DDO: Spell Schools

ddo spell schools


Hidden amongst the various tidbits of spell information in DDO is that all spells fall under a related school of magic.  Fireball, for example, is under the Conjuration school, while Blindness is a Necromancy spell.

So what are the differences between the schools of magic?  What do the schools represent, and what does a spell’s school mean in practical terms when selecting your spell line-up?

The Basics

There are eight schools of magic in DDO, each of which represents a different general type of effect:

  • Abjuration: defensive and protective magic
  • Conjuration: summoning and teleporting creatures and objects
  • Divination: enhancing knowledge and sensory input
  • Enchantment: manipulating the mind
  • Evocation: controlling magical energy
  • Illusion: creating deceiving effects and images
  • Necromancy: magic of the undead, death and physical drain
  • Transmutation: manipulating physical objects and bodies

Almost all spells belong to one of these eight schools, based on how it effects the world.  Fireball, for example, falls under the Evocation school because it directs magical energy in the form of fire into a massive explosion. 

The school of your spell doesn’t have much direct effect on play.  Rather, it’s more of a general classification to help you understand what sort of spell you’re looking at.  Most Enchantment spells, for example, are somewhat similar in what types of creatures they affect, that they usually do no direct physical damage, and they are often used to control and paralyze the enemy.

The Spell Focus line of feats are an exception, directly tied to the schools of magic.  Each school has a corresponding Spell Focus feat, such as “Spell Focus: Enchantment,” that makes your spells of that school slightly have a +1 on their saving throw to resist the effect.   For example, if your Charm Person spell usually requires a Will save of 16 or higher to resist, then if you take Spell Focus: Enchantment, your Charm Person will instead require a 17 or higher to resist. 

Spell Focus is primarily useful if most or all of the spells you use fall under the same school.  If you are specializing in necromancy spells, and most or all of the time you’re casting necromancy spells in combat, then Spell Focus: Necromancy is a good feat.  On the other hand, if sometimes you use Necromancy and sometimes Evocation, then a Spell Focus feat will only be half as effective for you overall, so you might want to consider other feats instead.

Abjuration school

The Abjuration spells center around using magic for protection.  They create barriers and shields and disperse and negate harmful magic.  These spells don’t usually require saving throws from opponents, so Spell Focus: Abjuration probably isn’t all that useful.  The Abjuration spells in DDO are:

  • Break Enchantment
  • Dismissal
  • Dispel Magic
  • Protection from Energy spells
  • Protection from Evil
  • Remove Curse
  • Remove Fear
  • Resist Energy spells
  • Shield
  • Shield of Faith
  • Stoneskin

Conjuration school

Conjuration magic summons and teleports physical objects, liquids, and gasses.  You can use it to summon pets briefly into material existence, summon magical ammunition, and put puddles and walls and toxic clouds of gas on the battle field.  Unlike most magic, Conjuration magic typically ignores spell resistance, because it summons a physical substance or object that in turn actually hurts the target.  Thus, whereas a high spell resistance stat can divert a Magic Missile or Scorching ray, it will have no effect on a conjured Acid Arrow or puddle of Grease. 

The Summon Monster line allows you to conjure pets to fight on your behalf.  Each caster can have up to two summoned monsters out simultaneously.  Summoning a third causes the oldest monster to vanish.  You can summon your monster at long range by clearing your targeting orb and pointing your targeting reticule where the monster should appear.  (If you have something targeted, the monster will appear next to you.) 

Finally,  conjuration also includes all clerical Cure spells.  (I’m not actually sure why Cure spells don’t fall under Transmutation, but I didn’t write the rules.)

The Conjuration spells in DDO are:

  • Cure spells
  • Cloudkill
  • Fog Cloud
  • Glitterdust
  • Grease
  • Mage Armor
  • Melf’s Acid Arrow
  • Obscuring Mist
  • Sleet Storm
  • Solid Fog
  • Stinking Cloud
  • Summon Monster spells
  • Web

Divination school

Divination magic enhances knowledge and improves the senses to help detect and find hidden objects and places.  Most of the Divination spells from tabletop D&D are not in DDO, but a couple made it into the computer game:

  • Detect Secret Doors
  • See Invisbility

Enchantment school

Enchantment magic manipulates the mind of opponents.  It can charm, confuse, stun, sleep, and paralyze, among other things.  Most enchantment spells do no direct physical damage (although some like Feeblemind do mental damage), but they are very useful as crowd control to help disperse a large group of monsters or to freeze and make helpless a particular opponent that’s causing trouble.  Enchantment spells typically allow a Will save to avoid the effects.

Most enchantment spells are “mind-affecting,” which means they only work on living, creatures with animal or higher intelligence.  Undead, constructs, and vermin like spiders and scorpions are immune to mind-affecting spells.  An enchantment specialist should keep in mind that his spells won’t typically work on those creatures, and it is a good idea to have something else as a back-up.

Charm and Hold spells give the target periodic new attempts to break free.  When a target fails their initial saving throw versus the spell, they get a new save attempt every so-many seconds to again try and break free.  Thus, even if you manage to Charm a high-Will creature on the first attempt, it’s likely that it will break free of the charm when it gets a new save attempt 20 or 30 seconds later. 

