As the old adage goes, "water and electricity don't mix" because in real life water contains impurities that make it super conductible. So what would happen if, for instance, a sorceress were to cast shocking grasp on a creature underwater?

Would the spell not work? Would it affect the caster as well? Would it spread and hit everything under water?

Shocking grasp in particular specifies that "You have advantage if the target is wearing metal armor" which indicates that the designers are taking conductivity into account.

What about call lightning or chain lightning? Would casting a higher level spell change the outcome?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: Is there a rule for how to handle creative use of spells? \$\endgroup\$
    – Sdjz
    Commented Nov 23, 2018 at 10:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/90679/… \$\endgroup\$
    – PJRZ
    Commented Nov 23, 2018 at 10:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related answer to a question about fireballs underwater \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Nov 23, 2018 at 10:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with the accepted answer. But if you think it's no fun if nothing special happens, you can look how earlier editions handled it. Basically, lightning damage became an area attack centered at the start of the lightning source. It's not in 5e rules, but if you want flavor, fun or "more, but still very little" realism, then you might give the older edition (2e - 3.5e) a try before inventing your own rules about it. \$\endgroup\$
    – nvoigt
    Commented Oct 29, 2022 at 7:22

1 Answer 1


Lightning damaging spells do not behave differently in water

The various lightning spells you mention, shocking grasp, call lightning and chain lightning, none of them mention interacting with water in any way, so they don't. Spells only do what they say they do, although a DM is free to rule otherwise (also see the end of the quote at end of my answer). The section in the PHB about underwater combat (pg. 198) also doesn't mention anything about lightning spells behaving differently in water.

Regarding upcasting spells, any spell that has addition or different effects when upcast has a section that starts with At Higher Levels, and no spell mentions how lightning damage is enhanced by water when upcast.

Although this quote from JC is about fire spells underwater, I think the same reasoning applies to lightning (from Does Fireball evaporate water?, borrowed from this answer):

Nothing in the rules causes a fireball to vaporize water. Magic ≠ physics. DMs may apply whatever magical/scientific logic they like. — Jeremy E. Crawford

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    \$\begingroup\$ Pretty good explanation (Also hey, that's my answer!), +1 \$\endgroup\$
    – Jihelu
    Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 18:07

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