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D&D 5E Sneak Attack with spells?

aco175

Legend
I would be hesitant to allow sneak attack damage combined with scaling cantrip damage. You can also open up sneak attack with 'weapons' that deal more than the d8 that a rapier does.
 

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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
Look, you can play the game any way you like with House Rules. But don't suggest by RAW that ranged spell attacks qualify as a Ranged Weapon. Tell you what. Try to find an AL game and state that is RAW.

You can try to twist the language any way you like. But spells are not treated as weapons. Even Spiritual Weapon says "melee spell attack", and spell attacks != weapon attacks.

Now, if you want to proc Booming Blade, Shadow Blade, and Sneak Attack all into a single attack, that works.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
Not a fan of the slowly tightening noose on Rogue options.

As far as I can tell the restrictions are all flavor restrictions, so I allow SA on anything that makes an attack roll.
 

Not a fan of the slowly tightening noose on Rogue options.

As far as I can tell the restrictions are all flavor restrictions, so I allow SA on anything that makes an attack roll.
Once again, that is your House Rule, and completely unsupported as RAW by any documentation, including Sage Advice. SA explicitly defines what the word "weapon" means inside the D&D world, and anything that makes an attack roll is NOT how Sage Advice defines a "weapon".
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Once again, that is your House Rule, and completely unsupported as RAW by any documentation, including Sage Advice. SA explicitly defines what the word "weapon" means inside the D&D world, and anything that makes an attack roll is NOT how Sage Advice defines a "weapon".
Yeah, so what? Did anyone say they were making a RAW claim, or were they just stating what could be done with no issue?
 

Yeah, so what? Did anyone say they were making a RAW claim, or were they just stating what could be done with no issue?
Actually, yes. In posts #14 and #15 (duplicates), the poster said, and I quote: "So RAW, spells are weapons, And if it is a ranged spell, meets the requirements for sneak attack."

Like I said in my previous posts, if anyone wants to say it is a House Rule, that is their prerogative. Just don't call it RAW.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
Once again, that is your House Rule, and completely unsupported as RAW by any documentation, including Sage Advice. SA explicitly defines what the word "weapon" means inside the D&D world, and anything that makes an attack roll is NOT how Sage Advice defines a "weapon".
I... don't care?

I said what I allow and why. Didn't ask for a sermon on RAW.

RAW doesn't mean my standards and expectations, so over the side it goes. Sploosh.
 

Plaguescarred

D&D Playtester for WoTC since 2012
A weapon is anything featuring under the ranged weapon tables, and anything specifically identified as a ranged weapon. Anything else a spell produce is not catogized as a ranged weapon. It was also confirmed by a Dev on Twitter

 

I... don't care?

I said what I allow and why. Didn't ask for a sermon on RAW.

RAW doesn't mean my standards and expectations, so over the side it goes. Sploosh.
If you look at the ttimestamps, this is a 7 year old thread that was necro'ed yesterday by someone claiming that yes, by RAW, spells = weapons. I replied to that very wrong assertion. Look at the OP, from 2014. That was very much a RAW question. I replied in the theme of the original RAW question, specifically to the incorrect assertions in posts 14 and 15.

Now, you then gave your own House Rule opinion, in a RAW based thread.....
 


Vaalingrade

Legend
If you look at the ttimestamps, this is a 7 year old thread that was necro'ed yesterday by someone claiming that yes, by RAW, spells = weapons. I replied to that very wrong assertion. Look at the OP, from 2014. That was very much a RAW question. I replied in the theme of the original RAW question, specifically to the incorrect assertions in posts 14 and 15.

Now, you then gave your own House Rule opinion, in a RAW based thread.....
Still not seeing the point where I care.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Actually, yes. In posts #14 and #15 (duplicates), the poster said, and I quote: "So RAW, spells are weapons, And if it is a ranged spell, meets the requirements for sneak attack."
A different poster said that. @Vaalingrade did not.

RAW, there isn't much to discuss. Sneak Attack doesn't work with spell attacks, only with spells that enhance your weapon attacks. There's one person who claims otherwise, but that person is clearly wrong and I see no one else defending that position.

But, the question of what would happen if you house ruled SA to let it work with spell attacks is relevant to the topic. Many folks on this board are not hardcore RAW fanatics, but also don't want to make house rules without due care. Knowing how it's played out for people who have tried it can be very helpful.
 

Agreed -- it's not allowed RAW.

