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I am somewhat confused by the wording of Alicorn Lance as stated in Elminster's Guide to Magic. The text states:

Alicorn Lance
2nd-level evocation
Casting Time: 1 action
Components: V, S, M (a lock of Unicorn mane)
Range: 120 feet
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute

A transparent alicorn (unicorn horn) forms about 2 inches from your brow. Starting the turn you cast this spell, for the duration you can use a bonus action during each of your turns to launch the horn at a creature you can see within range. The target must make a Dexterity saving throw, taking 3d6 radiant damage on a failed save. It is also outlined in silver faerie fire on a failed save, causing any attacks against it to be made with advantage until the start of your next turn. On a successful save the target takes half as much radiant damage, but suffers no other effects.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, the amount of radiant damage increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 2nd.

I am confused about the supposed contradiction between "during each of your turns" and "launch the horn".

Does it return between launches? Does it reappear? Does it ever leave your head in the first place?

Can you launch a new horn each round?

Or is it just a single-shot effect that you can use on one bonus action that occurs during the spells duration?

EDIT
I've added the full text: I was initially confused by the wording of when you can use it, but perhaps the additional details may help uncover intent.

In particular, I can understand the comparison to Spiritual Weapon, as it is also a 2nd level spell that does damage on bonus rounds for 1 minute. However Alicorn Horn does significantly more damage per turn (1d8 + SCM vs 3d6 save-for-half), has a range of 120 feet, and applies a (pseudo) status change.

On the other hand, it could be compared to Guiding Bolt, which is a level 1 spell, has the same range, does slightly more damage (4d6) and also applies a (pseudo) status change. However, it is also a ranged spell attack (misses miss) and applies the advantage only to the next attack before the end of your next turn (as opposed to any attacks)

Note that upcasting spiritual weapon takes 2 levels per dice of additional damage; alicorn horn updates 1 level per dice. Effectively, if it can be read as an attack per turn, it turns a 3rd-level slot into 10 bonus-round-usable, slightly powered up, still allowing spells on actions, level 1 guiding bolts!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Historically, I think both 2e and 3e had similarly named spells that were indeed single-shot versions. However, I can't tell if the intent in converting it to 5e is to adjust for power creep. \$\endgroup\$ – BM- Feb 12 at 13:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you did not do already, visit the help center if you need further info about posting Q&A! Regarding your question, is it the sole text of the spell? Are there other paragraphs? \$\endgroup\$ – Eddymage Feb 12 at 13:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ I suggest that you cite the spell's duration in the question. This third party material is likely not familiar to a lot of folks who may be able to offer you a good answer. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 12 at 13:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ What level spell is it? What kind of damage does the lance do? It seems to be unclearly written (not all that surprising for third-party) and having numbers to compare to might be useful in identifying what the answer should and/or was intended to be. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Feb 12 at 15:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BenBarden, I've added the full text \$\endgroup\$ – BM- Feb 13 at 1:00
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Spells do what they say they do.

