You place a curse on a creature that you can see within range. Until the spell ends. you deal an extra 1d6 necrotic damage to the target whenever you hit it with an attack. Also, choose one ability when you cast the spell. The target has disadvantage on ability checks made with the chosen ability.
If the target drops to 0 hit points before this spell ends. you can use a bonus action on a subsequent turn of yours to curse a new creature.
A remove curse cast on the target ends this spell early.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd or 4th level. you can maintain your concentration on the spell for up to 8 hours. When you use a spell slot of 5th level or higher. you can maintain your concentration on the spell for up to 24 hours.
Casting Time: 1 bonus action
Range: 90 feet
Components: V, S, M (the petrfieid eye of a newt)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 hour
School: 1st-level enchantment
Player’s Handbook, pg. 251
Hexing your enemies is about as old school as it gets in terms of magic. Let’s unravel the mysteries behind this bit of dark magic, as well as look at a few ways to make the most of Hex in your next DnD session.
Who Can Cast Hex in 5e?
The following classes have Hex on their spell list:
No subclasses get Hex for free.
Hex is a Warlock-exclusive spell, although picking up a feature like Magic Initiate can allow for any class to pick it up. The only downside is you’ll need a long rest before casting Hex again with this feature.
What Does Hex Do in 5e?
Hex instantly curses the target for a bonus action, causing your attacks to deal an additional 1d6 necrotic damage to it for 1+ hour as long as you maintain concentration. When the target drops to 0 hit points, you can use a bonus on your next action to curse a new creature within range.
Additionally, you can choose one ability to negatively affect — the target has a disadvantage on ability checks using that ability until Hex ends.
Note that while this does not apply to the target’s combat capabilities directly, it can make it easier to fool with illusions, grapple, or sneak by enemies.
At higher levels, Hex lasts for longer periods. While Hex can be removed by Remove Curse, it’s unlikely you’ll face many foes who have this spell.
What Are the Rules for Hex in 5e?
The rules for Hex in DnD 5e are as follows:
You can attack or use a cantrip on the same turn as casting Hex. Because Hex’s casting time is a bonus action, you’re free to take all other actions on your turn, including attacking and casting a cantrip with a casting time of 1 action. You cannot, however, cast another non-cantrip spell on the same turn (PHB 202).
When transferring Hex from a killed target, you cannot change which ability is affected by the curse. As the spell description clearly reads, “choose one ability when you cast the spell.” When cursing a new creature, you’re not recasting the spell, only continuing its effects through sustained concentration.
Hex’s disadvantage does not apply to attack rolls or saving throws. It only ability checks, which still matters for things like grapples.
Hex automatically lands. It’s not a spell attack and it doesn’t have a sving throw.
If you land a critical hit, you roll 2d6 for Hex’s damage. This is because scoring a critical hit on an attack roll doubles all damage rolls of the attack. From the Player’s Handbook: “if the attack involves other damage dice…your roll those dice twice as well” (PHB 196).
You don’t have to recase Hex immediately after the target falls to 0 hit points. Technically, the rules as written don’t specify that you must re-cast Hex immediately after the target dies. The wording states “a subsequent turn,” not “the subsequent turn.”
Because of this, it’s possible to reapply Hex hours later, so long as you’re able to maintain concentration on the spell. This has been confirmed by DnD 5e co-lead design Mike Mearls on Sage Advice, as well as by Jeremy Crawford.
You may or may not need a target in range to transfer Hex to in order to maintain concentration. While maintaining concentration for hours is definitely intended, it’s less clear what the mechanics of this are supposed to look like. Does a creature die and then some incorporeal “Hex monster” slips into the Warlock’s pouch until it’s needed again?
Or does the Warlock need a living creature to move Hex into (like a bug or rodent) in order to kill in the next fight to transfer Hex? It comes down to flavor, practicality, and convenience — More in “Hex DM Tips” below
A creature doesn’t know that it’s been Hexed until it takes damage or struggles with an ability check that Hex is affected. In Jeremy Crawford’s words, “a target doesn’t know it’s under the effect of a spell like hex until it experiences the spell’s effects.”
Hex stacks with Hexblade’s Curse. If a creature is under both effects, whenever you hit them with damage, you add the Hex damage (d6) and your proficiency bonus (from Hexblade’s Curse).
You do not add your proficiency bonus to bonus your first instance of damage and the Hex damage.
Hex does not affect Saving Throws. Ability checks (PHB 174) and saving throws (PHB 179) are separate things.
Reapplying Hex does not expend a spell slot. We’ve suggested this a few times already, but just to be super-explicit — only the initial cast of Hex expends a spell slot.
How Do I Use Hex in 5e?
