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I noticed Ray of Frost does 1d8 damage accordig to the Spells section. Do you add your magic ability modifier to this? It makes sense, as otherwise it would be less than Light Crossbow with 12 Dex. However, I did not find any mention of this in the How to Play, the Spells or the Classes section.

As I can remember it was specifically mentioned as a design reason for cantrips that they will alleviate the need of a crossbow for a mage.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

It is indeed the case that Ray of Frost does 1d8 damage, while a comparable weapon might do 1d8+ability modifier damage. However, since you can use your spellcasting stat (assumed to be your highest ability), you will have a better chance of succeeding in your attack roll. In addition, Ray of Frost slows on a hit, which is a powerful additional effect.

I didn't find any rules text that states "Don't use the spell description but some other rule similar to weapon attacks", but for reference, here's an excerpt of the section about weapon damage rolls in the How to Play:

If you’re attacking with a melee weapon, apply your Strength modifier to the damage, and if you’re attacking with a ranged weapon, apply your Dexterity modifier.

And Ray of Frost, from the final playtest:

A beam of blue-white light streaks toward a creature within range. Make a ranged attack roll against that creature, with a bonus to the roll equal to your magic ability modifier and your spellcasting bonus, if any. On a hit, the target takes 1d8 cold damage, and its speed is reduced by 10 feet until your next turn.

So yes, the ray does a bit less damage, but with the control effect it is equally good if not stronger than a 1d8+3 weapon attack - and you can use your primary stat for attack rolls, which could easily be a +1 or +2 on the to-hit.

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Well, it is a definite step back from the 121712 Playtest, where it was 1d10. Too bad I did not catch it a week ago, now it is too late to give feedback. –  András Nov 4 '13 at 7:50
Well, direct damage effect have been a suboptimal choice for for spellcasters in D&D for a long time. They have other strengths :) –  Mala Nov 4 '13 at 8:33
I am not arguing they should Ray of Frosting everything to pieces all the time. I say after casting the last Hold Person, they should stay somewhat relevant. Doing 4.5 damage every other round is far from that, especially on level 4. And slow is not much worth if the target is not trying to run away. –  András Nov 4 '13 at 8:48
No, they don't, as explained in my answer... –  Mala Nov 4 '13 at 10:34
Comments are not for discussion. If you want to continue this discussion, I suggest you create a new chat room to talk. In fact, I created one here. –  Jonathan Hobbs Nov 4 '13 at 12:56
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