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Improved Divine Smite (PHB, p. 85) says in part:

... Whenever you hit a creature with a melee weapon, the creature takes an extra 1d8 radiant damage. If you also use your Divine Smite with an attack, you add this damage to the extra damage of your Divine Smite...

Emphasis to show the part I'm focusing on.

So it was my understanding that Improved Divine Smite deals an extra 1d8 Radiant damage whenever I swing on a creature with a Melee weapon and hit them, no matter what else I'm adding to the weapon attack (such as Searing Smite, Divine Smite, poison I put on my sword before combat, etc). This definition makes a purpose of differentiating what happens if I also use Divine Smite with my attack.

I am more than likely confused or reading too far into the definition but I'd like to know why the book is making such a differentiation. What is it saying? That if I make a weapon attack without Divine Smite, the extra (non magical?) 1d8 radiant is added to the weapon damage, but if I do include a Divine Smite on the end, then the extra (now magical?) 1d8 radiant is added to the smite damage instead?

Does that change anything at all? Is this differentiation important to some sort of tactic or resistance I'm not considering?

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It means that you get an automatic +1d8 radiant damage from Improved Divine Smite, always, on all your melee attacks. You can also still voluntarily use Divine Smite itself to add +Xd8 radiant damage (depending as usual on how many spell slots you spend on it) to a chosen melee attack.

In other words, Improved Divine Smite doesn't replace Divine Smite and doesn't prevent you from using them together. That's all it's saying in the part you have emphasised.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is what I assumed, but just wanted to make sure that the wording/phrasing wasn't making an exception to some other rule. We know how Wizards likes to do this with 5E, and that most of the time if they are saying something on the contrary, there's a reason for it. Thank you for clarifying. \$\endgroup\$ – Airatome Oct 19 '15 at 2:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ The clarification may of been considered necessary because Improved Divine Smite could otherwise be considered a "same source" as Divine Smite by some people - due to the name - and thus not stack. \$\endgroup\$ – Neil Slater Oct 19 '15 at 8:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast That seems like an unnecessary complication to a fairly simple issue. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Oct 19 '15 at 14:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with @Miniman ; also because we don't want to compact the question/answer at hand. This is purely a question of what the phrasing of Improved Divine Smite means; and I don't think we need to bog it up with other citations that aren't directly relevant. \$\endgroup\$ – Airatome Oct 19 '15 at 14:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've linked it to our question about Divine Smite's damage. It's what I had in mind when I wrote "as usual", but for whatever reason I forgot to add the actual link. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 19 '15 at 14:21
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The confusing sentence is gone as of the 2018 PHB errata.

As of the 2018 PHB errata, the last sentence of Improved Divine Smite ("If you also use your Divine Smite with an attack, you add this damage to the extra damage of your Divine Smite.") has been deleted.

The Improved Divine Smite feature now simply reads:

By 11th level, you are so suffused with righteous might that all your melee weapon strikes carry divine power with them. Whenever you hit a creature with a melee weapon, the creature takes an extra 1d8 radiant damage.

Jeremy Crawford explains the reason for the change in the November 27, 2018 episode of Dragon+ (relevant segment starts around 24:53 into the episode). He describes it as "unhelpful helper text" that caused people to assume it meant the opposite of what it was actually intended to mean - the intent is that it doesn't count against the damage cap of Divine Smite. He also points out that Improved Divine Smite is badly named and should probably have been named something else to avoid any confusion, but it's too late in the game for that.


You were right; IDS doesn't interact with the damage cap of DS at all.

Pre-errata, Jeremy Crawford unofficially explained what the last sentence of Improved Divine Smite was supposed to mean in a series of June 2017 tweets:

Twitter user A - you've posted conflicting tweets on the relationship between imp divine smite and divine smite official ruling in SA soon?

Crawford - Improved Divine Smite adds 1d8 damage, period. Somewhere I wrote a "Yes" that implies otherwise. Ignore that.