As you've noted in a comment on your answer, in previous editions, it was specified in the spell that you can only fire the horn once. Two of the principle design philosophies in D&D 5th edition are "There are no hidden rules" and "Spells do what they say they do". If the spell doesn't say that you can only fire it once, then you should be able to fire it more than once.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While there is a modest amount of trouble with applying that principle to third party stuff (the source listed isn't official, I've seen mixed reviews; it is available at dmsguild) when left with such a question it's a great point of departure. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 12 at 13:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Yes, 3p stuff can be tricky. My opinion on that is that you should assume that it follows the core design principles of the source material, and if it obviously doesn't, don't use it because it will only cause you headaches. \$\endgroup\$ – RevanantBacon Feb 12 at 14:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's kind of my point though: I feel it could be argued that it does say it can be launched only once. If we were to rephrase the horn as a spectral bullet in a gun, and it then said "starting on the turn you cast the spell, for the duration of the spell you can use you bonus action to fire the bullet at a creature in range", I feel the argument that the subsequent turns would allow you to fire it again would be spurious. If the horn is launched from your head, how can you launch it again? What are you launching? The spell doesn't say it generates a new horn either. \$\endgroup\$ – BM- Feb 12 at 14:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ On the other hand, it also doesn't say that the horn is destroyed. You could make the argument that you are launching the horn like Yondu's arrow from Guardians of the Galaxy, launching it from wherever it last landed, as long as the target is within range of you. \$\endgroup\$ – BM- Feb 12 at 14:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ While this is a reasonable ruling a table can make, I don't think this is actually supportable. We only have the data from the 3p resource and can only go with exactly what it says. Isn't anything else guessing designer intent here? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Feb 12 at 14:24
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The intent of the spell is unclear from the text. As you say, if you launch the horn, it's not clear how you would get it back to launch it again (or whether that's even meant to be possible). Also, in past editions this spell has not been reusable.

I recommend that you resolve this by looking at the balance of the spell. This is a second-level spell that lasts one minute and uses bonus actions, so we can compare it to spiritual weapon, which is also a second-level spell that lasts one minute and uses bonus actions. Spiritual weapon is considered one of the better cleric spells -- some have described access to it as "a class feature for the cleric".

Spiritual weapon does 1d8+WIS damage; if you hit a foe 60% of the time then this is probably (1d8+4) * 0.6=5.1 average damage. This spell does 3d6 save-for-half; if they fail the save 60% of the time then this is (3d6 * 0.6+3d6 * 0.2)=8.4 average damage, which is quite a bit more. It also, as you point, out, applies a status effect.

This spell does have the disadvantage that it consumes your action on the turn you cast it. But overall I think it would be unbalanced if we interpret this spell to be reusable.

Perhaps it's better to interpret this spell as single-use, and compare it to guiding bolt, which does 4d6 damage with an attack roll (average 8.4 damage if you hit 60% of the time, the same as alicorn lance) and applies a slightly-worse version of the same status effect.

The alicorn lance spell is arguably a tiny bit better than guiding bolt, because you can cast it before combat and use it on your first turn as a bonus action. But I do think the spells are comparable.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It does 3d6 radiant damage, with a save for half. That's a bit more than 1d8 + SCM right? \$\endgroup\$ – BM- Feb 13 at 0:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ For what it's worth, the spell design guidelines say that 2nd level spell, 1 target save for half is 3d10 damage. Also, so far as I can read it, it's not save for half. If the target saves, you get nothing. Additionally, Spiritual Weapon is bonus action to cast, and gets an attack immediately. Alicorn horn requires a standard action to cast, and gets you nothing other than the right to use a bonus action to attack. Finally, 1d8+statmod is actually pretty similar to 3d6 in terms of overally damage. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Feb 14 at 0:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Comparing it to Flame Sphere is probably better. Both are an action to cast, concentration and bonus action to use. That only does 2D6 Dex save for half. The AoE damage of Flame Sphere is end of turn, so unreliable and lets call it equivalent to the advantage on attacks debuff. That means this spell should only do 2D6 damage to be balanced, if it's usable every turn. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Feb 15 at 16:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ What about comparing the spell to Produce Flame in terms of actual mechanics rather than efficacy? That may be a cantrip, but it's an instance of a "cast now, attack later" spell to use as wording comparison. That spell does explicitly indicate that making the attack ends the spell, so the phrasing for that effect is known. In that context, I think that should imply this spell is multi-use. You've got plenty of other examples of "cast now, attack later" spells as well with explicit end clauses - Lightning Arrow, Thunderous Smite, etc. - so the lack of one here should be telling. \$\endgroup\$ – MirrorImage Feb 18 at 21:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mirrorimage I'm happy with the answer I have here, but you're welcome to spin that insight into your own answer if you like! \$\endgroup\$ – Dan B Feb 19 at 7:26

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