I have a plan on how to get a lot of damage out with the assassin from Dnd 5e but I wanted to run the order of actions by you guys to see if it is correct or not.

Assassin 17/warlock 3

  • Apply serpent venom poison to rapier
  • Casts Invisibility via warlock invocation "Shroud of Shadow" (Xanathar's Guide to Everything)
  • Sneaks to target
  • Casts Hex on the target which is a bonus action and chooses constitution so the enemy gets a disadvantage on constitution saving throws
  • Invisibility drops since Hex was cast
  • Casts Green-Flame Blade for melee attack

If the attack hits then the enemy will have to make a constitution saving throw to prevent death strike and the poison however they will have disadvantage from hex. They will then take:
(2d6 hex + 18d6 sneak attack + 6d8 fire + 6d6 poison + 5 dex modifier + 2d8 rapier)*2

Is the enemy surprised even though I used hex before my attack? Is there anything wrong with this order of events? Is my calculation also correct?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I've made the assumption that you're casting Invisibility via "Shroud of Shadow" (from Xanathar's Guide to Everything). If this is an incorrect assumption, please feel free to change it back. \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 12:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ you double dice on a critical, you dont apply the 5 dex mod twice. \$\endgroup\$
    – Skeith
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 13:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the "Shroud of Shadow" invocation require the character to be a 15th level Warlock? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kadin
    Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 2:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kadin It does. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dungarth
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 13:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I noticed you haven't accepted an answer on any of your five questions, it would be great to let our answerers know which answers have best resolved your questions. You can mark an answer "accepted" by selecting the check mark beneath the vote buttons (only one answer per question can be accepted). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 19:29

2 Answers 2


Hex won't cause disadvantage on the saving throw

Ability checks and saving throws are different things.

Also, choose one ability. The target has disadvantage on ability checks with the chosen ability. (PHB, p. 251)

Not casting hex, since it isn't helping you, removes the worry about being invisible for that strike so that your hit can be a critical hit.

Surprise is ruled by the DM in any case (see the question here), but you have set it up so that you should surprise the target; you'll have advantage if you strike first. The key element here is setting it up so that "the target has not taken its turn yet" as a precursor to the strike. (Assassinate; 3rd level rogue assassin ability; PHB p. 97).

The DM will likely call for a Dexterity (Stealth) ability check as you set this up; success should set up surprise. While invisibility should make you unseen (unless the target has true sight, or a similar ability) you still need to be undetected by hearing, and possibly by smell. Both of those senses are mentioned in some monster stat blocks as providing advantage on Wisdom(Perception) checks.

Is the enemy surprised even though I used hex before my attack?
Solved, see above.
Is there anything wrong with this order of events?
Hex won't help you.
Is my calculation also correct?
You appear to have multiplied it by two, twice. Since serpent venom can be saved against, you don't double that.

If the target misses its Constitution save, your numbers are correct (except for the doubling of poison) from the death strike ability. The target may make the save, since the dice can be fickle.

If the target does not make their constitution save versus the 17th level ability:

(2d6 hex + 18d6 sneak attack + 6d8 fire + 5 dex modifier + 2d8 rapier)*2 + 3d6 poison (half for save).
But, see below, I think the case can be made that the poison damage goes inside the parens.

Aside: whether or not two saves have to be rolled, or one, since both are Con saves, is an interesting question. I'd recommend separate saves since two different mechanics are in operation here.

Do we double the poison delivered by Death Strike? I argue yes.

An argument can be made for folding the 3d6 (half for save) inside the parens since it is part of the whole attack; Death Strike isn't a critical hit, but is rather a unique rogue / assassin ability. That would resolve the damage as:

(2d6 hex + 18d6 sneak attack + 6d8 fire + 5 dex modifier + 2d8 rapier + 3d6(half for save)*2.

I believe that this is consistent with the rules text for Death Strike as compared to rules text for Critical Hit.

Poison is usually treated as separate from weapon damage dice on attacks, and crits, in terms of what dice are dice rolled for doubled damage. Since poison involves a saving throw effect, it doesn't look like doubling the dice fits in that order of operations for a critical hit.

Q: If you crit with a poison coated weapon, do you double poison dice because crit, or not because saving throw?
A: The intent is no. The saving throw, not the attack, determines whether the poison takes effect after a hit.

