Sorcerer, Wizard - 1 Level Spell
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: 90 ft
Components: Verbal, Somatic, and Material
Reference: PHB 221
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. 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.
The material component for this spell is a diamond worth at least 50 gp.
My Comments: This might be a great utility spell for first level.
Wait, what? Utility spell?!
Yep. Well, depending on your DM. Let’s go over the basics and then I’ll get back to that part.
The first thing most people want to know about the Chromatic Orb spell is how much damage it does compared to other spells. After all, of the three pillars of gaming; social interactions, exploration and combat, most people think of combat first. (Kobold Press makes a good point about the fourth pillar is “fun”, personally I think that’s the first foundation rather than a pillar. I would say the fourth pillar is “problem-solving” but that does overlap with the other three. But, I digress …)
So! How does Chromatic Orb stack up in combat?
The quick and dirty answer is “It’s awesome.”
With a range of 90 feet, 3d8 damage that scales and you get to choose the damage type, it’s a heavy hitter and versatile.
The catch with this is that it’s a ranged spell attack, and that means it can miss, resulting in a wasted spell and spell slot. Spell slots are at a premium for low-level casters, so a miss can really hurt. I guess that’s the tradeoff for versatility.
The other aspect is that you’ll want to pay attention to what you’re fighting to get the maximum benefit from this spell. Shooting a ball of fire at a Flameskull? It’ll look cool, but won’t be that useful. Switch to cold, right? Well, it turns out the Flameskull is immune to cold, and poison as well! It’s even resistant to lightning, necrotic and piercing.
Cheer up! You’ve still got acid and thunder damage as options. The issue is knowing that’s the right choice.
Of course, if you’re basing your choices off a good knowledge of the Monster Manual, that’s probably metagaming. Check in with your DM often to ask “Would my character know any Flameskull immunities?”
Another issue is that you might not be able to use it at first level due to the spell component. Most first level wizards and sorcerers can afford a 50gp diamond at first level, but not all can. You might want to find out your finances before choosing your spells. The good news is that the diamond isn’t consumed, so you can cast the spell as long as you’ve got any 50gp diamond on you.
However, you will want to keep an eye on that diamond, or have a back-up, or you won’t be casting Chromatic Orb until you get a new one. Keep an eye out for thieves, definitely.
Now let’s get to the idea of this being a handy utility spell. Again, how much of this you can use depends on your DM’s interpretation of the description above. As mentioned by Josiah in the comments, the spell specifically says the target has to be a creature, so this doesn’t work RAW (Rules As Written). Rule of Cool, however, says ask your DM and see if you can do something amazing!
Need to set something on fire from 90’ away? I’m pretty sure most DM’s would allow a ball of flame to ignite curtains, paper or other combustible objects.
Cold might freeze water and make it slippery for a time. Acid might be used to melt through something, like a lock. Lightning might make a great signal.
Be creative and then ask you DM if your character thinks your idea would be reasonable.
A lot of epic heroes are clever rather than just strong or powerful.