There are lots of different ways to damage enemies in 5e D&D, and not all of them are created equally. You might be able to hit a bandit with a sword and cut him in half, but a skeleton will be able to resist the blow. You can throw cold water on a fire elemental and slow it down, but throwing cold water on an ice giant is going to do nothing. It can be difficult to keep track of all the magic and damage types that your enemies are resistant to and vulnerable to.
What if you didn’t have to keep track of what weapons and spells your enemies are resistant to? Instead, you could do damage with a spell that can use all different types of energy. Well, with the Chromatic Orb, you can do just that! But why would you use the chromatic orb and how do you make sure you can use it effectively? Here’s our Chromatic Orb 5e guide to this spell, and all your questions will be answered!
What is the Chromatic Orb Spell?
Here are the stats for the chromatic orb spell, according to the Player’s Handbook:
- 1st-level evocation
- Casting Time: 1 action
- Range: 90 feet
- Spell Lists. Sorcerer, Wizard
- Components: V, S, M (a diamond worth at least 50 gp)
- Duration: Instantaneous
You hurl a 4-inch-diameter sphere of energy at a creature that you can see within range. You choose acid, cold, fire, lightning, poison, or thunder for the type of orb you create, and then make a ranged spell attack against the target. If the attack hits, the creature takes 3d8 damage of the type you chose.
At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the damage increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 1st.
Let’s break this spell down. First, Chromatic Orb is a first-level evocation spell, that takes one action to cast and has a range of 90 feet. A sorcerer and a wizard can cast the spell, and it requires a verbal, somatic, and material component, with the material component being a diamond that is worth 50 gp. It is also cast instantly once the spell is cast.
Once the spell is cast, you hurl a 4-inch diameter sphere of energy at a creature. As you create the sphere, you can infuse it with either acid, cold, fire, lightning, poison, or thunder damage. Then you throw the orb as a ranged spell attack towards the target. If the attack hits, then the orb does 3d8 worth of damage of the type you chose. If you choose to upcast the spell, then the damage increases by 1d8 for each extra spell slot.
This spell is pretty useful, as first of all the 3d8 base damage is pretty strong for a first level spell. The customization of the spell is also very helpful, as you can easily tailor one of the six damage types towards the enemy you are fighting. Plus, you can throw the orb up to 90 feet, which is a pretty strong range for a 1st level spell.
You will be able to use the spell at long range and hurl the orb towards the enemy. Providing you hit the creature, they take the damage. It’s a very flexible spell that can be customized for a while variety of enemies, and to figure out why this is so beneficial, we need to know how resistances and immunities to damage works.
Damage in Dungeons and Dragons
Damage is pretty simple to calculate in D&D. First you hit the ogre for 14 damage with your sword, then those 14 points of damage are reduced from the ogre’s HP pool. You do enough damage to drain the ogre’s HP pool, and the ogre dies.
However, some enemies have resistance to damage. Skeletons are very resistant to slashing damage but weak to bludgeoning damage. This means that if you hit a skeleton with a sword for the same 14 damage, they will take half damage for 7 damage.
However, if you hit them with a mace or club for 14 damage, they will take double the damage so that’s 28 damage total… often more than enough to shatter a skeleton in one hit! Creatures have their damage resistances, vulnerabilities, and immunities listed on their character sheet, as well as any special effects that damage can do to them.
For example, fire elementals have an ability called “Water Susceptibility’ which is as follows: Water Susceptibility: For every 5 ft. the elemental moves in water, or for every gallon of water splashed on it, it takes 1 cold damage. They aren’t vulnerable to water damage, but the effect does damage to them if gallons of water are splashed on them.
Basically, the damage is simple math, with resistances halving the damage, and vulnerabilities doubling it. Immunities mean no damage of that type is done at all to the creature.
How Do I Know My Damage Type?
Most of the type the damage you do is in the name of the spell, with a fireball doing fire damage and an ice knife doing ice damage. If you have a weapon, magical or otherwise, the weapon itself will say the type of damage it deals. For example, a magical sword will say it deals 1d8 slashing damage in the description.
Why Chromatic Orb is so Powerful
If you want to either meta game and give your characters a better chance at survival, or just roleplay more effectively with your characters, you can think back on your knowledge of your characters and see if they know what a monster or NPC is vulnerable to. Then you can prepare accordingly to fight the next battle. Now, chromatic orb allows you to have six types of damage on tap with one spell, and if you target the enemy with a damage type they are vulnerable to, then they take double damage from the 3d8 damage!
