Chain lightning can specifically target objects and does not specify that the object must be unattended; spells like fireball or lightning bolt do. Does this mean its secondary targets can be objects worn or carried by the initial target creature? Can the initial target be an object worn or carried by a creature? What about any combination of these?

You create a bolt of lightning that arcs toward a target of your choice that you can see within range. Three bolts then leap from that target to as many as three other targets, each of which must be within 30 feet of the first target. A target can be a creature or an object and can be targeted by only one of the bolts. [...] (PHB p. 221, emphasis mine.)

Note that the bolded section has no specification that the objects must be unattended or have any other restrictions on it.

Dealing 10d8 damage to up to three worn or carried objects after zapping the creature seems to be a really effective way to use this spell; it would probably break things you don't want your enemy to use and deal him a good chunk of damage. This potential use of the spell, its expected damage output, and the comparatively low HP of objects suggested in the DMG make for a potentially pretty electrifying attack.

Related, though I couldn't find an answer here:
How does the Chain Lightning spell target?

This one's accepted answer does address areas of effect, though I think chain lightning is different enough to warrant my question:
What qualifies for the target of a spell?

Related regarding HP of items (Thanks NautArch!):
What HP do armor pieces have?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Related, possible duplicate on: Can I atack an object that is being worn or carried by a creature during combat? - thanks lightcat! \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 21:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ I lack the knowledge of the meta on this site to make that determination and will read up on duplicates. This linked question does have an answer that quotes a conversation on twitter with JC; it's pretty helpful. Should my question: be answered with something similar? be marked as a duplicate? include the link in the question and await an answer? \$\endgroup\$
    – Token
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 21:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/a/7481/49864 leads me to believe that this question could be a duplicate, though an answer to this question could still prove useful. \$\endgroup\$
    – Token
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 21:41
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @Token I don't believe this is a duplicate. That question discusses the general case, mostly in the context of weapon attacks. You are specifically asking about chain lighting and could well have a different answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 22:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @linksassin, that being true, I think this resolves to the general case because the spell doesn't make an exception, and did is exception based. If there is no exception listed on the sorrel the Geral car should apply \$\endgroup\$
    – Pliny
    Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 2:18

1 Answer 1


Yes, this spell (and others worded the same way) can target worn and carried items

When a spell can't target worn and carried items, it says so in its description. For example enlarge/reduce which says:

Choose either a creature or an object that is neither worn or carried.

Or catapult which says:

Choose one object weighing 1 to 5 pounds within range that isn't being worn or carried.

On the other hand, this spell has no such restriction. The only thing it says on the matter of targeting is:

A target can be a creature or an object and can be targeted by only one of the bolts.

Which, as you pointed out, has no further restrictions placed on it. Since there are no general rules prohibiting anything from targeting worn or carried items, the spell can simply do it.

This is likely Rules as Intended

Crawford has answered a general question about this in a Tweet:

Q: When the rules for making an attack or casting a spell talk about targeting an object, is it implied that it's an unattended object, or it possible to target someone's armor/shield directly with an attack in an attempt to damage/break it?

Crawford: If a game effect lets you target an object, the text of that effect tells you if worn/carried objects are prohibited. The rules don't assume that "object" means "object not currently worn or carried by anyone."

DM can determine the effectiveness of this strategy

The obvious concern with this from a DM standpoint would be "is this fun and/or balanced?" and that has to be a decision made on a per table basis. However, it might be helpful to note that Crawford talked a bit about it as a continuation of the above tweet (if it matters at all to your table).

Q: Is this balanced, in practice? When facing someone in Plate with a Shield (AC 21) mightn't it trivialize the fight to target and destroy their armor (AC19, 10hp)? Negating worn armor for the low cost of one weapon attack seems incredibly powerful.

Crawford: You'll be happy to know that few things in the game do this.

Q: The base rules for damaging objects don't specify unattended, so any character or monster can do it with a basic attack. Am I missing something?

Crawford: Those rules are entirely in the DM's hands. Using those rules, the DM is encouraged to rule that certain types of attacks/damage do nothing to certain objects. Those rules don't provide a foolproof way to wreck plate.

As a player discussing this with a DM, you might want to consider also that, while this would probably be a lot of fun for you, the player, to do against an enemy it might be less fun when the enemy is destroying your equipment. When a strategy is valid for one side, there is no reason the other can't also use it. Of course what is fun or not as I've mentioned before, will depend on the table. All I'm suggesting is that such a thing be part of the discussion.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So, to be clear: You're saying RAW & RAI are that Chain Lightning can target worn or carried objects, but you personally would recommend against it, due to overpowered effectiveness of attacking worn\carried objects? I think I agree, but your answer seems to start with a yes & end with a "but maybe don't do that". I think advising care, is wise, but the answer as currently written, feels like it waffles a bit, thereby lacking clarity? Would it perhaps be a better answer if its header said, in effect, "RAW? Yes. RAI? Yes. Should we? Probably not" ??? I think you've given 3 answers to a Y/N! ;D \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 13:28

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .