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Creative Cantrips: Lots of Clever Uses for Prestidigitation

Written by Janna - Published on May 26, 2009

Janna discovered D&D at the age of 16, and she's been rolling the dice for 16 years. (You do the math.) She is fond of intelligent villains, drow society, and campaigns that explore the Dark Side.


Picture by Lamont Cranston

Prestidigitation.

It’s sort of hard to pronounce, and it sounds like something you wouldn’t want to get caught doing in public.

But prestidigitation is really a highly useful and underrated cantrip.

According to the 3.5 Player’s Handbook, you can use prestidigitation to perform simple magical effects.

These effects are:


Slowly lift one pound of material.
Color, clean, or soil items in a 1-foot cube each round.
Chill, warm, or flavor one pound of non-living material.
Create small objects.

Of course, the cantrip also has its share of limitations. Otherwise, it would be way too awesome. The limitations are:

Effects last one hour.
Effects cannot deal damage or break a spellcaster’s concentration.
The items you create are crappy, and can’t be used as tools, reagents, or weapons.
Prestidigitation can’t duplicate another spell’s effects.

The restrictions are kinda harsh, but that doesn’t mean the spell is useless. In fact, there are plenty of fun, crazy, and useful ways to use prestidigitation. Here are some of my favorites:

Create a Diversion

You’re sneaking up to an enemy camp, but a guard is blocking your way. Use prestidigitation to drop a small object and make a ruckus; soil the guard’s once-spotless tunic; or lift the skirt of a comely maiden as she passes by. Any of these actions could draw the guard’s attention away from you for a moment, giving you the opening you need.

Prestidigitation could also be used to start a barroom brawl (which isn’t that hard to do anyway, but magic makes everything cooler), giving your party a chance to escape under the cover of chaos. And while you can’t break a wizard’s concentration with prestidigitation, you could probably distract his familiar from its guard duties.

Change Appearances

There’s some debate about whether you can use prestidigitation to change the color of your character’s face, eyes, or hair. We’ll leave that judgment call to your DM. But you can definitely use the cantrip to change the color of your clothes (or those of a nearby target). This isn’t just stylish; it’s useful, too! Imagine changing the colors on a diplomat’s heraldry to resemble those of a warring nation. Imagine a priest’s shock when he finds his robes colored with the symbol of an evil god. You could also change your party’s colors to blend in with an enemy’s militia.

If your PC is really crafty, they could perform a “spell” which causes a held stone to turn red when a subject is lying. Simply use prestidigitation to change the color of the “truth stone” whenever the target answers a question. (It helps to have a great Bluff score.)

Discourage Pursuit

You’ve upset someone, and now they’re chasing you! You could use prestidigitation to drop dust, snow, dirt, or sand over your tracks; drop marbles or caltrops in the pursuer’s path (and quickly pick them up afterward); or lift the curtains and let some sun shine in (if your pursuer is a vampire and lives in a house with curtains – in which case they’re too dumb to live anyway).

Give Stuff Flavor

The flavor feature has all sorts of practical joke applications. You could make someone’s food spicy-hot, make a gourmet chef’s work go sour, or make the dwarf’s ale taste fruity. There are practical uses as well; you could improve the flavor of medicinal potions and cheap inn food. You could take a common spice and give it the flavor of a rare and valuable one (and maybe sell it for a tidy profit). And, of course, you could mask the flavor of the poison you slipped into someone’s food or drink – or add a poisonous flavor to make them think they have only minutes to live.

Clean Up (Or Make a Mess)

You can use prestidigitation to clean yourself up after a long trek through the wilderness, thus avoiding diplomacy penalties due to body odor. If you’ve committed a messy crime, you could clean up the evidence for a little while – at least long enough to smile and say, “Nothing wrong here, Officer!” Or you could make a snotty noble appear to soil himself in the middle of an important social function. (That’s just mean.)

If someone has really raised your ire, use prestidigitation to put blood stains on their garments. Then be a good citizen and call the guards.

