D&D 5e: Fade into the Forest with the Wood Elf Magic Feat
D&D 5e: Fade into the Forest with the Wood Elf Magic Feat
SOURCE: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything
Rating the Benefits of Wood Elf Magic
Benefit #1 –
The character learns one Druid Cantrip of your choice
A free cantrip is a powerful boon, and the Druid cantrip list has some standout choices for damage and utility.
Benefit #2 –
The character learns the Longstrider and Pass Without Trace spells. Each spell can be cast once per day without expending a spell slot, and both spells refresh on a long rest
This feature teaches your character a pair of valuable spells that can be powerful scouting and exploration tools for yourself and your party.
Mechanics and Requirements
Understanding How Wood Elf Magic Functions
Wood Elf Magic gives the character their choice of Druid cantrip, one fixed level 1 spell, and one fixed level 2 spell. This is roughly comparable with other magic feats like Magic Initiate, trading off a little flexibility in spell choice for more raw power.
Like all cantrips, your chosen option can be cast an unlimited amount of times per day. The two spells granted by the feat, Longstrider and Pass Without Trace, can both be cast once per day, with both spells refreshing whenever you take a long rest.
It’s worth noting that many feats allow characters that have their own spellcasting slots to recast feat-gained spells. Wood Elf Magic does not do that, so any aspiring Rangers or Druids will have to use their class resources if they frequently cast any of these spells more than once per day.
Cantrip Choices for Wood Elf Magic
Guidance: The effect of the Guidance cantrip is simple but powerful. You touch a creature, and at any point in the next minute, when that creature takes a skill check, it can consume the spell to add 1d4 to the check.
More importantly, the bonus can be added before or after taking the check. Failed a vital challenge by a couple of points? Now you didn’t.
The cantrip does require concentration, which can be an issue for spellcasters, but as this is a cantrip that will mostly be used outside of combat encounters, it’s an easy workaround.
Better, though, is the fact that this is a cantrip, so can be cast an infinite amount of times per day. Did you just hear “damn near every skill check the party takes from the moment you gain this feat has a 1d4 bonus to it?” So did we.
If you’re unsure of which cantrip to take with this feat, and no one else in your party has Guidance, you should probably take this. Seriously, it’s that useful.
Shape Water: Are you looking for a utility cantrip? Do you enjoy bending the rules of the game and coming up with interesting combinations? Shape Water is your cantrip.
Choose from a list of 4 effects, including moving water around, shaping it and animating that shape, changing its color or opacity, or instantly freezing it for an hour.
The uses for this cantrip are as varied as your creativity. Interesting uses we’ve seen include: Filling a lock or mechanism with water and freezing it to stop it from moving. Creating an ice bridge over a river. Or leaving animated signs made of water along your path for allies to follow.
Thorn Whip: This is the first attack cantrip we would recommend. The damage is a reasonably low 1d6, but the spell has a range of 30ft, despite counting as a melee spell attack, so can safely be used within 5ft without incurring disadvantage.
The biggest benefit of the spell, though, is the ancillary effect. Any creature that is large or smaller than you hit with Thorn Whip can be moved 10ft towards you. No skill check or save is required. Squishy Wizard in threat range of the big melee brute? Pull it away from him so he’s free to escape without issue.
Primal Savagery: The second attacking cantrip on our list. Primal Savagery turns the character’s teeth or fingernails into a weapon, dealing 1d10 acid damage as a melee spell attack.
This cantrip is here because it lets a character make surprisingly strong melee attacks while both hands are full. Using a longbow and someone gets close? Bite them instead.
Druidcraft: This cantrip is here for one reason. To convince you not to take it. Especially compared to Prestidigitation, the Wizardly equivalent, Druidcraft is a major disappointment.
Most of the things it does can be accomplished with mundane tools, and the unique ones are basically useless except for fluff purposes. Don’t waste your single cantrip on this. Pick something you’re going to actually use, instead.
Possibly the simplest spell provided by Wood Elf Magic, Longstrider gives one creature of your choice a 10ft bonus to its speed for one hour.
The spell doesn’t require concentration and boosts all speeds the creature has. That means if it has a climb, swim or fly speed, these increase too.
While it seems simple, this is a deceptively powerful buff. A lot of encounters are decided by positioning. Can your melee characters get to the spellcaster before they disable your party? Can you catch the courier as they sprint away at full speed? Can your healer stay away from the stabby knife goblins? All of these are simpler when you’re faster than everyone else.
Plus, the fact this can be cast on the most useful member of the party, and provides its buff without requiring concentration or other investment means Longstrider as a spell is completely fire and forget.
Pass Without Trace
Stealth in 5e is a complicated subject and tends to need some actual investment from a party to be a useful tool. Most tables aren’t comfortable with a single member of the party ranging off alone and eating up minutes of valuable gaming time, plus a single member clanking around in plate with disadvantage to their check can hold back everyone else, no matter how high the party’s rolls otherwise are.
Pass Without Trace fixes that problem, by adding a colossal +10 bonus to the check, to every creature of your choice within 30ft, which realistically means every member of the party, including companions and familiars, gets this bonus, for an entire hour.
This is an absolutely obscene buff. To put it into perspective, without further investment, at level 17, a character with proficiency in the Stealth skill will have +11 to their checks. A Level 3 character, when this spell can first be cast, might be lucky to have +5. The +10 bonus is so great it even essentially negates the stealth penalties of armor.