I'll offer that this ruling need not apply to Death Strike. Injury poison (in which class serpent venom falls), does some damage on any hit, dice are rolled for damage, and it does full damage on a failed save. (DMG p. 258)

The problem with ruling the poison outside the parens Death Strike is that Death Strike isn't explicitly a critical hit; it is a class feature contingent upon a save made by the target, like a "save or suck" effect along the lines of Disintegrate or Banishment. Doubling the damage of the poison (placing that 3d6 inside the parens) on the Death Strike is consistent with the text of that rule.

Since Death Strike is a different mechanic than critical hit, it does not have to follow critical hit's rules. (Crits don't allow for a save, crits don't fold in ability modifier, and per Crawford above, crits don't fold in poison damage ... ).

On a failed save, double the damage of your attack against the creature. (PHB, p. 97)

So double it all.

My reasoning is that the rogue's attack resolved by Assassinate, if surprise is achieved, ends up like this:

(2d6 hex + 18d6 sneak attack + 6d8 fire + 5 dex modifier + 2d8 rapier + 3d6(half for save).

On a failed save versus Death Strike, you double that, since it doesn't say you roll extra dice, but it says double the damage. It doesn't make exclusions the way that critical hit does. Critical hit says ...

When you score a critical hit, you get to re-roll extra damage dice for the attacks damage against the target. ... and then add your relevant ability modifier(PHB p. 196)

(2d6 hex + 18d6 sneak attack + 6d8 fire + 5 dex modifier + 2d8 rapier + 3d6(half for save)*2 is "double the damage" literally.

Based on the ruling cited, I can see the argument against this being that "poison" is making its own attack to be saved against. What the assassin rogue is doing is providing a way for the poison to do it's thing; for serpent venom you need to do piercing or slashing damage to let it work. (DMG p. 258) While that's the general rule, and the ruling fits for most situations, I'll offer that Death Strike is a Specific beats General (PHB, p. 7) case of doubling all of the attack's damage, based on how the text is presented.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Might be good to explicitly point out that "saving throws are not ability checks". I know that's the point of your first two lines, but it's left rather vague if someone doesn't know the difference. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tin Wizard
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 16:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Would you mind adding the correct equation based on your findings? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 18:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ I to would like to see the correct calculation if it would be alright with KorvinStarmast. I multiplied dex modifier by two because of the information here: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/65264/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Espe
    Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 3:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Espe I have added two different ways to rule on that, since Crawford's ruling on how poison works on crits is an "intent" statement ... pick the one that makes the most sense. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 13:02

Apply serpent venom poison to rapier

From serpent venom poison description:

This poison must be harvested from a dead or incapacitated giant poisonous snake. A creature subjected to this poison must succeed on a DC 11 Constitution saving throw, taking 10 (3d6) poison damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

Damage caused by saving throws is not doubled on a critical hit. At least not RAI.

Casts Hex...so the enemy gets a disadvantage on constitution saving throws

Hex applies disadvantage on target's ability checks, not saving throws.

Sneaks to target...

or Is the enemy surprised even though I used Hex before my attack?

Per Surprise rules:

The GM determines who might be surprised. If neither side tries to be stealthy, they automatically notice each other. Otherwise, the GM compares the Dexterity (Stealth) checks of anyone hiding with the passive Wisdom (Perception) score of each creature on the opposing side. Any character or monster that doesn't notice a threat is surprised at the start of the encounter.
If you're surprised, you can't move or take an action on your first turn of the combat, and you can't take a reaction until that turn ends. A member of a group can be surprised even if the other members aren't.

Once you start a combat, everybody rolls initiative, regardless if they're surprised or not.
On your turn you can cast both Green-Flame Blade and Hex. Nothing wrong here.

The biggest issue of all, if your opponent is still surprised.

Once his turn ends, he is no longer surprised, so you must have higher initiative roll than he has.

Is warlock even that necessary?

Think of it, you can substitute 3 levels of warlock and go full rogue.


  • No magic (including the most powerful cantrip Eldritch Blast and 1d6 from Hex and 4d8 from Green-flame Blade)
  • Loss of invocations


  • Additional 1d6 from Sneak Attack
  • Elusive (no advantage on attacks against you!)
  • Additional ASI (how about +5 to initiative feat, so you definetely surprise your enemies?)
  • Stroke of Luck (turn a miss into a hit or take 20 on failed ability check)

Additionaly you can take High Elf and simply choose Green-flame Blade as your desired cantrip.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ruse I didn't mean poison as damage type but add-on that requires saving throw. My answer was implicit on this, I'll edit that, once I get gome. Or you can edit yourself, I will appreciate this, since I can forget about that one. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 13:47

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