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The Hunter ranger's Volley ability says:

You can use your action to make a ranged attack against any number of creatures within 10 feet of a point you can see within your weapon’s range. You must have ammunition for each target, as normal, and you make a separate attack roll for each target.

The hail of thorns spell description (PHB, p. 249) says:

The next time you hit a creature with a ranged weapon attack before the spell ends, this spell creates a rain of thorns that sprouts from your ranged weapon or ammunition. In addition to the normal effect of the attack, the target of the attack and each creature within 5 feet of it must make a Dexterity saving throw. A creature takes 1d10 piercing damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

Is it possible to use Volley with hail of thorns?

I believe that when the character hits the first creature with Volley, hail of thorns is triggered.

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(Probably) Yes, but it will trigger only for the first attack.

As you mentioned, it will trigger for the first hit.

Hail of thorns says:

The next time you hit a creature with a ranged weapon attack before the spell ends

Volley says:

You can use your action to make a ranged attack against any number of creatures within 10 feet of a point you can see within your weapon’s range.

Although not specified, Volley should (probably) be a ranged weapon attack, as you are attacking with, well, your weapon. The only discrepancy I see between both texts is this lack of specifying that volley is a weapon attack, so it's the only uncertainty I can see.

Given the premise that hail of thorns does trigger, when does it trigger? In the first hit against a creature. The most logical (IMO) way to rule which creature was the first to be hit by Volley is to say they are being hit/targeted in the order you roll - so, the first creature you hit in your rolls will be the first creature your character hits, thus the one triggering hail of thorns.1


1 XGtE has a ruling about Simultaneous Effects (note: it's a suggestion, ultimately it's up to the DM how to rule simultaneous effects), which states

In rare cases, effects can happen at the same time, especially at the start or end of a creature's turn. If two or more things happen at the same time on a character or monster's turn, the person at the game table — whether player or DM — who controls that creature decides the order in which those things happen.

The way I understand it, this must be done before actually resolving each effect, so you (the ranger) chooses which creature is the first you want to try to hit, roll the dice, and check if you hit. If you did, hail of thorns triggers. I think it would be unfair to choose which was the first hit after seeing what creatures were hit and what were not.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, the rules say that when things happen simultaneously (as these hits are), the creature whose turn it is (here, the ranger) decides the order. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Oct 27 '18 at 22:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM sure, but you choose that before rolling the dice, thus I would assume the order is the same as the dice were rolled. It would be unfair to decide who was the first hit after seeing all the hits and fails, agree? \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Oct 27 '18 at 22:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Each attack roll is resolved separately, so you would indeed have to roll one attack roll at a time and resolve it before moving on to the next. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 27 '18 at 23:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ You don’t need the probably. \$\endgroup\$ – Protonflux Oct 28 '18 at 0:12

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