To illustrate, Mr Fighter is wearing armor that confers Disadvantage on stealth checks, has no proficiency, and a relatively minor +2 to their Dexterity bonus. Pass Without Trace pushes their chance of rolling at least 15 on their stealth check to 81%, with a 42% chance of still hitting at least 20.
For characters that actually have proficiency in stealth, this spell means that under general circumstances they will automatically succeed against the passive perception of an appropriate CR monster.
On top of this powerful effect, Pass Without Trace also lives up to its namesake, preventing anyone under the effects of the spell from leaving any tracks or other traces that can be followed.
In all likelihood, needing to cast Pass Without Trace more than once per day is overkill, making this spell a singular solution to the problem of party stealth in 5e.
The Wood Elf Magic feat states that Wisdom is the casting stat for all of the spells it teaches your character.
So you’d think having a reasonably high Wisdom score would be key to making good use of the feat, right?
Wrong. Both of the leveled spells require no investment in Wisdom to function and can be comfortably cast even with a negative Wisdom modifier.
Smart choices of cantrips (ie, anything that doesn’t require an attack roll or save, or all of the utility cantrips) also mean that there’s literally no Wisdom requirement to take this feat.
Unless you choose to take a cantrip that directly affects enemy creatures, Wisdom is completely non-essential to using this feat effectively.
Ideal Characters for Wood Elf Magic
Ranger – Oh man. This feat could have been custom written for the Ranger class. As principal party scouts, Rangers can expect to make full use of everything the feat offers.
While the Ranger spell list already contains both of these spells, Rangers as a class are incredibly limited in both spells known and spells cast per day. Each spell choice matters, so many characters probably won’t have the space to take these as part of their actual spells known.
Being able to cast these spells for free without eating into your resources is a huge buff, especially considering these are spells you might not use every adventuring day.
Rangers also don’t naturally gain access to cantrips. Being able to pick up Guidance, (or any of the other choices, but realistically, Guidance) is another big out-of-combat buff for both themselves and the party.
Rogue – The Rogue, as the quintessential skill character, is obviously going to benefit from more speed and a huge bonus to their stealth checks. Rogues also gain natural Expertise in multiple skills, and the ability to hide and dash as a bonus action.
Even the cantrip offers options that most Rogues don’t have access to, adding a little more flexibility to a class that can only benefit from it.
Once-per-day Longstrider and Pass Without Trace are both incredibly handy for a class that has no innate access to spellcasting, as is a free cantrip. Interestingly, the Monk might benefit more from attacking cantrips, considering the class has no built-in ranged options besides weapons, and normally has a high enough Wisdom Bonus to make full use of them.
Race or Subrace Choices
Currently, only one Race can take the Wood Elf Magic feat.
However, as a GM, I wouldn’t see a problem with Half-Elves that have taken either of the Wood Elf heritage options also taking this feat. Mechanically and thematically it fits and offers up some fun RP opportunities without breaking the game.
As always, this is down to GM fiat, so speak to your GM before picking this feat as a Half-Elf.
Combos, Tactics, and Synergies
Elven Accuracy: There’s no direct synergy between the Elven Accuracy and Wood Elf Magic feats. However, you’re already an Elf, and this feat is incredibly strong. If you can fit it into your build, it’s a fantastic choice.
Mobile: Another 10ft boost to speed, ignoring opportunity attacks from your chosen target, and situationally ignoring difficult terrain all stack incredibly well with the boost from Longstrider, as well as making it much easier to effectively use the stealth from Pass Without Trace.
Skill Expertise: The buff from Pass Without Trace is so large that any further buffs to the Stealth Skill make it almost impossible to fail ordinary checks. Expertise, doubling your proficiency bonus, is one of the largest bonuses available, and it scales with level so keeps up with growing enemy skill bonuses.
Spells that Synergize with Wood Elf Magic
Unlike many feats that grant spells, Wood Elf Magic doesn’t allow you to recast the spells it gives you with your own spell slots.
That said, any spells that increase mobility or give bonuses to skill use, can work well alongside the benefits of this feat.
Strategies for Maximizing Wood Elf Magic Effectiveness
Guidance is one of the most powerful, versatile adventuring cantrips in 5e. As we already mentioned, it essentially translates to an average of +2.5 on every single non-urgent skill check the party has to make. If no one else in the party has this cantrip, there’s no good reason not to take it. It also pairs incredibly well with abilities and spells that further boost skill use, for example, Bardic Inspiration.
Longstrider pairs perfectly with characters who are already fast and mobile. Monks, Barbarians, Rogues, characters with the Mobile feat, and characters that fly, can all really benefit from another untyped flat bonus 10ft of movement speed to let them get where they want to be.
Pass Without Trace is an incredibly strong spell for sneaking, so pairs exceptionally well with all the things you’d expect it to.
Classes like Rogues, Rangers, and Monks. Bonuses like advantage on Stealth Checks. Expertise to double your proficiency bonus. Spells like Invisibility. Even better, most of these bonuses naturally stack, leading to a character that can comfortably be looking at +20 to Stealth from as low as level 5.
Final Thoughts on Wood Elf Magic
Wood Elf Magic does almost nothing to boost the combat capabilities of a character. Instead, it offers a huge amount of power, utility, and fluff in all remaining portions of the game.
If your game contains any real amount of exploration, intrigue, or even social encounters, and you’re playing a character that can run this feat, Wood Elf Magic is a great option that’s going to heavily benefit both your character and their party, as well as adding a whole bunch of fun options that aren’t on the table for many classes and builds.