You utter a divine word, and burning radiance erupts from you. Each creature of your choice that you can see within range must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or take 1d6 radiant damage.

The spell’s damage increases by 1d6 when you reach 5th level (2d6), 11th level (3d6), and 17th level (4d6).

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 5 feet
Components: V, M (a holy symbol)
Duration: Instantaneous
School: Evocation cantrip

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, pg. 171

Word of Radiance 5e

Word of Radiance was one of two new Cleric cantrips to come out with Xanathar’s Guide to everything. The other, Toll the Dead, got far more love upon the expansion’s release, and to this day, many players feel that Word of Radiance is thoroughly outshined by its necrotic cousin.

That being said, let’s go over what Word of Radiance is actually good for and clear up a few rules misconceptions along the way.

Who Can Cast Word of Radiance in 5e?

The following classes have Word of Radiance on their spell list:

  • Cleric

No subclasses get Word of Radiance for free, but Divine Soul Sorcerers have access to it via their access to the Cleric spellbook (XGtE 53).

What Does Word of Radiance Do in 5e?

Word of Radiance forces each creature of the caster’s choice within 5 feet of the caster to make a Constitution saving throw. If they fail, the spell deals 1d6 (average 4.5) radiant damage.

Note that if you’re using a standard square-tiled battle map, Word of Radiance will affect the 8 squares surrounding the caster.

Finally, Word of Radiance follows the standard damage scaling of cantrips in DnD 5e, increasing in damage by 1d6 at levels 5, 11, and 17.

What Are the Rules for Word of Radiance in 5e?

The rules for Word of Radiance in DnD 5e are as follows:

  • The direction the caster is facing doesn’t matter; all creatures that they can see will be affected by Word of Radiance. Even enemies that are behind the caster are still technically within their line of sight. If it helps, change the phrase “can see” to “could possibly see if they looked around.”

  • The Blessed Strikes class feature works with Word of Radiance. Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything introduced an optional Cleric feature that allows them to deal 1d8 additional radiant damage to a creature that takes damage from one of their cantrips (TCoE 31).

    However, the exact wording of this feature states that “once you deal this damage, you can’t use this feature again until the start of your next turn.” In other words, it’s only usable once per turn. Even if Word of Radiance damages multiple enemies, you’ll have to choose just one to deal the extra damage to.

  • Word of Radiance can be used with the War Caster feat. The War Caster feat’s third bullet allows players to cast a spell in place of an opportunity attack (PHB 170).

    However, the feat does make clear that the spell “must target only that caster,” meaning you won’t force Constitution saving throws for any other enemies in range when Word of Radiance is cast this way.

    Here’s a Sage Advice thread that details how War Caster works for spells that target multiple enemies, and specific confirmation that the Eldritch Blast spell can be cast using War Caster as long as all beams focus the same enemy who triggered the opportunity attack.

  • Word of Radiance requires sight of target(s). So if you’re blinded or the enemy is invisible or hidden, they are not an eligible target for Word of Radiance, even if they’re within range.

  • You can choose to not affect allies in range with Word of Radiance. The spell’s description clearly outlines that it only affects “creatures of your choice,” so you never have to worry about friendly fire with Word of Radiance.

paladin and cleric vs. balor dungeons and dragons minis

How Do I Use Word of Radiance in 5e?

Here are a few ways to use Word of Radiance in 5e:

  1. Be tanky. Word of Radiance requires you to get in close range of several enemies in order to use it to full effect. This means that it’s much better on plate-wearing Cleric that’s investing in other defensive, support, and utility spells and features.

    After all, if you’re the character who your party wants the enemy to attack, there’s no better place to be than surrounded by them. You’ll get a lot more mileage out of Word of Radiance on characters built this way.

  2. Pair with the Bane spell. Bane is a 1st-level spell that lowers the saving throws of affected enemies by 1d4. The fact that its an area of effect debuff means it pairs incredibly well with an area of effect damaging spell that requires saving throws.

  3. Pair with Invoke Duplicity. The Trickery Domain’s Channel Divinity, Invoke Duplicity, allows for the Cleric to make a copy of themselves through which they can cast spells (PHB 63).

    This is very helpful for getting around Word of Radiance’s big downside: requiring the caster to put themselves in a dangerous situation in order to get the most possible damage.

  4. Pair with Balm of Peace. The Peace Domain’s Channel Divinity, Balm of Peace, allows them to move, heal allies, and most importantly, avoid opportunity attacks for a round (TCoE 33).

    While Peace Clerics aren’t usually in the thick of things, it could be a good idea to run in, heal your frontline mates, blow up your foes with Word of Radiance, and then get back out again — without risking injury to yourself.

  5. Pair with Celestial Warlock build. You don’t get the cantrip for free, but choosing the Pact of the Tome (Phb 107) or Magic Initiate feat (PHB 168) can get you there. With their 6th-level Radiant Soul feature, Celestial Warlocks can add their Charisma modifier to the damage Word of Radiance deals to one target. It’s not much, but it’s something.

  6. Pair with Sorcerer’s Distant Spell metamagic. If you’re a Divine Soul Sorcerer or you multiclass dip, Distant Spell can bring Word of Radiance’s area of effect twice as large — quite nice for large groups of radiant-vulnerable baddies. Still, there are likely better uses for your Sorcery Points.

Who Can I Target With Word of Radiance 5e?

You can target any creature that you can see within 5 feet with Word of Radiance. You can choose which creatures are affected by the spell, thus giving you control to attack enemies in range without also damaging allies in range.

While the phrase “that you can see” might imply that Word of Radiance doesn’t affect creatures behind you, this is not the case. As long as you could possibly see the creature (you’re not blinded, it’s not invisible, etc.), then it is affected by Word of Radiance — whether you’re looking at it or not.

Is Word of Radiance 5e a Good Spell?

No, Word of Radiance is not a good spell. Most Cleric players were far more excited about Toll the Dead as the new damaging cantrip of choice, and nobody’s looked back much since then.

Word of Radiance is low range and low damage, and requires a save-or-suck Constitution saving throw to do anything — the highest average ability score of monsters in the game.

Worst of all though is that Word of Radiance requires excellent positioning to hit multiple foes at once, which can be tricky without provoking opportunity attacks. And then once you’re there, you’ve got the small problem of being surrounded by enemies (granted, a tank Cleric probably isn’t worried about that part).

On the plus side, radiant damage isn’t a common resistance or immunity. And while the spell can scale nicely with the Potent Cantrips feature that some Cleric subclasses get (Knowledge, Light, Life, Grave, Arcana), that’s not until 8th level, at which point you probably have more exciting AoE options that don’t require you to be in melee range of multiple enemies.

Word of Radiance 5e DM Tips

Word of Radiance is a fairly straightforward spell, so you shouldn’t have much trouble adjudicating the rules around it. Instead, I’ll use this space to provide tips for adding flavor to this spell.

I always encourage players to come up with the actual verbal components for the spell, since it is meant to be a “word” of radiance, after all. Lumos? Repent? Sun’s Wrath? Plenty of good options out there to match the character’s overall flavor.

Beyond that, you can describe the effects as a radiant flash of light that staggers enemies who are affected by it. Allies, being used to their shining Cleric buddy, aren’t phased by the fury of the sun that he unleashes upon the area.

Simple Word of Radiance 5e Spell Text

Word of Radiance: (Evocation cantrip, 5 feet, V/M (a holy symbol)) Each creature of your choice that you can see within range must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or take 1d6 radiant damage. | +1d6 at 5th, 11th, and 17th level.