All too often your hear a Player declare they will cast the 4th level spell Banishment on a creature and then the dice are rolled to determine the outcome.
While many gaming groups are happy (and are entitled) to play this way it overlooks that the Banishment spell has a particular material component – specifically “an item distasteful to the target”.
This material component requirement means the Banishment spell is not a mere a declaration of intent and rolling of the dice to determine the outcome.
A DM should be asking a Player who attempts to cast Banishment:
- What they will present to the creature they are targeting they believe is distasteful.
- If they have said item available at the time of casting.
Once declared the DM must then determine if the item presented is distasteful enough to warrant a saving throw to be made by the target of the spell.
Its highly likely that a player will state – I have my holy symbol – that will do it!
Have you ever really been offended by religious iconography to the state of distaste that you want to immediately run away? Do you really think that a horror such as a mindflayer, fiend, or aberration would experience greater distaste than you?
A holy symbol (as opposed to a holy relic) inspires the person who believes in the symbol. Remember, Channel Divinity is powered so many times a day by the Characters ability the religious item is a conduit (focus) for that divine energy – the holy symbol is not the origin of that power.
With realisation that the Banishment spell requires more preparation on the part of the Player to cast it successfully you now have the seed for adventure.
To learn what is truly distasteful…
To learn what is truly distasteful for a creature a Player may need:
- to learn the fiends true name so they can cast Legend Lore to learn what that specific fiend fears most
- to learn that presenting a severed head of a githyanki or githyanki silver sword to a mindflayer will fill it with dread.
- to learn that displaying a dead goldfish to the aberration beholder Xanathar will momentarily break its will.
Where can they obtain this information, what price be paid or what must be done to acquire this item provides an adventure opportunities for DMs and Players.
As an example: The players need to first learn who are the githyanki, then where can they be found, then how exactly they are going to obtain a githyanki head or a coveted silver sword and then what to do when they want revenge or the silver sword back? There is also the added complication of what steps might a mindflayer elder brain will take if it learns what the player characters are attempting to do?
Recognition of the limitations of Banishment means the casting of this spell is a becomes capstone story event and what Player doesn’t love the sense of achievement when they finally know they have a good chance of making things finally go their way?