And yes, Otto’s Resistible Dance works on animals. If you want to see a dog dance, give it a try.

The Enchantment spells in DDO are:

  • Bane
  • Bless
  • Charm Monster / Person
  • Command
  • Crushing Despair
  • Daze Monster
  • Deep Slumber
  • Dominate Person
  • Feeblemind
  • Heroism
  • Hold Monster/Person
  • Otto’s Resistible Dance
  • Rage
  • Sleep
  • Suggestion
  • Touch of Idiocy

Evocation school

Evocation spells manipulate energy, often in the form of devastating attacks.  Evocation is the most damaging school.  Many of the spells that do direct hit point damage are in this school.  Most evocation spells allow a reflex save to reduce the damage.

Many of the evocation spells fall under an element: acid, cold, electricity, fire, force, or sonic damage.  Wizards and sorcerers have class enhancements that allow them to increase the damage done with specific elements, like Combustion enhancements to increase fire damage.  There are also magic items that enhance damage from specific elements, and weapons that deal magical elemental damage.  Keep in mind that some creatures may be resistant or immune to specific elements, such as fire mephitis and fire elementals being resistant to fire damage or even being healed by fire damage.  Other creatures can be vulnerable to an element and take extra damage, such as fire creatures taking extra damage from cold magic.

The Evocation spells in DDO are:

  • Ball Lightning
  • Burning Hands
  • Cone of Cold
  • Divine Favor
  • Fire Shield (Cold and Fire)
  • Fireball
  • Flaming Sphere
  • Ice Storm
  • Lightning Bolt
  • Magic Missile
  • Scorching Ray
  • Shocking Grasp
  • Shout

Illusion school

Illusion spells use magic to create deceiving and confusing effects, patterns and false images.  In tabletop D&D, the primary spells in this line enable the caster to create fake images of creatures or objects to fool opponents.  However, because of the open-ended nature of such spells, programming this sort of effect proves quite difficult.  Currently, DDO has somewhat limited spells in the Illusion line. 

There are three spells in the Illusion school in DDO:

  • Hypnotic Pattern
  • Invisibility
  • Phantasmal Killer

Necromancy School

Necromancy spells use negative energy to cause damage and debilitate living creatures and to command and animate and regenerate undead creatures. 

Against living creatures, necromancy causes severely harmful effects, including strength loss, exhaustion, blindness, and fear.  The only direct damage spell in the DDO Necromancy line is Chill Touch, which does relatively high damage and drains some strength against living targets.  Although hit point damage from necromancy is less than evocation, the negative effects are long lasting (some are permanent) and virtually all stack together.  Thus, you can take a giant, for example, and turn him into a Blind, Cursed, Exhausted, Enfeebled, Panicking giant.  Necromancy won’t kill him, but it will make him WISH he was dead.

Against undead, necromancy has no directly damaging spells, but instead includes some spells that allow you to cause them to flee, command them, and paralyze them.  Non-living constructs such as iron guardians are a weak point, as they are typically immune to negative energy damage and to some (not all) of necromancy’s harmful effects.

The Necomancy spells in DDO are:

  • Bestow Curse
  • Blindness
  • Cause Fear
  • Chill Touch
  • Command Undead
  • Doom
  • False Life
  • Fear
  • Halt Undead
  • Ray of Enfeeblement
  • Ray of Exhaustion
  • Scare
  • Waves of Fatigue

Transmutation school

Transmutation magic allows the caster to alter physical bodies and objects.  They can make people stronger, smarter, faster, repair damage, and even alter the body to do things like breath underwater and float in the air.  While DDO currently doesn’t offer actual shapechanging magic like Polymorph and Enlarge Person, there are still numerous other beneficial effects available in the Transmutation line.  Note that in DDO, there is only one attack spell, Slow, so taking Spell Focus: Transmutation is not recommended.

The Transmutation spells in DDO are:

  • Bear’s Endurance
  • Bull’s Strength
  • Cat’s Grace
  • Eagle’s Splendor
  • Expeditious Retreat
  • Feather Fall
  • Flame Arrow
  • Fox’s Cunning
  • Haste
  • Jump
  • Owl’s Wisdom
  • Repair Damage spells
  • Slow
  • Tumble
  • Water Breathing


As you can see, when you look at the spells by school, many similarites within the school emerge.  Even if you’re not familiar with the details of a specific spell, if you know its school you’ll have a pretty good idea of what sorts of things you might expect from it.  And if you’re considering becoming a “school specialist” who primarilly uses only one school of magic (e.g. only uses necromancy most of the time), then it’s worth investing in Spell Focus for that school and understanding what sort of role you might be best suited for in combat with that school.  An Enchanter, for example, would not be a good choice for someone who wants to actually kill a lot of creatures and do a lot of damage, but WOULD be a good choice for someone looking to do a lot of crowd control, charms, and holds.

When you think about making a caster, keep in mind the schools as a handy reference to help you decide the type of spells you’d like to focus on. 

School’s out – Class dismissed.

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