Do you cast spells in D&D5e (or any similar SRD-like game)? Do you overthink everything? If you answered “yes” to both those questions, you’ve probably wondered at some point how various damage spells compare, once one accounts for hit rolls, saving throws for half damage, and so forth.
Well, wonder no longer. Enter your caster stats below, and the details of the spell, and see how the damage varies according to the relevant enemy stats. For reference, results are shown relative to the damage of an equal-level Magic Missile.
As you can see, spells with an attack roll like Chromatic Orb or Scorching Ray outperform Magic Missile only when the enemy’s AC is below some cutoff (which the diserning wizard may want to jot down). Similarly compare a Cleric’s Inflict Wounds, or each attack from a Druid’s Flame Blade.
For spells with saving throws, we can see that casting Burning Hands against a single target is never worthwhile, while higher-level nukes like Fireball surpass MM even on against a lone enemy. Or: ever wonder how many times Flaming Sphere needs to attack to be worth the spell slot? The answer is three.
Meanwhile comparing cantrips, while the die values vary one can note that spells with attack rolls (like Chill Touch or Fire Bolt) are best against enemies with very poor stats, while those with saving throws (Sacred Flame or Poison Spray) have less damage falloff against high-stat targets.
PS: you can also specify an exact damage amount for when the spell misses or is saved - e.g. thusly for Melf’s Acid Arrow.
Tweet at me if you find out anything I missed!