You touch one object that is no larger than 10 feet in any dimension. Until the spell ends, the object sheds bright light in a 20-foot radius and dim light for an additional 20 feet. The light can be colored as you like. Completely covering the object with something opaque blocks the light. The spell ends if you cast it again or dismiss it as an action.
If you target an object held or worn by a hostile creature, that creature must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw to avoid the spell.
Casting Time: 1 action
Components: V, M (a firefly or phosphorescent moss)
Duration: 1 hour
School: Evocation cantrip
Player’s Handbook, pg. 255
Light is a handy-dandy cantrip that can keep the darkness at bay when you and your party delve into the deep places of the world. Because a torch is too ordinary for mighty adventurers who wield powerful magics.
And because it’s better than a torch in many ways. Let’s get into how the Light spell works in DnD 5e and how to use it.
Who Can Cast Light in 5e?
The following classes have Light on their spell list:
No following subclasses get Light for free.
What Does Light Do in 5e?
Light causes an object you touch to shed bright light for 20 feet and dim light for an additional 20 feet. The light can be whatever color you choose, and completely covering the object blocks the light.
If you target something worn or held by a hostile creature, they must pass a Dexterity saving throw to avoid it.
Light lasts for up to 1 hour, or until you cast it again or dismiss it as an action.
What Are the Rules for Light in 5e?
The rules for Light in DnD 5e are as follows:
Light remains visible on an invisble target. This was confirmed by the game’s developers — “The invisibility spell doesn’t prevent you or your gear from emitting light, yet that light makes you no less invisible.”
In other words, an invisible creature with Light on an object they carry still benefits from being invisible (attack rolls against it have disadvantage, and attacks it makes have advantage), but you don’t have to guess their location when attempting to target them — it’s obvious because of the light on them!
Of course, some spells still require that you see your target — technically, Light doesn’t help you there, because you still can’t see your target — only the light they’re emitting.
A Lighted object can be any distance from the caster and remain lighted. “Once a spell is cast, its effects aren’t limited by its range, unless the spell’s description says otherwise” (PHB 203).
The Light spell does not create sunlight. Spells like Sunbeam, Dawn, and Sunburst are explicit about creating actual sunlight that affects vampires and such.
I don’t think you can break the lighted object to make two lighted objects. I don’t have any actual confirmation from the game’s rules or developers on this, and the spell text doesn’t specifically disallow it.
Still, I think the spell text is clear about only being able to affect one object at a time, so I’d rule that either the Light spell ends if the object is broken, or it only remains on the largest extant piece of the broken object.
How Do I Use Light in 5e?
Here are a few ways to use Light in DnD 5e:
Light up invisible foes. If you’re up against foes that can turn invisible, or are already invisible but in a known location, tagging them with the Light spell can be a great way to keep track of their location. That way, you won’t have to guess where you are to attack them (PHB 194-5).
Still, you’ll have to be in melee range and they’ll have to fail a Dex save, but it can be a good use of your turn. Especially if an important enemy might run away while invisible.
Remember: invisible creatures still get their benefits from being invisible, but at least you know where they are.
Light up familiars, pets, etc. Whatever you choose, the idea is to attach it to an object that you attach to a companion. That way, you can keep your hands free and enjoy a light source that’s distant from your actual party.
This can help you to scout ahead and keep your party somewhat safer, as hostile creatures will see the light source coming from somewhere other than you.
Drop lit-up rocks down deep holes. If you can’t see what’s at the bottom of a pit or you’re looking for something on a lower level, dropping a lit up pebble down can help figure out what you’re dealing with.
On a similar note, you can use Light to better understand topographical changes in mazelike settings with multiple levels.
Use it on arrows before shooting. This is similar to the rock trick, but for use horizontally rather than vertically. This is great for quickly lighting up the other side of a large room in a dungeon…although it might also attract that dungeon’s denizens.
Hands-free torch. The great advantage of Light over a torch is that you can put it on something you’re carrying anyway — like a weapon or shield. This means you don’t have to finagle with which hand is holding what when combat breaks out. It also eliminates the need for a party “torch-bearer” if you’ve got a real old-school Dungeon Master.
