Silence: What’s So Great About This 2nd-Level D&D Spell
Are you looking for a 2nd-level spell that can neutralize even the most powerful mage? A spell that, when cast only twice, has been known to take out Acererak, the powerful lich responsible for Faerun’s recent Death Curse? Let me introduce you to silence.
How Does It Work?
Silence is a spell that can be learned by bards, clerics, and rangers, takes a single action to cast, and requires verbal and somatic components. It can also be cast as a ritual, allowing you to conserve spell slots.
When cast, silence creates a 20 ft sphere of forced quietness around a point in space, where any creature inside of the sphere is incapable of creating noise.
What’s So Great About It?
By creating a zone of silence, any casters inside are incapable of using spells which require verbal components, unless they first move outside of the sphere. There are only 18 spells that require no verbal components, vastly limiting their spell-casting resources.
Additionally, a vast majority of these spells are under level 2 and are primarily cantrips, limiting their firepower substantially.
What About Counterspell?
Because this spell is primarily used against mages, you have to consider how it will stand up against counterspell, which is the bread and butter of an enemy mage’s toolbox. Silence is a level 2 spell, meaning that it would be automatically counterspelled unless it is upcasted to a higher level. However, there are no additional benefits to casting silence at a higher level, other than prevention of potential counterspells.
But there is one key facet of the silence spell description which can entirely bypass the threat of counterspell; Silence has a range of 120 feet, while counterspell only has a range of 60 feet. This means that you can easily back out of counterspell range and drop silence on enemy casters.
Even if an enemy sorcerer has the distant metamagic feature, which allows them to double the distance of a spell they cast, you can still move to a 130 ft distance and cast the silence spell at a point 10 feet in front of the caster; this prevents the target from counterspelling your silence, while still catching them inside of the 20 ft sphere.
If multiple characters are able to cast silence, an entire room of casters can easily be neutralized, allowing melee characters to move into range and easily take them down, or for ally casters to stay at range and slowly wear them down.
Silence has many other tactical and role-playing uses, as well.
You can utilize silence to cover up a commotion and prevent others from learning of your presence. For instance, while fighting foes in a city, such as Waterdeep, where there are strict laws against combat, killing, or certain types of spell-casting, you can create a zone of silence to prevent the city watch from overhearing the ruckus.
Similarly, if you’re trying to run a stealth operation, such as robbing a bank or performing a late-night assassination, you can drop a zone of silence to prevent any noises from alerting nearby security or others who could foil your plan.
Using silence, in place of or in addition to pass without trace, can augment stealth operations and help ensure success.
Silence can also be used to mute the noises of others. For instance, silencing an alarm bell rung by an enemy watchman can prevent reinforcements from arriving or higher-ups from being alerted to danger. Muting an enemy captain can prevent them from giving orders and directions to troops, causing disorganization and confusion among the ranks. Muting a politician trying to rally citizens to an evil cause can prevent an angry mob or cult from forming.
This spell can also neutralize special abilities that require verbal components, such as a hobgoblin captain’s leadership trait or a harpy’s luring song, preventing mechanical benefits and helping turn the tide of battle.
Overall, silence is a versatile spell which can be useful in a wide number of situations. As a 2nd level spell, it is something that can be learned early and used on a wide number of enemies, from CR 1 harpies to powerful CR 21 liches. Keeping this spell prepared for situations like these can drastically improve the odds of your party's mission succeeding.
Has silence ever saved your skin or your party as a whole? Let us know in the comments below!