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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.

Let's say I cast Chaos Bolt, it hits, and I roll two of the same number on my d8s. However, the party is fighting a lone enemy, so there are no other creatures I want to target.

Can I "choose" to target no-one, since the spell description says "of your choice", or does it happen regardless, and I just have to choose which party member takes the hit?

In summary, can I choose not to make this extra attack?

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You don't have to target another creature (RAI)

The cantrip Green-Flame Blade (from SCAG) has similar wording:

As part of the action used to cast this spell, you must make a melee attack with a weapon against one creature within the spell's range, otherwise the spell fails. On a hit, the target suffers the attack's normal effects, and green fire leaps from the target to a different creature of your choice that you can see within 5 feet of it. The second creature takes fire damage equal to your spellcasting ability modifier.

Jeremy Crawford, lead rules designer, has said the following on Twitter:

What does the leap effect of green-flame blade do if there are no hostile targets nearby? Does it jump to allies?

The intent is that you can choose no one. If you can't see, you can't choose anyway, and the flame halts

Given the similar wording to Chaos Bolt, it seems safe to assume Chaos Bolt would work the same way, so if there are no enemies within that range of Chaos Bolt, you don't need to target someone else.

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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This tweet does shed a new light onto it, very interesting... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Apr 21 '18 at 9:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ It is strange that you can't control the spell enough to make it leap, but you can control it enough to stop is leaping. While RAI I don't think is is RAS (Rules as sensible), or RAW. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Apr 23 '18 at 9:11
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No, you have to attack again

There is nothing that indicates optionality in that sentence. If you roll doubles, the energy will leap. You only have control over its target. It will only stop if you do not roll doubles or there are no valid targets. This also fits well to the chaotic flavor of the spell.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is what I suspected, and how I ruled it (I was DM in this situation), I was just hoping otherwise. Risky spell, but as you say, that fits the chaotic flavour \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Apr 21 '18 at 8:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ While it's true that the wording suggests you must target another creature, the intent is that you don't have to, assuming it works like Green-Flame Blade: twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/662433813956444160 \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 21 '18 at 8:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ You might want to edit your answer to specify that it is a RAW point of view. The intended is answered by V2Blast. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Apr 21 '18 at 16:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ If there is a general rule that states the effect MUST happen unless specifically stated otherwise, this is correct. If there's not such a rule, then this is wrong, because it's ambiguous. It's neither mandatory NOR optional, it's simply undefined, and therefore interpretation is subjective. RAW does not mean there can be no ambiguity. English can be ambiguous, the rules are in English, therefore sometimes RAW cannot be determined. \$\endgroup\$ – barbecue Apr 21 '18 at 19:49

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