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D&D 5E Sneak Attack with spells?


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Mordhau

Adventurer
Yep. I forgot the dex bonus to damage. It's 13(4.5x2 +4) to 11, so slightly more damage to single targets. You still have to be right next to the enemy, though, so it's much more dangerous to use than firebolt.

Edit: Also, if you crit with the firebolt you are doing 2d10 more damage, instead of 1d8. That just gets more pronounces at higher levels.
No it's 2d10 vs 2d8. All dice are multiplied.
 

Horwath

Hero
I have previously in this thread provided the math why allowing cantrips proc'ing Sneak Attack will break a game. I did not even bother to go over one huge other factor. Say it is a cantrip like EB, or a spell like Scorching Ray, where multiple attacks are rolled by an attacker.

Let's say our attacker has a +9 to hit, against an AC of 20, which means a 50% chance to hit. OK, that means that Sneak Attack also triggers 50% of the time, on a successful hit,

But presto chango, now say, with Scorching Ray, there are 3 separate attacks rolled (more with higher level spell). Suddenly, the chances of Sneak Attack triggering jump to 87.5%, from 50%.

There is one reason, and one reason only, that a player would push this kind of change to RAW, and it is not because it is "cool".
If sneak attack on cantrips(or any spell that is) will break your game, then I suggest that you ban Wizards, Bards and Clerics from your game. Possibly Druids and Paladins also.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
I don't know what the confusion is about, you can quite explicitly Sneak Attack with Green Flame Blade/Booming Blade, provided that the weapon you're using to do so is finesse. Yes, it has the potential to unbalance your game, but it's legal RAW. No, it wouldn't work for any other spell, unless the spell is explicitly a weapon attack with a ranged/finesse weapon (so, a Shadow Blade would work, but something like Firebolt or Steel Wind Strike wouldn't).
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
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...
For one game session in mid-tier 2 we forgot the rule and played it that sneak attack could be used with cantrips that had a range. We quickly found that the problem is - as others have pointed out - that stacking the auto-scaling of cantrips with sneak attack for rogues is a bad idea.

It makes arcane trickster overshadow other subclasses (even more). Possible exception, soul blade, and soul blades don't scale... further implying that it is by design that sneak attack can't be used with cantrips.
 

Mordhau

Adventurer
For one game session in mid-tier 2 we forgot the rule and played it that sneak attack could be used with cantrips that had a range. We quickly found that the problem is - as others have pointed out - that stacking the auto-scaling of cantrips with sneak attack for rogues is a bad idea.

It makes arcane trickster overshadow other subclasses (even more). Possible exception, soul blade, and soul blades don't scale... further implying that it is by design that sneak attack can't be used with cantrips.
I think that's true. But then they went and allowed it with melee cantrips anyway.

Arcane Tricksters do overshadow other rogues. However, they don't overshadow other classes.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
There is no "my RAW", and "other's people RAW". There is only one.
Heh heh... oh yes. And that's why there was a single thread written when the game was first released back in 2014 that explained how the Stealth rules worked, and there's not been a single discussion or argument about RAW here on the boards about it ever since. ;)

In truth, when you have rules written in naturalistic language you never get a single interpretation of how things are written, because everyone's reading comprehension is different. And people have spent thousands upon thousands of hours trying to convince others that their interpretation was "correct". So trying to double down on what you see is RAW is a pointless endeavor because some people just aren't going to believe you.
 

I don't know what the confusion is about, you can quite explicitly Sneak Attack with Green Flame Blade/Booming Blade, provided that the weapon you're using to do so is finesse. Yes, it has the potential to unbalance your game, but it's legal RAW. No, it wouldn't work for any other spell, unless the spell is explicitly a weapon attack with a ranged/finesse weapon (so, a Shadow Blade would work, but something like Firebolt or Steel Wind Strike wouldn't).
Yes, you have it nailed. That is as precise an explanation as there is. There is a reason that the wording of Shadow Blade describes the weapon as having the Finesse feature. But there are some in this thread that can't accept that limitation on their Rogue and want to break the rules, then try to justify their actions.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Yes, you have it nailed. That is as precise an explanation as there is. There is a reason that the wording of Shadow Blade describes the weapon as having the Finesse feature. But there are some in this thread that can't accept that limitation on their Rogue and want to break the rules, then try to justify their actions.
From the 5e DMG.

"The D&D rules help you and the other players have a good time, but the rules aren't in charge. You're the DM, and you are in charge of the game."

There are some in this thread that can't accept that the rules are not a limitation and that 5e is designed to be tinkered with and changed to suit the needs and desires of the DM/Group.
 

lingual

Adventurer
Sneak attack does not work with spells. Anyone who wants it to work with Toll of the Dead, Dancing Lights, or intense glares, go ahead. I think the OP was asking if the rules as written allow it.
 

lingual

Adventurer
If sneak attack on cantrips(or any spell that is) will break your game, then I suggest that you ban Wizards, Bards and Clerics from your game. Possibly Druids and Paladins also.
That's very helpful. So not allowing sneak attack damage on spells now means the game I run is broken?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
That's very helpful. So not allowing sneak attack damage on spells now means the game I run is broken?
It was at least as helpful as, "Anyone who wants it to work with Toll of the Dead, Dancing Lights, or intense glares, go ahead."

If you're going to accuse someone of being unhelpful by posting something ridiculous, it's probably best that you not have done the same thing in the post just prior.
 

