5e Spell templates for VTT

Posted on October 15, 2020 by


Due to the COVID pandemic, all my gaming has moved online, and while that in it of itself is not a bad thing, it has generally changed my prep and the way I run games, even if it has allowed for greater consistency in our scheduling. 

One of the things I find the most challenging when running games, is determining the area of effects of certain spells. The 5e core rule books provide a way to do it, and it works quite well, but Xanathar’s expanded on it with the introduction of the “template” method. The template method essentially lets you drop certain geometric shapes on the battlemap, to represent the areas of effects, it’s easy enough. 

When playing virtually, this becomes easier, as the grid allows you to drop template graphics on it, making adjudicating areas of effect a very simple process. 

I use Roll20, and I went ahead and created some for my game, and I thought they’d be an interesting product to make available for everyone else playing over VTT during this pandemic. I’ve found that they definitely make my game easier to run, and I’m sure you will too. 

So let’s take a look at NewbieDM’s 5e Spell Templates. 

Don’t get caught by the Black Tentacles!

The templates are simply transparent PNG files you can drop on your VTT tabletop and use when players or NPCs cast as spell that requires you as a DM to determine an area of effect, like for example, this Fireball spell below:

In this example, if you follow the rules for using templates laid out in Xanathar’s:

Using a Template. 

To use an area-of-effect template, apply it to the grid. If the terrain is flat, you can lay it on the surface; otherwise, hold the template above the surface and take note of which squares it covers or partially covers. If any part of a square is under the template, that square is included in the area of effect. If a creature’s miniature is in an affected square, that creature is in the area. Being adjacent to the edge of the template isn’t enough for a square to be included in the area of effect; the square must be entirely or partly covered by the template.

You can see who is clearly in the area of the Fireball. There is no doubt that 4 of those Orcs are toast. Yes, even the one on the far right, because the rule says “any part of a square is under the template”. 

“Okay, so how do we use them?” I hear you asking me! Easy, let’s look at the process for Roll20, which is my VTT of choice… It’s worth noting that FoundryVTT has templates built into it already, which is super useful. 

First, you need to understand about sizes and resolution. A grid square in Roll20 measures 70DPI. That means that 1″ is 70 pixels across. 

For our templates then, a 5′ square has to measure 70×70 when created in image editing programs. All my templates are built to 70dpi, which essentially means you can drag and drop into Roll20 and there’s no need to adjust them to fit the grid. They do so by default. 

Count the squares covered by the Fireball above, you’ll see it’s a 20′ radius sphere, as the spell describes.  

NewbieDM’s 5e Spell Templates provides instructions for using them in Roll20, but I’ll repeat them here for the benefit of those who may want to create their own. 

  • 1. Drag a PNG template into the Roll20 grid from your computer.

  • 2. Create a Character Journal for the spell’s template that you dragged into Roll20, and assign all players control of it under “In Player’s Journals” and “Can be Edited and Controlled By”. Make sure to SAVE that journal.

  • 3. OPEN the EDIT TOKEN window from the PNG you brought in, find the “REPRESENTS CHARACTER” drop down, and assign it to the spell journal you created for the spell template. MAKE SURE YOU SAVE IT!

  • 4. With the token still selected, open the spell’s character journal and click on USE SELECTED TOKEN. This links that token with that Character Journal–in other words, it assigns that PNG graphic to that specific spell. MAKE SURE YOU SAVE IT!

  • 5. Cast that spell! Now, everytime any character casts that spell, you can drag the journal over to the tabletop and its template will be there, ready for you to move and manipulate as you desire. Anyone you granted permission to in step 2 can manipulate the template.

I created a “Spell Template” folder in my Roll20 journal to organize my spells.

  • 6. Snap to grid, or not? You determine if you want the templates to snap to the grid or not. In my game, I do not “snap to grid”, and it lets me use the spell template option found in Xanathar’s Guide to full effect. All you need to do is right-click the token and select “Advanced — Is Drawing”. This will remove the “snap to grid” function of the token.


Along with templates for over 30 spells, I’ve also included generic templates, also perfectly sized, fully covering you no matter the spell being cast. 

As an added bonus, I’m also including PDFs of some of the templates, already sized to a 1″ grid, so you can use them when you get back to face to face gaming! 

And even if Roll20 isn’t your VTT of choice, I suspect most VTTs allow you to import tokens or graphics into them. So check to see if your VTT includes templates for spells already, and if not, consider getting this pack. 

NewbieDM’s 5e Spell Templates is available at Drive-Thru RPG https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/332453/NewbieDMs-5e-Spell-Templates or here at my website for only $5.99 it includes 33 spell templates, and 9 generic area of effect templates, as well as some print-and-cut generic templates for face to face gaming.  

Purchase now through Paypal here. 

This will link you directly to a zip file containing the templates, instructions for use, and a pdf for print-and-play. 


And if you’re not sure, here’s a freebie. Spike Growth, a 20′ radius template, free for you to check out how they work! It’s 70dpi and 560×560… 8 squares wide on the grid as the template should be. Try it out!