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Eldritch Smite is an Eldritch Invocation for Warlocks similar to the Divine Smite feature from Paladins. It is available in Xanathar's Guide to Everything and states

Once per turn when you hit a creature with your pact weapon, you can expend a warlock spell slot to deal an extra 1d8 force damage to the target, plus another 1d8 per level of the spell slot, and you can knock the target prone if it is Huge or smaller.

So, let us say a 5th level Warlock (single class) uses its 3rd level spell slot to proc Eldritch Smite on an enemy they hit.

What damage do they roll?

I am asking this because a Warlock that I have been playing with recently (we are running Dungeon of the Mad Mage) has been rolling 3d8, but my reading is that it should be 4d8.

To be clear on the reasoning, these are the two interpretations clashing:

  1. Casting it as 1st level is 1d8, and any extra level is +1d8. This gives 3d8.
  2. Casting it naturally deals 1d8, independent of spell slot. Then another (level)d8 dice from the spell slot. This gives 4d8.

Ultimately I find the wording confusing. The first interpretation is in line with how spells are usually described, but the second is what I understood when reading it. I figured I would ask before telling the other player he has been rolling wrong for weeks (and maybe being wrong myself when doing so).

For comparison, Divine Smite is way more precise in its wording:

Starting at 2nd Level, when you hit a creature with a melee weapon attack, you can expend one spell slot to deal radiant damage to the target, in addition to the weapon's damage. The extra damage is 2d8 for a 1st-level spell slot, plus 1d8 for each spell level higher than 1st [...]

To be clear on my expectations on the answers: either a compelling and careful argument on the reading, or any further clarification from any official source, even as simple as an example of damage calculation where it is clear which damage was rolled.


Related: This answer seems to be using my interpretation in its math, as well as this. This answer also seems to be using the second interpretation (4th level spell slot = 5d8 damage). Finally, this question also assumes the second interpretation.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes The first linked answer also is using a 5th level spell slot for the Eldritch Smite, so it should be right, unless I'm missing something. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jul 19 at 14:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh, yes all the linked answers are correct after all, it was the Divine Smite it was doing at 4th level, but on an undead target for an extra d8. I thought you were making some kind of distinction between the hypothetical misinterpretation vs. the correct one, but actually all the questions and answers you linked are correct. I assumed you were using "my interpretation" to refer to the wrong one you described in this question, but on closer reading this came up from a fellow player at your table. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Jul 19 at 22:04
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The damage follows the following formula:

$$DAM = 1d8+Nd8,$$

where \$N\$ is the level of the spell slot used. This is clear from the ability description:

you can expend a warlock spell slot to deal an extra 1d8 force damage to the target, plus another 1d8 per level of the spell slot [this equals \$N\$ in the above question.]

If you use a first level spell slot, then the damage is 1d8 + 1d8: this is 1d8 plus another 1d8 for each level of spell slot expended. Here is a table:

enter image description here

I think the confusion here comes from spells telling you what they do at first level, then giving a formula that applies only to higher levels. In the case of eldritch smite, it gives a formula to use at every level of use.

Or, to think about it another way, we can break the ability up into sections. We have two "sources" of damage dice in the ability description. First we have:

an extra 1d8 force damage to the target.

So we are up to 1d8 force damage. Then, the ability goes on to the next section:

plus another 1d8 per level of the spell slot.

First, damage from here is in addition to the first 1d8 from the last section. Next, this section is totally unambiguous: you take the level of the spell, and thats how man d8's get added to the first d8 to give your total extra damage.

This confirms the initial formula.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Kay, while I agree with the answer (this is my interpretation as well), I believe some more detail can be given. Right now it states "it is clear from the description" - but it seems it was not clear enough for the Warlock in my group. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jul 19 at 1:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't know man, it's completely unambiguous. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jul 19 at 1:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ What I was hoping is that there was some further clarification in the books or any official source of an example of damage calculation with Eldritch Smite that would help with this clarification. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jul 19 at 1:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ One reason Eldritch Smite is different from other similar effects is that you can only get it at 5th level, when your Pact Magic spell slots are 3rd level. While a multiclassed warlock can use spell slots of other levels, it's different than a Paladin's Divine Smite, or most spells in that it doesn't start at some minimum level and then ramp up later. It starts pretty well ramped up, but can be cast at lower levels in some rare situations. \$\endgroup\$ – Blckknght Jul 19 at 2:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov: I don't mind at all. I'm not sure my suggestion is entirely correct though. Reading some more, I found that you apparently cannot use non-warlock spell slots for Eldritch Smite (an asymmetry with the Paladin's Divine Smite that doesn't make any sense at all to me). By that RAW interpretation, the rule could be defined for third level spell slots with extra damage for higher ones. \$\endgroup\$ – Blckknght Jul 19 at 16:21

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