In Dungeons and Dragons (DND), spells can deal a lot of damage.
Can spells do critical damage in DND?
Spells can do critical damage in DND. Spells follow the same critical hit or critical roll rules as physical attacks. Any spell that requires a successful attack roll without requiring a saving throw by the target can do critical damage. Example spells include Witch Bolt and Eldritch Blast.
In this article, we’ll answer everything you need to know about spells and critical damage in DND:
- What is critical damage?
- How spells do critical damage?
- Which spells do critical damage?
Can Spells Do Critical Damage in DND? (Detailed Answer)
Since magical attack critical damage or “crit” works the same way as physical critical damage, it’s helpful to understand how critical damage works.
In D&D, critical damage is essentially an increased amount of damage that gets inflicted on a target when you score a critical hit.
Critical damage occurs when you roll a critical hit.
A critical hit is when a player rolls a 20 on a 20-sized die (d20) when making an attack roll. It is also known as natural 20.
When you roll a critical hit on your opponent, you deal a particularly effective blow called Critical Damage. All dice rolls used to calculate the damage get doubled by the critical hit.
Critical hits do not double a character’s damage modifier.
For instance, a Fighter with a short sword and a +3 Str will roll 2d6+3 for a critical hit.
According to the D&D Player’s Handbook (PHB) rules, on page 196, you can also deal critical damage with spells.
According to the PHB:
When you score a critical hit, you can roll extra dice for the attack’s damage against your opponent. Roll all the dice twice and add another attack’s damage together. After that, add relevant modifiers as usual.
Note: The PHB does not specify a weapon attack only but rather refers to “all attacks” in general.
That means it applies to all of them:
- Ranged weapon
- Melee weapon
- Range spell attack
- Melee spell strike
When you get a natural 20 on your spell attack, you can roll all the damage dice twice.
For example, a critical hit using a cantrip Fire Bolt would inflict 2d10 damage on your target instead of 1d10.
If you have a 1st-level Chromatic Orb spell, you can deal 6d8 critical damage instead of 3d8.
To put it simply, a critical hit with a spell attack means you get to automatically hit your opponent and double the damage dice of your roll. That works regardless of your armor class.
Another rule that comes into play with magical critical hits is the PHB on page 194:
If any attack has a d20 roll, that attack can make a hit regardless of any target’s AC or modifiers. Additionally, the attack becomes a critical hit and can deal critical damage.
Keep in mind that all the rules relevant to attacking with a weapon also apply to spell attacks.
For instance, when making a spell attack, your attack roll will determine whether you miss or hit. The ability modifier will also depend on your spellcasting ability.
If you want to inject added gore and realism, check out the Lingering Injuries table.
You can find it in the D&D Dungeon Master Guide.
The Lingering Injuries table covers critical damage aftermath like:
- Gouged eyes
- Kidney failure
Here is a good video that covers the basics of critical hits and critical damage in DND:
Can All Spells Do Critical Damage in DND?
Not all spells can do critical damage in DND. All spells are not equal, and not all of them will deal extra damage on a critical hit. The only ones that can do critical damage are those that require a successful attack roll but not a save roll.
That means that spells like Mage Hand will not deal any extra damage on a critical hit.
However, spells like Scorching Ray, Magic Missle, or Chill Touch will deal double damage on a crit.
Remember, spells that rely on saves (intelligence, dexterity, constitution, etc) do not deal critical damage.
You can only crit on attack-only spells.
Ensure you take critical hits into consideration when selecting your spells and planning your character’s overall attack strategy. Spells that deal extra damage on a critical hit can be extremely helpful in speeding up combat.
To help you figure out which spells do critical damage in DND, I’ve made a list of 20 critical damage spells in the next section.
Otherwise, you’ll need to look up the spell online or in an official DND book.
Here’s a good article about what DND books contain spells.
What Spells Do Critical Damage in DND? (20 Examples)
The spells that deal critical damage in D&D are only a small percentage of the overall spells available to magical characters.
Critical hit spells use a specific ability modifier that adds to the d20 roll to determine if the spell attack hits.
For instance, the cantrip Fire Bolt has an ability modifier of +5. So, if your attack roll is 20 with the Fire Bolt, it would be a critical hit.
You would double the dice you roll for damage, then add +5 (because of the modifier).
The 1st-level spell Scorching Ray has an ability modifier of +8.
That means if your attack roll is also 20, it could deal double damage on a critical hit.
Here is a chart of 20 spells that deal critical damage:
|Critical Hit Spells||Critical Damage Roll|
|Chaos Bolt||4d8 + 2d6|
|Melf’s Acid Arrow||8d4|
|Ray of Frost||2d8|
|Steel Wind Strike||12d10|
The dice you roll for damage will increase as you level up in D&D.
Some of the most damage-inflicting crit spells in DND are Bigby’s Hand, Inflict Wounds, and Steel Wind Strike.
What Spells Don’t Do Critical Damage in DND?
Most spells in DND do not allow critical hits.
That’s either because the spell is not meant for attacks—such as Healing Hands—or the spell forces nearby creatures to perform saving throws.
Here is a list of example spells that don’t do critical damage in DND:
- Acid Splash
- Antimagic Field
- Bones of the Earth
- Call Lightning
- Find Steed
- Finger of Death
- Sleet Storm
- Spider Climb
- Wall of Fire
- Wall of Ice
Final Thoughts: Can Spells Do Critical Damage in DND?
Personally, I think it’s really fun to use magic attacks to deal critical damage in a campaign.
Like any other critical hit, magical critical hits will be rare in any D&D game. Enjoy them when the dice fall in your favor.
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