Hex is a straightforward spell that will always land. If you’re looking to optimize your use of Hex, keep these tips in mind:
Cast Hex early. The earlier you cast Hex in a melee, the more times you’ll get to add bonus damage to your attacks. You’ll also be able to spread Hex around if you focus on eliminating the Hexed target quickly.
Pair with grappling and shoving. While Hex doesn’t affect combat capabilities directly, grappling and shoving both involve Strength ability checks. This allows for you and your party to more easily manhandle the enemy.
Use before challenges. Hex has some great out of combat utility as well. About to take on a Dwarf in a drinking contest? Hex his Constitution!
Trying to talk your way past the guards? Bam, a quick Hex to their Intelligence should smooth things over. It’s also good for stopping smooth-talking scoundrels from spinning you a web of lies — Hex their Charisma and see through the bull.
Attack often. This goes with the first tip — if you can get bonus spell attacks in, like Eldritch Blast at higher levels, you’ll get to add 1d6 to each and every attack that lands.
Maintain concentration for hours. If you build your spell selections carefully, you can be sure that Hex is the spell you use your concentration on for hours at a time. For Warlocks, who have precious few spell slots, being able to cast Hex just once and get one hour’s utility out of it is super efficient.
Once it scales up to 8 and 24 hours, you can pretty much keep Hex up all the time if you can avoid getting hit/boost your Constitution saving throws somehow.
Hurting initiative. Using Hex pre-combat and hitting Dexterity comes with the significant perk of giving the target disadvantage on their initiative roll. Just the thing to get the jump on a wary target.
Be caster-focused. While there are definitely some nifty plays melee Warlocks can pull off with Hex, there’s a steep learning curve re: maintaining concentration. For new players, Hex is much easier to work into ranged builds that focus on staying out of the fray.
Plus, as we mentioned in the “attack often” tip, ranged Warlocks who rely on Eldritch Blast will see Hex scale much better, as each hit of Eldritch Blast triggers the Hex damage.
Who Can I Target With Hex 5e?
You can target any creature within 90 feet that you can see with Hex.
Hex deals Necrotic damage, which very few foes are vulnerable to. Many Undead of various challenge ratings, however, are immune or resistant to Necrotic damage, so be sure to consider that before casting Hex.
Is Hex a Good Spell?
Yes, Hex is a good low-level spell that has great scaling potential. The fact that it’s guaranteed to both land and last beyond a bout of combat is finished offers incredible efficiency. In long fights where it affects multiple targets, you might end up adding over 10d6 to your damage overall, and that’s just at low levels.
It also provides utility in combat and outside of combat, making it easier for you or your allies to exploit an enemy’s disadvantaged ability check. Clever parties that work together can do some really fun stuff with Hex, both in fights and role-playing scenarios.
All this being said, Warlocks do have to be choosy with how they expend their spell slots, so Hex is best utilized when you can get the most bang for your buck.
As indicated in the “how to use Hex” section above, it scales best with Eldritch Blast-focused Warlocks who can safely maintain Concentration and trigger Hex’s bonus damage multiple times per round.
Hex 5e Compared to Bestow Curse and Hexblade’s Curse
However, another party member (like a Bard) can use Bestow Curse on a target that you have Hexed and the two effects will both apply.
Hexblade’s Curse (XGtE 85) is a subclass feature of The Hexblade that curses a target. Because it does not require concentration, you can use Hexblade’s Curse and Hex at the same time and on the same target if you choose.
While the two can both be applied to the same target, there’s little interaction between Hex and Hexblade’s Curse. While Hexblade’s curse gives a bonus to damage rolls against the target equal to your proficiency bonus, that only happens once you’ve dealt damage.
In other words, you would 1) hit the target with some other damage, 2) deal Hex damage, 3) add your proficiency bonus. If you’re able to smack the target with multiple instances of damage in one round, however, these two effects do scale nicely.
Hex 5e DM Tips
One of the most contentious and cheesy moves that some players attempt is the “bag of mice” (or whatever small animal they choose) method.
This involves collecting mice and then Hexing one before a short rest and then killing it, maintaining concentration, and using Hex as a bonus action later on without expending a spell slot.
Note that this only works when Hex is cast at higher levels, because a short rest takes an hour, at which point a first-level Hex will be over anyway.
Every DM (and party) has to decide how they feel about this method, as it does seem above-board and in line with the rules as written.
Perhaps the Warlock’s patron already demands animal sacrifices and so it’s totally in character. Or maybe the party is horrified that this sadistic bastard is on their side. Perhaps the mice frequently gnaw through the Warlock’s possessions, and she randomly loses items like rope, rations, or even health potions.