Prestidigitation is one of those roleplay-focused spells that lets you do certain things and probably lets you do other things as well.
It is very adaptable.
It has a place in games when there isn’t a fight going on, but it also has more than a few uses when there is.
Casting Time: One action
Range/Area: 10 feet
Components: V, S
Duration: Up to 1 hour
With prestidigitation, you can make small magic effects and tricks, similar to what magicians do on stage.
You can do any of the following with the spell. If you cast the spell more than once, you can have up to three of the effects that don’t happen right away.
- Make effects that aren’t dangerous, like sparks or wind.
- Candles, torches, and campfires should be lit or put out.
- Clean or mess up a small thing
- Warm, cool, or flavour things that don’t live.
- Add colours, marks, or symbols to things and surfaces.
- Make a small object that isn’t magical, like a coin or a flower from behind someone’s ear. It goes away when your next turn is over.
Who Gets Prestidigitation?
Just about everyone. Seriously.
As a canoe trip, it’s easy to get to.
The Artificer, the Bard, the Sorcerer, the Warlock, and the Wizard all have Prestidigitation on their lists of spells. Since it’s on the Wizard list, Arcana Domain Clerics, Arcane Archers, Eldritch Knights, and Arcana Tricksters can also get it.
High elves and half-elves with the High Half-Elf variant feature can choose it as their one wizard cantrip.
As part of their Innkeeper’s Magic, Eberron halfings with the Mark of Hospitality can also perform magic tricks.
Anyone can learn it with the Magic Initiate feat, which gives 2 cantrips and a 1st-level spell that can be cast once a day.
Lastly, changing your class is a great way to get a few more cantrips. If you switch to one of the classes that can learn this spell, you can get it.
Prestidigitation Uses, Tips & Tricks
Let’s look at some creative and common ways to use this spell in your next campaign.
With this kind of prestidigitation, you can do a lot of strange things.
The spell lists a few things you could use for stage magic, but where else could this help?
Well, in the case of the strange smell, it could be very embarrassing for a noble. As long as you can stay out of sight while casting the spell, there’s nothing stopping you from making a rival smell like manure.
There are a lot of ways to use this spell, as long as you can keep it a secret:
- Play music with notes that don’t last long to make someone think a place is haunted.
- Make bad smells to get people to leave a room or think something is bad.
- Make a room smell like smoke so that a lot of people will leave a building.
- Make someone feel like an arrow just went by their face.
- Make guards feel like they’ve been covered in a powder that makes them itch.
- Make sounds like footsteps or a bell.
A shower of sparks is mentioned in the spell, but what about a puff of smoke?
Smoke is used in some old stage magic tricks, and if your DM is willing to let you use it as a “harmless sensory effect,” it could help you get away quickly.
Light or Snuff
Depending on your DM, this is either pretty limited or very flexible. You can light or put out a candle, torch, or small campfire with this feature.
This means that you don’t need flint or anything else to start a fire.
It can also help you in battle. If your party has darkvision and your enemies don’t, a quick cast of prestidigitation might be all you need to make the room dark.
On the other hand, if you need light, you can always light your torch back up.
The tricky part is figuring out if candles, torches, and campfires are examples or if they are on a specific list. It doesn’t say “such as” like the sensory effect feature.
What about something like a lantern? The spell doesn’t say anything about lanterns, but many old lanterns were really just candle holders. Could you put out a candle-burning lantern but not an oil-burning one?
If your DM uses these as examples, you can pretty much use this to start any small fire. For instance:
- Lighting fuses for explosives
- Setting fire to oil traps
- Igniting lines or barrels of gunpowder
Even if your DM is very strict about the fact that you can only light the three things listed in the spell’s text, you are not out of luck. Just add a candle or flashlight to your device.
If a DM won’t let you use magic to light the fuse on a stick of dynamite, tie or connect the fuse to the wick of a candle. When you light the candle, it lights the fuse.
Your real limit is how much Rube Goldberg-style nonsense you can make.
This is similar to spells like “Produce Flame” and “Fire Bolt,” so if someone else in the group knows one of those, it might be best to let them start the fire.
Clean or Soil
This feature can be very useful, especially if you are playing in a campaign that is all about plotting.
When you go on an adventure in D&D… you usually end up killing a lot of people. Even though it doesn’t have to, dealing with a tyrannical lord or a demon cult could end up making a bit of a mess.
You have the magical paper towel you need to clean up all those messes, which is a good thing. Blood, dirt, sweat, and other unmentionable fluids are spread by something you should only see in your worst nightmares. All of them can be made clean with a simple trick.
On a practical note, you can:
- Clean up the blood to make it look like you didn’t kill a guard.
- If you and your friends go through sewers or mud pits, wash your clothes and theirs.
- If your party ranger won’t take a bath, clean his clothes.
- Clean an area to get rid of your blood or hair, which could be used in a scrying spell.
Technically, prestidigitation can’t be used to clean someone, but some DMs won’t care and may let you do it anyway. There’s no harm in asking.
One thing that is interesting is that it doesn’t say exactly what the word “soiled” means. There is some room for change here, but how much depends on how much your DM will let you get away with.
- Add “dirt” to your disguise to look like a gardener or a street kid.
- ‘Blood’ up your clothes if you want to play dead.
- Put ketchup or mustard on someone’s tie to make them look bad.
- Make muddy footprints on a floor or carpet to fool people who look at the scene of one of your sneaky crimes.
- Make it look like someone spilled ink on their shirt sleeves
- Make it seem like a rude nobleman has “soiled” his pants.
