You create a long, vine-like whip covered in thorns that lashes out at your command toward a creature in range. Make a melee spell attack against the target. If the attack hits, the creature takes 1d6 piercing damage, and if the creature is Large or smaller, you pull the creature up to 10 feet closer to you.
This spell’s damage increases by 1d6 when you reach 5th level (2d6), 11th level (3d6), and 17th level (4d6).
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V, S, M (the stem of a plant with thorns)
School: Transmutation cantrip
Who can cast Thorn Whip? Druids and Artificers have Thorn Whip on their class spell lists.
Player’s Handbook, pg. 282
Thorn Whip 5e
Thorn Whip is a staple cantrip of the Druid class in DnD 5e that players love to use. I’ll go over all the satisfying things you can “pull” off with Thorn Whip, as well as cover some of its “thornier” (heh) rules.
How Does Thorn Whip Work in 5e?
Thorn Whip is a melee spell attack with a 30-foot range. Roll a d20, add your spellcasting modifier (Wisdom for Druid, Intelligence for Artificer), and hit if the result ties or beats the target’s AC.
Thorn Whip deals 1d6 (3.5 average) magical piercing damage if it lands, and you have the option to pull the target up to 10 feet closer to you if it’s Large or smaller.
How to Use Thorn Whip in 5e
Thorn Whip might seem fairly basic at first glance, but there are a whole bunch of ways to make it a real stand-out cantrip:
Pull creatures into damaging terrain, traps, persistent spell effects, etc. The most common applications of this are Create Bonfire (another cantrip, which deals 1d8 fire damage on a failed save when a creature moves onto it) and Spike Growth (a 2nd-level spell that deals 2d4 piercing damage to creatures who travel through each space it affects).
With a bit of set-up, these sorts of combos can make the 1d6 piercing damage of Thorn Whip a whole lot more potent.
Pull your allies out of danger. One hidden benefit of Thorn Whip’s forced movement is that affected creatures don’t provoke opportunity attacks. At first, this might seem like a weakness, but it actually adds great utility to the spell.
If your ally is willing to take some piercing damage, and you’re able to spend an action attacking them, this can be a great way to get your buddy out of a particularly bad situation. Especially if you pull them up 10 feet to a ledge or something.
I recently had an encounter with a fire roc in my campaign, and our NPC dwarf ally was picked up by the roc, soon to be dipped into the lava below. The ally was 20 feet from the nearest surface (the bridge we were crossing). I readied an action on my Nature Cleric to Thorn Whip after an ally used Lightning Lure (another 10-foot pull) on the dwarf.
Luckily, both spells landed, and we managed to save our dwarf buddy from a gruesome fate. Although I did ruin my DM’s joke in the process (“do you smell what the roc is cooking?!”)
Pull an enemy up/down. If you’re above an enemy, pulling them 10 feet in the air will cause them to take 1d6 fall damage and land prone (that’s attack advantage for your melee allies, and attack disadvantage from the enemy). Similarly, if a creature is on a higher level, pulling it down can cause 1d6-3d6 fall damage (depending on how high they are).
Grab it as a Cleric to use with Spirit Guardians. If you’re willing to grab the Spell Sniper or Magic Initiate feat on a Cleric (or be a Nature Cleric, like me), choosing Thorn Whip can be a great option — especially since you’re already using Wisdom as your spellcasting ability modifier.
Like Create Bonfire and Spike Growth, Spiritual Guardians deals damage to players who enter the space/start their turn on the space within their range.
Pair with Absorb Elements. If you really want to blow people up from a distance, Absorb Elements is a great way to add elemental damage to your next melee attack that lands — including melee spell attacks.
Protect your allies. Besides pulling your pal out of the fray opportunity attack-free, you can also go the more traditional route — pulling an enemy back toward you as they pursue an ally you’d like to protect. This also allows your ally to move away without provoking an opportunity attack, provided they go before the enemy in the initiative order. Great for protecting squishy NPCs.
What Are the Rules for Thorn Whip in 5e?
The rules for Thorn Whip in DnD 5e are as follows:
Thorn Whip is a melee spell attack. Even though the spell has a 30-foot range, it is treated as a melee spell attack.
Pulling a creature with Thorn Whip does not make the target eligible for attacks of opportunity. That’s because you don’t provoke opportunity attacks “when someone or something moves you without using your movement” (PHB 195).
Since Thorn Whip’s pull effect doesn’t involve the target using its movement, it’s not eligible for opportunity attacks.
You can’t use Thorn Whip as an opportunity attack (normally). Because opportunity attacks “use your reaction to make one melee attack against the provoking creature” (PHB 195).
The Sage Advice Compendium is more explicit that you can’t make an opportunity attack “if the spell attack is caused by casting a spell…the opportunity attack doesn’t suddenly give you the ability to cast a spell” (SAC).
However, if you have the War Caster feat, then you can use Thorn Whip as an opportunity attack — but not at a 30-foot range; the normal rules of opportunity attacks (leaving your immediate 5-foot range) still apply (PHB 170).
