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The Sorcerer's Empowered Spell metamagic option reads

When you roll damage for a spell, you can spend 1 sorcery point to reroll a number of the damage dice up to your Charisma modifier (minimum of one). You must use the new rolls.

While the spell chaos bolt reads:

You hurl an undulating, warbling mass of chaotic energy at one creature in range. Make a ranged spell attack against the target. On a hit, the target takes 2d8 + 1d6 damage. [...] If you roll the same number on both d8s, the chaotic energy leaps from the target to a different creature of your choice within 30 feet of it. Make a new attack roll against the new target, and make a new damage roll, which could cause the chaotic energy to leap again.

If Sorcerer chooses to use Empowered Spell when they cast chaos bolt (and has a Charisma modifier of at least +2), do they need to re-roll all of the dice that they wish to re-roll at once? Or can they re-roll one d8, then, if it does not match, re-roll the other?

As an example:
The sorcerer casts chaos bolt and rolls a 7 and an 8. They use Empowered Spell, and re-roll the 7, getting a 3.

If Empowered Spell dice rolls are sequential:
The sorcerer casts chaos bolt and rolls a 7 and an 8. They use Empowered spell and re-roll the 7 getting a 3. The sorcerer uses the additional re-roll allowed by empowered spell to re-roll the 8 and gets a 3 causing the spell to jump to another target

If Empowered Spell dice rolls are rolled together:
The sorcerer already chose to just re-roll the 7 and so cannot now choose to re-roll the 8. The spell does not target another creature.


A related unofficial tweet from December 2017 by Jeremy Crawford on the subject:

When casting Chaos Bolt and using the Empowered Spell metamagic on the first damage roll, would you be able to reroll only up to the first two d8s, or would you be able to reroll potential secondary damage dice too assuming your charisma modifier was high enough?

You can reroll as many dice as your Charisma modifier allows.

A related question: Which yields higher average damage, an Empowered or Twinned Chaos Bolt?

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It depends what books you are playing with

If you play without Xanathar's Guide to Everything, there are no explicit rules regarding simultaneous event resolution, so there's no particular guidance here except as regards game balance considerations (rerolling sequentially isn't a problem; empower is a relatively weak metamagic) and that whatever the DM decides goes.

If you play with Xanathar's Guide to Everything, then the following rule applies:

If two or more things happen at the same time on a character or monster’s turn, the person at the game table — whether player or DM — who controls that creature decides the order in which those things happen.

Rolling a die is a thing that happens. When you roll 2d6 damage, two die are being rolled at the same time. When you choose to reroll a die, that's also happening "when you roll damage", which is the same time. Thus the participant who controls the entity whose turn it is, which is usually the caster, decides what order the rerolls and original rolls which are theoretically all happening and being decided on at the same time actually happen in.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I am going to accept your answer even though it is not the most upvoted because it references additional rules and recognizes the gameplay impact of the ruling. \$\endgroup\$
    – user60913
    Oct 6 '20 at 4:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ This to me seems like a misapplication of xanathar's Simultaneous Effects. In particular, if you read the whole thing rather than a partial quote, it's clear that these rules only apply to "effects", and this answer does not convince me that the player's act of rolling individual dice is an "effect". Empowered Spell is certainly an effect, maybe rerolling NdX is an effect, but I need a solid argument for why rolling individual die among NdX is an effect. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruse
    Oct 7 '20 at 8:32
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The Metamagic option Empowered Spell says it may be used "when you roll damage for a spell."

When you rolled all three of the dice, you were rolling damage for the spell. Your decision of how many and which dice to re-roll (one, or up to your Cha limit, two; a d8 or the d6) needs to be made at that time (after you see the results of the initial roll). So long as nothing else has happened, you are still in that "when you" moment.

A subsequent event, like re-rolling of one of the damage dice, means that you have moved forward in time; it is no longer the moment when you rolled damage for a spell. The XGtE optional rule on timing does not come in to play, because 'two or more things' are not 'happening at the same time'. 'When you roll for damage' is one time, at which point you declare your use of the metamagic and decide which dice to reroll. Actually making those re-rolls is a later point in time.

Put another way, Empowered Spell has a certain trigger to take effect - at that time, you decide what the effects of it are. If you have moved on and are already resolving its effects, you must have passed the point of the trigger and are beyond your window of decision-making.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This interpretation of the rules for Empowered Spell is a very severe reduction in its power compared to the common ruling - and I don't think there's anything to support it either. This would technically solve the problem, but only to create a new problem in itself. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibbobz
    Sep 28 '20 at 14:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zibbobz I'm not sure what the common ruling is - you can hold potential future re-rolls indefinitely as long as it is the same spell doing damage? Can you give an example of the common ruling in practice? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Sep 28 '20 at 15:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zibbobz Yes, you see the initial damage dice first, before you even decide to spend the sorcery point and use the metamagic. At that point in time ("when you") you decide how many to reroll. The OP's question is whether you can, with a 'budget' of two rerolls, reroll one, see what it is, and then decide whether to reroll a second ("up to") or not. Based on my interpretation of "when you", I would say no. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Sep 28 '20 at 16:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ The answer's basically saying that there are only up to two occasions on which you're rolling the dice for the first target (i.e. without considering whether chaos bolt leaps to another target): you roll 2d8+1d6 and see the initial result of the damage roll, and then you can choose to reroll a number of those damage dice all at once with Empowered Spell. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Sep 29 '20 at 20:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ That said, how do you reconcile this official ruling from the Sage Advice Compendium: "A sorcerer’s Empowered Spell could affect more than one ray of a scorching ray, abiding by the feature’s die limit. For instance, if you create three rays with the spell and you have a +3 Charisma modifier, you could reroll one of the damage dice for each ray, or two of the damage dice for one ray and one of the damage dice for another one."? Scorching ray has multiple sequential attacks, and thus a separate damage roll for each ray. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Sep 29 '20 at 21:01
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To give an interpretation with my DM hat on:

The wording of the ability is "reroll a number of the damage dice". To me that is one reroll, of a number of dice. So when you activate the ability, you pick "a number of the damage dice" and reroll them.

