So I've seen a few lists floating around claiming to name the most useless spells in Dungeons & Dragons. Given the nature of my books, I didn't agree with everything I read. Some of those spells were pretty useful for a spellcaster who can think outside the box.
But it made for some entertaining reading, so I thought I'd weigh in with my own opinions. Hell, if you people are entertained by this "Ten bands I've seen (but one is a lie)" bullshit, you'll be entertained by anything.
Note: Because it's what I'm most familiar with, I'm keeping my list limited to the d20 SRD 3.5 spell list, which can be found HERE.
Now, without further ado, let's get to the list!
1. Hideous Laughter
This one's no stranger to the other aforementioned lists, but I couldn't not include it in mine.
Granted, there are times when a "poor man's Hold Person" spell might come in handy. But at what cost?
The description of the spell states that "A creature whose type is different from the caster’s receives a +4 bonus on its saving throw, because humor doesn’t “translate” well.", which seems to suggest that you need to actually tell a joke in order for this to work. Since it's magically enhanced, I guess it doesn't have to be a good joke, but do you, the player, really want to try out your impromptu stand-up routine there at the gaming table?
And looking like a complete asshole doesn't stop at the meta-level either. The material components are "Tiny tarts that are thrown at the target and a feather that is waved in the air."
That means that you need to be carrying a big sack of pastries with you at all times. That shit attracts ants. And if your party is at a low enough level such that Hideous Laughter is useful, the last thing you're going to want to do in a fantasy world is attract ants.
2. Phantom Steed
"You conjure a Large, quasi-real, horselike creature." This is essentially a 3rd level upgrade of the 1st level Mount spell, arguably the most versatile spell in the game, according to some sources.
And while Phantom Steed is superior in some ways to Mount, it lacks the versatility and comes with a few drawbacks.
Its hooves make no sound, if stealth is important to you while riding a large, quasi-real, horselike creature, the speed at which it travels increases with the caster's level, and it can travel over mud and water, and later even fly at high enough caster levels.
But the spell duration is only half that of the Mount spell, and what self-respecting wizard isn't going to have flashier means of flying around at 14th level than a lame ass Level 3 horse spell?
Your mom's station wagon was awesome in high school when none of your friends had a car, but you don't want to be showing up to your twenty year reunion at Hogwarts in that piece of shit.
You can kill a fucking plant.
It doesn't outright kill a plant creature, but will do damage to it similar to a Fireball or Lightning Bolt spell. It has the advantage of having a maximum of 15d6 damage at high enough level, whereas Fireball and Lightning Bolt have a max of 10d6, but the disadvantages are numerous.
It's a touch spell, which is seldom ideal for a spellcaster, who tend to have fewer Hit Points than their meatier companions.
It only works on plant creatures, which severely limits its usefulness.
I've seen fire and lightning fuck up some trees before. Depending on the DM's judgement, a Fireball or Lightning bolt spell might ignite the leafy asshole you're fighting and continue to do damage after the initial blast.
The Saving Throw for Blight is Fortitude-based. Fireball and Lightning Bolt Saving Throws are Reflex-based. Plant creatures tend to be a bit tougher than they are nimble.
Blight is a Level 5 spell, whereas Fireball and Lightning Bolt are each Level 3.
The only other benefit Blight has is that it can instantly kill any ordinary plant. This doesn't really seem like a Level 5 worthy benefit, considering most people could accomplish the same with a pair of hedge clippers, an axe, or simple neglect.
Outside of pissing off a nymph or just being a dick, I can't think of many uses for this spell.
4. Speak With Plants
Speaking of plants, there's a spell that allows you to speak with plants.
Think about it. Your party has tracked the band of goblins who kidnapped the governor's daughter this far into the woods, but the trail has gone cold. If only the trees could talk, what valuable information might they tell you?
As it turns out, probably not much. Trees don't have any fucking eyes or ears.
This isn't just a case of me being a nitpicky asshole, unable to suspend the appropriate amount of disbelief to enjoy a fantasy game. These limitations are written into the spell description.
The only information you're going to get out of plants is that which a plant would reasonably be able to sense with its limited sensory perception.
I understand you don't always want to utterly destroy your opponent. Sometimes you need to capture someone alive, whether you need information from them, or you're just not into role-playing a homicidal sociopath.
Eyebite, as it turns out, has nothing to do with eyes or biting. Depending on the Hit Dice of the single target you cast it on, you can cause that person or creature to be sickened, panicked, or fall into a coma.
Having sixth level spells means that you're either at least an eleventh level wizard, a twelfth level sorcerer, or a sixteenth level bard. You could probably attack your enemy more effectively by walking up and punching him in the face than you could with this spell, and it would be a lot less gross.
