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D&D 5E Sneak Attack with spells?

I think I'm sad. Am I reading correctly that a multiclassed rogue/caster (or arcane trickster) can't sneak attack with a ray? Since SA specifies finesse or ranged weapon? :(

I'm hoping I've missed something, but I fear not...
 

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Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
Well there is nothing indicating a cast iron frying pan is ranged weapon either but if it hit you in the face at a decent velocity I dare say it would hurt, cause damage, and thus be considered a weapon.

Actually there is: improvised weapon, 1d4 damage.

If they had wanted to include attack cantrips, it would say "ranged attack", not "ranged weapon". I think that's pretty clear.

Attack cantrips have two significant advantages over ranged weapons for most spell casters:
* damage scales as level goes up,
* attack uses spellcasting stat rather than dexterity, requiring less ability diversity.

Things start to creak if you're adding additional dice damage from Sneak Attack.

Throughout the play test, I was asking for attack cantrips that used DEX rather than the spell casting stat, so that there would have to be some design choice when building characters. That idea was consistently unpopular on these boards, and was never implemented in revisions. That's fine, even if it's not what I wanted, but we can't have our cake and eat it too.
 

Well there is nothing indicating a cast iron frying pan is ranged weapon either but if it hit you in the face at a decent velocity I dare say it would hurt, cause damage, and thus be considered a weapon.

Actually, there is. It would fall under "Improvised Weapon".

I think there is a game mechanic distinction between "weapon" and "spell" in this instance, but it might be worth a tweet to Mr. Mearls (I'm sure he has nothing else going on this week.)

Edit: Ninja'd with a frying pan
 

Pickles JG

First Post
Well there is nothing indicating a cast iron frying pan is ranged weapon either but if it hit you in the face at a decent velocity I dare say it would hurt, cause damage, and thus be considered a weapon.

Well apart from the improvised weapon point others raised the pan is a tangible object while a spell is not. Anyhow I realised I am channeling Warmachine which uses exactly this language so I will concede it may be ambiguous.
 

Oh, sure cantrips scale with level. But so does sneak attack. So, that wouldn't help with the arcane trickster, but it does limit the combination of spell dice/SA dice you can accumulate with multi-classing.

Unless...

Now that I think about it, does the book actually specify whether cantrips improve with class level or character level? :uhoh:
 




MrGrim2U

First Post
Player handbook page 201 states :

WHAT IS A SPELL?
A spell is a discrete magical effect, a single shaping of the magical energies that suffuse the multiverse into a specific, limited expression. In casting a spell, a character carefully plucks at the invisible strands of raw magic suffusing the world, pins them in place in a particular pattern, sets them vibrating in a specific way, and then releases them to unleash the desired effect-in most cases, all in the span of seconds.
Spells can be versatile tools, weapons, or protective wards. They can deal damage or undo it, impose or remove conditions (see appendix A), drain life energy away, and restore life to the dead.
Uncounted thousands of spells have been created over the course of the multiverse's history, and many of them are long forgotten. Some might yet lie recorded in crumbling spellbooks hidden in ancient ruins or trapped in the minds of dead gods. Or they might someday be reinvented by a character who has amassed enough power and wisdom to do so.

So RAW, spells are weapons, And if it is a ranged spell, meets the requirements for sneak attack
 

MrGrim2U

First Post
Player handbook page 201 states :

WHAT IS A SPELL?
A spell is a discrete magical effect, a single shaping of the magical energies that suffuse the multiverse into a specific, limited expression. In casting a spell, a character carefully plucks at the invisible strands of raw magic suffusing the world, pins them in place in a particular pattern, sets them vibrating in a specific way, and then releases them to unleash the desired effect-in most cases, all in the span of seconds.
Spells can be versatile tools, weapons, or protective wards. They can deal damage or undo it, impose or remove conditions (see appendix A), drain life energy away, and restore life to the dead.
Uncounted thousands of spells have been created over the course of the multiverse's history, and many of them are long forgotten. Some might yet lie recorded in crumbling spellbooks hidden in ancient ruins or trapped in the minds of dead gods. Or they might someday be reinvented by a character who has amassed enough power and wisdom to do so.

So RAW, spells are weapons, And if it is a ranged spell, meets the requirements for sneak attack
 

ECMO3

Hero
I think I'm sad. Am I reading correctly that a multiclassed rogue/caster (or arcane trickster) can't sneak attack with a ray? Since SA specifies finesse or ranged weapon? :(

I'm hoping I've missed something, but I fear not...
You can sneak attack at range with a shadow blade and that is a spell. Also if you get magic stone from a feat or multiclass.
 

AtomicPope

Adventurer
As other's have pointed out, "spells" is too generic a category and by itself doesn't qualify for Sneak Attacks. However, certain spells do count as weapons, or in the case of Green Flame Blade and Booming Blade use weapons as the focus to make a weapon attack, and therefore could qualify. If a spell uses a weapon, then the weapon must qualify too. If the spell itself is a weapon, and that weapon qualifies like in the case of Shadow Blade, then you can make Sneak Attacks.

Suffice to say, the list is small but it's still possible to Sneak Attack with a spell.
 

Dausuul

Legend
FYI, the original post in this thread was 7 years ago--just after the launch of 5th Edition. Shadow blade, green-flame blade, and booming blade didn't exist at the time.

Magic stone did, but it's debatable whether the stones count as a ranged weapon. You make a ranged spell attack with them, not a weapon attack. It is true that Sneak Attack looks at the weapon type rather than the attack type, but "stone" is not a listed weapon, so it would be up to the DM; in most contexts, I would treat a stone as an improvised melee weapon with the thrown property.
 
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I believe and assume the intent (and the RAW) is for there to be no way to sneak attack with a spell...

I ignore that because it is dumb. If I can place a knife/shortsword/crossbow bolt in the right place to deal extra damage why can I not with a scorching ray or eldritch blast.
 

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