Get Lucky

Your PC will be popular on cold and lonely nights when they have the only warm bedroll for miles around. Warm up some wine, or chill it on a hot day. Then offer it to the object of your desire. It might sound hokey, but it’s a proven strategy.

You can find hundreds of uses for prestidigitation in the Wizards of the Coast archives. Fair warning: while the uses are fun to read, many of them don’t follow the cantrip’s rules. Experiment at your own risk!

Do you have a favorite use for prestidigitation? Let’s hear it in the comments section!

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Written by Janna

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Creative Cantrips: Lots of Clever Uses for Prestidigitation, 4.2 out of 5 based on 10 ratings

Janna discovered D&D at the age of 16, and she's been rolling the dice for 16 years. (You do the math.) She is fond of intelligent villains, drow society, and campaigns that explore the Dark Side.

 

 Comments

9 Responses to “Creative Cantrips: Lots of Clever Uses for Prestidigitation”
  1. Adrian says:

    Personally, I’ve only just started playing my first spell caster.

    And when that Cleric of Pelor annoyed me…
    Well let’s just say that due to prestidigitation, no one wanted to stand within 30 foot of her.

    :D

  2. Mike says:

    I love when players use spells like cantrip, it adds flavor to the situation. In our 4e game, mage used mage hand to roll a coin away from a table. a table where greedy thieves were playing poker. Two started going for the coin, while the warlord started combat by doping a crate on them.

  3. Noumenon says:

    This is why I don’t ever want to let any of my players run a wizard.

  4. Matthew says:

    A cantrip and a good bluff score can go along way. I was playing an enchanter a while ago, separated from the party, and surrounded by hobgoblins. I had a prestidigitation up, so I put a tiny spark on the end of a wand of detect magic, and the scent of brimstone in the air, and told them I was going to drop a fireball at ground zero if they didn’t back off. They were so scared they all attacked me at once.

    I think it was that same game I was allowed to use prestidigitation to summon a wasp into someones hair. It was just a one normal wasp, and the GM made me take a full round on it like any normal summoning, but it was good for showing someone who’s boss without wasting a real spell or doing any real damage.

  5. I just started playing my first wizard and I’m loving the cantrips. I used prestidigitation to summon three balls of light and started juggling them in an attempt to get our ranger out of a bad situation (he was being threatened by a mob of peasants). Unfortunately I failed my bluff check and had to torch them all. Lets just say that fireball + 9 Minions = Hilarity and a bunch of smoking bodies.

  6. Czar says:

    I just leveled my Bard to level 2 and got to choose Prestidigitation and Mage Hand as encounter powers. I’m really excited to get to use Prestidigitation sometime soon in a role-play situation.

  7. A. Ewe says:

    In “Tome and Blood”, it talks about one other use for Prestidigitation – You transform one object of Fine size or smaller into another object of roughly the same size. The
    object can weigh no more than 8 ounces. The change must be within the same kingdom (animal, vegetable, or mineral).

    You know that awesome armor your enemy is wearing? All his buckles holding his armor on are now changed into straigh pieces of metal. The armor falls apart.

  8. DeEtta says:

    When I and two other girls were in an adventuring group together, when we were in a town we would pick up an unsuspecting male (he thinks he is going to score three for the price of one). We get him all aroused, almost to the point of climax, then pull a WILT on him. Then we laugh and leave. It has the same effect as French Revenge (if you know what that is).

  9. Mike says:

    I’ve gotten quite a lot of use out of this one.
    I used it(and a friend with a high bluff bonus) to convince a Goblin the mysterious rune on his head was a “Greater mark of Justice” forcing him to help us.
    After we lost our rogue, we carried him back to the city along with all of the fairly junk weapons and armor we got from the Goblin cave. One cantrip later, they all looked shiny and new enough to buy us a Raise Dead spell at the mages’ guild.
    Afterward, I bought a pitcher of Ale, changed its taste into one of a far superior drink, and sold it for a decent profit.
    All of these uses supremely annoyed our DM, much to our amusement.

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