Chromatic Orb for the 1st level spellcaster

One of our players is playing a 1st level Sorcerer, and he chose Chromatic Orb as a starting spell.

The challenge with Chromatic Orb, is that it has a component requirement that costs 50 gp, and that’s a lot for a starting character, He didn’t buy a diamond at the beginning of our sessions, but he should have… and I didn’t realize that at the time, so we’ve been trying to figure out how to work the spell into the game.

I dug into the Player’s Handbook (PHB) to get more up to speed on how spells work, especially the use of material components, found a few forums to get some other points of view. Here is a quick summary of what I learned:

Chromatic Orb (PHB, pg. 221) is a cool spell. It does 3d8 damage of the type you choose, but you have to have a 50 gp diamond to cast it! Tough at first level, unless you just give it to your character.

Two questions: why would the character choose to learn that spell, if they didn’t already have a diamond? Could you allow them to start with it, if they choose that spell?

DM Tip: Give them the diamond to start as part of their starting equipment. Or, if you want them to earn it, there’s no reason that your PCs can’t find a 50 gp diamond on their first mission/quest, especially if it helps further the story! A faction the PC can help, or leader asking for help, could offer a diamond as a reward, or an enterprising PC could negotiate or even steal one. Obtaining a 50 gp diamond could even be a side quest for a 1st-level rogue.

The character didn’t have a diamond in our first gaming session.  Purchasing one has been difficult because our first mission was the sacking of Greenrest from Hoard of the Dragon Queen, and I didn’t think a diamond would be readily available after the looting! In hindsight, it makes sense that a cultist could have dropped a few jewels on their retreat from town…

I’m going to work into the story an opportunity to find or buy a diamond during our next session to solve this particular situation, or maybe the Mayor of the Greenrest will give the character one as a reward…

DM Tip: Give a 1st-Level character a 200-300 gp reward for their first gaming session somehow, so they can just purchase a diamond, if you can’t work a diamond into the story line. If you can work a gift or reward into the story, even better.

I’m going to talk to the players about the other spells that this Sorcerer could have chosen to learn, so that they understand all of the character’s options.

Consider that there are 4 other spells that a Sorcerer could choose: Burning Hands, Magic Missile, Thunderwave and Witch Bolt, perhaps? Each of those has a relatively powerful offensive quality that could compliment or replace Chromatic Orb.

  • Chromatic Orb does damage to one target of your choosing within 90 feet. Your energy orb does 3d8 acid, cold, fire, lightning, poison, or thunder damage, again, you choose. Seriously boss spell. Note: you have to own a 50 gp diamond to do this spell, but that diamond doesn’t get consumed on use (see page 203 in the Player’s Handbook:  Material Components). Just keep it in your component pouch after you obtain a suitable diamond!
  • Burning Hands does 3d6 fire damage in a 15ft cone, 1/2 that damage with a successful saving throw
  • Magic Missile shoots 3 darts that do 1d4+1 force damage, and are pretty much guaranteed to hit your target of choice.
  • Thunderwave moves everything in a 15 foot cube in front of you 10 feet back, if it’s not nailed down! Also deals 2d8 thunder damage to all creatures in that cube, if they fail a saving throw (1/2 damage on successful saving throw). Failed saving throw also moves that creature 10 feet back. Lastly, the spell booms a thunderous boom for 300 feet around you.
  • Witch Bolt does 1d12 lightning damage that manifests itself as an arc of energy between you and your target, which can be repeated every turn until you do something else. The only downside is that you might get stuck for a few turns.

If you have the diamond, Chromatic Orb is a great spell choice for a 1st level spell caster. If you don’t there are a few other good spells that could replace Chromatic Orb, depending on your style of play.

If you’re the DM, make sure they start with a suitable diamond somehow!

Special thanks to the D&D 5th Edition Wiki folks for the online references!