Thorn Whip causes damage (indirectly) to enemies that you pull through damaging terrain. Thorn Whip is forced movement, and while it might not make targets eligible for opportunity attacks, it can deal bonus damage in other ways.
Most damaging terrain effects (Spike Growth, Spirit Guardians, Cloud of Daggers, Wall of Fire, Create Bonfire, Moonbeam, regular ol’ fire/acid/lava, etc.) don’t specify that a target has to willingly enter the space in order to take damage; it’s just a space that deals damage to anyone who enters/exits/travels through (spell-dependent) takes damage.
You can choose to not pull a creature you target with Thorn Whip. The wording of the spell is “pull the creature up to 10 feet closer to you,” so you can choose any number of feet you want to pull the creature from 0-10 feet.
Thorn Whip can lift a target into the air — temporarily. If you’re above a creature and target it with Thorn Whip, it can certainly lift them 10 feet in the air, causing them to take an additional 1d6 fall damage.
However, you cannot strangle a foe this way, nor can you sustain the lift, as Thorn Whip is in an instantaneous spell, and thus ends immediately upon doing what it does, on your turn.
Thorn Whip is not affected by difficult terrain. While movement speed is cut in half in difficult terrain (PHB 183), forced movement is not movement. So you can still pull a target the full 10 feet toward you across difficult terrain (instead of being limited to just 5 feet).
Thorn Whip can be used with the Mobile feat. The third bullet of the Mobile feat stops the targets of your melee attacks from being able to take opportunity attacks against you (PHB 168).
Since Thorn Whip is a melee attack, it works with this part of the feat and prevents the target from making opportunity attacks against you for the rest of the turn (regardless of whether it lands).
Thorn Whip can’t pull Huge or Gargantuan creatures. Only Large or smaller creatures can be pulled by the spell.
Is Thorn Whip 5e a Good Spell?
Yes, Thorn Whip is a good spell. A scaling 1d6 damage on a 30-foot range melee attack cantrip that also offers reliable battlefield control is undoubtedly useful, especially when used in conjunction with persistent zone damage via a spell, trap, or otherwise damaging terrain.
Additionally, up to 10 feet of forced movement is pretty significant and remains relevant at higher levels. Especially when you’re pulling your mate out of danger without provoking an opportunity attack.
Thorn Whip 5e Compared to Shillelagh
Druids have a melee spell attack cantrip choice at level 1: the persistent Shillelagh that changes melee spell attacks to a Wisdom modifier and changes the damage die of the weapon to 1d8.
While Shillelagh deals 1 more average damage than Thorn Whip (4.5 vs. 3.5), Thorn Whip offers much more utility. And when paired with the right spells or other combinations, it even has the potential to outstrip Shillelagh in damage.
However, Shillelagh is a 1-minute, no-concentration persistent effect that can be activated with a bonus action. That makes it much more efficient than Thorn Whip.
Overall, if you’re building around a Druid that likes to be in melee range anyway, Shillelagh is probably the better choice, whereas if you want to keep your distance and provide more utility, Thorn Whip is superior.
Thorn Whip 5e DM Tips
Some players will try to use Thorn Whip as a makeshift grappling hook. Sine grappling hooks are fairly cheap from the shop anyway, and a 10-foot grappling hook isn’t all that powerful, I say let them on.
Even though this really shouldn’t work RAW (the Thorn Whip disappears instantaneously, as per the spell’s casting time), it’s really not strong enough to worry about.
The other thing that players might try is turning the damage of Thorn Whip off when they use it to pull an ally out of danger without provoking opportunity attacks. Personally, I don’t allow this — part of the risk/reward of this application of Thorn Whip is deciding whether Thorn Whip’s damage is preferable to the enemy’s opportunity attack(s).
Removing this damage means that Thorn Whip is now a (fairly) consistent way of breaking a core game mechanic with no penalty. That’s just my way of looking at it, though — if you disagree and want to let Thorn Whip have this additional modification, it’s not likely to cause any major negative effects.
DnD 5e Thorn Whip FAQ
Thorn Whip DnD 5e FAQ:
Is Thorn Whip magical damage? Yes, Thorn Whip is magical piercing damage.
Does Thorn Whip have to pull? No, Thorn Whip can pull a target up to 10 feet, but the caster can choose to pull the target 0, 5, or the full 10 feet.
Does Thorn Whip provoke opportunity attacks? No, Thorn Whip’s forced movement doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks.
Can you use Thorn Whip as a grappling hook? No, Thorn Whip cannot function as a grappling hook because it must target a creature.
Can Thorn Whip grab objects? No, Thorn Whip isn’t designed to grab objects because it must target a creature.
Can Thorn Whip break a grapple? Yes, if Thorn Whip pulls the grappler out of the grappled creature’s reach, it can break the grapple.
Simple Thorn Whip 5e Spell Text
Thorn Whip: (Transmutation cantrip, 30 feet, V/S/M (the stem of a plant with thorns)) Make a melee spell attack against a creature in range. If it hits, the creature takes 1d6 piercing damage, and if the creautre is Large or smaller, may pull it up to 10 feet closer to you. | +1d6 at 5th, 11th, and 17th levels.