, especially if you stack it on the party member who’s already best suited for the task.
Be cautious using Guidance in social situations. The verbal component aspect of the spell means that onlookers will notice you casting a spell. And that’s suspicious to most people mid-conversation.
Empower Counterspell. Counterspell requires an ability check to counter higher-level enemy spells. Of course, you’ll have to be able to predict that your ally will need to Counterspell in the next round, and it itself is a reaction spell.
The conditions for all this to work out are quite uncommon, but this is the one good combat usage of Guidance that I’m aware of.
Employ a phrase other than “I cast Guidance.” For the sake of your sanity, fun, DM, and fellow players, you’re going to want to come up with a catchphrase to take the place of “I cast Guidance.”
Something as simple as “may [insert deity name here] bless you in your task” works wonders for improving the feel of casting Guidance every 5 minutes. That and a nice description of embracing your buddy’s shoulder or giving them a high-five helps paint a more vivid picture of what’s happening.
It also doesn’t have to always be the same thing, but can instead depend on context. For example, “may [deity] watch over you,” as your friend goes to jump a wide chasm, or “let [deity]’s wisdom guide you” as they attempt to pick a lock.
Who Can I Target With Guidance 5e?
You can target any willing creature you touch with Guidance, including yourself.
Is Guidance 5e a Good Spell?
Yes, Guidance is a very good spell in DnD 5e. Many, many ability checks that your party faces will benefit from Guidance, and a d4 averages out to a +2.5 average modifier. That’s quite significant in 5e’s design principle of bounded accuracy.
People often mention Guidance’s concentration requirement as a negative, but it rarely actually is. Unless you have another long-term concentration spell going, like Pass Without Trace, it’s not an issue.
That being said, Guidance is often a source of player and DM grumbling due to its constant utility and use. More on that below.
Guidance 5e DM Tips
Some new DMs and players wonder why Guidance can’t simply be applied to all ability checks, therefore ending the need to say “I cast Guidance” every time and just assuming a flat +1d4 bonus to ability checks for all party members at all times.
There are a few good reasons why I don’t recommend this. Mainly because Guidance isn’t always applicable; far from it, in fact.
Here are all the conditions that can make Guidance un-usable:
The task duration is too long. If something can’t be done in under 1 minute, then Guidance won’t be of any use (unless the Cleric is able and willing to hover over their buddy and chain-cast Guidance every minute).
Examples of this include stealthing past guards, a perception check over a long watch, investigating a large room, completing a long performance, or climbing a cliffside.
Inappropriate social setting. Guidance has a verbal component, so people around the caster will take notice and likely turn hostile or at least suspicious (“what’s that guy muttering?”)
This rules out using Guidance for Deception, Persuasion, and Intimidation checks mid-conversation. Plus, most conversations are <1 minute, so even pre-combat casting won't work for these tasks.
Not knowing what their ally is doing. If the character would have no way of knowing that their ally is making an ability check, they can’t exactly intuitively know to provide them with Guidance at that exact moment.
Examples of this include making an Insight check to determine if someone is lying, making a history check to remember a fact, or making a religion check to recall some lore. If it’s happening only in the player’s mind, and they haven’t communicated the need to help to the player with Guidance, then the caster shouldn’t meta-game to cast it on their ally.
Unexpected checks. If you call for an ability check, it’s too late for someone to cast Guidance.
Examples of this include a Perception check to notice stealthing creatures or an Arcana check to recognize a spell (XGtE 85).
The caster is distracted. This isn’t a technical limitation of the spell, but rather a tool you can employ. The idea is to raise the opportunity cost of casting Guidance from basically nothing to something more substantial.
For example, if a Cleric has to decide between keeping watch for enemies and casting Guidance on the Rogue who’s trying to pick a lock, all of a sudden, they have to question whether a 1d4 bonus is worth possibly getting ambushed.
Ultimately, you don’t have to punish players for using Guidance all the time. You don’t even have to implement these limitations at all — a 1d4 bonus on all ability checks won’t break your game, and it’s pretty easy to scale up for it in any case (just add 2 to whatever DC you normally give the task :)).
But if you talk to your players about these limitations before you start a campaign, they should naturally self-regulate their use of the spell. Because at the end of the day, it’s a cool utility cantrip that does feel good to use. Just not so much when it’s 50%+ of what a character does.
Guidance Changes in One D&D
The D&D One UA playtest materials for “Expert Classes” includes a rule change for the Guidance spell.
Guidance will be reaction that the caster takes in response to themselves or an ally failing an ability check. Once a creature rolls 1d4 from Guidance, they can’t benefit the spell again until they finish a long rest (regardless of whether the roll changes the result of the ability check).
This is not a final version of the spell, but it does indicate that Wizards of the Coast is considering how to change the annoying part of the Guidance spell (its spam-ability).