ECMO3

Hero
So RAW, spells are weapons, And if it is a ranged spell, meets the requirements for sneak attack
No they are not, because of this text: "The Attack must use a finesse or a ranged weapon."

Using a weapon at range to make a ranged attack is not the same as using a "ranged weapon": A ranged weapon is a specific type of weapon identified in the PHB. Ranged Weapons are: Light Crossbow, Dart, Shortbow, Sling, Blowgun, Hand Crossbow, Heavy Crossbow, Longbow and Net.

You can throw your longsword or hand axe at an enemy, that makes it a weapon used at range but not a "ranged weapon" and therefore not eligible for sneak attack.

A spell that is a weapon is neither a "finesse weapon" or a "ranged weapon" unless it specifically says so. For example, Shadow Blade says in the text of the spell that it has the "finesse" property, so that can be used for sneak attack because it is a "finesse weapon".

RAW the only cantrips I know of that is usable with sneak attack are Green Flame Blade and Booming Blade and only then if you use a weapon with the finesse property.

In terms of "Break the Game" a Rogue using a cantrip to sneak attack in tier 3 will put out substantially more damage than one that doesn't and this is true when using GFB or BB although that is limited to being used in melee within 5 feet and it is limited to one attack a turn. A Rogue using these can't use Two-Weapon Fighting, can't use extra attack if she is multiclassed and can't attack from beyond 5 feet. So she gets a substantial damage boost but with only 1 chance to hit and has to go into melee to do it. Further she can't use steady aim unless she is already within 5 feet and stays there.

For comparison if using Eldritch Blast with sneak attack a tier 3 Rogue will have 3 chances to land the sneak attack on his turn, eclipsing the TWF Rogue or even the multiclassed martial Rogue, with steady aim will be able to have advantage on one of the three attacks to boot and will do an extra 3 points of damage as compared to the current top tier which is using the cantrips noted above (with the limitations). That is quite a difference.
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
No it's 2d10 vs 2d8. All dice are multiplied.
You are correct.

There is another issue, though. If you're going to allow it with cantrips that don't involve physical finesse or ranged weapons, then sneak attack would also apply to ranged spells of 1st level and higher that also have attack rolls. There's no reason for firebolt to get sneak attack, but not scorching ray.
 


ECMO3

Hero
You can sneak attack with a net.

A. Net.
You can but a net by itself has no damage type so you get no extra sneak attack damage from it. This was covered in sage advice I believe.

If you have the Hex spell or an ability like dreadful strikes that does a specific type of damage on a hit I could see an argument for using that damage type for sneak attack damage though.
 

GMforPowergamers

Adventurer
I don't know what the confusion is about, you can quite explicitly Sneak Attack with Green Flame Blade/Booming Blade, provided that the weapon you're using to do so is finesse. Yes, it has the potential to unbalance your game, but it's legal RAW. No, it wouldn't work for any other spell, unless the spell is explicitly a weapon attack with a ranged/finesse weapon (so, a Shadow Blade would work, but something like Firebolt or Steel Wind Strike wouldn't).
and what makes shadow blade/booming blade/sneak attack less worrysome then ray of frost/sneak attack?

the rules say one is legal the other isn't, but the one that is legal is byfar more powerful.

incase someone doesn't know shadow blade makes a finess melee 2d8 weapon that deals psychic.
booming blade has a melee attack that deals bonus thunder damage (after 5th level) and if target moves they take more.

so an Arcan tirckster at 9th level can use shadow blade, and booming blade to make a melee attack that deals 2d8+dex mod + 5d6 sneak attack +1d8 thunder, then bonus action disengage to move, if the target wants to get back in melee they move and take 2d8 thunder.

but an arcane trickster at 9th level can't use ray of frost to deal 2d8 cold damage, reduce movement, and 5d6 sneak attack... because balance?!?
 
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ECMO3

Hero
and what makes shadow blade/booming blade/sneak attack less worrysome then ray of frost/sneak attack?
Several things:

1. It uses dexterity or strength for the attack roll.

2. It must be used in melee from 5 feet away

3. It can't be easily and repeatedly combined with steady aim.

4. The secondary effect of ray of frost (loss of movement) is automatic but the secondary booming blade movement damage is very difficult to inflict along with sneak attacl. To use booming blade you need to get within 5 feet of an enemy. The rules surrounding sneak attack are going to make it difficult for an arcane trickster to meet the conditions for the sneak attack and also land the secondary movement damage associated with booming blade.

5. Shadow blade uses a 2nd level spell slot, a bonus action to case and concentration and at 9th level it can only be used for a maximum of 1 minute a day.

Most tables will allow SB+BB combo however under strict RAW Shadow Blade can't be combined with the redesigned Booming Blade in Tasha's because a Shadow Blade is not "worth at least 1 sp."
 
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Mordhau

Adventurer
You are correct.

There is another issue, though. If you're going to allow it with cantrips that don't involve physical finesse or ranged weapons, then sneak attack would also apply to ranged spells of 1st level and higher that also have attack rolls. There's no reason for firebolt to get sneak attack, but not scorching ray.
There's no reason you have to. It might seem arbritraty, but this is D&D, arbritrary rules for balance purposes is the name of the game.

Honestly, I don't think allowing it with spells is a big deal anyway. Arcane Trickstrs just don't have that many spell slots.

But I'd probably want to do some playtesting of that to see how it went.
 

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