At first glance, Maze sounds pretty awesome. The spell description begins like this:
"You banish the subject into an extradimensional labyrinth of force planes."
Holy shit! That's a whole new world of adventure! Traveling to different dimensions, fighting alien beings, grabbing their space loot, and finally making our way back home.
But in practice, it's just a means to get someone to go away for a maximum of ten minutes.
This is an eighth level spell, meaning the caster must be at least a fifteenth level wizard or a sixteenth level sorcerer.
The subject of the spell isn't in any danger. There are no space demons crawling through the maze. No adventures to be had. They either make a successful Intelligence check (which they get to try each round) to escape and come right back, or they have to wait ten minutes.
A sixth level Eyebite would be just as effective in many cases, but you at least would have a little warning of when your opponent is going to come back to start kicking your ass (when he's finished shaking on the ground and shitting himself).
7. Heal Mount
Why is this even a spell?
This is a third level paladin spell which works like a Heal spell, but only for the paladin's horse.
Cure Moderate Wounds is also a third level paladin spell, which a paladin could use for anyone who gets injured, including his goddamn horse.
Sure, a Heal spell has some advantages over a Cure Moderate Wounds spell. The Heal replenishes straight up 10 Hit Points of damage, whereas a CMW does 2d8+1. Going on averages, that's not really different enough to justify preparing a spell exclusively for a horse.
But Heal does more than that. It also cures the following conditions as well: ability damage, blinded, confused, dazed, dazzled, deafened, diseased, exhausted, fatigued, feebleminded, insanity, nauseated, sickened, stunned, and poisoned. But honestly, how often do these conditions apply to horses?
A paladin's mount is a magical creature which resides in a celestial realm. Even in the off chance it suffers one of these bullshit conditions, healing it is as simple as dismissing it of its service for the day and summoning it again the next day, when it will return in full health.
If you're a paladin who prepares Heal Mount, the chances are pretty good that you're just a dick.
8. Stinking Cloud
Use up a Level 3 spell slot to produce the effect of a massive fart. The spell component is a rotten egg. So even if you aren't using it, you're going to be stinking up the place wherever you go.
While not completely useless, it's not really highest-level-spell-of-the-game caliber.
The spell gives you warnings of impending danger and "gives you a general idea of what action you might take to best protect yourself". In other words, it makes you a huge pain in the ass to the DM.
There's not a whole lot that a bunch of lamp oil and Mount spells can't prepare you for. Use those Level 9 spell slots for something awesome.
Maybe I'm just not understanding this one. Let's take on the description one sentence at a time.
"This spell turns an oak tree into a protector or guardian." So far so good.
"The spell can be cast on only a single tree at a time; while liveoak is in effect, you can’t cast it again on another tree." I can respect that. No self-respecting oak tree is going to protect you if you're out whoring around with every other tree in the forest.
"The tree on which the spell is cast must be within 10 feet of your dwelling place, within a place sacred to you, or within 300 feet of something that you wish to guard or protect." Well, that's... limiting.
"Liveoak must be cast on a healthy, Huge oak. A triggering phrase of up to one word per caster level is placed on the targeted oak. The liveoak spell triggers the tree into animating as a treant."
Here's where I'm confused. Is this triggering phrase part of the casting of the spell? Or is it something you need to say in order to get the already enchanted tree to do what it's supposed to do? If it's part of the original incantation, why is it described in detail here, when no other spell I've seen describes how to say the incantation?
What's with this "up to one word per caster level" business with regard to the triggering phrase? Being a sixth level druid spell, first available to a Level 11 druid, that would seem to suggest that the trigger phrase could be a maximum of eleven words long, and that maximum number of words would grow longer as the druid continued to progress in levels. Why? What's the fucking point?
"PROTECT!" is all the incantation I need. What is the advantage to a twentieth level druid being able to make the trigger phrase something like "Tree please protect the thing I enchanted you for the sole purpose of protecting thanks so much hugs and kisses."?
I'll give the spell the benefit of the doubt and assume the hypothetical druid in question lives near some oak trees. Given that, it's my understanding that, in order for this spell to be of any use at all, the druid (at least eleventh level) has to leave whatever it is he or she wants to protect in the custody of a tree, which will protect it as a seven Hit Die creature.
Furthermore, depending on one's interpretation of the spell, this druid may actually need to also hang around so that he or she can say the trigger phrase when danger comes around.
I have no idea what this spell is supposed to be for.
Runner Up: Mage's Lubrication
I couldn't count this officially in the list because it's potentially a pretty useful spell. But if a wizard finds it in a spellbook and needs it for what he assumes it's for, it'll be pretty goddamn useless.
Silver lining: Grease is a first level spell.