That is pretty powerful for a spell, especially if you can use vulnerabilities against your foes. Especially with the long-range, it will take a few turns for any enemy to get close to you to retaliate and you can keep hammering them with this spell. This is easily the best spell for wizards and sorcerers to use against very tough enemies and bosses with large hp pools. You can throw a few chromatic orbs at your enemies and watch their HP pool go down.
How Do I Find a Diamond For the Spell?
Thankfully, the diamond worth 50 gp isn’t consumed whenever you cast the spell, so you only need to find one. If you don’t have a component pouch, you can find diamonds in most magic shops and at jewelers in large cities. You probably won’t find diamonds like this in smaller cities, or if you do you will probably need to perform a quest to get it.
Also, 50 gp is not a lot of gold, so you won’t need to worry about breaking the bank when it comes to buying the diamond. Often, the 50 gp for the diamond can be bought with the loot from your first adventure. Then you will have the diamond and will be able to cast the spell without any extra trouble.
Dealing With the Ability to Miss
The biggest problem for the Chromatic Orb is the fact that it requires a ranged spell attack to hit the target with the spell. If you miss the target with the attack you have burned a 1st level spell slot and a lot of damage potential for one turn. Of course, as you get a higher level you will have more 1st level spells to burn, so extra attacks can still happen and will help you deal damage to your enemies.
The requirement of the ranged spell attack is the only downside of this otherwise very powerful attack, but even then misses make D&D even more fun during combat.
Describing the Chromatic Orb
The flexibility of the Chromatic Orb also means that you can have fun describing the spell. The orb might glow with its elemental power, or maybe your character speaks different words of power or casts different hand movements around the diamond to channel a different type of elemental power into the orb.
Maybe your wizard or sorcerer channels the elements around them to play on the enemy’s vulnerability. If they are battling a gray ooze in a thunderstorm, maybe they grab lightning from the air and draw it into the orb, adding more power to the attack and shocking the ooze’s system for that double damage.
As always you should have some fun with the spell and you’ll really start to enjoy it every time you get to cast it!
Question: When Should I Upcast the Orb?
Answer: Upcasting can be a double-edged sword whenever you decide to use it because on the one hand, you will be upcasting the 3d8 damage with 1d8 for every spell slot you cast it with above the first level. However, you also are burning a 2nd or 3rd level spell slot for the spell, and you do have a lot of other spells at that level that can be used.
If you want to save your resources and use them tactically, then you should upcast whenever you are facing the big boss and you know what he is vulnerable to. 4d8 or 5d8 of damage, potentially doubled whenever you throw an orb of something your enemies are weak against, is extremely powerful especially with the range of the spell.
Question: Do I Need to Worry About Money Starting Out?
Answer: Of course, what if you don’t want to buy a diamond after your first dungeon? What if you want to have the ability to cast Chromatic Orb right away! Well, in the Player’s Handbook, the starting wealth by class table as you use the formula (4d4x10) to get around 100 gold. A diamond will cost around half your starting gold if you have around 100 on average, but you might need a bit more.
Talk to your DM about your starting money, as it could be influenced by the background of your character and also the start of the game. Your characters might be starting in a wealthy area where they have a bit more spending money, or they could be starting in a prison cell where all of their weapons and gear has been stolen.
Question: How Does Chromatic Orb Compare to Other 1st Level Spells?
Answer: Whenever you compare Chromatic Orb to the other 1st level spells of the wizard and sorcerer, then the benefits become even more clear.
Burning hands does some serious fire damage in a 15-foot cone, but it does allow enemies to dodge out of the way with a Dexterity Saving Throw. But it does require your very squishy wizard to be very close to the enemies you are attacking, and if they don’t die, they’ll be coming after you.
Magic Missile is a pretty powerful and useful spell that always hits and deals force damage. However, the damage output is pretty low with 10 force damage done on average. It might kill the low level enemies you fight, but it won’t do too much against bigger foes unless others have whittled them down first.
Finally, Ice Knife is a pretty good spell, and it can do some good initial and some good splash damage. However, you need to be able to throw it whenever two or more enemies are 5 feet apart from one another, which doesn’t happen as often as you think.
Of course, you should pick spells based on other things than raw damage, as you can pick a spell for characterization or because your character will look cool while casting it! It really doesn’t matter, but if you are looking for damage and also versatility, then this spell overpowers the rest of the 1st level choices.