My sense is that it's the scaling dice of the attack spells that make it a problem -- that if the ray only ever did one die damage, there wouldn't be a problem.
You could Sneak Attack while casting booming blade, though. Which adds a couple dice to the overall damage.
 

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
That's true. I stand by what I wrote in 2014, though -- the game is written to exclude sneak attack with scaling cantrips (whatever we may think of that decision).

It works with Magic Stone (when the stone is used in a sling). Booming Blade uses a weapon and adds the possibility of additional damage, yes.

SA requires a finesse weapon or a ranged weapon, terms which are clearly defined in the PHB. I don't think this is a mystery or in any way ambiguous.
 

A different poster said that. @Vaalingrade did not.

RAW, there isn't much to discuss. Sneak Attack doesn't work with spell attacks, only with spells that enhance your weapon attacks. There's one person who claims otherwise, but that person is clearly wrong and I see no one else defending that position.

But, the question of what would happen if you house ruled SA to let it work with spell attacks is relevant to the topic. Many folks on this board are not hardcore RAW fanatics, but also don't want to make house rules without due care. Knowing how it's played out for people who have tried it can be very helpful.
OK, if you want to discuss this as a House Rule, fine.

Executive Summary:
It introduces more power creep into the game, with more damage possible. (see math =below)
An Arcane Trickster can chuck attack based cantrips all day long, not worrying about running out of arrows.
Firebolt, as an example, has a range of 120 feet, while a Short Bow has a normal range of 80 feet.
Firebolt is a VS spell, and only requires one hand, while a Short Bow requires 2.

Math:
Not so much at 1st tier, but starting with 2nd tier chars, it is a problem.

Say a char is an Arcane Trickster, with Firebolt as a Cantrip.
Assume the char was built with 27 point buy, so best case, has a sub-20 Dex below 8th level, meaning a +4 on attacks.
An arrow fired from a Short Bow by said Arcane Trickster has an expected value of damage of 7.5 (3.5 + Dex of 4).
Firebolt from same 5th to 7th level Rogue = 2d10 = 11 expected value damage.

At 8th level, assuming Rogue took Dex to 20, Expected Value = 8.5, and is capped there.
But let's assume the Rogue has a +1 Bow by then, and that bumps damage to 9.5
That is is as high as it is going to get, for a long time.
But Firebolt, at 11th level, that becomes 3d10, or 16.5 expected damage.

I won't do the math on an Arcane Trickster that takes Scorching Ray at 8th level......

And potential niche case:
I am also not going to get into the math of an player taking a 2 level dip into Warlock, specifically Hexblade, and then firing up Sneak Attack on Eldritch Blast, with Agonizing Blast, and all the additional Hexblade features. I will leave that to you to visualize.

So...if a DM is interested in maintaining balance in their game, spell attacks qualifying for Sneak Attack is a bad idea.
 

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
You are both right and wrong. A spell can create a weapon. Spiritual weapon from the cleric spell is such an example. Firebolt is not. If the spell create such a weapon, then sure. Otherwise, tough luck.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
So...if a DM is interested in maintaining balance in their game, spell attacks qualifying for Sneak Attack is a bad idea.
Well, no... in your game perhaps the balance would not be maintained and it'd be a bad idea. But it's kind of silly to make grand statements about the general D&D populace when you have no idea how they actually run their games.

Heck... most of the time most people on these boards can never agree on what the RAW actually is and they all interpret the language used to present the rules differently anyway. Which means everyone is running the game in such a wide range of so-called "RAW" that no one can state with any accuracy what is and isn't true in D&D anyways.

I find worrying about RAW to be a fool's errand. And I find worrying about other people's RAW to be even more foolish. :)
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
.Spells can be versatile tools, weapons, or protective wards.
....
So RAW, spells are weapons, And if it is a ranged spell, meets the requirements for sneak attack

You went from "can be weapons" to "are weapons" without crossing the intervening cognitive space.
 

Mordhau

Adventurer
That's true. I stand by what I wrote in 2014, though -- the game is written to exclude sneak attack with scaling cantrips (whatever we may think of that decision).

It works with Magic Stone (when the stone is used in a sling). Booming Blade uses a weapon and adds the possibility of additional damage, yes.

SA requires a finesse weapon or a ranged weapon, terms which are clearly defined in the PHB. I don't think this is a mystery or in any way ambiguous.
Given that we can sneak attack with booming blade and greenflame blade there's really no reason not to sneak attack with cantrips.

The cat is out of the bag.
 


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