Twitter user B - So only 1d8, not the 1d8 for your weapon attack and additionally 1d8 if you smite for 2d8, correct? Just a flat 1d8 to every hit?

Crawford - Improved Divine Smite: it adds 1d8 damage. It doesn't add 2d8 damage. Just 1d8 delicious radiant damage.

Twitter user C - So still limited to a max of 5d8 including imp. DS when you Divine Smite?

Crawford - Improved Divine Smite isn't limited by the damage cap in Divine Smite. That's what the final sentence of Improved DS is trying to say.

The description of the 2nd-level paladin feature Divine Smite stated, prior to the 2018 PHB errata:

Starting at 2nd level, when you hit a creature with a melee weapon attack, you can expend one spell slot to deal radiant damage to the target, in addition to the weapon’s damage. The extra damage is 2d8 for a 1st-level spell slot, plus 1d8 for each spell level higher than 1st, to a maximum of 5d8. The damage increases by 1d8 if the target is an undead or a fiend.

(The 2018 PHB errata also changed the description of Divine Smite to clarify that the 5d8 damage cap was also increased to 6d8 against undead/fiends.)

The 11th-level feature Improved Divine Smite stated, prior to the 2018 PHB errata:

By 11th level, you are so suffused with righteous might that all your melee weapon strikes carry divine power with them. Whenever you hit a creature with a melee weapon, the creature takes an extra 1d8 radiant damage. If you also use your Divine Smite with an attack, you add this damage to the extra damage of your Divine Smite.

So the last sentence of the latter feature was simply meant to clarify that the "extra 1d8" was an additional bonus to your damage, in addition to your regular weapon damage and any (regular) Divine Smite damage that may apply.

However, that line was causing more confusion than it was solving, so it was removed. It is now clear that Improved Divine Smite does an additional 1d8 radiant damage regardless, completely ignoring the damage cap of the generally unrelated Divine Smite feature.

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Jeremy Crawford (the sage) Confirmed that you can have up to 2d8 if you are making an attack at the same time using a divine smite.

attack: (attack damage) + 1d8 radiant (Imp DS)

with

smite: (spell level damage) + 1d8 radiant (Imp DS)

Q: Which is correct about the cap of Paladin Divine Smite? 4th-level spell slot (5d8) or 6th-level spell slot (2d8 + 5d8)?

Jeremy Crawford: 5d8 + 1d8 if the target is an undead or a fiend.

see twitter for more information.

Paladins just got a huge buff from misinterpretation.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site. Please take the tour as it's a useful introduction. We prefer it if answers provide all the necessary information in their answer here without having to then search elsewhere. That way if the external information becomes unavailable, your answer is still valid and useful. Can I suggest finding the twitter/sageadvice link and adding it to your answer for completeness, quoting the relevant parts of the link here as well? \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey Mar 30 '17 at 4:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please include the link to the twitter/tweet to make this answer more complete. The sage advice compendium at WoTC does not address this particular Smite issue, while it does address a different smite issue. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 30 '17 at 12:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Arius, I edited in the SA source for you, in an attempt to "teach by showing" on how to support your answer. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 30 '17 at 12:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't see how Crawford's tweet supports your interpretation. (regular) Divine Smite's description says: "Starting at 2nd level, when you hit a creature with a melee weapon attack, you can expend one spell slot to deal radiant damage to the target, in addition to the weapon's damage. The extra damage is 2d8 for a 1st-level spell slot, plus 1d8 for each spell level higher than 1st, to a maximum of 5d8. The damage increases by 1d8 if the target is an undead or a fiend." Thus, the damage of Divine Smite is 5d8, plus a bonus 1d8 against undead/fiends. The tweet doesn't address Improved DS at all. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 5 '18 at 2:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Another Crawford tweet matching this description of the regular Divine Smite feature: twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/687423172988284929 \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 5 '18 at 2:39

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