How does the Sleep Spell work in DnD 5e?

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Sleep Spell

In this article, we delve into what is the sleep spell and how does the spell works in the DnD world!

Sweet dreams are made of this

It’s the classic fantasy spell, isn’t it? One that has been a stalwart of fairy tales and mythology, since the earliest times and later novels, games systems and films. Picture it now, the wicked witch enchanting the hero so that he is thwarted in his quest or the plucky spell-weaving adventurer putting a whole gang of goblin adversaries so that the good guys can continue on their way and win the day. It’s the oldest story that there is so it comes as no surprise that it is a mainstay of the DnD spell book and the enchantment of choice for any discerning spell chucker. But just how good is it?

How the spell works in the DnD world

When the spell is cast, it sends a number of your enemies into a deep sleep. Targets have to be within 20 feet of the point that the caster chooses as the area of effect and that point has to be within 90 feet of the caster itself. To determine the actual amount the caster rolls 5d8. The number rolled is the total number of hit points of creatures affected. In this regard it is used as a sort of total effectiveness of the spell, reducing in potency as each subsequent target succumbs to its effects.

With the total number of hit points of creatures to be determined, the DM now goes to work with the numbers. The creature with the lowest number of hit points, and therefore the weakest, in the target area, is affected first and as they hit the ground in a deep sleep, their hit point total is subtracted from the total that was rolled. The next weakest creature is now affected, their total is now subtracted and they drop, snoring before they even hit the ground. The process continues until there are not enough hit points left to match the next creature and the spell limit, regarding the number of targets affected has run its course.

Out For The Count

All creatures affected fall into a deep sleep for the duration of the spell, which is one minute. Unless they are shaken awake or some other action, such as taking a blow from a weapon, raises them from their slumbers, they sleep for the full one-minute duration.

As this spell is an enchantment spell, the undead and any creatures magically or naturally immune to charm are unaffected.

The Sleep Spell is available at first level and it increases in potency as the casters level increases. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd Level or higher, roll an additional 2d8 for each slot level above 1st to determine the number of hit points of target creatures you can affect.

The spell is available to Bards, Sorcerers and Wizards requires verbal, somatic and material components -a pinch of fine sand, rose petals, or cricket – and takes one action to perform.

Sleep Spell in Action

Joribund is a 3rd level Wizard and is part of a party of adventurers descending into the basement level of an abandoned and ruined fort which has become the base for a party of orcish brigands. As they enter a long broad storeroom, they see a group of orc guards about 40 feet away. The party have the advantage as the orcs haven’t noticed them yet..not the best guards!

In a few deft hand movements, a scattering of rose petals and some arcane words, he casts a Sleep Spell on them, choosing a point in the centre of the group, all 6 guards are within the 20ft area of effect. As the rest of the party ready weapons and prepare to charge the group, the DM assesses the damage caused by the spell.

Joribund is 3rd level and so gets to roll 9d8 (5d8 for the basic spell and 4d8 for being two levels higher) and roles 27…not great but not the worst result. The DM starts calculating which orcs are affected, the smallest one falls, 3 points are removed from the spell’s total effectiveness, the next fall for another 4 points and so through the ranks, two burly orcs have 5 hit points so that is another ten points removed from the spell’s effectiveness and even the guard sergeant at 6 points hits the ground snoring. That is a total of 23 hit points of sleep used and 5 orc guards out of the game.

The spell has 4 points of sleep still to apply to the group but the guard captain with seven hit points blinks a few times, utters a slight yawn and shrugs the effects of the spell off. He is however now stood amongst his sleeping guard detail with a bunch of heavily armed opportunists bearing down on him. He does the only sensible thing and runs from the room.

The sleeping guards are swiftly dispatched, despite the protests of the young Paladin in the party who points out that there is no honour in killing sleeping opponents, the bodies are searched, revealing a few bronze coins, some gaming dice and a small key, and the party heads after the guard captain who has by now raised the alarm.

The pro’s and cons of The Sleep Spell

The Sleep Spell seems very potent in the early stages of your magical career, a good roll result from your 5d8 can really thin the ranks of the oncoming goblins or human brigands, it could even take out a bugbear or two or something stronger. But bear in mind that if you leave a few of your opponents standing and they are still some way off, they can shake their friends awake and, although they will have lost some initiative, they are free to rejoin the fight.

Sleep Spell is also not suitable in close quarters, you are just as likely to hit your comrades as you are the opponent that they are fighting. And of course, if you are exploring a tomb or church, then its undead inhabitants are immune to its charms.

Final thoughts

Sleep Spell is great for low-level adventures, although it does lose some of its potency as you move through the ranks, the hit point strength and numbers of the creatures that you are likely to encounter become less and less devastated in the way that low-level goblins and orcs where earlier in your career.

But there are few spells like it, perhaps you could cast a Command spell and use the word “sleep” as the keyword, and there are a few creatures and poisons whose magical or alchemical nature induce sleep. 

But, for those early adventures at least, having your party’s wizard half the number of mad eyed, whirling dervishes or frenzied lizardfolk via a Sleep Spell as they rush to engage you, is something that always makes for a great topic of conversation in the bar of The Star and Scimitar Tavern after you have completed your adventure.