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The description of the Path of the Giant barbarian subclass feature Elemental Cleaver states (BP:GotG, p. 11; emphasis mine):

When you enter your rage, you can choose one weapon that you are holding and infuse it with one of the following damage types: acid, cold, fire, thunder, or lightning. While you wield the infused weapon during your rage, the weapon’s damage type changes to the chosen type, it deals an extra 1d6 damage of the chosen type when it hits, and it gains the thrown property, with a normal range of 20 feet and a long range of 60 feet.

The description of the flame tongue magic weapon states (emphasis mine):

You can use a bonus action to speak this magic sword's command word, causing flames to erupt from the blade. These flames shed bright light in a 40-foot radius and dim light for an additional 40 feet. While the sword is ablaze, it deals an extra 2d6 fire damage to any target it hits.

Assume the flame tongue (shortsword, so everything is d6s) is already activated, and the barbarian activates their Elemental Cleaver subclass feature, selecting cold damage. If the barbarian then attacks with the weapon, what is the result?

  • 2d6 cold + 2d6 fire (changing the piercing damage to cold, and adding 1d6 damage from Elemental Cleaver)

  • 4d6 cold (changing all of the damage to cold, and adding 1d6 from Elemental Cleaver)

If there is some other result, I am happy to hear it as well.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you double check your second "what is the result" scenario? It looks like you've said fire when you meant cold. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 16 at 14:39

2 Answers 2

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2d6 Cold plus 2d6 fire

As you quoted, elemental cleaver changes the weapon's damage type as well as adding extra damage of the chosen type.

Note that the weapon's damage (which determines its damage type), and its extra damage (which does not), are two different things1.

Since the flametongue's fire damage is 'extra damage' and not 'damage of the weapon's type', it is unaffected by elemental cleaver.

Thus elemental cleaver changes the d6 of the weapon's damage type (piercing) to cold, adds another d6 of cold, but does not affect the 2d6 fire extra damage when the sword is ablaze.


1For evidence that 'damage' and 'extra damage' are in fact treated as different things by the rules, cf. the rulings in Sage Advice Compendium on:

If you use Great Weapon Fighting with a feature like Divine Smite or a spell like hex, do you get to reroll any 1 or 2 you roll for the extra damage?

Does the benefit of the Savage Attacker feat apply to additional effects like the rogue’s Sneak Attack or the paladin’s Divine Smite?

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Special technique: Sword of Frost and Flame! Take this!" \$\endgroup\$ Feb 16 at 14:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DarthPseudonym It's a technique especially used by Bladesingers, who wield a Song of Ice and Fire... \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Feb 16 at 15:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thermocouple, for the win! \$\endgroup\$ Feb 17 at 19:08
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Either is fine

The text of Elemental Cleaver says that

the weapon’s damage type changes to the chosen type

This talks about a single damage type. It does not tell you how to handle a situation, where your weapon has not one damage type, but several. Because the rules text does not cover the situation you describe, it will fall to the DM how to handle it. Xanathar's Guide to Everything, page 4:

The DM is key. Many unexpected events can occur in a D&D campaign, and no set of rules could reasonably account for every contingency. If the rules tried to do so, the game would become a slog. An alternative would be for the rules to severely limit what characters can do, which would be contrary to the open-endedness of D&D. Here's the path the game takes: it lays a foundation of rules that a DM can build on, and it embraces the DM's role as the bridge between the things the rules address and the things they don't.

Either of the two ways you outline would be a reasonable way to handle it. To me it would feel more natural if the fire damage remained fire damage, and only the base damage type was changed to the imbued cold damage, but both types are described as the weapon's damage, and another DM might prefer to change both.

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