How to use common D&D spells in a creative way

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Most spells in D&D and other RPGs have a pretty straightforward use.

Cast Fireball and watch your enemies try to dance out of the way of its hot, roaring flames. Magic Missile lets you see bolts of force crash into bad guys. Cast Knock and watch that locked door click open.

Maybe it’s time to branch out. Think about casting spells in unusual ways and using their effects to cause all kinds of havoc.

Speak with Animals: Lets you comprehend and verbally communicate with beasts. A lot of times, you can get nearby animals to tell you details about who’s passed by or the features of a dungeon. You can also ask them for a favor. Convincing them to overrun a nearby orc camp, cause a distraction, or lead you out of the wilderness (many animals have an innate sense of direction) are also good uses.

Create Water: Creates up to 10 gallons of water or causes it to rain in a 30-foot cube. Drop the water on a slope, causing a miniature waterfall. Follow it with an ice/cold spell to make a frozen puddle. Ask your GM if you can drop that water inside a red dragon’s mouth and extinguish its breath weapon.

Prestidigitation: Create a small effect, object, or condition such as a puff of smoke, a simple trinket, a sound, or an illusory image. Shake it up by using this spell to flavor plain rations and make them taste delicious. You could also create a fire no matter the conditions or make keys to get yourself out of a cage.

Fear: Creates a phantasmal image of a creature’s worst fears. Typically, you use this to frighten a monster and make them run away. But with its Wisdom save, you could use it on a nearby group of low-Wisdom monsters or animals, forcing them to cause chaos around your target.

Wall of Stone: Creates a wall of stone between you and a monster. Good to wall off some unknown force, but it also has an AC of 15 and 30 HP, so holding it as a Ready action means you can throw it up just as a dragon lets off its breath weapon or a big bad minotaur comes charging your way.

Darkness: Creates magical darkness that not even darkvision can see through. Interestingly, you can cast it on an object or an item in addition to a place, so you can use it to hide an object of interest. You could also follow it by casting Devil’s Sight to let you cut through the darkness and let none of your enemies see you coming.

Find Familiar: An animal familiar appears within 10 feet of you. Interestingly, the spell does not say you have to see where the familiar is summoned, so you can have it show up on the other side of a wall, inside a building, or outside of a locked jail cell. You also communicate with it telepathically, letting you tell it to unlock a door, steal an item, or discover more information before dismissing it into the ether.

Thaumaturgy: Create a menacing effect for a minute or so, like loud noises, trembling ground, or brighter flames. Though typically used as part of an intimidation check, you can have some fun with that one. Cause a fire to flare in an enemy’s face. Drop a thunderclap in their ear. Slam a door shut when a foe tries to walk through it.

Polymorph: Turn any creature into another creature. Use it to turn the big bad into something easy to kill. It relies on a Wisdom saving throw, so a not-so-smart creature is your best target. It’s not as easy as smashing a giant demon you just turned into a chicken -- creatures revert to their original forms when reduced to 0 hit points. But everyone in the party can prepare extra spells and attacks as reactions for the moment the chicken turns back into a demon.

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