Distractions. This is the classic “throw a rock” trick, like the hobbits with the ring wraith in Fellowship, but with the added bonus of light. Or you could leave a lit-up object in a dark place as a kind of bait, to see what darkness-dwellers come to check it out, possibly allowing for your party to ambush them.
Carry ball bearings. You can buy a bag of 1,000 of these for just 1 gp. That’s basically a limitless supply of small, disposable objects that you can put a light on when in need. Great for many of the tricks on this list that involve losing the lighted object, like dropping it down a pit.
Use it as a waymarker. The idea here is to light a stationary object every 60 feet, so that people behind you who require light can have it (and know the spot has been safely scouted). Then, you light a new object as you go.
Use it on enemies who may try to flee to darkness or hide in combat. This is the same concept as putting Light on an invisible enemy, but more proactive. If you’re up against a rogue-type enemy who frequently tries to hide in combat, putting Light on them makes that tactic impossible.
Enjoy weather immunity. A torch can easily go out in wind and rain, and it 100% goes out for underwater missions. Not so with the handy Light cantrip, which is totally water- and wind-proof.
Use it as a signal. Give an ally a lighted object, then end the spell whenever you want to signal them to do something. For example, “attack when the light goes out,” or “if the light goes out, we’re in danger.”
In a more literal sense of signaling, you can cast Light on an arrow that you shoot directly upwards, like a flare.
Targeting beacon. If you want to direct allies who/where/what to attack, sending a lighted arrow at the objective can make things a whole lot clearer for everyone. This might come up in large dark caverns, defending castle walls, or storming a structure yourself.
Be spooky. The whole “Light still works while you’re invisible” thing can be used to make yourself or an ally look like some sort of Will-o’-Wisp. This might be used to spook plebs or to create a diversion.
Hide the Light when enemies are around. Light can be a double-edged sword in DnD. While it’s great to see where you’re going, being an obvious target isn’t always the best thing in dark places. That’s why it’s good to hide the Light, by covering it completely/stuffing it into a bag, whenever you suspect enemies are around.
Who Can I Target With Light 5e?
You can target an object that is no larger than 10 feet in any dimension with Light. Even an 11-foot pole that could technically fit inside a 10-foot-square box isn’t an eligible target for the Light spell.
If you target an object that an enemy is holding or wearing, they get a chance to make a Dexterity save (against your spell save DC) to avoid the spell’s effects.
Is Light 5e a Good Spell?
Yes, Light is a good utility spell in 5e. Having a hands-free torch at all times is undeniably useful. And all the extra utility that it provides that a torch doesn’t makes it even more impactful. I know I mentioned lots of fun tricks for the Light spell, but 90% of the time, it’s just going to be used as your party’s main light source when dungeon-diving. And to be clear, that’s far from useless.
Of course, it’s worth noting that Light is even better if your DM is a serious stickler about the rules of Light, and arguably less useful if your DM doesn’t care about tracking light too much.
Some people say you can skip Light if your party all has Darkvision, but I disagree. Even with Darkvision, a player will have disadvantage on Perception checks and won’t be able to see colors in total darkness, so Light still provides some use for a party of races that all have Darkvision. However, it’s still slightly less useful in such groups.
Light 5e Compared to Dancing Lights
Dancing Lights is another light-source-creating cantrip that players often compare to Light. While neither is “better” than the other, they are different. Here are those differences:
Dancing Lights is short-lived. It only lasts for a minute, compared to Light lasting for one hour.
Dancing Lights requires concentration. This is a bummer if you have another long-term concentration spell going, but it isn’t usually a big deal.
Dancing Lights makes four lights. These hover independently as a torch, lantern, or glowing orb. They must remain within 20 feet of each other, but they each shed light independently.
Dancing Lights allows for illumination at a distance. You can target a space up to 120 feet away with DL, compared to the Touch range of Light. You can also continue to move the light around, up to 60 feet per turn, for a bonus action.
Dancing Lights makes less bright lights. This can be a good thing for parties with Darkvision, who only need dim light to see as though it were bright light.
Dancing Lights have a smaller light radius. Only 10 feet, compared to Light’s total of 40 feet. Of course, with all four lights combined, you can achieve 40 feet of dim light with DL.
Light is usually better as a “set and forget” light source for an adventuring party, whereas Dancing Lights has the advantage of range, precision, and stealth.