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The DM in a campaign where I am playing doesn't want to allow Booming Blade opportunity attacks with the Warcaster feat. Fluff-wise reasoning is, with OA there is not enough time to first "brandish the weapon" and then make the attack. Mechanical real reasoning is, the damage of Booming Blade seems just too high, and it works too much like the Sentinel feat against arcane-savvy enemies, while being likely to just outright kill any less smart, wounded enemy, who decides to dash away (without dash, the opponent can usually just follow and attack anyway).

Especially combined with Dissonant Whispers, which my character also has, the numbers do seem crazy: My level 12 PC has potential to do repeatedly 3d6 psychic damage (1st level Dissonant Whispers) + 1d8+1+4 piercing damage (+1 rapier, +4 DEX) + 5d8 thunder damage (Booming blade full damage) by expending just 1st level spell slot, action, and reaction, if target fails a DC 18 saving throw (this is achieved with an item). This is average 42,5 damage even 1-vs-1, and if there are allies there, they get a swing too.

Also the damage upscales nicely with character level, unlike most other opportunity attacks.

A comparable "normal" spell would be Shocking Grasp, which in the above example would do just 3d6 psychic + 3d8 lightning damage, average 24.

So as you can probably guess, I can't honestly say I disagree with the DM, but still it would be a sweet combo, so the question:

What factual arguments can be made to convince us that Booming Blade opportunity attacks are not unbalanced, unreasonably powerful, and completely overshadowing other PC's opportunity attack abilities?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the combo is Dissonant Whispers on your turn and then Booming Blade as an opportunity attack, and since the target is forced to keep running, it triggers for the full amount. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Jul 14, 2021 at 11:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Waki Yes, the opportunity attack is fine, but activating the later damage of booming blade is not as it explicitly requires willing movement \$\endgroup\$ Jul 14, 2021 at 12:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @J.E. Booming Blade range is self. Target is not so clear cut, and I think there are plenty of questions about what "target of a spell" really means in 5e. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 14, 2021 at 13:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2, For the record, Dissonant Whispers does count as willing movement; stated in the Sage Advice pdf. Under a question about Polearm Mastery it states, "Similarly, dissonant whispers requires the target to move using its reaction (if available), so that activity also provokes opportunity attacks." \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Jul 14, 2021 at 16:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott The thing here is, that opportunity attack is triggered by any movement action, while secondary damage of Booming Blade is triggered by willing movement. The word "willing" makes the difference. Though it is quite possible the secondary damage will still trigger in the Dissonant Whispers case, because the target has its turn before the effect ends, and unless it is familiar with Booming Blade, has no idea they get damage if they move on their turn.... \$\endgroup\$ Jul 14, 2021 at 17:27

2 Answers 2

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Booming Blade seems to be a spell designed to make spellcasters who like Melee viable with only one attack per turn. It always does a decent chunk of damage and has a movement restriction effect that you're manipulating by using Dissonant Whispers. So that makes a nice combo.

To see if it's unreasonable, it's easiest to compare it to other characters who are powerful with a weapon without getting a ton of attacks; the most obvious comparison being the Rogue.

A level 12 Rogue would deal an extra 6d6 sneak attack damage on their opportunity attack, assuming they get it (which, if this combo is a thing in their party, they surely will). That's an average of 21 extra points of damage on top of their normal hit damage.

It compares pretty favorably to the 22.5 average extra damage that your combo does. And the Rogue spent nothing on it, this is just what Rogues do. You had to get a Feat for it. The Rogue can probably add on more damage if they're willing to use a Feat as well.

The really scary thing here, is Dissonant Whispers in a party with strong single melee attacks; Booming Blade is just an obvious option for it. Using Green Flame Blade does about the same damage, but to two targets. There's plenty of things you can do to amplify opportunity attacks.

Even Eldritch Blast would do about the same damage if you can get around the Disadvantage for being in melee (but that'd take another Feat, so a bit more expensive). It'd deal more with Hex up.

Divine Smite costs a spell slot, but a Paladin's default opportunity attack with a Smite can already deal more damage than you do. And they can use Great Weapon Master if they want to really make it hurt.

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    \$\begingroup\$ By level 12, Paladins have Improved Divine Smite which gets them a bonus 1d8 radiant damage on every hit, including opportunity attacks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Toddleson
    Jul 14, 2021 at 17:25
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RAW it is fine, the way you are ruling it is not RAW though.

  1. An attack of opportunity works because Dissonant Whispers forces the target to use its reaction to move out of range which is a valid AOO trigger. This is covered in the DMG.
  2. Warcaster allows you to cast booming blade as an AOO reaction because booming blade is a spell with a casting time of one action. This is covered in the feat description.
  3. Booming blades initial thunder damage works fine, because it occurs with the attack on the target, this is covered in the spell description.
  4. Booming blades secondary thunder damage does NOT apply because the target does not willingly move, which is a specific clause on the booming blade spell.

I will note that it's still a very good spell combo. Just because it won't take damage from the thunderous energy around it during that forced reaction move, it still may very well take the damage when it's on its own turn and potentially needs to move back into melee range, or forcing the combatant to spend a turn doing nothing if they don't have an effective ranged attack.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Point 4 is not accurate, otherwise a good answer. \$\endgroup\$ May 2 at 13:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Point 2, Booming blade has range "Self (5' radius)", so there's the argument that the spell targets self, or possibly weapon. In that case Warcaster does not apply, as the spell does not target only that creature which triggers the OA. There's probably a QA about this. To enable it, you'd have to argue that "Range" detail does not have anything to do with what the spell targets, that the spell target is always described only in the text description and other rules, "Range" detail does not matter for that. \$\endgroup\$ May 2 at 15:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @StopBeingEvil You are possibly mixing triggering of OA, and triggering of Booming Blade extra damage. They have different preconditions. \$\endgroup\$ May 2 at 16:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @StopBeingEvil Point 4 is about the text of the booming blade spell - its not triggered by AOO rules, its triggered as directed in the spell. The willingly statement is more restrictive than an AOO requirement (which is just that the opponent uses its reaction or action to move). \$\endgroup\$ May 13 at 10:17

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