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. 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.
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 90 feet
Components: V, S, M (a diamond worth at least 50 gp)
School: 1st-level evocation
Player’s Handbook, pg. 221
Chromatic Orb 5e
Chromatic Orb is a multiple-choice elemental spell with a big price tag (DM depending) and big single-target damage for a 1st-level spell slot. Let’s dive straight into the common conversations around Chromatic Orb in 5e.
Who Can Cast Chromatic Orb in 5e?
The following classes have Chromatic Orb on their spell list:
No subclasses get Chromatic Orb for free.
What Does Chromatic Orb Do in 5e?
Chromatic Orb is a straightforward ranged spell attack. To hit, roll a d20 and add your spellcasting ability modifier and proficiency bonus. If you match or exceed the target’s AC, the spell lands and you can roll 3d8 for damage. Chromatic Orb deals an average of 13.5 damage at first level.
The really interesting thing about Chromatic Orb is that you can choose from 6 different damage types before making your attack. This allows savvy players to take advantage of an opponent’s vulnerabilities or carefully avoid their resistances and/or immunities.
Finally, and most contentiously, Chromatic Orb has the second-most expensive material cost of any first-level spell — a diamond worth at least 50 gp. Some DMs wave this restriction away, but many others will require their players to buy it.
As a point of reference, 47.4% of people on Reddit agreed that a level 1 Wizard needs to buy a diamond, while only 27.5% said they’d give the player a free 50 gp for the diamond.
What Are the Rules for Chromatic Orb in 5e?
There are not too many rules questions for Chromatic Orb in DnD 5e, but here are a few that come things that sometimes come up:
The diamond material component is not consumed. Spells will clearly state when a material component is consumed to cast the spell. The last line of the spell will read “which the spell consumes.”
Chromatic Orb includes no such verbiage, so you only ever need to buy (and hold onto) one diamond in order to cast Chromatic Orb as much as you want (spell slots permitting).
Sorcerers can choose different damage types when using Twinned Spell with Chromatic Orb. So if you want to make one orb deal fire damage to stop a Troll’s regeneration ability while making the second orb deal cold damage to get around the Fire Giant’s fire immunity, you’re free to do so. Here’s Sage Advice confirmation.
Order of Scribes Wizards can apply any of Chromatic Orb’s damage types to any first-level spell. Oder of Scribes Wizards have a 2nd-level feature called Awakened Spellbook that allows a wizard to replace a spell’s damage type with the damage type of another spell of the same level (TCoE 77-78).
Since Chromatic Orb has six different damage types, this allows OoS Wizards to replace any first level (wizard) spell’s damage type with any of Chromatic Orb’s damage types.
How Do I Use Chromatic Orb in 5e?
Chromatic Orb is a solid single-target damaging spell at low levels, so that’s the primary way to use it in 5e. But if you really want to make the most of this spell, here are some things to keep in mind:
Target vulnerabilities. The best part of Chromatic Orb is that you can choose between six different types of elemental damage. This means you can always pick the one that’s bound to do the most damage, like using cold damage against fire snakes and salamanders.
Beyond just doubling your damage, choosing the optimal damage type sometimes comes with other benefits. Like preventing Trolls from regenerating health by using fire damage.
Avoid resistances. While doubling your damage or negating an enemy’s effect is nice, you’re much more likely to use Chromatic Orb to get around a target’s resistances rather than take advantage of its vulnerabilities.
When you’re up against monsters like oozes, which have a bevy of random immunities including acid, cold, lightning, and fire, you’ll be happy to have Chromatic Orb in your pocket.
Twin it. Sorcerers are in a unique position to make use of different damage types with Chromatic Orb by twinning it. Through this method, they can get around not just one target’s resistances, but two.
Or you might even be able to take advantage of two vulnerabilities at once, quadrupling the spell’s damage output overall.
Is Chromatic Orb 5e a Good Spell?
