In Xanathar's Guide to Everything (p. 151), 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?


2 Answers 2


Since it leaps to a creature "of your choice", you don't have to target another creature if you don't want to

The description of the green-flame blade cantrip (SCAG, p. 143; TCoE, p. 107) has somewhat similar wording to that of chaos bolt:

You brandish the weapon used in the spell’s casting and make a melee attack with it against one creature within 5 feet of you. On a hit, the target suffers the weapon attack’s normal effects, and you can cause green fire to leap 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.

Before the 2020 errata to the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, the relevant line of the spell description read "[...] and green fire leaps to [...]" (which is even more similar to that of chaos bolt); the errata changed that phrase to "[...] and you can cause green fire to leap to [...]" instead.

Rules designer Jeremy Crawford stated the following about green-flame blade in an unofficial tweet from November 2015:

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 the description of chaos bolt (XGtE, p. 151; GGtR, p. 67), 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.

This is even clearer after the update to the text of green-flame blade (due to the use of "can") - but even otherwise, the specification that it leaps only to a target "of your choice" seems sufficient to indicate that you can choose no target at all. The same logic extends to chaos bolt.

This makes sense to me. Given that if the energy of chaos bolt does leap to another, you choose what creature it leaps to, it makes sense that you can use the same control over targeting to prevent it from jumping to any creature (e.g. by having it fizzle harmlessly against the ground).

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This tweet does shed a new light onto it, very interesting... \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Apr 21, 2018 at 9:18
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    \$\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, 2018 at 9:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri Nothing strange. Making it leap requires a "good happenstance in the fabric of magic" (modeled by a lucky roll) which you may use or not. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 12, 2019 at 7:23

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.

  • \$\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, 2018 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, 2018 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, 2018 at 16:20
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    \$\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, 2018 at 19:49

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