Occasionally a Paladin will temporarily remember that spell slots can be used for something other than smites, and when this happens their Auras are among some of the most effective support abilities around. Aura of Life isn’t the most versatile of these, but it is incredibly effective at one specific task – messing with powerful undead.
While this isn’t directly stated anywhere, a quick glance at the spell should make it fairly obvious that’s what it’s best suited for. So long as the party stays within 30 ft. of the caster they gain resistance to necrotic damage and can’t have their maximum hit points reduced in any way.
This combines to dramatically boost their durability when running up against creatures such as Vampires and Shadows. Hit point draining is a particularly annoying effect, so being able to ignore it is a godsend – quite literally.
The spell also has another aspect that can potentially be incredibly powerful. Every non-hostile creature within the aura that starts its turn with zero hit points automatically regains one and wakes up. As an adventurer with only one hit point is just as effective in combat as one at full health, this can keep the party fighting through dire circumstances. Even if they get knocked unconscious as soon as their turn finishes, that still gives them time to cast a spell or launch an attack.
Of course, if the situation really is so bad that you’re having to wake up fallen comrades every round it’ll probably be hard for the Paladin to keep her concentration up. This is a flaw shared by most buffs – the system is designed to make it hard to recreate 3.5’s buff-stacking shenanigans – but it’s particularly annoying for a front-line fighter, who can’t hids in the back and avoid damage like dedicated spellcasters.
Another issue is that it takes a deceptively long time to get access to the spell. While it’s only 4th level, Paladins get the half-caster slot progression so only get the ability to cast it at level 13, by which time Clerics and Bards will be getting their hands on some truly spectacular support spells.
There’s also the fact that casting spells does somewhat diminish a Paladin’s ability to dish out crazy smites. Their slots – especially higher level ones – are valuable, and it’s hard to justify using them on Aura of Life unless a battle is going spectacularly badly and the party desperately needs triage, of you’re up against powerful undead foes with health-sapping abilities.
A great spell that can single-handedly turn the tides of a tough battle and will make Vampire Lords hang up their fangs in frustration. Trying to persuade most Paladins to use slots on something other than blowing an enemy up with radiant fire can be tricky though.
Aura of Life
Casting time: 1 Action
Range: Self (30-foot radius)
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes
Life-preserving energy radiates from you in an aura with a 30-foot radius.
Until the spell ends, the aura moves with you, centred on you. Each non-hostile creature in the aura (including you) has resistance to necrotic damage, and its hit point maximum can’t be reduced. In addition, a non-hostile, living creature regains 1 hit point when it starts its turn in the aura with 0 hit points.