Last Updated on January 22, 2023
If you’ve been in the D&D space for any length of time, you’ve heard of Critical Role. The series has become iconic for its quality acting and excellent stories. Along the way, the series has created some robust homebrew content, including the magic of dunamis, which deals with potential and probability.
Originally created for the world of Exandria, Dunamancy is an entirely new school of magic. While Exandria itself is a rich and complex setting (which you can find out about here), this school has grown from the creation of the master storyteller and acclaimed voice actor Matt Mercer to official D&D 5e content.
The School of Dunamancy currently only has a relatively small number of spells compared to more established schools of magic, but it is a fascinating conceptual addition to the normal 8 schools. For decades, these 8 schools have defined what magic is in D&D, but with Dunamancy on the scene, the borders of what is possible in 5e have expanded.
While the school has no Wizards dedicated to it exclusively, like the other schools, both Chronurgists and Graviturgists use the power of Dunamancy. In fact, while the official spell list is a little short, there are several spells throughout the standard list that use the power of dunamis. Plus, the Fighter subclass Echo Knight also uses Dunamancy (in a martial, sword-fighting kind of way). If you want to use Dunamancy, there’s a variety of options.
Of course, while there’s a lot of information out there on the 8 original schools of magic (like our own guide here!), Dunamancy is a little more esoteric. Most people are pretty familiar with the original 8, but it’s understandable if you aren’t as familiar with this new school.
That’s where this guide comes in. Whether you are a player looking for some new spells to learn or a DM not sure how to incorporate Dunamancy into your campaign setting, I’ll explain everything you need to know about Dunamancy from its fundamental principles to its most iconic spells.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
What Is Dunamancy?
The school of Dunamancy is not as self-explanatory as, for example, Necromancy, but it is a cohesive whole centering around the magic of potential and probability. While the school has a not insignificant amount of lore behind it (which you can read about here), a good chunk of that lore are spoilers for Critical Role campaigns, and you might want to mess with it anyway for your own setting.
That’s why it’s best to approach Dunamancy from its conceptual foundations. At its heart, the school covers magic affecting time and space, probability, and gravitational energy.
Physicists have long known that these two concepts are fundamentally linked, but your average 5 Wizard isn’t likely to understand that. So in-game, it’s easier to think of Dunamancy as a school covering spells that manipulate the flow of time and gravitational power.
Thus, you have Chronurgists and Graviturgists, Wizards dealing with chance and gravity, as well as Echo Knights who manipulate possible timelines to create shadow selves from beyond the veil of possibility.
Dunamancy is a school focused on manipulating the very fabric of reality. That does give it some overlap with teleportation magic or spells like Reverse Gravity, and in truth, it is said that these spells do have elements of dunamis magic in them. However, what sets Dunamancy apart is its specific focus on warping gravity and time.
As a school of magic governing space and time, Dunamancy is a school useful both for damage and utility casting.
To get a better sense of the school, let’s look at some of its best spells.
Iconic Dunamancy Spells
As previously mentioned, there are not a lot of Dunamancy spells compared to the other schools, but there are still plenty to go around. Below are 5 of the standout spells from the school. These are some of the best spells, a representative sample of what Dunamancy can do from cantrips to 9th-level spells.
Of course, we can’t include every excellent or interesting spell here. Some, like Time Ravage (a 9th-level spell that ages a target to within a month of their death by old age), just aren’t quite as good as comparable spells. Others are excellent, but there simply isn’t enough room on this list for all of them.
You can see a full list of all Dunamancy spells here.
On the face of it, Sapping Sting is a standard damage cantrip. It deals 1d4 necrotic damage on a Constitution save plus forces the prone condition by sapping the vitality from a target within 30 feet. However, the cantrip has a niche but powerful use against flying creatures.
Whether you’re on the ground fighting a flying opponent or engaged in a battle in the sky, proning a flying opponent causes them to instantly fall to the ground, potentially dealing significant falling damage.
This is one of my personal favorite spells. While it costs 25 gp worth of gold dust for each casting of the spell, Immovable Object turns an object that weighs no more than 10 pounds into literally an immovable object that can support up to 4,000 pounds. You can designate creatures that can move the spell normally or a passphrase that suppresses the spell for 1 minute.
At level 4 or above, the duration increases to 24 hours, and it can hold up to 8,000 pounds, and casting the spell at 6th level or above makes the spell permanent and allows it to hold up to 20,000 pounds.
This is an excellent utility spell for solving problems and setting traps. It basically lets you have an unlimited number of immovable rods (though you do have to burn through gold to use the spell). A Wizard with enough money and time could even make a permanent floating castle with this spell, which is undeniably cool.
Temporal Shunt is effectively a better Counterspell. You can cast Temporal Shunt as a reaction to seeing someone making an attack roll or casting a spell. On a failed Wisdom saving throw, the target is shunted out of time for a full round, reappearing only at the start of its next turn. The spell or attack is wasted, and the target doesn’t even remember you casting the spell or being affected by it.
For each higher-level spell slot, you can target additional creatures as well, making this extremely useful for suddenly getting rid of several enemies at once.
Temporal Shunt is an excellent spell, and with 120-foot range, it’s simply better than Counterspell for spells of 5th level or higher. Of course, you won’t necessarily know the level of spell someone is casting when it’s time to cast, but Temporal Shunt is still a valuable spell for any wizard to have.
