The description of the Absorb Elements spell says:

The spell captures some of the incoming energy, lessening its effect on you and storing it for your next melee attack. [...] Also, the first time you hit with a melee attack on your next turn, the target takes an extra 1d6 damage of the triggering type, and the spell ends.

The first line says "next melee attack". Later, it says "next turn". Which is it?

Let's say I use my movement to jump into a bonfire, use my reaction to cast Absorb Elements, and use the rest of my movement to get up to the enemy and attack him, all in the same turn. Does my attack have the extra elemental damage?

Does Absorb Elements apply to your next attack, or does it have to be on your next turn?


4 Answers 4


It says both :(

The first sentence of Absorb Elements doesn't have a qualifier

The language in the lead for the spell simply states that the spell is

storing it for your next melee attack

This seems like it should work just fine in your scenario, but it's also in direct contradiction of the third line of the spell

But then it does...

The third line of the spell adds a qualifier that the extra damage gets triggered at the start of your next turn if you make a melee attack.

I've bolded the relevant qualifier in the quote below:

Also, the first time you hit with a melee attack on your next turn, the target takes an extra 1d6 damage of the triggering type, and the spell ends.

In this reading with your scenario, you wouldn't be able to use it in the same turn you used your reaction to cast it.

It's up to the DM

My unprovable hunch is that the assumption is that you receive your damage when it's not your turn and you generally wouldn't get an attack until your turn. In your scenario, you are triggering this damage yourself by jumping into the bonfire.

Given that, I don't think it would be unreasonable of a DM to allow it to be used the same turn. You've chosen to expose yourself to damage and burn a resource so that you can deliver some more damage. Just be aware that if you do have a concentration spell going, you'll also have to roll a con save for the fire damage you're giving yourself.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Though I still think that the totally-not-flavor text sets up a bit of a contradiction here. It does look from that first line like it would have some effect on your next attack regardless of when it is (even though there is no effect described later to back that up). \$\endgroup\$ Apr 25, 2019 at 19:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ I will note that there may be a mechanical reason for the "on your next turn" limitation: to prevent two castings of Absorb Elements from ever applying to the same attack, as described here: rpg.stackexchange.com/a/143366/40516 \$\endgroup\$ Apr 26, 2019 at 5:07

I think the answer to this question lies in the "Also" given in the description.

We know that regardless of whatever else happens, we "Also" get to apply the elemental damage to the first melee hit we get on our next turn. We know that with certainty, as it gives the necessary mechanics for how to accomplish this right after the "Also".

The spell could be describing two separate attacks, however it only provides mechanics for the attack we get on our next turn. It provides no mechanics for our "next attack."

With this understanding, we can infer that the intent of the spell is not to allow two attacks to have the extra elemental damage added to them.

Therefore, the only attack we get to use the extra elemental damage for is

the first time you hit with a melee attack on your next turn

Unfortunately, the opening sentence in the spell does make it a bit confusing.


Some spell and ability descriptions are poorly worded and haven't been corrected but the first sentence of a spell or effect can sometimes be considered a mere description of the effect, rather than a fully accurate rule about how it is to be applied. I'm NOT going so far as to say it's flavour text as that opens a whole can of worms with some people.

But if you consider it as merely a descriptive opener to the spell, a teaser if you will, then you get into the meat of the rules in the next sentence and after.

For comparison I'll use the Rogue Evasion ability, which suffers from the same problem:

Beginning at 7th level, you can nimbly dodge out of the way of certain area Effects, such as a red dragon's fiery breath or an Ice Storm spell. When you are subjected to an Effect that allows you to make a Dexterity saving throw to take only half damage, you instead take no damage if you succeed on the saving throw, and only half damage if you fail.

The first line mentions "area effects" and even gives two examples of attacks that are area effects. But it then goes on to omit the word "area" from the rest of the description and during the actual explanation of how the ability works.

What to do?

I think the simplest, and most consistent approach to consider the first line as just a summary of the spell/effect/ability and nothing more than that. This makes sense as many, many spells have a first line that adds nothing beyond a brief description. Melf's Acid Arrow, for example, starts with:

A shimmering green arrow streaks toward a target within range and bursts in a spray of acid.

But in this case, it doesn't include anything that could be interpreted as an actual game mechanic and so doesn't cause a problem.


Abilities often have two sections; the second part is the mechanics

In 5e all of the spell text is rules.

That being said, however, it is clear that in practice many spell effects and class abilities are written with two distinct sections in different styles. The terms 'fluff' (or 'flavor') and 'crunch' are loaded, and again, the entire description is rules text. I think it is more accurate, and useful, to consider the two sections as operating from two perspectives, both within the rules but from different parts of the rules. The first describes the feature from an in-character or narrative perspective, while the second relates what the game mechanical effects of the ability are, in the meta-narrative sense.

Steve's answer gives the Rogue's Evasion ability as an example, where the first sentence is what the ability does from the perspective of the Rogue:

[Y]ou can nimbly dodge out of the way of certain area effects, such as a red dragon's fiery breath or an ice storm spell.

The second sentence describes how the ability actually interacts with other game features, and no mention is made of it being limited to area effects.

Another example is the Lore Bard's Cutting Words feature, where the first sentence is:

[Y]ou learn how to use your wit to distract, confuse, and otherwise sap the confidence and competence of others.

This is how the ability functions from the in-character perspective of the Bard, but none of it is relevant for adjudicating the interaction of the ability with other game effects. The next sentence, however, says:

When a creature that you can see within 60 feet of you makes an attack roll, an ability check, or a damage roll, you can use your reaction to expend one of your uses of Bardic Inspiration, rolling a Bardic Inspiration die and subtracting the number rolled from the creature’s roll.

This is clearly how we are meant to apply the ability to other game features, and it is something the DM and the Bard's player know, but which the in-character Bard does not. The rest of the description continues to be meta-narrative and contains other explicitly mechanical effects about when the ability may be used.

Usually the entirety of a description can be applied intuitively, without bothering to break the descriptions into the in-character and the meta-narrative part. However, one can sometimes be tripped up by insisting that even the first part of the description is mechanical. For example, a DM might mistake the word "dodge" in the first sentence of the Rogue's Evasion and mis-rule that the ability could be used only when the Rogue was already Dodging, or that it granted the Dodge action whenever the Rogue was included in a damaging area effect. Likewise, one could read the in-character part of the Arcane Archer's Shadow Arrow and think that the blinding ability can only be applied to foes. There are many possible pitfalls to insisting that the first part of a spell or ability description is mechanical.

We can now examine what Absorb Elements is trying to say, through this lens. The first sentence is from the in-character perspective of the spell caster:

[When you would take acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder damage, t]he spell captures some of the incoming energy, lessening its effect on you and storing it for your next melee attack.

What the caster knows is that the spell protects them from damage, and powers their next attack. The caster, however, doesn't have an in-character concept of rounds and game turns. That is meta-narrative, and belongs with the second part of the spell description:

You have resistance to the triggering damage type until the start of your next turn. Also, the first time you hit with a melee attack on your next turn, the target takes an extra 1d6 damage of the triggering type, and the spell ends.

This part is the mechanical effects of the spell, and it is what should be referred to by the caster's player and by the DM. As such, the spell does not contradict itself. If you attack on the same turn you cast the spell, you do not get to apply the bonus damage to your attack.


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