Yes, Chromatic Orb is a good spell at low levels, but it’s a bit expensive and many players also feel that it’s a trap. From a raw damage perspective, Chromatic Orb ties Catapult for the highest first-level, single-target option available to Wizards and Sorcerers (13.5)
But at a cost of 50 gp, some feel it’s not worth a bit of extra damage to beggar your character, especially if your DM’s world doesn’t involve a lot of fat stacks of gold pieces lying around.
It doesn’t help that Chromatic Orb’s scaling is fine, but ultimately “meh” at higher levels. Still, having the option to abuse a target’s vulnerabilities can be nice at higher levels, when Chromatic Orb’s damage no longer feels worth it.
Chromatic Orb 5e Compared to Other First-Level Spells
Let’s take a look at Chromatic Orb’s most direct competition:
Magic Missile. Both Wizards and Sorcerers can pick up Magic Missile, the spell that automatically lands, deals an average of 10.5 total damage, and can hit up to three enemies at first level. You can almost never go wrong with Magic Missile, which is why so many players pass up the expensive Chromatic Orb in favor of it.
Chaos Bolt. Sorcerers get the Chaos Bolt as an option, which has a 30-foot longer range than Chromatic Orb and deals an average of 12.5 total damage instead of 13.5. It also has a random element of dealing one of eight different possible damage types, and possibly jumping to another target in range to deal even more damage.
In a single-target-only world, Chromatic Orb is better (very slightly), but Chaos Bolt has no material component and can sometimes deal more damage. Plus, who doesn’t love a bit of randomness?
Catapult. Wizards have access to Catapult, which has a shorter range (60 feet) than Chromatic Orb (90 feet), forces a Dexterity save rather than being a ranged spell attack, and deals bludgeoning damage. Other than that, it deals the same damage as Chromatic Orb, 3d8 (13.5 average).
On the downside, many creatures are resistant to bludgeoning damage. Plus, you miss out on Chromatic Orb’s damage-type-changing capabilities. On the plus side, Catapult only has a somatic component, making it easier to cast, and castable while silenced.
Both Catapult and Chromatic Orb are fine options — I recommend picking based on whether you have too many spell attacks or saving throw-based spells. It’s good to have a healthy mix of the two, so you’re ready for several different types of enemies.
Chromatic Orb 5e DM Tips
If you’re DMing a game where a player wants to pick up Chromatic Orb, you only have one thing to decide: whether you force the player to buy the diamond, find one in an adventure, or just give it to them for free.
As many point out, the typical Wizard or Sorcerer should be able to just about afford all the necessities alongside a diamond worth 50 gp, so long as the DM makes a vendor available and they don’t mind starting the game off basically broke.
That’s why I personally lean toward the “make the player buy the diamond” camp; it emphasizes the power of player choice, literally from level 1. Here’s a big damage, single-target spell that gives you the option of six damage types for one known spell — but you’ll have to shell out about half your starting wealth to have it. These types of choices are what RPGs are all about.
However, if you’re playing with new players and you’d rather let them keep their gold or let them spend it on something like a health potion instead, that’s a perfectly valid way to go about things. Especially since gold and starting wealth are usually the last things you want to worry about with brand new players.
There’s also the little-used version of making the 50 gp diamond a fun quest hook to get a player more invested in a character and provide a greater sense of reward around using Chromatic Orb. Many DMs also like to do this with Identify’s 100 gp pearl.
Go with whatever feels right to you and don’t stress too much — 50 gp diamonds won’t be a big deal to your players after a few levels anyway.
Simple Chromatic Orb 5e Spell Text
Chromatic Orb: (1st-level evocation, 90 feet, V/S/M (a diamond worth 50+ gp)) Choose acid, cold, fire, lightning, poison, or thunder. Make a ranged spell attack against a creature in range. If the attack hits, deal 3d8 damage of the damage type you chose. | +1d8 per slot level above 1st.