Antilife Shell is one of the few spells that sounds much cooler than it is in practise. From its name you may expect it to be a tool of necromantic terror and destruction, but in reality it’s not much more than a rather niche magical barrier.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with magical barriers, especially ones that – by the rules – are unbreakable and work without any chance for a save. Once you cast Antilife Shell it creates a 10ft. bubble that is completely impassable by living creatures, no matter how powerful they are. The only thing that can enter it are Constructs and Undead, as neither of them are actually alive.
Unfortunately, while it’s great at keeping enemies from getting too close there are plenty of non-living things that can still hurt you, such as arrows, fireballs and any weapon that can be strapped to a 10ft. pole. And as keeping the barrier requires you to concentrate it’s virtually impossible to maintain it against anything with ranged attacks for more than a few rounds.
Of course, it lasts an hour so if you’re facing foes that don’t have bows and are too stupid to throw rocks then an Antilife Shell makes you practically invulnerable. However, what keeps this from being a ‘Win Encounter’ button is the fact that it does absolutely nothing to protect your allies. If they lose the fight while you hide in your bubble of safety there’s only so long you can keep the spell going before you run out of slots, at which point you can expect things to go rather badly for you.
As with all spells there are interesting ways that you can use Antilife Shell if you put your mind to it. It can block the entrance to a tunnel while the rest of the party shoots over your shoulder, for example, or allowing you to cross the pool of blood-starved piranhas without taking a scratch.
However, for a fifth-level spell it feels extremely weak. At that point in the game your magic isn’t quite getting strong enough to melt reality, but it’s certainly getting there and simply making yourself immune to melee attacks seems a little lame compared to the alternatives.
If you’re facing a deadly foe that a) is alive, b) specialises in close-up damage and c) you’d rather have stabbing someone else in the party, Antilife Shell will suit you down to the ground. Under any other circumstance I’d rather just use the spell-slot on something more dynamic.
Unbreakable barriers that last an hour are awesome. Ones that are foiled by the humble arrow and don’t protect anybody but the caster are a bit lame.
Casting time: 1 Action
Range: Self (10-foot radius)
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 hour
A shimmering barrier extends out from you in a 10-foot radius and moves with you, remaining centered on you and hedging out creatures other than undead and constructs.
The barrier lasts for the duration. The barrier prevents an affected creature from passing or reaching through. An affected creature can cast spells or make attacks with ranged or reach weapons through the barrier.
If you move so that an affect creature is forced to pass through the barrier, the spell ends.
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where this spell really makes things interesting is when an undead monster casts it on themselves and the skeletons it controls are told to hang out inside using their bows