Tether Essence is a fascinating multiuse spell that consumes 250 gp of platinum wire every time you cast it and lasts for up to an hour (concentration). You target two creatures within range (60 feet) and force a Constitution saving throw, which is made at disadvantage if the creatures are within 30 feet of each other. Creatures can willingly fail the save, and both saves must fail for the spell to take effect.
If the spell succeeds, both creatures are linked. Either damage or healing done to one creature is automatically applied to the other as well. If either creature is reduced to 0 hit points, the spell ends for both.
This spell has a variety of uses. You can tie your allies together to simply double your healing output. You can tie your party’s tank to a squishy enemy Wizard, dealing easy damage to the tank to quickly drop the Wizard. You can even tie two enemies together and then drop an AOE effect on them both, quadrupling your damage output. Deal 20 damage to both of your enemies, and each enemy will take 40 damage since whatever damage is dealt to one is also done to the other.
While not strictly about gravity or time, this spell links the fates of two individuals, essentially giving them the same health pool, opening a lot of potential for interesting and unique combos.
Meteor Swarm has been the undisputed ruler of 5e damage spells for years, and with four 40d6 40-foot damage zones, why wouldn’t it be?
Ravenous Void is a worthy challenger. Now let’s be clear, Meteor Swarm is still better, but Ravenous Void lets you summon a black hole for a minute (concentration).
With a range of 1,000 feet, you get to choose a point of origin for a 20-foot-radius sphere. Unsecured objects within 100 feet of the sphere are pulled to an unoccupied spot inside the sphere when the sphere appears and at the start of your turn — so are creatures within the same range, though they get a Strength saving throw.
Nonmagical objects fully inside the sphere are instantly destroyed — annihilated in fact. Wiped from existence. Creatures take 5d10 force damage each round they are inside the sphere and are restrained while within it. While this is way too little damage for a 9th-level spell, they too are annihilated if they drop to 0 hit points while in the sphere along with any nonmagical items they held. Strength checks let a creature stop being restrained, but the sphere and the area for 100 feet in every direction is difficult terrain.
While the damage for this spell is a little low per round, the effects are terrifying. Enemies are dragged from a massive radius, and the sphere itself annihilates all nonmagical objects not worn or carried. That means the sphere will leave a void of empty space when it vanishes. Rules as written, you can use this spell to destroy a massive area of dirt or stone, simply cutting a hole in enemy defenses. When used against an army, everyone within a circle 240 feet in diameter will be affected. While enemies can overflow the sphere, once dead, they will be annihilated, freeing up room for new targets.
It might not be the highest damage spell, but the Ravenous Void’s power is undeniable.
Dunamancy in Your Campaign
Dunamancy is pretty new to 5e, so you might not be sure how exactly to include it in your campaign.
Of course, you can just drop in the spells, and let anyone use them, but official guidance for Dunamancy suggests that these spells be given out sparingly.
The secrets of Dunamancy don’t belong to just one nation or organization, but they are still secrets. Dunamantic spells are rare, and spellcasters won’t know them automatically unless, like Chronurgists and Graviturgists, they’ve specifically studied them.
As for everyone else, you should generally give your spellcasters Dunamancy spells as semi-rare rewards. Perhaps someone befriends a Cleric who knows the secrets of Dunamancy and passes some along, or maybe your party finds an ancient scroll with a Dunamantic spell as loot.
But what about incorporating the concepts of Dunamancy itself? What does it mean for a new school of magic to be discovered/invented after so many years of the established eight?
Rewriting the System
There are a lot of ways of representing the addition of Dunamancy in your campaign setting. Here are two of my favorites:
You can present the discovery of Dunamantic spells as evidence that the entire wizardly categorization of magical schools is merely a veil over a complex reality meant only to make things simpler to understand. Maybe your party discovers a group of people who do magic completely differently and find out they can learn new and strange spells too.
You can also use Dunamancy as a truly new way of doing magic, recently discovered or rediscovered. Perhaps some great calamity has changed the way magic works in the world, completely eliminating some schools while also creating new ones. Players will naturally want to seek out the new magic and gradually discover that their world has changed.
However you incorporate Dunamancy, remember that it will expand the possibilities of the D&D magic system. And that’s a good thing! Getting your players to think in new ways and question what’s possible is the key to creativity and a vibrant role-playing experience.
Dunamancy is exciting. Beyond the spells and beyond the interesting origin and lore, Dunamancy is a whole new school of magic. That’s a big deal. The eight schools of magic have hung around for a long time, and a new school creates not only a paradigm shift in how people think about the D&D magic system but also how the characters inside your campaign setting think about magic.
In many ways, it’s fitting that Dunamancy is D&D’s new school of magic. Originating in homebrew, Dunamancy is a representation of the ongoing conversation between the players and Wizards of the Coast, homebrew, and official content merging to create the stories we all love to play.
And now that Wizards have added a new school for the magic of potential and probability, the potential exists for additional schools covering inventive and fresh concepts.
Dunamancy is an excellent addition to the D&D magic system. A new school of magic with a new set of spells with a clean and distinct set of conceptual links will be fun to use and provide interesting opportunities for new stories. Gravitational spells provide interesting damage options, and probability-twisting spells provide a much-needed class of utility for 5e.
However you decide to implement the new school, enjoy the new School of Dunamancy!
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Ervin( Expert Contributor )
Growing up I spent most of my time reading, so when I first started playing RPGs in middle school and got a copy of DnD 3.5’s rules I loved their collaborative take on storytelling. These days I like to use RPGs to develop my creative problem-solving skills as well.