False Life 5e D&D Guide [2021]

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All hit points are useful hit points, and the temporary hit points provided by False life are no different. The spell can be used preemptively before heading into a dangerous area or in the heat of combat as a nice little boost to hold the caster over.

The rules for False Life can be found in the Players Handbook on page 239.

False Life 5e

Necromancy 1st Level

Casting Time: 1 Action

Range: Self

Components: V, S, M (a small amount of alcohol or distilled spirits)

Duration: 1 Hour

Bolstering yourself with a necromantic facsimile of life, you gain 1d4 + 4 temporary hit points for the duration.

When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, you gain 5 additional temporary hit points for each slot level above 1st.

A simple and straight forward explanation provides the clear benefit to this spell. The caster gains 1d4+4 temporary hit points for the duration. Upcasting this spell is possible though only provides the average for additional temporary hit points.

What does False Life do?

False Life allows the caster to tap into necromantic energy to provide themselves with a number of temporary hit points. Temporary hit points function just as regular hit points except that they cannot be healed and do not stack. They are also consumed before normal hit points.

Hot Tip
Temporary hit points can be used to stabilize or heal a dying creature. The creature will return to incapacitated if the temporary hit points wear off before the creature has actually been healed. False Life doesn’t apply here since it is target of self, but other spells that provide temporary hit points might be useful, such as Heroism.

Is False Life a Good Spell?

False Life is a 1st level spell that grants temporary hit points. It is relatively limited in applicable circumstances and targets only the caster. Ultimately the spell is one of the weaker available to the classes and is probably not worth the spell slot compared to other available choices. The benefit of the spell is the temporary boost the caster can provide to themselves that might be just enough to get out of trouble or avoid going down for one more round.

Bottom Line
False Life is pretty weak. The only justification for picking this spell up might be the “healing” factor it provides to classes that otherwise lack access to healing capabilities. The arcane classes fall short when it comes to being able to heal themselves naturally. False life gives them the option to boost their hit points on their own instead of waiting for the party healer.

Can False Life Stack?

Temporary hit points do not stack. The temporary hit points can be in addition to other features that absorb damage. For example, the Arcane Tradition: Abjurer feature would work with False Life as the feature functions like temporary hit points but doesn’t provide temporary hit points.

If a character has temporary hit points and then is the target of an effect that grants additional temporary hit points, the effects do not stack.

However, the character does get to choose which ones to take. They can keep the current temporary hit points if the total is more than the new ones or can take the new ones if the value would be higher.

False Life and Fiendish Vigor

Fiendish Vigor is a Warlock Invocation that allows the character to cast False Life at will for the additional 1d4+1 hit points. This effectively gives the Warlock an extra 5 temporary hit points at all times unless they are in combat turns. The character can cast False Life at will, meaning they can just continually cast until they get the max and then hold that for an hour. In combat, however, they would still need to spend an action to cast the spell.

Hot Tip
Temporary hit points are normally an afterthought. The benefit they provide is minimal in most cases and well short compared to the level of spell slot they require. They can, however, help an unusually soft character survive the first few levels as the extra health is significant by comparison.

Final Thoughts

False Life is a low-level spell that really doesn’t hold up well to other spells at the same level. The benefit is the all-around application of reduced damage. More often than not, resistance type spells are going to provide more bang for the buck if the character is on the defensive.

These specialized spells, of course, require the character to know that danger is imminent and what type it is. On the other hand, False Life is a generic catch-all as temporary hit points apply to everything.

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