Our DM has ruled that most spells that create something can't be maximized or empowered. He didn't give us a list or conditions under which these spells can't be maximized, but he works on a one by one basis.

As a rule of thumb, all the spells that have an "effect" entry can't be maximized (so no poison, streamers, etc...) except those that create something of pure energy that deal direct damage (such as call lightning or the various orb spells) and rays.

He says that the effect of these spells is to create something, and in the spell description then it says what this "something" does (unless it's already known, like in a summon monster), but it's not part of the spell itself (streamers ready an action to attack and deal 5d6 damage, the poison deals 1d10 Con damage), so it can't be maximized.

He says that this would be as absurd as maximizing fabricate and getting a longsword that always deals 8 damage, or maximizing summon monster to have summoned monsters deal maximized damage with their weapons. (He's ok with maximizing summon monster to get more monsters from the lower level entries though.)

Also spells such as Dragon Breath can't be maximized because the spell effect is to give you the ability to use a dragon's breath for a certain amount of time, not let you deal direct damage. He compares this to casting maximized Claws of the Bear (1st level Ranger spell that gives you a claw attack) and saying it'd deal max damage.

That said, he didn't show us any rule, FAQ, Sage Advice or anything to support his claim, except his logic reasoning.

We are trying to be as RAW as possible, so taking this into account, is he right or wrong? Is there any rule/FAQ/etc. to support or disprove his claim?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Huh. That's an… interesting ruling. I'm curious: is this an actual problem in the game right now with a specific spell? (It may make the question better to have a lone specific incident to deal with than expecting answers to deal with every spell with an effect entry.) Also, have you seen this question about the feat Chain Spell when applied to spells that have an effect entry? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 29, 2017 at 16:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ If it's of help, we can narrow down things on some the spells i mentioned: poison, streamers, orbs (any will do) and Dragon Breath \$\endgroup\$
    – valepu
    Sep 29, 2017 at 16:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's probably a good idea. Also, positive questions (Does Maximize Spell affect created effects?) are much easier to understand and answer than negative questions, don't you agree? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 29, 2017 at 16:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I reckon that being in the "disproving" mindset mine sounded like the best way to describe my question but I do agree your way to formulate it sounds better! \$\endgroup\$
    – valepu
    Sep 29, 2017 at 16:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @valepu is your DM onboard with "being as RAW as possible"? \$\endgroup\$
    – godskook
    Sep 29, 2017 at 20:33

1 Answer 1


If you're looking for RAW, then we should start with the Maximize Spell metamagic feat itself, from the PHB:

All variable, numeric effects of a spell modified by this feat are maximized. A maximized spell deals maximum damage, cures the maximum number of hit points, affects the maximum number of targets, etc., as appropriate.

Saving throws and opposed rolls (such as the one you make when you cast dispel magic) are not affected, nor are spells without random variables.

That seems straightforward enough: If it's a variable in the spell itself, you can maximize it. If there are no random variables in the spell itself, you can't. It's also heavily implied by the bit about saving throws and opposed rolls that only the rolls in the spell itself are affected, not rolls caused by the spell itself.

Let's see if applying this reasoning to your examples helps. We'll start easy and work our way up to the important ones.

Fabricate: Conjures a set amount of material per level. You couldn't Maximize this spell if you wanted to, there's nothing to maximize.

Summon Monster: Your DM is correct in saying the Maximized version maximizes the number of monsters (a variable in most versions of the spell), not their damage- the spell doesn't affect their damage, and so can't Maximize it.

Claws of the Beast: I believe this is actually a psychic power, but pretending for a moment it's a 1st level spell, yes, you would maximize the damage caused by the claws. Spending a spell slot three levels higher is reasonable in exchange for changing your damage from 1d4 to 4 per attack, and it is a variable listed in the spell itself.

Now for the spells with effects. I won't list a great number of examples, but hopefully it will be enough to give you an idea of how it works in general.

Acid Splash: The damage variable is listed in the spell itself and gets Maximized. Given that you've spent a 3rd level spell slot to deal 3 damage, this is far from an absurd use.

Blade Barrier: An example of a spell you would actually want to maximize. Sacrificing a 9th level spell slot to deal 90 points of damage at a whack is a pretty good deal, but remember that the same cleric casting it as a 6th level spell would deal 50-ish points anyway.

Cloudkill: Those who fail their saves (and don't die instantly) would indeed take 4 Con damage per round. This is from an 8th level spell, mind.

Disintegrate: Maximize was designed for spells just like this and Fireball. The ray deals maximum damage in exchange for a 9th level slot- take that, blade barrier.

Dragon Breath: Though it is described as something that "mimics" dragon's breath, the effect of the spell is ultimately that you can make a cone or line of one kind of elemental energy. Depending on the combination, you deal a certain number of dice of damage and grant a set kind of save. If the spell had instead said that you gain the breath weapon of a specific kind and age of dragon, with no mention of how much damage that breath weapon does, you couldn't Maximize it... but it gives you variables, and Maximize spell specifically maximizes those variables.

When it comes right down to it, RAW states that Maximize Spell affects all of the spell's variables. If the variables are not intrinsic to the spell, they aren't listed, just as fabricate doesn't list the damage caused by a sword because that isn't intrinsic to the spell. If the variables are intrinsic to the spell, they are affected by Maximize Spell. While this might seem OP at times, always remember that you're giving up a much more powerful spell, one three levels higher, in exchange for not having to roll damage. Most times it will be a fair trade.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm torn on claws of the beast: I want to say that the spell gives the psychic warrior 2 claws—that, by the way, just so happen to deal damage when the warrior attacks with them—, therefore the 2 claws would be the power's variable, numeric effect and not affected by metapsionic abilities. However, making that distinction seems to reinforce the asker's DM's ruling… who I think is—otherwise—totally wrong. I mean, for instance, my inner DM says that a maximized bite of the wererat spell just should not allow the caster to deal maximum damage with his rat bite for the duration! \$\endgroup\$ Sep 30, 2017 at 15:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's a third level spell, right? Does 1d4 points per round? So if you cast it Maximized at the minimum level, that's a max of 44+ (1.5*Str for 11 rds), assuming you hit every time? Versus, say, disintegrate, with its 22d6 damage at the same level, average damage of 77 on a failed save? I'm not saying one's better than the other, just that they're comparable. That said, my inner DM despises metamagic for just that reason- taken to the logical conclusion, none of it feels right. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 30, 2017 at 20:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ O, my intent wasn't that the damage couldn't be comparable but,—like you mention,—that it just feels wrong to have the damage dealt by a magical effect that creates a weapon (natural or otherwise) be empowered or maximized. I mean, we can find lower-level effects that give a creature natural or artificial weapons that deal more damage than claws or bite, but I still feel like the variable, numeric effect isn't the claws' or bite's damage but the number of claws or bites granted by the spell or power—not unlike a summoned creature—, yet that's terrible for other, similar effects. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 30, 2017 at 20:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm sorry, i meant "Claws of the Bear" (1st level ranger spell) but i guess it doesn't matter as it's the same in the end. I agree with @HeyICanChan on the claws (or bites or whatever) spells though, it feels wrong. But thanks for your answer on the rest \$\endgroup\$
    – valepu
    Oct 3, 2017 at 7:56

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