A Ranged Spell Attack in DnD 5e works much the same as a regular ranged attack… But with a few extra steps.
So, in this guide we will be taking a look at Ranged Spell Attacks in DnD and how the mechanic works.
For starters, I’d like to mention a disclaimer. This guide will only focus on the discussion about how the mechanic works, not how individual spells work. Certain spells have particular conditions and effects to them, it’s highly recommended to read the Player’s Handbook or other relevant rulebooks about the spell in question.
We’ve also talked about Spells in the past, so check that article out if you’d like to know more.
Without further ado, let’s get right into the discussion.
Table of Contents
Ranged Spell Attack in DnD 5e
The ways in which you perform a ranged spell attack are pretty similar to the ways you’d perform any other attack.
You first have to roll a d20, after you’ve done that you add on any spellcasting ability modifiers and your ability score modifier bonus.
Or more simply put.
d20 + Spellcasting Ability Modifiers + Ability Score Proficiency Bonus.
Now, unless a spell specifically says that you have to roll against an opponent’s Spell Save DC, you usually roll against their AC.
So, basically. If you match or surpass your opponent’s AC – you hit.
If you fail to do that on the other hand – you do not hit.
And of course, natural 20s work the same as they do with any other attack. If you manage to land a natural 20 then not only do you crit with your attack, but you also get another d20 dice to roll for double damage.
Regarding damage, as mentioned earlier. It’s best to read the description of spells and cantrips every time, as certain spells like Fire Bolt for example give you multiple dice as you level up.
Now that we’ve answered the basics, let’s look at some FAQs.
FAQs about Ranged Spell Attacks
Do regular ranged attack rules apply to spell attacks?
More or less, yes. The regular ranged attack rules apply even to spell attacks, the only exceptions are if the spell description allows for otherwise. As such, if an enemy is within 5feet of you, you get a disadvantage.
Which stat do I roll when performing a ranged spell attack?
This depends on the class that you are playing. Each spellcasting class works in its own unique way and with their own mechanics. The only principle that they all share is that the caster has a dominant ability score that they use to cast. Paladins have Charisma, Druids use Wisdom. So on and so forth.
What about ranged attacks with enchanted ammunition?
As far as I am aware, there is no system that governs this. So at the end of the day, it’s most likely a situation where the DM has to decide which system to use.
Let’s bring up an example of how it could possibly work. Say you’re using a crossbow and enhancing your bolts with a specific element mid-battle. Your DM might ask of you to perform a roll to check if your attempt succeeded – and then ask you to perform a Dexterity check when making the ranged attack.
How do I increase the damage I do with ranged spell attacks?
There are certain abilities and feats that you can get that do this. As mentioned earlier, we won’t be looking at the specifics about these, so the best idea is to consult the Player’s Handbook about this.
How do I increase the utility of my combat casting?
Well, if you plan to get into a lot of combat situations with your caster – then it’s probably a good idea to pick up the War Caster feat as soon as possible.
What is the best way to go about playing a combat caster?
The best way to go about this is to work with your teammates primarily. Always remember that, although you do a lot of damage – you are first and foremost a support role.
But regarding the things that you can specifically do. Always plan out which spells you will take with you before you set out after a long rest. And take the cantrips that you find to be using all the time – no sense wasting a spell slot on a spell that can be used as a cantrip.