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In Xanathar's Guide to Everything, the spell Chaos Bolt includes the following:

If you roll the same number on both d8s, the chaotic energy leaps from the target to a different creature of your choice within 30 feet of it. Make a new attack roll against the new target, and make a new damage roll, which could cause the chaotic energy to leap again.

Ordinarily, the spell has you roll 2d8s and xd6s (upcasting just adds d6s) so the wording in the above quote makes sense, since there are only ever 2d8s.

Unless you crit. Then there are 4d8s.

So how would you resolve whether or not to have the chaos bolt target a different creature for when "both" d8s match? Is it if all 4 match? Is it if only 2 of them match out of the 4 (in which case, I assume nothing special happens if you do get the same value 4 times)? The wording of "both" makes this ambiguous...

If the latter of my above suggestions, I assume a critical hit would therefore also increase the likelihood that the chaos bolt will target another creature compared to a non-critical hit?

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You only use the original Damage dice

The Chaos Bolt new target determination is only based off of the original 2d8 of the damage - not the additional d8s from the Critical Hit. The critical damage is extra damage and the language of Chaos Bolt is clear in it's line (emphasis mine):

If you roll the same number on both D8s

This is also supported by this tweet from Jeremy Crawford:

The chance for chaos bolt to jump to another target is not lessened by a critical hit. The spell's text says you look at "both d8s"—that's the two dice in the spell itself, not extra dice added from another rule

The idea of Extra Dice is supported by the PHB wording (page 196)

When you score a critical hit, you get to roll extra dice for the attack's damage against the target.

It is the next sentence that delivers the total damage and is clear that it's separate from the prior sentence:

Roll all of the attack's damage dice twice and add them together. Then add any relevant modifiers as normal.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron I wouldn't say "JC is right by definition", but he might be right here :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 30 '18 at 20:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ JC's answers on Twitter are "rules clarifications" not interpretations (according to Sage Advice) so when it comes to 5e rules he is the final say. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Mar 30 '18 at 20:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron Well, yeah. His tweets are official, but I don't think he's always right given his contradictions in the past. But they are the only official responses from WoTC on questions. Also, clearly my attempt to be funny in my last comment failed. :( \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 30 '18 at 20:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry. It might have been funny. Stressful day at work... :( \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Mar 30 '18 at 20:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would never have thought of it that way, that the "original" 2d8 are separate from the "extra" 2d8 from the crit. This makes it clear to me. Have +1 and the green tick. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Mar 31 '18 at 9:36
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Jeremy Crawford comments on this question here:

Hi Jeremy, In regards to the chance to jump to another target, what happens when someone rolls a Critical Hit on Chaos Bolt?

The chance for chaos bolt to jump to another target is not lessened by a critical hit. The spell's text says you look at "both d8s"—that's the two dice in the spell itself, not extra dice added from another rule.

Crawford's response seems a little unclear. I think the intended interpretation is:

You roll the second set of damage dice separately from the first, and only the first 2d8 that you roll determines whether the bolt jumps to another target.

If you find this unsatisfying, you could adjudicate it differently with the following houserule instead:

If any two of the four d8s (from a crit on the initial hit) match, the bolt leaps to another target as well.

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