Dissonant Whispers 5E Guide: How & When to Use It!

Recently updated on December 26th, 2022 at 03:14 pm

Hey there! I’ve created this Dissonant Whispers 5E guide to help you understand what the spell is, how to use it, and more!

Table of Contents

What is Dissonant Whispers / How Does it Work?

How does Dissonant Whispers work?

Dissonant Whispers is a 1st level enchantment spell on the bard’s spell list in D&D 5e. Here are some other elements you probably want to know:

Spell Level1st
Spell TypeEnchantment
Casting Time1 Action
Range60 feet
Component RequirementsVerbal

What Dissonant Whispers Does

When you cast the spell, you target one creature and whisper a discordant melody. After doing so, the following will happen:

  1. The target must make a Wisdom saving throw against your spell save DC.
  2. If they fail, they (1) take 3d6 psychic damage and (2) must use their reaction to run directly away from you

The caveat here is that the creature will only run as far away from you as they can safely go, or as long as it is not obviously dangerous to do so. In other words, the creature will burn a reaction to get away from you, but wouldn’t jump off a cliff to do so.

At higher levels: The damage this spell deals will increase by 1d6 for every spell slot level above 1 (e.g., using a 2nd level spell slot to cast Dissonant Whispers will result in 4d6 psychic damage).

Dissonant Whispers 5E Mechanics

There are a few mechanics worth mentioning for the Dissonant Whispers spell. Specifically:

  1. The spell requires only verbal components and can be cast with your hands full or even from behind partial cover.
  2. The target must be able to hear you
  3. There must be a clear path between you and the target

Interestingly, only the target can hear the melody you whisper, so it is possible that no one else will know the spell was cast.

Why Dissonant Whispers is a Great Spell

Dissonant Whispers in DnD 5E is used widely as a go-to, especially at low levels. Here are just a few reasons why it’s a good choice:

  1. Damage Amount – 3d6 is a great amount of damage for a level 1 spell. And it can also be upcast for higher damage using higher level spell slots.
  2. Damage Type – Again, especially at low levels, it’s rare for monsters to have resistance or immunity to Psychic damage.
  3. Component Requirement – Because the spell only has a component requirement, you could cast it with your hands full!

What to Keep in Mind Before Casting Dissonant Whispers

Before pursuing Dissonant Whispers as a spell option, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. To start, a deafened creature automatically succeeds on its Wisdom save. This means that a creature who can’t hear you can not be targeted with this spell.
  2. Also, there must be a clear path between you and the target.

Although the spell description mentions it will connect if the creature can hear you, this limitation means it won’t connect if you or the other creature is hidden.

How to Get Dissonant Whispers

There are several ways to obtain the Dissonant Whispers spell in D&D. Here is what I’d recommend:

  1. Take 1 level in bard: To be honest, I’ve always loved playing a bard (I’m actually playing one in my current campaign!). They’re the classic use case for “a jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” When you take just 1 level of bard, you’ll get access to this spell as it’s available on their spell list.
  2. Subclasses: There are two subclass options in DnD that will give you Dissonant Whispers. Those two are: (1) The Aberrant Mind Sorcerer Subclass and (2) The Great Old One Warlock Subclass
  3. Feats: There are two feats I can think of that will give your character this spell. Those are: (1) The Magic Initiate or (2) Fey Touched.

How to Get the Most Out of Dissonant Whispers

As I see it, there are three primary use cases and min/max opportunities for anyone hoping to cast the Dissonant Whispers spell:

  1. Using the enemy’s reaction: In a battle, one difference can swing things in your favor! That includes having reactions! In fact, some of the best spells (in that they can be life-saving in a battle) are reaction spells. Imagine you’re facing a high-level wizard, among others, in a fight. You’re trying to finish off one of the damage-dealers with a spell and the wizard uses Counterspell as a reaction. That moment could be what defines the battle. If you use Dissonant Whispers on the wizard, however, they wouldn’t be able to use Counterspell because they’ve already used their reaction that turn!
  2. Provoking opportunity attacks: This is an obvious benefit for Dissonant Whispers. Huddle up around an enemy and have your caster use Dissonant Whispers. Everyone near the creature will then get an opportunity attack!
  3. Advanced positioning: One important, albeit advanced, consideration for Dissonant Whispers is positioning. If you’re trying to get close to a specific creature but it’s being protected by another, or if an enemy is just out of range of your teammate’s attack, Counterspell can be exactly what you need!
  4. Un-obviously dangerous ground: The spell description for Dissonant Whispers specifically states that an enemy won’t go run into “obviously dangerous ground.” However, there are ways to get around this. For example, you could do your best to hide a trap and then cast the spell! If the creature can’t see it, there would be no reason to assume it’s dangerous ground!

Dissonant Whispers 5E Frequently Asked Questions

Mechanically, does dissonant whispers cause fear?

One of the most common questions is if this spell gives a creature the Frightened condition. The answer, unfortunately, is no. This means any creatures immune to being Frightened would not be affected by the spell.

Does Dissonant Whispers trigger opportunity attacks?

Ah, the age old Dissonant Whispers opportunity attack question. For those hoping for a 5E dissonant whispers opportunity attack, the great news is that, yes, Dissonant Whispers will provoke opportunity attacks.

Will Dissonant Whispers trigger Booming Blade?

Unfortunately, no. In the description, Booming Blade requires that creatures willingly move. In this scenario, the creature will have moved against their will. If, after the spell is cast and they move, the creature chooses to move back to its original position, Booming Blade would trigger.

Do you have to see a creature for Dissonant Whispers to Work?

Technically, no, although the description does mention there needs to be a clear path to the creature. To me, that means you couldn’t target a creature in a different room with Dissonant Whispers, but you could target one within reach in the same room as you who can hear you but is invisible.

Additional D&D Spells to Consider:

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