Nin'Zar, the imp familiar, likes its cushy new assignment serving a Pact of the Chain Warlock. So, it wants to help its master as much as possible by using the Help action when its master casts Scorching Ray.

The spell description for Scorching Ray says:

You create three rays of fire and hurl them at targets within range. You can hurl them at one target or several.

According to the Help action:

You feint, distract the target, or in some other way team up to make your ally's attack more effective. If your ally attacks the target before your next turn, the first attack roll is made with advantage.

When someone makes multiple attacks, they are separate, sequential events that happen during the course of that player's turn. For instance, with Two-Weapon Fighting, a player makes an attack event then makes a bonus-action attack event. When a fighter uses their Extra Attack feature, the multiple attacks are again separate, sequential attack events.

However, since the duration for Scorching Ray is 'instantaneous', if you fire all three rays at one target, it can be argued that this would count as one attack event. Just like firing both barrels from a shotgun at the same time would be one attack event. If this is the case, then the Help action could give advantage to each of the to hit rolls.

Does Scorching Ray being fired at a single target count as one attack for the purpose of the Help action?


3 Answers 3


Unfortunately, only one ray will gain advantage from the Help action

Scorching ray says (PHB, p. 273):

Make a ranged spell attack for each ray.

So each ray involves an attack roll.

Each attack is a separate attack, since under Making An Attack (PHB, p. 194):

If there's ever any question whether something you're doing counts as an attack, the rule is simple: if you're making an attack roll, you're making an attack.

So since you're making three attack rolls, you must be making three attacks.

As you noted from the Help Action rules (PHB, p. 192):

If your ally attacks the target before your next turn, the first attack roll is made with advantage.

So, only the first ray will be made with advantage due to your familiar's help.


Scorching ray counts as multiple attacks for the purposes of the Help action

As you quoted the Help action rules text states:

If your ally attacks the target before your next turn, the first attack roll is made with advantage.

The part of the scorching ray rules text that you didn't quote says:

Make a ranged spell attack for each ray.

So, casting scorching ray will involve making three separate attack rolls.

The casting time of instantaneous is the spell's in-game duration. To the PCs the spell appears to happen instantaneously.

'Attack rolls' and 'advantage', on the other hand, are out-of-game meta rules concepts - attack rolls do not have to be rolled simultaneously by the player, even for an 'instantaneous' spell. You (the player) only get advantage on your first attack roll.

You cannot treat three separate attack rolls as being simultaneously your 'first roll', simply on the basis that they are rationalised as happening simultaneously in game.


There is an overlap of concepts. There is the "Attack Action", capital A, in which people make 'attacks', lower case. Several other features also grant attacks, each of them using a d20 to compare against the target's AC. It doesn't matter if they happen simultaneously, the game serialize them to process the results.

The targeting, roll of d20, and damage happens separatedly. You can decide what to do with the second ray after the result of the first is known. For example, it is perfectly valid for the player to decide to shoot the second ray at another target, given that the first target dropped to 0 HP with the damage. The rays are simultaneous but the resolution allows this kind of step-by-step decision.

So, what happens in the fictional world and in the gaming table are different. Only the first one receives the help bonus.


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