Make a melee spell attack against a creature you can reach. On a hit, the target takes 3d10 necrotic damage.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the damage increases by 1d10 for each slot level above 1st.
Casting Time: 1 action
Components: V, S
School: 1st-level necromancy
Player’s Handbook, pg. 255
Inflict Wounds 5e
Inflict Wounds — a no-nonsense Dungeons and Dragons spell that absolutely slaps in the damage department. But is it a good spell? And how can it be optimized?
All things we’ll cover below, as well as rules and DM tips.
Who Can Cast Inflict Wounds in 5e?
The following classes have Inflict Wounds on their spell list:
The following subclasses get Inflict Wounds for free:
What Does Inflict Wounds Do in 5e?
Inflict Wounds is a melee spell attack, meaning you’ll use your spellcasting modifier (Wisdom for Clerics, Charisma for Paladins and Sorcerers) instead of your weapon modifier (Strength or Dexterity).
If you hit, you deal 3d10 (16.5 average) necrotic damage — the highest of any 1st-level spell in all of DnD 5e.
Finally, Inflict Wounds can be upcast for +1d10 (5.5 average) per slot level above 1st.
What Are the Rules for Inflict Wounds in 5e?
The rules for Inflict Wounds in DnD 5e are as follows:
Inflict Wounds can be used to knock an enemy unconscious. While the Player’s Handbook provides the rule that “when an attack reduces a creature to 0 hit points with a melee attack, the attacker can knock the creature out,” some players were unsure if this applied to melee spell attacks as well (PHB 198).
The Sage Advice Compendium later confirmed that “the melee attack isn’t restricted to weapons. Even a melee spell attack can be used to knock a creature out (SAC 14).
Inflict Wounds works with Sorcerers’ Twinned Spell and Distant Spell metamagics. Twinned Spell only requires that “the spell targets only one creature and doesn’t have a range of self,” both of which are true of Inflict Wounds.
Distant Spell can be used with spell that have a range of touch (like Inflict Wounds), extending their range to 30 feet.
Inflict Wounds does not use your melee weapon. Because so few early-game spells are melee spell attacks, many new players get them confused with regular melee attacks. To reiterate, a melee spell attack uses a creature’s spellcasting modifier for its hit roll, rather than Strength or Dexterity.
How Do I Use Inflict Wounds in 5e?
Here are a few ways to use Inflict Wounds in DnD 5e:
Pair with Hold Person or Hold Monster. As the only two spells in the game that cause the paralyzed condition, they pair very nicely with Inflict Wounds. Why exactly? “Any attack that hits [a paralyzed creature] is a critical hit if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature” (PHB 291).
A guaranteed critical strike on the biggest low-level damage spell? Yes, please! If you have access to metamagic, Quickened Spell is a great way to set yourself up, allowing you to cast one of the spells as a bonus action.
A watered-down version of this tip is to get advantage to double your chances of landing a critical strike. Crits will always be more nominally impactful for bigger damage spells and effects, since it’s a flat 100% increase in all damage dice being rolled.
Cast it via Find Familiar. If you’re able to pick up Find Familiar via the Magic Initiate feat (PHB 168) or a multiclass dip, this is a great way of getting around the Touch range limitation of Inflict Wounds. Plus, Find Familiar is just a great spell to have.
Take advantage of metamagics. Distant Spell is another way of getting around Inflict Wounds range limitation, and Twinned Spell gives you more damage and more chances to roll a 20, making both useful in combination with Inflict Wounds. And we already covered Quickened Spell’s utility above.
Be aware of necrotic resistances/immunities. Only 26 creatures are immune to necrotic damage and 34 are resistant — it’s mostly on creatures you’d expect — undead, ghosts, and the like.
One notable creature that’s missing from the list — zombies, who, for some reason, are not immune or even resistant to necrotic damage.
Pair with Grave Domain’s Channel Divinity. Path to the Grave (XGtE 20) allows a Cleric to make a creature vulnerable to the next attack’s damage (doubling the damage). Again, using this on an already big-damage spell is the most optimal way to use this or any multiplicative modifier.
The big downside is that it takes an entire action to set this up, but if you’re able to couple it with a guaranteed critical strike via Hold Person (quadrupling the spell’s damage), then it’s well worth the effort.
For you mathies out there, if used at 2nd-level, this works out to 16d10 necrotic damage for an average of 88.
Is Inflict Wounds 5e a Good Spell?
No, Inflict Wounds isn’t a good spell in 5e. While there is serious potential for silly damage with the right optimizations and setup, the fact remains: there are probably better ways for you to be using your turn and your 1st-level spell slot.
Plus, if you’re not building a frontline Cleric who’s happy to take a few hits, then relying on melee spell attacks isn’t your best bet.
All that being said, Clerics can prepare new spells at the start of each adventuring day. So if you are playing a frontline Cleric and you want the absolute biggest burst damage spell in the game at early levels, you can do that without committing to anything.
Inflict Wounds 5e Compared to Guiding Bolt
The real reason why I’m able to give a definite “no” to Inflict Wounds being a bad spell has more to do with the fact that another 1st-level Cleric spell exists: Guiding Bolt.
Guiding Bolt does 4d6 (14 average) radiant damage at a 120-foot range, and gives the next attacker advantage on their attack against the target. So basically, 2.5 less average damage initially, but in return, you’re buffing party damage by:
Increasing the likelihood to hit
Increasing the likelihood of a critical strike
Cancelling out an attack disadvantage your party member may be suffering from
Allowing for a Rogue’s Sneak Attack
Pretty good trade for -2.5 damage and at a longer range. If you’re using your 1st-level spell slot for damage, it’s almost always a better idea to use Guiding Bolt.
Inflict Wounds 5e DM Tips
I don’t have any rules suggestions for DMs — Inflict Wounds is about as straightforward as a spell gets. Some new DMs might think 3d10 damage at 1st level is too high, but it’s really not — no reason to nerf this one.
As for using Inflict Wounds, I suggest throwing it on any cultists or necromantic baddies you have in your campaign. I personally love Inflict Wounds on my lower-leveled spellcasters because it’s quick and simple to run but also devastating enough to warrant respect.
Simple Inflict Wounds 5e Spell Text
Inflict Wounds: (1st-level necromancy, touch, V/S) Make a melee spell attack against a creature. Deal 3d10 necrotic damage on hit. | +1d10 per slot level above 1st