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A level 14 Evocation Wizard with 3 levels in Rogue, uses their Overchannel ability on a 5th level Shadow Blade spell and lands an attack against a creature dealing 4d8 + Dexterity modifier + 2d6 sneak attack damage.

Because the Sneak Attack counts as "extra damage" (taking on all the damage properties that the Shadow Blade possesses) is it also maximized by Overchannel?

And for that matter, does Overchannel even work on the Shadow Blade's damage in the first place?

My first impression is yes to both of these but I might be overlooking something.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: "If I overchannel Bigby's Hand, does it do maximum damage every time it deals damage?" \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Nov 24 '19 at 22:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ While related, I'd say there are a few key differences. Bigby's Hand summons a creature, not an item/object so while it might follow the same rules; I'm not sure if summoning a weapon would follow the same rules as Bigby's would ( Also, this doesn't really address the sneak attack portion of the question, which I find far more contentious as an answer). \$\endgroup\$ – JKizzle Nov 24 '19 at 23:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hence why it's related and not a duplicate \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Nov 24 '19 at 23:18
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Wouldn't work with the sneak attack dice, but I have a better idea in any case. To get Overchannel in the first place, you need to be a 14th level Evocation Wizard. The 5th-level spell (You can get it at 9th-or-10th-level) called Steel Wind Strike deals 6d10 force damage on a hit, with you being able to make a spell attack against up to 5 targets. Overchannel that and every hit is 60 force damage, but if you have the Assassinate feature as well from Assassin Rogue and get any amount of hits against surprised creatures, then the dice should double from it automatically being considered a critical hit. Therefore the maximum damage should double too, dealing 120 force damage per hit. I think that's probably the best you'll get out of it, just make sure you have a high Intelligence since they're spell attacks, not weapon attacks.

Or even worse, upcast Scorching Ray with the same method. If all attacks hit, 144 (+Int Mod) damage on a single target. Still relies on surprise but that is MAXIMUM POWER.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi supersmily5, welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour to find out how things work here, and visit the help center for more guidance. Don't get me wrong, your idea sounds like a good alternative. However, this is a Q&A site rather than a traditional forum, so answers need to answer the question primarily. If you could expand on your first sentence to explain why it wouldn't work with sneak attack, then suggest your alternative afterwards as an aside, this post would be more in line with the sorts of answers RPG.SE is after. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Aug 22 at 20:42
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Overchannel definitely maximizes the base damage, Sneak Attack definitely applies, but Overchannel does not maximize sneak attack damage

Overchannel can maximize the damage roll(s) of any spell you apply it to:

When you cast a wizard spell of 1st through 5th level that deals damage, you can deal maximum damage with that spell.

Not only does using our ability to read tell us that this applies to any spell, but we even have developer commentary assuring us that that is, in fact, the correct reading:

If I Overchannel Bigby's Hand, this spell inflicts maximum damage every time it deals damage (ie on subsequent rounds)?

Overchannel. By RAW, it works as long as the spell lasts. Not exactly the intent (works only on the first turn), but it's functional.

So Shadow Blade, like Bigby's Hand and any other spell that does damage over more than one turn, benefits fully from Overchannel. Spells that result in enemies taking damage but don't actually deal any damage don't benefit from Overchannel, but that's not the sort of spell Shadow Blade is; the shadow blade is a spell effect so when you hit someone with it the spell is dealing damage as specified in its description. If you want to rule that the sword is a created object rather than a spell effect you can do that without violating the RAW, but that extension has counter-intuitive consequences like the sword being usable within an antimagic field for example.

Since this spell effect is also a weapon with the finesse property, you can sneak attack with it, assuming you meet the other requirements (e.g. having advantage on the attack roll or another qualifying situation).

The Sneak Attack feature says:

Once per turn, you can deal an extra 1d6 damage to one creature you hit with an attack if you have advantage on the attack roll.

You make this choice when you hit a creature with your attack. That's after you already used Overchannel and so the damage the spell deals is already maximized and this modification is done on top of that. Because Overchannel always happens first with Shadow Blade there's no way, even if you interpret Sneak Attack as modifying the base damage roll rather than adding an additional damage roll, for Sneak Attack to happen first and get maximized. This is the same logic as why, if you are affected by longstrider and then feign death your speed is 0 but if the spells affect you in the reverse order then your speed is 10'. Or, similarly, if you wear a belt that sets your STR to 19 and then get STR drained by a shadow your STR is now less than 19 but if you get STR drained to 1 STR and then finish attuning the belt your STR is 19. The order of operations with modifiers to rolls matters a lot. Maximizing the damage and then adding a variable amount can be very different than adding a variable amount and then maximizing the damage.

If you did use Sneak Attack first somehow, for the sake of argument, you still might not get the damage maximized because it is not clear whether the damage is part of the spell or not and your DM would have to pick. That is, your DM might say "Sneak Attack isn't from the spell, so it does not benefit from Overchannel" and they wouldn't be wrong, even though another DM might say "Sneak Attack damage is spell damage, so it does benefit from Overchannel". Both are interpretations compatible with the RAW.

Note that the typical 14th level Wizard/3rd level rogue making use of this trick is dealing 32+2d6 psychic damage each round with the blade from approximately 20 feet away until they drop the spell when they lose concentration while a typical 17th level wizard is dealing 2d6 less damage with bigby's hand from 120 feet away and a typical 17th level rogue has their capstone ability; game balance is not particularly upset by letting a rogue/wizard make use of the class features the rules grant them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What does this part mean: "Spells that result in enemies taking damage but don't actually deal any damage don't benefit from Overchannel"? As in a spell pushing somebody into a damaging area? Are you saying the damage needs to be part of the spell's description? \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Nov 25 '19 at 7:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 Yeah, like gust of wind pushing someone into a pit or Animal Friendship helping you convince a bear to attack your enemies. The damage being in the spell description is a very good sign, but not the actual determining factor: that's whether the spell's effect is dealing the damage or causing something else to do so. Ultimately, like much of 5e, that means the GM has to mostly make it up much of the time. Personally I do use the damage being in the spell description as a determiner for that. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 25 '19 at 7:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ I fail to see how when the damage is applied affects whether or not Overchannel kicks in. If a creature had resistance to spell damage (like say a high level Abjurer) they would have the bonus damage from Sneak Attack halfed as well. Sneak attack in this case, is modifying the Spell's damage, it isn't some extraneous damage type devoid of classification. As for the meta commentary on balance; it's actually being used by a level 14 Invoker who has used Magic Jar on an Assassin; it's version of sneak attack is the same but convolutes the process. It is a level 14 Wizard dealing an extra 4d6. \$\endgroup\$ – JKizzle Nov 25 '19 at 11:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JKizzle Yes, sneak attack can be interpreted to be spell damage here, but it's damage you didn't have when the spell was cast. It's like if you Overchannel+Divine Strike, or Feign Death + Longstrider. If you have something that modifies a stat and something that sets a stat to something or otherwise conditionally modifies it, it really matters what order you do them in. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 25 '19 at 19:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's possible Bigby's hand works differently from shadow blade (allowing Overchannel to work on it); unlike shadow blade, you can indeed do damage "when you cast the spell" with Bigby's hand because: "When you cast the spell [...] you can move the hand up to 60 feet and then cause one of the following effects with it." In contrast, casting shadow blade merely creates the weapon, and then you have to separately take the Attack action or whatever to actually attack with it. Can you address this possible distinction? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Nov 26 '19 at 7:45

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