Choose a manufactured metal object, such as a metal weapon or a suit of heavy or medium metal armor, that you can see within range. You cause the object to glow red-hot. Any creature in physical contact with the object takes 2d8 fire damage when you cast the spell. Until the spell ends, you can use a bonus action on each of your subsequent turns to cause this damage again.
If a creature is holding or wearing the object and takes the damage from it, the creature must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or drop the object if it can. If it doesn’t drop the object, it has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks until the start of your next turn.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, the damage increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 2nd.
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V, S, M (a piece of iron and a flame)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
School: 2nd-level transmutation
Player’s Handbook, pg. 250
Heat Metal 5e
When it comes to flavorful, powerful, and well-balanced transmutation spells, it doesn’t get much better than Heat Metal. There’s nothing quite like watching a baddie struggle to remove his suddenly-blazing-hot armor while you laugh maniacally. Or disarming that menacing Ogre that’s quickly approaching with a war hammer in his hands.
While Heat Metal is undoubtedly fun, it’s also often misunderstood, leading to disagreements between players who think it’s stronger than it is, and DMs who try (unnecessarily) to reduce the spell’s power. Let’s go over the basics and nuances of Heat Metal so you can start cooking your foes properly.
Who Can Cast Heat Metal in 5e?
The following classes have Heat Metal on their spell list:
Artificer (TCoE 12)
The following subclasses get Heat Metal for free:
Cleric (Forge Domain) (XGtE 18)
What Does Heat Metal Do in 5e?
Heat Metal causes a manufactured metal object to become red-hot, damaging any creature in contact with it for 2d8 fire damage — without any saving throws or attack rolls. Additionally, you can use a bonus action on subsequent turns to deal 2d8 fire damage to any creature still in contact with the object.
This is the tricky part — if the object is something that the creature can drop (like a weapon), then they make a Consitution saving throw. If they fail, they drop the item. If they succeed, they can choose to continue holding the item. However, for as long as they continue being in contact with the item, they have disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks.
A full duration heat metal will deal an impressive 20d8 fire damage over 10 rounds of combat — not bad for a second-level spell. Heat Metal can also be upcast to deal an additional 1d8 damage each time it deals damage — both on the initial cast and all subsequent bonus actions used to deal additional damage.
What Are the Rules for Heat Metal in 5e?
Heat Metal is a hotly contested (get it?) spell, so let’s cover the nitty-gritty. The rules for Heat Metal in DnD 5e are as follows:
The damage happens first. The creature doesn’t get a chance to drop the item before the damage occurs. The description states that the initial damage precedes the Constitution saving throw, so even if they drop the item, they still take that initial damage.
A failed save results in a dropped item, but the creature can also choose to drop the item. Any creature or player can drop or pick up an object without expending an action (PHB 190).
If you use Heat Metal on a weapon, and the creature succeeds on their save (meaning they can continue holding onto the item), they can still decide to drop the weapon on their turn without expending an action. It’s just they don’t reflexively drop the item without making a conscious decision to do so.
The item stays hot if you keep concentrating. Regardless of whether the creature drops the item, Heat Metal continues as long as your concentration does.
You don’t have to deal damage with Heat Metal every turn. You must use your bonus action in order for Heat Metal to do damage. Some DMs try to turn the heated metal into a weapon against the players — this only works if the player foolishly uses their bonus action to heat the metal while the creature is hugging a party member (or the caster herself!)
Chain Shirt, Scale Mail, Brestplate, Half Plate, Chain Mail, Splint, and Plate are metal armors. These are the only armor types that the rules explicitly say are made of metal (PHB 144-145).
Beyond that, it’s up to DM discretion.
It takes 1 minute to Doff Medium Armor and 5 minutes to Doff Heavy Armor (PHB 146). This means that it’s impossible for a creature whose armor is targeted with Heat Metal to remove their armor before the spell would end anyway (since Heat Metal has a maximum of a 1-minute duration).
It’s possible to use Heat Metal on bone. Calcium is a metal, so Heat Metal should work on bone. However, the spell stipulates that the metal must be manufactured, so the bone would have to be manipulated in some way. For example, a bone weapon or carved bone armor is fair game, but the compound fractured femur of an Ogre is not.
Of course, a DM may rule that the “manufactured” stipulation refers to the material used to craft the object rather than the object itself, in which case bone would not be an acceptable target under any circumstances.
Heat Metal can continue dealing damage if the creature moves out of range. Since the spell description does not say that the spell’s effect breaks at any sort of range or loss of vision, Heat Metal can continue dealing damage on each of your turns, regardless of where the creature is.
As the rules state, “once a spell is cast, its effects aren’t limited by its range, unless the spell’s description says otherwise” (PHB 203). Also confirmed by Jeremy Crawford.
Heat Metal does not give a weapon bonus fire damage. Heat Metal’s damage only happens on the initial cast and when the caster uses a bonus action on their turn. So heating a metal weapon that an ally holds will only hurt them and possibly disarm them.
