You point your finger, and the creature that damaged you is momentarily surrounded by hellish flames. The creature must make a Dexterity saving throw. It takes 2d10 fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the damage increases by 1d10 for each slot level above 1st.
Casting Time: 1 reaction, which you take in response to being damaged by a creature within 60 feet of you that you can see
Range: 60 feet
Components: V, S
School: 1st-level evocation
Player’s Handbook, pg. 250
Hellish Rebuke 5e
Being rebuked isn’t a nice feeling, but at least it doesn’t normally come with a burning sensation. Hellish Rebuke takes sharp disapproval to the next level by engulfing the foe who smacked you in flames.
Let’s cover exactly how Hellish Rebuke works in 5e, as well as some of the niche rulings and uses that may come up at your table. We’ll also compare to other options on the Warlock spell list to see if its worth picking up.
Who Can Cast Hellish Rebuke in 5e?
The following classes have Hellish Rebuke on their spell list:
No subclasses get Hellish Rebuke for free.
However, starting at 3rd level, all Tieflings can cast Hellish Rebuke once per day as a 2nd-level spell.
What Does Hellish Rebuke Do in 5e?
Hellish Rebuke forces an enemy who damaged you to instantly make a Dexterity saving throw. On a fail, they take 2d10 (11 average) fire damage or half as much (5.5 average) on a pass.
Upcasting increases the damage by 1d10 for each slot level above the first. Since Warlocks automatically cast spells at the highest level available, Hellish Rebuke’s damage scales well at higher levels.
What Are the Rules for Hellish Rebuke in 5e?
The rules for Hellish Rebuke in DnD 5e are as follows:
Can you use Hellish Rebuke in reaction to taking damage that drops you to zero hitpoints? Probably not, but there’s no clear-cut answer here, unfortunately. The two relevant rules are:
When a player drops to 0 hit points, they fall unconscious (PHB 197). A reaction is “an instant response to a trigger” (PHB 190).
Clearly, you have to take damage to use Hellish Rebuke (that’s the trigger). Taking damage implies subtracting hit points from your health pool. If the result of that subtraction is 0 or less than 0, then you’re unconscious, and therefore can’t take the reaction.
Therefore, our ruling leans towards “no, you cannot use Hellish Rebuke in reaction to taking damage that drops you to zero hitpoints,” because the trigger causes you to become unconscious, at which point you can no longer cast spells or take reactions.
However, this is our best attempt at understanding the relevant rules, and reasonable players and DMs may disagree.
Can you use Hellish Rebuke in reaction to voluntarily taken damage? Yes, rules as written, you should be able to use Hellish Rebuke in reaction to taking any damage, so long as you can see the source of the damage and they’re in range. The example that comes up is an area of effect spell with a duration, like Wall Of Fire.
However, the community split pretty much down the middle on this question. Many argue that it breaks the spirit of the spell and is overly meta-gamey. If you or your DM think that this application of Hellish Rebuke is cheesy as hell, ditch it and ignore RAW — RAI and consistency are more important anyway.
Hellish Rebuke does not do collateral damage. Don’t worry about using Hellish Rebuke on someone that your ally is grappling with. Just because the spell description indicates flames, it doesn’t automatically mean that the spell does fire damage to everyone in that space. Spells only do what they say they do.
Hellish Rebuke can be Hellish Rebuked. If an NPC has Hellish Rebuke on their spell list, there’s no reason they can’t use it in response to being the victim of Hellish Rebuke themselves. The only necessary trigger for the reaction is “taking damage” after all.
Tiefling spellcasters using Hellish Rebuke don’t expend a spell slot when using their racial ability. Sage Advice.
You can still cast spells on your turn after using Hellish Rebuke. This holds true for all spells with a casting time of “reaction.”
You only have one reaction per round. However, if you do use Hellish Rebuke, you cannot take other reactions until the start of your next turn )PHB 190). That means no opportunity attacks or Shield spells.
How Do I Use Hellish Rebuke in 5e?
There’s really only one time you can use Hellish Rebuke — when you’ve taken damage from a creature you can see within 60 feet of you. That being said, let’s look at some ways to optimize your use of the spell:
Pair with Armor Of Agathys. If you’re trying to play as a Warlock who likes to be in the thick of things, Hellish Rebuke and Armor Of Agathys pair extremely well. AoA gives you 5 temporary hit points and causes a flat 5 cold damage to any creature that hits you with a melee attack.
Now whenever you take melee damage, the dumb bastard who took you on will take 5 cold + 2d10 fire (or half on a passed save) damage. And if your temporary hit points from AoA are still in place, you yourself might not have taken any real damage at all.
Tricking plebs. Magic might be a common thing in DnD parties, but in many universes, the general public is still awestruck by it. When peasants and lords alike see that to touch your divine person is to invoke the wrath of some fiery god, they’ll be sure to treat you with the proper respect.
Pair with The Hexblade patron. In general, Hexblade Warlocks like to be in the thick of things more than any other subclass. That means they’ll likely have more opportunities to make effective use of Hellish Rebuke.
Pair with Pact Of The Blade. Same reason as above.
Who Can I Target With Hellish Rebuke 5e?
You can target any creature with Hellish Rebuke so long as:
It just damaged you
It’s within 60 feet
You can see it
Is Hellish Rebuke 5e a Good Spell?
Yes, Hellish Rebuke is a good spell. It has the highest average damage of any 1st-level Warlock spell and its reaction casting time means that you still have an opportunity to use your action however you like on your turn.
That brings a low-level Warlock’s damage-per-round to a crazy high level, even if you can only pull it off once in a while due to running out of spell slots.
Plus, it’s just flavorful as hell to blast a baddie into firey smithereens the moment they dare to strike you.
Hellish Rebuke 5e Compared to Other Low-Level Warlock Spells
Hellsih Rebuke is certainly better than Witch Bolt, another 1st-level damaging Warlock spell. Witch Bolt’s low range, easy-to-break nature, and mediocre damage all conspire to make it one of the worst spells in the game in almost every scenario.
Armor Of Agathys, on the other hand, offers 1 full hour (no concentration required) of a guaranteed 5 (scaling by 5 per level) cold damage in response to being hit with a melee attack. It also gives you a nice cushion of equally well-scaling temporary hit points.
In most scenarios, you’ll get more overall utility (and damage, in the long run) from Armor Of Agathys. That being said, there’s no reason you can’t have both spells and build your character around getting hit a lot. Clockwork Soul Sorcerer’s 6th-level feature, Bastion Of Law, for example, pairs really well with this sort of build.
Hellish Rebuke 5e DM Tips
We left DMs with two major issues in the rules section above:
Can a player use Hellish Rebuke in reaction to taking damage that drops them to zero hit points?
Can a player use Hellish Rebuke in reaction to voluntarily taking damage?
Our best attempts to interpret the rules lead us to answer “No” to question one and “Yes” to question two.
Like all things, you can rule it however you like. My perspective, for example, is that it’s more fun to answer “Yes” to question one and “No” to answer two, so that’s how I play Hellish Rebuke at my table.
There’s just something epic about lighting your adversary in flames even as he strikes you unconscious, and something so cheesy about walking into a fire and saying “you bastard, taste my vengeful flame!”
But hey, that’s just my opinion.
Simple Hellish Rebuke 5e Spell Text
Hellish Rebuke: (1st-level, 1 reaction (after being damaged by a creature you can see), 60 feet, V/S) The creature who damaged you makes a Dexterity saving throw. It takes d10 fire damage on a failed save, of half as much on a successful one. | +1d10 per spell slot above 1st.