Chaos Bolt: D&D 5e Spell Guide & Damage GuideThis post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
Calling all sorcerers and those with magic initiate.
Have you ever wanted a spell that can hit as almost any damage type in the game? One that you have some choice in, hits pretty hard, and has a chance to just keep going?
Chaos Bolt may be for you.
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: 120 Feet
Components: Verbal, Somatic
Source: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything
Chaos Bold does 2d8+1d6 damage as a bolt of chaotic energy hits a target.
Depending on what you roll for the 2d8, it gives you options to pick for your damage type. If you roll doubles the spell jumps to another creature, allowing you to make an attack roll against an additional target.
Then you roll again for damage.
If you roll doubles again, it can keep going as long as there are targets you haven’t hit, since it can only hit each enemy once per cast.
So Chaos Bolt could potentially do infinite damage based on the number of enemies you have.
Chromatic Orb is more consistent, doing an extra point of damage on average. But Chaos Bolt has better range and could potentially do more damage over time. Here’s a quick overview of type damage:
Who Gets Chaos Bolt?
As mentioned earlier, sorcerers are technically the only class that gain access to this spell.
But the magic initiate feat can allow anyone to pick it up.
Sadly, even if it hits a single target, Jeremy Crawford ruled it ineligible for twinned spell due to its potential to hit additional targets.
Though RAW (Rules as Written) it does seem possible, so talk to your DM about what they think.
Chaos Bolt Uses
Not even Chaos Bolt’s sister spell Chromatic Orb has this many potential damage types, adding force damage and psychic damage to the possible pool of damage types.
So, base damage for Chaos Bolt is 2d8+1d6. Like stated above, the damage type is dependent on the d8 rolls, as those are what you can choose from.
On average, Chaos Bolt does 12.5 damage per turn. Which still has it keeping up with Chromatic Orb at 13.5 average damage, and it can be more potent too.
Say you’re fighting two goblins.
You hit the first goblin and roll two 4s on the 8s, and say a 2 on the 6.
You do 10 force damage, killing the first goblin, and then it jumps to the second goblin. As long as you roll at least 7 damage if you hit the second goblin, you just took out both enemies in one fell swoop.
Chaos Bolt can only target each enemy once per use, though. So it might be better used in crowd situations, but can still be useful if you need to overcome some sort of resistance.
Let’s compare Chaos Bolt to a few other damaging first-level sorcerer spells.
And what a better place to start than with chromatic orb.
Chaos Bolt vs. Chromatic Orb
These spells are considered to be sister spells by many, due to their similarities.
Specifically the versatility in damage type.
So each spell has its pros and cons, with Chaos Bolt being a more fun spell to play with potential for extra attacks, and a bit more of a random flavor to it.
It also doesn’t have a 50 gp material component.
Chromatic Orb is more consistent, outperforming in terms of average damage by 1 point. And it has more player control, but has less damage types and no potential for extra attacks.
Chromatic Orb can be twinned as well, but again, the material component.
So for sorcerers, each are worthy spells. And depending on how you intend to use metamagic, each one could be right for you. Try them both in different campaigns to see what you like.
Chaos Bolt vs. Magic Missile
Chaos Bolt out paces Magic Missile 12.5 damage to 10.5 damage, but magic missile hits 100% of the time if certain spells are not in place. And most lower level enemies will have zero access to spellcasting.
So Magic Missile over time will output a higher damage due to how bounded accuracy works, as Chaos Bolt won’t always hit.
So in five turns, magic missile will deal 52.5 average damage over those 5 turns consistently.
Chaos Bolt, since it won’t always hit, does remarkably less. Since if Charisma is maxed out, it more than likely will hit about 62.5% of the time.
So if we say it hits 3 times on those 5 turns. And it doesn’t proc its additional attack(which occurs 12.5% of the time) Chaos Bolt only does 37.5 damage over those three turns.
However, that’s if you have the spell slots to do this.
But this is just a hypothetical comparing the two at first-level usage.
Chaos Bolt, again, is more fun. But magic missile is among the most reliable spells in the game.
Chaos Bolt vs. Witch Bolt
Witch Bolt is a spell that can dominate a player’s action economy.
Witch Bolt does an average of 6.5 lightning damage per turn. But once the initial attack hits, as long as you maintain concentration, you can deal an additional average of 6.5 lightning damage to the same enemy without having to roll.
Having a steady damage output can be great.
And not having to consume additional spell slots is nice.
But cantrips will eventually outpace Witch Bolt. Andover the same span, if the previous accuracy of Chaos Bolt is used, Chaos Bolt will still outpace it.
Chaos Bolt is not one of those spells that you can base a build around, even though Draconic Bloodline Sorcerers benefit if you get your preferred damage type.
Chaos Bolt is still a great first level damage option for any sorcerer. And if you want to add some variety and unpredictability to your spells, this could be worth learning.
Thematically, Chaos Bolt fits in with the unpredictability of a Wild Magic Sorcerer.
But in general, this character doesn’t gain additional benefits from it.