Phantasmal Killer: D&D 5e Spell GuideThis post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
Ever dream of being to torment your enemies with their literal nightmares?
Maybe haunt them with their worst fears and potentially do oodles of psychic damage in the process?
Well Phantasmal Killer is the answer.
Type: 4th-level illusion
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 120 feet
Components: V S
Duration: Concentration, Up to 1 minute
You draw from a creature’s nightmares to make an illusion that manifests only to them.
The target has to make a wisdom save, and if they fail, they gain the frightened condition for the duration of the spell.
In addition, every turn the target must make an additional wisdom save. And on a failure, they take a whopping 4d10 psychic damage, scaling by an additional d10 per level cast above 4th.
Who Gets It?
Phantasmal Killer is a spell exclusive to wizards.
Wizards have access to most illusions spells, and this is one of the best.
Phantasmal Killer Uses
Doing 4d10 psychic damage on a save or suck roll can be really good.
Especially against low wisdom enemies, 4d10 is an insane damage amount over potentially ten turns.
So every time you do damage, that’s an average of 22 psychic damage per failure.
Phantasmal Killer is dependent on the saves. But again, against the right enemy, it can do oodles and oodles of damage.
So on three successive failures, it’s 66 average damage.
On five successive failures it’s 110 average damage.
And if lady luck allows you to hit every time, you can do 220 average damage, which is a consistent output against enemies with disadvantage on each roll.
The fact that it adds the frightened condition really helps, as this will give disadvantage on all ability checks. Which after the first one, will allow this spell to have longevity.
Since it doesn’t specify where the illusion is, it kind of seems that you force the target to always see the illusion, as it’s meant to really mess with their heads, and seems to be designed in that way, but it is up to DM interpretation.
Psychic is one of the damages that creatures have the least resistances to, so it can hit hard.
Thematically, you can really frighten a creature and dive into its fears and such.
Phantasmal Killer Build Idea
Wizards are weird with their subclasses.
But School of Illusion is a good choice for this.
Chronurgy Magic allows you to force enemies to reroll, so that could be a great combo with this spell.
War Magic also really helps with your saving throws, allowing you to maintain your concentration longer.
War Magic can work as you learned to maintain concentration, which helps a ton with many different illusion spells.
Chronurgy Magic helps you “mess with time” which can work with illusions, allowing you to make people buy into them.
So thematically, any character that can punish other characters with their worst fears and nightmares, can really work well here because it adds a lot of flavor.
For a DM, any creature that knows this spell can work insanely well for flavor. Especially if you know your characters’ backstories well.
If a character had a certain person special to them die, then a creature can torment them with the memory of discovering their corpse.
Or if a character is deathly afraid of owlbears, or gelatinous cubes, or heights, or something along those lines.
Phantasmal Killer is a great spell in terms of flavor, as most illusion spells are.
The more creative you are here, the better.