Say you're a paladin, and you want to cast searing smite (PHB, p. 274).

Can I roll my attack, see the result, and decide if I want to spend my bonus action on searing smite before the outcome is determined?

Taking this a step further, can I do it after the outcome is known (so I know I will hit)?

Relevant quotes from Jeremy Crawford, D&D 5E Development Lead:

Crawford's quotes above are about timing related to things like spending a bonus action between attacks, or defining how certain abilities determine when the "hit" is calculated in the damage formula.

Can something as general as a bonus action interfere with the "steps" of the attack roll if it has no required trigger?

We know that something like the shield spell can directly interfere with these steps (as the spell's trigger requires an attack that "hits" you, but then the AC bonus applied can then negate that hit from occurring). However, is that specifically due to the shield spell's trigger and magical effect, or is it using a general rule?

Other related questions:

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Does this answer your question? Can you break up your Attack action for a bonus action? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 23 '20 at 22:45
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Unfortunately not, but it's a good linked question. The reason is actually because the justification behind that answer was a JC tweet that, ironically, was followed up by the one in my question! That is, JC corrected himself and the full ruling is: "You can't interrupt an attack action with an attack trigger, unless that trigger requires an attack and not the attack action. Bonus actions or other effects without triggers are exempt from this", and something like Searing Smite doesn't have a trigger to spend the Bonus Action (unlike Shield Master, the original concern). \$\endgroup\$ Jul 23 '20 at 22:50
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Daniel Crawford later followed up on that same tweet: "A bonus action that has no trigger—such as Cunning Action and the misty step spell—can take place whenever you want on your turn" however all of his tweets are not official rulings. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 23 '20 at 22:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ For those downvoting, could you provide insight on what could be done to improve the question? I've tried providing sources, related questions, and reasonable justification, but I'm not sure what else is needed for this to be a perfect question. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 23 '20 at 22:55
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @DanielZastoupil In seeing how you’ve explained the question, I think you have enough for a good answer here, don’t hesitate to post your own answer here. It’s a good thing when thinking through our own questions leads us to a conclusion. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 23 '20 at 23:18


To understand it, we should carefully read the Section Making an Attack. Once you have declared your attack, calculated the proper modifiers, you resolve the attack

  1. Resolve the attack. You make the attack roll. On a hit, you roll damage, unless the particular attack has rules that specify otherwise. Some attacks cause special effects in addition to or instead of damage.

From my understanding, all of this occurs without the player being able to take any other action in between. This is a general rule. Some features, however, have a specific rule that allows them to be declared between the hit and dealing damage, for example, Divine Smite

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.

This is triggered specifically by the hit, so it is a specific rule that allows the player to break the general rule that nothing should be declared after the hit, but before the damage.

The other smites have no such specific rule, and therefore they can not be used that way.

This is backed up by the fact that hitting and dealing damage are simultaneous events (in-game), therefore, the character can not perform an action in between them.

Probably Intended

The other smites, from my understanding, are supposed to be cast before the attack. If it was intended that they were used like Divine Smite, they would use a similar wording, specifically allowing the player to choose to use them in between hit and damage. The reason Divine Smite is strong is precisely because you can choose to use it only after you hit, never wasting a spell slot for it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @disobedienttiger This is my reading of it. All of this is a simultaneous event. If you disagree, then you may want to discuss it in this question. \$\endgroup\$
    – HellSaint
    Jul 25 '20 at 21:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your post read as though you were deriving " all of this occurs without the player being able to take any other action in between" from the quoted block "3. Resolve the attack...", so I was asking how you derived it.But it is moot, because someone deleted my original comment. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 29 '20 at 14:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @disobedienttiger Yes, and all of that is aside this question and this answer, and has already been discussed in the question I have linked. The final step is simply stating that if two events are simultaneous you can't act between them because, well, they are simultaneous. What may be confusing you is that they are separate meta-events, but it doesn't matter if your feature can't interact with meta events (e.g. Shield does). Either way I'm not interested in discussing this in this question. I think my answer is clear enough. \$\endgroup\$
    – HellSaint
    Jul 29 '20 at 16:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.