Fix-It DM: Witch Bolt (5e)

Picture Credit: chazillah

There are a few spells that seem weak and borderline horrible when cast in D&D. I decided to spend some time playing with adjustments options and to try to make them a little bit better.

The first spell I’m altering is Witch Bolt. From the description of the spell I tend to imagine a Iron Man-style laser beam that only works on creatures. It’s short range (30 ft) but as long as you don’t lose line of sight the damage continues if you maintain the spell at the beginning of your next turn.

The major issue that I most want to change is it’s damage dice, which by default is 1d12; well under the status quo for first level spells.

Compounding the issue is that it also has written in it “the spell also ends if the target is ever outside the spell’s range or if it has total cover from you.” This can most easily be fixed with Spell Sniper feat, which would increase the original range from 30ft to a range of 60ft. Basically you need to charge a creature who is either restrained or otherwise busy.

Next up on the list of complaints is that it is an all or nothing spell; it either hits or it misses and wastes a spell slot. I tinkered a few times with the idea of half damage on a failed save but I think that tips it too far in the other direction. Thus the following edits have been made:

Witch Bolt:
Make a ranged spell attack against a creature you can see. On a hit, the target takes 3d8 lightning damage, and on your turn, you can use your action to deal 1d12 lightning damage to the target. The spell ends if you use your action to do anything else. The spell also ends if the target is ever outside the spell’s range or if it has total cover from you.

At Higher Levels: The initial damage increases by 1d12 for each slot level above 1st.

Since you use a spell slot on the first hit, doing more consistent damage 3d8 makes it just a little better than casting Fire Bolt twice. My initial results from play testing this are good but I might still tweak it in the future and I look forward to getting testing on it in actual sessions. For the math nerds, that’s comparing 2d10 with 2 attack rolls vs 3d8 + 1d12 with the potential for even more damage. I played with 3d6 which also works well but since Thunderwave was 2d8 + push & half damage, buffing to 3d8 seemed more in line.

Next time we’ll take a shot at improving True Strike.

Special thanks to the Reddit users Anysnackwilldowolfsilver , manhunt64, Nephisimian, poorlywrittensatiremightierjake and several others for weighing in with very meaningful points.

After various community feedback, my version of Witch Bolt is a bit overpowered for Sorcerers and Warlocks. I was thinking in context of my wizard player who in the current campaign has never been able to get more than 2 hits on a creature before they’re out of range, it hit but rolled a 1 for damage, the creature dies before hitting a second damage, or the initial attack misses.

As such I’m going to reduce it down to 3d6, which still triples the minimum and puts the first hit damage closer to normal patterns considering the spell slot and ongoing effect. Other spells brought up worth comparing it with are Chromatic Orb, Magic Missile, and Guiding Strike, which I hadn’t considered beforehand. Thanks for the feedback everyone!


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3 Comments on “Fix-It DM: Witch Bolt (5e)

  1. Based on a lot of feedback seems like 3d8 is too big of a boost

    3d8 puts it in line with chromatic orb at a shorter range (and no gold cost), but that’s still too powerful 3d6 or 2d8 will likely be the damage output in Version 2.0


  2. Pingback: Fix-It DM: True Strike (5e) – Ready To Role

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