That said, you can use the “Ready” action to prepare Heat Metal for the moment an ally’s weapon strikes a foe, at which time you can use your Reaction to cast Heat Metal instantly (or ignore the trigger) (PHB 193).
If it’s a melee weapon, your ally will also take damage, though. If it’s a projectile, you should be able to get away with Heat Metal adding damage the moment the missile hits the enemy.
Heat Metal gives no explicit indication on maximum size. While the spell’s largest example is a “suit of armor,” the description never outright gives a size that Heat Metal can affect. It’s up to DM’s to determine what “an object” is (while also keeping in mind the spell’s maximum range of 60 feet).
Wearing armor that’s affected by Heat Metal gives you disadvantage on attack rolls ability checks. Some players think that the disadvantage only applies if Heat Metal targets a weapon, since the line about disadvantage directly follows the line about making a saving throw to drop a weapon.
However, the disadvantage applies to any creature who is wearing or holding the heated metal. Confirmed on Sage Advice.
How Do I Use Heat Metal in 5e?
Heat Metal can feel downright overpowered when you use it in the right situations. Here are some fun applications of the spell:
Nullifying heavily-armored BBEGs. Much of the DM antagonism around Heat Metal stems from how dang easy it makes boss fights where the boss is reliant on metal armor. A full minute of disadvantage while taking unavoidable 2d8 fire damage each round is incredibly strong.
The only trick is to remember that Heat Metal requires concentration, so you’ll want to keep yourself protected from damage and other interrupting effects in order to ensure that the spell lasts for its maximum duration.
Forcing someone to drop an important item. A thief is running away with a stolen metal object; a jailer is taunting you with the key as he stands before your cell; an evil queen haughtily holds out her iron scepter as proof of her divine mandate to rule. These are all situations where using Heat Metal can be highly effective for more than just its raw damage potential.
Running away. While it seems sad to use such a devastating spell defensively, Heat Metal can be the perfect thing to get out of a bad situation. It takes a long time to remove armor (which is what most reasonable creatures will do), and even if it is hellbent on catching you, the creature will have to contend with disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks.
Melting doors shut. The spell doesn’t indicate a specific heat, nor does it state that heated metal objects are permanently damaged or even transformed in any way as a result of the spell. As such, we must assume that they are not (in the case of weapons and armor, at least).
However, a DM who rewards quick and creative thinking may allow for a player to slam a door shut and then use Heat Metal to fuse the hinges or destroy the keyhole.
Who Can I Target With Heat Metal 5e?
You can target any manufactured metal with heat metal. Depending on your DM, this may or may not include bone. It definitely does not include raw, unworked bone, as that is not manufactured.
Additionally, any players hoping to be cheeky by targeting the iron in a foe’s blood will be sadly disappointed. The iron in a hobgoblin’s hemoglobin is no more manufactured than human skin is synthetic.
Is Heat Metal 5e a Good Spell?
Yes, Heat Metal is an insanely good damaging spell for 2nd-level. 20d8 (90) total fire damage, increasing by 10d8 (45) for each level above the first, is absolutely massive. So why isn’t every caster running around doing nothing but heating metal?
Well, not every enemy is wearing metal armor. And while Heat Metal is okay as a quick disarm, it’s not nearly as impactful to use on weapons as it is on armor. Additionally, fire resistance and immunity are some of the most common among monsters in the DnD universe, limiting the spell’s potential targets even further.
Heat Metal is a perfectly balanced spell because it’s hugely situational. If you don’t run into many metal-clad enemies, Heat Metal will feel useless; if that’s all you’re facing, you’ll feel like a god.
Heat Metal 5e DM Tips
The biggest tip for DMs dealing with Heat Metal is to not get frustrated when players make your heavily-armored BBEG look like a chump. Instead, you can do a tad bit of metagaming to try to break the caster’s concentration using minions or other terrain effects.
After all, if the BBEG is getting melted in her suit of armor, it’s not unreasonable that she’d call out for her goons to tackle the person responsible.
When using Heat Metal against players, don’t go easy on them. If they can’t figure out the same concentration-breaking trick as your BBEG and her minions, that’s on them. Of course, you could always drop in an NPC in to mention that tip if players aren’t catching on fast enough.
Simple Heat Metal 5e Spell Text
Heat Metal: (2nd-level, 60 feet, concentration, up to 1 minute, V/S/M (a piece of iron and a flame)) A manufactured metal object in range that you can see becomes red hot. Any creature in contact with the object takes 2d8 fire damage. Until the spell ends, you can cause this damage again as a bonus action on your turns. If a creature can drop the object, it makes a Constitution saving throw. If it fails, it drops the object; if it succeeds, it continues holding the object and has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks until the start of your next turn. | +1d8 damage per spell slot level above 2nd.