D&D 5E Can a spell be cast to cause non lethal damage?

I had this scenario just happen to the group I run on Saturday nights. They encountered a group of baddies with a hostage (being mind controlled and attacking as well) in tow, and the wizard wanted to cast a fireball that deals non lethal damage to protect the controlled hostage.

I know you can deal non lethal melee damage, but a spell? For the life of me I didn't find any information regarding this.

Somebody help me out here..please!!
 

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Mad_Jack

Legend
There's nothing in the rules about being able to deal non-lethal damage with a spell - it's entirely a DM call. Doing non-lethal damage with a melee weapon (narratively speaking rather than from a rules perspective) is about hitting with the flat of the blade, or pulling your blow so you don't kill the opponent, etc....
Although I could see some spells being able to be cast in such a way that you could do it non-lethally (force damage and such, perhaps), coming up with a way for a fireball to do it? That's gonna take some seriously creative fluffing if you decide to allow it...
 

Satyrn

First Post
I believe the rules say that when you drop a foe to 0 hit points (no matter how you do so), you can decide to render it unconscious instead of dead. That is, there is no such thing as lethal or non lethal damage in the game.
 


Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I believe the rules say that when you drop a foe to 0 hit points (no matter how you do so), you can decide to render it unconscious instead of dead. That is, there is no such thing as lethal or non lethal damage in the game.
This is only for melee attacks.
 


Oofta

Legend
Basic rules, page 76

Knocking a Creature Out
Sometimes an attacker wants to incapacitate a foe, rather than deal a killing blow. When an attacker reduces a creature to 0 hit points with a melee attack, the attacker can knock the creature out. The attacker can make this choice the instant the damage is dealt. The creature falls unconscious and is stable.

Some spells (e.g. Shocking Grasp) have a range of "touch" and require you to make a melee spell attack.

Since a melee spell attack is not a melee attack, I would rule that you can't knock someone out with a spell. I don't see a problem with a house rule that states that a melee spell attack is effectively the same as a melee attack.

EDIT:
I stand corrected. According to basic rules page 73 a spell can be a melee attack. So you can tazer/shocking grasp someone ...
Melee Attacks
Used in hand-to-hand combat, a melee attack allows you to attack a foe within your reach. A melee attack typically uses a handheld weapon such as a sword, a warhammer, or an axe. A typical monster makes a melee attack when it strikes with its claws, horns, teeth, tentacles, or other body part. A few spells also involve making a melee attack.
 
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Yunru

Banned
Banned
Basic rules, page 76

Knocking a Creature Out
Sometimes an attacker wants to incapacitate a foe, rather than deal a killing blow. When an attacker reduces a creature to 0 hit points with a melee attack, the attacker can knock the creature out. The attacker can make this choice the instant the damage is dealt. The creature falls unconscious and is stable.

Some spells (e.g. Shocking Grasp) have a range of "touch" and require you to make a melee spell attack.

Since a melee spell attack is not a melee attack, I would rule that you can't knock someone out with a spell. I don't see a problem with a house rule that states that a melee spell attack is effectively the same as a melee attack.
I hate to correct you but a melee spell attack is indeed a melee attack, and I'm unsure how you could possibly say otherwise. It's literally in the name. It'd be like saying a melee spell attack isn't a spell, or isn't an attack.
 

Satyrn

First Post
Basic rules, page 76

Knocking a Creature Out
Sometimes an attacker wants to incapacitate a foe, rather than deal a killing blow. When an attacker reduces a creature to 0 hit points with a melee attack, the attacker can knock the creature out. The attacker can make this choice the instant the damage is dealt. The creature falls unconscious and is stable.

Some spells (e.g. Shocking Grasp) have a range of "touch" and require you to make a melee spell attack.

Since a melee spell attack is not a melee attack, I would rule that you can't knock someone out with a spell. I don't see a problem with a house rule that states that a melee spell attack is effectively the same as a melee attack.

Oofta, I think the rules call out melee weapon attacks the way you're doing for melee spell attacks, which should mean melee attack includes longsword and shocking grasp. I think. I don't trust my rules knowledge anymore.
 

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