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Kevin’s Spellbook: Heat Metal

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Welcome to a new series in which I explore and expound upon my favorite spells. In this series, we will tackle a new spell in each article, expounding on creative uses of my favorite part of any fantasy universe: *magic*.

Heat Metal Is The Hottest Spell Around

We’re starting with Heat Metal. It is a relatively straightforward spell in which you heat up one manufactured metal object so that it glows red. A creature holding or wearing the item takes damage and must pass a Constitution saving throw or drop the object. 

As a 2nd level spell, it becomes available to Bards, Druids, and Forge Clerics at 3rd level and at level 5 for Artificers. It makes a handy addition to any spell list and I will often have my druid prepare it because of just how versatile it is.

While fire damage is one of the widest resisted damage types, it is a highly effective one, especially when it comes to destroying objects. Nothing destroys buildings better than a hot, uncontrollable fire.

Uses Beyond Damage

Heat metal excels as a spell because it not only damages creatures but acts as a kind of limited crowd control. You can make a metal object unusable for the duration of the spell. An amulet can become too hot to hold, disrupting a ritual. A sword can be forced from a warrior’s hand. A bridge can be lit on fire or weakened so that it collapses under the weight of an advancing army.

When using any spell, I like to think about ways I can use it that isn’t just chipping away at a monster’s health pool. Nothing bores me more than just pummeling something into dust. Dungeons & Dragons have the distinct advantage of not being limited by graphics, programming, or a script. We as collaborative storytellers can shape the spells as written into something fun and interesting by thinking creatively about how any of our spells can apply in a given situation.

In the first arch finale of the game I’m playing in, we confronted a fleet of pirate ships with nothing but a small boat and a very grumpy kraken. I asked the DM if I could be thrown by the kraken onto a ship, cast Heat Metal on the metal ribs of a barrel of gunpowder, and then roll off the ship. After a successful acrobatics check, I was able to blow up a ship with a single spell!

It was a thrilling experience and the first time I began to think about my spells less like glowy weapons, and more like the complex problem-solving tools they are. 

Spells as Tools

Heat Metal’s obvious use is that of damaging an enemy unfortunate enough to face the party while wearing metal armor. This is a great way to damage an enemy and force them to doff the armor or take 2d8 fire damage each turn.

Pay attention to what the DM lays out in the environment. Ask questions to see if there are bits of metal that might shape the challenge in your favor. My favorite strategy is to ask “So I want to do X, can I?” Guide your DM through your desired play. As long as it is reasonably within the rules most DMs will likely allow it.

A trap could be broken by heating its delicate components, deforming them. A ceiling support can be weakened by heating the iron braces. A fire can be started to cause a distraction at a party. A lock can be melted to bar a door from opening. 

I hope today’s article helped you think more expansively about your spells. I am super excited to take a look at some more spells in my personal spellbook over the next few weeks. Next week, we’ll look at Major Image, and the school of illusion (my favorite school) more broadly.