I cast Spray of Cards (UA: Wonders of the Multiverse, p. 11) at 5th level, choosing the Cutting Cards effect:

Cutting Cards. Each creature in a 15-foot cone must make a Dexterity saving throw. A creature takes 2d10 force damage on a failed save or half as much damage on a successful one.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, the damage of cutting cards increases by 1d10 for every two slot levels above 2nd.

I interpreted this as 2d10 * 1 or 1/2 depending on whether the targets succeeded on the saving throw + (x)d10 for every 2 level slots over 2.

The DM interprets this as (2d10 + (x)d10) * 1 or 1/2 based on the same determinations.

In my mind, the writing is clear and the damage bonus from higher levels is separate from the base damage calculations, since they are separate clauses. However, the intention could be either.

What is the correct calculation?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Hi connor, welcome to rpg.se! Take the tour and visit the help center to learn about our site. This is a nice first question, and one that is common to most "at higher levels" spells so good to be clear about it early on. Thanks for asking, good luck and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Commented Jan 9, 2023 at 4:14

2 Answers 2


Your DM is correct

The correct damage calculation for Spray of Cards cast at higher levels is

  • (2 + 1 per each 2 levels above 2nd)d10 * 1 or 1/2

depending on whether the target makes their save. At 5th level, this would be 3d10 before the save.

This is common to many other spells that feature similar "At Higher Levels" text. For example Fireball normally deals 8d6 damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. It has the text:

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, the damage increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 3rd.

Casting Fireball with a 5th level spell slot deals 10d6, or half at much on a successful save.

Damage Rolls

From the Basic Rules for damage rolls we have (emphasis mine):

Each weapon, spell, and harmful monster ability specifies the damage it deals. You roll the damage die or dice, add any modifiers, and apply the damage to your target. Magic weapons, special abilities, and other factors can grant a bonus to damage.

(...) A spell tells you which dice to roll for damage and whether to add any modifiers.

If a spell or other effect deals damage to more than one target at the same time, roll the damage once for all of them. For example, when a wizard casts fireball or a cleric casts flame strike, the spell's damage is rolled once for all creatures caught in the blast.

If you are only intended to roll the damage of the spell once, we can infer that the spell's damage cannot be dependent on whether or not the target makes its save. Otherwise the damage calculation would not be correct for mixed results. Therefore "damage" refers to only the 2d10 in the spell's description. When casting at a higher level, this 2d10 is replaced with the new number and the rest of the spell is left unchanged.

Roll your total damage once. Then targets that save take half of that number.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for answering! The fundamental rules make more sense (to me) than the text of the spell by itself and helps to clarify other problems with the rule interpretation which may arise. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 9, 2023 at 6:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think that last roll-damage-once-for-all-targets is a counter-argument. By the OP's reading it means to roll 2d10 (save for 1/2) and xd10 (no save) and use those 2 #'s for every target -- not to keep rerolling them. It's like how Meteor Swarm does 20d6 damage twice, but I don't think people use the same roll for fire and bludgeon. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 9, 2023 at 17:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd recommend using MathJax formatting rather than code, based on our meta for screen readers etc. I dropped it into a bullet, but you may want better formatting. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 12:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ The text you cite is not saying what you claim it does. This IS the correct answer, but "roll the damage once for all of them" is referring to the fact that different targets in the same AoE all take the same base damage before they save rather than rolling the damage separately for each individual. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 15:55

Upcasting the spell only increases the damage that you roll

Regardless of whether or not a target succeeds on their saving throw, and regardless of any other damage modifiers such as resistance and vulnerability, you always roll the same damage for the spell when cast at base level: 2d10. Casting this spell at a higher level increases this damage roll. Effectively, you are replacing the "2d10" in the spell description with (in your example) "3d10" while keeping the rest of the spell text unchanged. You aren't adding a new damage roll, you are increasing the existing damage roll. Once you roll the damage, the rest of the spell's effects (and any other relevant damage-changing effects) still occur as normal, which means that on a successful save, the target takes half of 3d10 damage.


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