In your 'sequential' example, you can make one reroll then decide whether to make another. That is clearly multiple rerolls (as you say in the example, "the additional reroll") so I would not allow it at my table, and I suspect it's not what the designers intended (although you'd need word of God to confirm).

I don't really see a logical interpretation of the wording that would allow the 'sequential' example you give above.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that you might need more support for "re-roll a number of damage dice" means one re-roll. This Sage Advice ruling indicates that the re-rolled dice can be from seperate attack rolls dndbeyond.com/sources/sac/sage-advice-compendium#SA053 \$\endgroup\$
    – user60913
    Sep 28 '20 at 14:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ When are targets picked for spells with multiple “missiles”? - this question covers that the blasts are sequential \$\endgroup\$
    – user60913
    Sep 29 '20 at 18:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Odo: I fixed the link in your first comment to point to the right SAC question and answer (the one about Empowered Spell, not the one about Elemental Affinity). \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Sep 29 '20 at 20:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ tbh @Odo it sounds like you've already decided how you want it to work and you're looking for someone to agree with you. I'm not that person. \$\endgroup\$
    – ScaryJim
    Sep 29 '20 at 20:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ By the way: Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Sep 29 '20 at 21:01
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When you roll damage for a spell, you can spend 1 sorcery point to reroll a number of the damage dice up to your Charisma modifier

When you spend the sorcery point, you can reroll a number of damage dice.

You can reroll 1 die, because 1 is a number.

You can reroll 2 dice, because 2 is a number.

You cannot defer the decision of how many dice to reroll until after you have seen the results of previous dice, because "maybe 1 and maybe 2, I don't know yet" is not a number.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think what is missing from this answer is a justification for why the player must declare a number of dice to re-roll rather than simply start re-rolling. The end result if a player chooses to re-roll the second d8 is "the player re-rolled 2 dice". \$\endgroup\$
    – user60913
    Sep 28 '20 at 14:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Odo - Claiming the end result is the same feels a little disingenuous to me, given that the obvious reason for deferring the decision about whether to reroll the second die is because rerolling only one die at a time gives you additional chances to roll doubles. Original roll + reroll both dice = two shots at doubles. Original roll + reroll one die + reroll the other die only if no doubles yet = three shots at doubles. That's not the same end result. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 29 '20 at 7:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ To be clear I am not suggesting that the end result is the same just that both end results satisfy "the player re-rolled 2 dice". \$\endgroup\$
    – user60913
    Sep 29 '20 at 21:16
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Are you rolling damage? Is it for a spell?

If the answers are “yes” and “yes”, you can spend 1 point and reroll up to CHA mod dice.

Each time you roll damage for Chaos Bolt the answers are “yes” and “yes” so you can [see above]. However, due to the restriction that only one Metamagic option can be used on any one spell, you can only do it once.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This does not answer the question. My question is whether the decision over which dice to re-roll on a single use of Empowered Spell must be made at once or whether, after seeing the result of one re-rolled die, the sorcerer can choose to re-roll an additional die from the same damage roll. \$\endgroup\$
    – user60913
    Sep 27 '20 at 21:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ If this was the intent of the ability, it would better be phrased "Each time you roll damage for a spell..." not "When you roll damage for a spell..." \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Sep 28 '20 at 15:44
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Frame Challenge: It doesn't matter whether you reroll the damage dice, you can't make the spell leap

The d8's used are serving many functions. They are damage dice, to be sure, but they are also determining what kind of damage the spell does and whether or not it leaps to another target.

Empowered Magic lets you reroll the damage aspect of a die or dice, but does not alter their original value for their other aspects. Conceptually, it takes what was one die representing three different things and separates it into different dice, all reading the same roll. Then it lets you reroll the die representing damage, but not the other aspects.

This interpretation does not address your specific question about whether the dice may be rolled sequentially, but it makes the question itself moot if your goal was not to change the damage rolls but to try to generate a leap.

Indirect support for this interpretation can be found at How does an Evocation wizard's Overchannel feature interact with the Chaos Bolt spell? with both GreySage's well-received answer and Xirema's as well. Overchannel does not let you reroll the dice of Chaos Bolt, but rather sets damage to the maximum. In doing so, however, GreySage argues that changing the damage aspect of the dice does not alter their other aspects - just because the damage is now 22 (8+8+6), does not make the Chaos Bolt leaping thunder damage. While not directly analogous to the situation with Empowered Spell's actual rerolls of physical dice, I believe its distinction of the different functions of the dice (damage amount, damage type, ability to leap), supports this answer's interpretation of the question at hand.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like this answer best. It seems clear that RAI the only reason the d8's are used to determine leapage is convenience - you've already rolled dice, why not use them to determine a 12.5% outcome. Conceptually though I think the two functions should be understood to be entirely separate; one can pretend they're separate rolls or even make separate rolls to bring this interpretation home. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alex M
    Sep 29 '20 at 17:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ That seems clearer, thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Oct 7 '20 at 20:00

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