Chill, Warm, or Flavor
With this part of prestidigitation, you can heat, cool, and flavour things that don’t live.
There are many ways to use this spell that will make you wish you had it in real life. For example, you can heat your tea like Uncle Iroh or cool a drink on a hot day.
You can use this feature in any way you can think of, as long as you have the chance to do so. For things other than food, think about being able to cool your clothes or warm a bath with a quick word and a snap of your fingers.
You might also be able to cool or heat your clothes with prestidigitation to deal with hot or cold weather. Your DM will decide how well this works.
When dealing with some small children, making food and drinks taste like chocolate could be very helpful. Or you can use it just to let your character enjoy life a little more.
You can even (sort of) make water taste like wine or turn it into wine. It can also be used to hide the taste of poison in a drink. Very helpful for some thieves.
You can even give food a bad taste, in case one of your characters ends up in a cooking contest or needs to embarrass a chef. You could definitely make something taste like it was made with salt instead of sugar if you could hide the fact that you were casting a spell.
Prestige can be used in a fun way by clerics and people in their party who have clerics. They can make food and water with the help of magic.
With this spell, 45 pounds of food are made. It’s boring, though, unless you add a little magic. It’s a beautiful thing to cast when you’re on long quests or putting on a festival.
It can be useful in certain situations or a great way to improve your life.
This feature is fun to play with because you can use it to embarrass rivals, start fights, or just make your food taste better.
Marking With Prestidigitation
With this feature, you can give an object or surface a colour, a small mark, or a symbol.
Even though it only lasts an hour, this can still be used in some interesting ways.
This feature is mostly used to mark interesting places or things. You could leave marks to let someone know where you went, as long as they won’t be more than an hour behind you.
This is also a way to mark things and places. Need to tell the artificer where a bomb should be placed? One way to make sure no one misses is to do this.
One advantage could be that the marks do go away after an hour. The person who is supposed to be following you will see them, but anyone else won’t.
Depending on what you mean by “small mark,” you could also use this to put an insignia or a badge on your clothes. As part of a quick forgery, you might be able to “fake” a seal from a king or noble.
Carry a blank holy symbol if you need to be a member of a certain clergy for an hour. When you need to, you can use prestidigitation and add the symbol of whatever god you need, as long as you don’t think the god will get back at you.
Trinkets & Illusions
This ability lets a mage do the small tricks and sleight of hand that many stage magicians are known for. You can pull a coin out from behind someone’s ear if you move your fingers and say “abracadabra.”
The illusions are small and don’t last long. If you want to do illusion tricks, you probably already have minor illusion. This might be useful, but it’s not as good as the other arcane cantrip.
Even though it doesn’t last long, this feature shines on the nonmagical trinket. “Until the end of your next turn” can mean anything from 6 to 12 seconds. Depending on what you’re making, that could be enough time.
Depending on how your DM reads this, you may be able to make any small thing as long as you don’t need it for a long time. In one of Wizards of the Coast’s Sage Advice books, it says that the spellcaster and the DM decide what the trinket does.
In the Player’s Handbook, the Sample Trinkets list has a coin, a ring, a chess piece, dice, a land deed, a card, a silver badge, a small mechanical crab, a doorknob, and a bank deposit receipt, among many, many other things.
That makes a lot of interesting things possible.
If you are playing in a modern setting, a DM might let you make a driver’s licence or other form of ID as a “nonmagical trinket.”
Or you could make coin after coin to put in a vending machine or payphone. They will go away, but hopefully each coin will last just long enough for the machine to count it.
A platinum coin could also be used to bribe someone. Give it to a guard as you pass by and get out of there before they notice it’s gone.
You could use this to cheat at cards if you were a sorcerer with the Subtle Spell metamagic. You might have to do some sleight-of-hand checks. If you move fast, you might be able to put the cards back together before anyone notices that one of them is missing.
What counts as a trinket is the question. Is a piece of chess a small thing? The Player’s Handbook says that it is.
What about a cesium chess piece? One that you throw into water to make it explode right away? Your DM will have to figure out how to deal with this kind of explosion. Your DM might like it, depending on who they are.
Is a key a trinket?
Again, it says so in the book.
What about a key that you’ve already seen?
What if it’s an old type of key that isn’t very complicated?
How about a handcuff key for a modern setting?
You should be able to get out of those handcuffs or manacles before your next turn is over and the key is gone.
You can get away with a lot as long as your DM agrees with your definition of “trinket.”
Most of the time, the class of a character who learns the prestidigitation spell is less important than how creative they are and how tolerant their DM is.
Sorcerers do have an advantage that other people don’t have: their metamagic, “Subtle Spell.” You can cast prestidigitation without any kind of component for one sorcery point.
That can help a lot with all the tricks you can pull with prestidigitation.
So many prestidigitation tricks are easier to do when you don’t have to wiggle your fingers and say an incantation. For example, you can make other people’s food taste bad, get their clothes dirty, or make bad smells.
Even if a spellcaster doesn’t have Subtle Spell, he or she may still be able to hide the verbal and physical parts of the spell by casting it out of sight or by making a Stealth or Sleight of Hand check.
That depends on how your DM wants to run spellcasting components, just like a lot of the ways you can use prestidigitation.
If you want to use any of these ideas, talk to your DM and find out what they would be willing to do. What will they need if you want to cast a spell in secret?
What makes a small item? What can you start a fire with or put out?
Prestidigitation is so flexible that you probably won’t be able to find out about all of its uses in advance. Check with your DM to see if they will let you use it in a flexible way or if they will be more strict about it.