[RPG] the maximum damage done by Divine Smite


This is a mechanics question pertaining to the maximum allowed damage for the Paladin's Divine Smite ability.

Divine Smite: …you can expend one [Spell Slot] to deal Radiant damage in addition to weapon damage. The extra damage is 2d8 for a
1st level slot, plus 1d8 for each spell level higher than 1st, to a
maximum of 5d8….

"…to a maximum of 5d8…" is the part I'm having issues with figuring out how to rule.

Can the extra damage, beyond the 2d8 for filling a 1st level slot with the ability, be up to 5d8? Which would require a (Multiclass gained) spell slot of 6th level to add an extra 5d8 to the attack, making it 7d8 total (The default 2d8 + the maximum allowed extra of 5d8). Or, are the rules saying that the total allowed maximum damage can't exceed 5d8 total; which would only take a 4th level spell slot to add a max of 3d8 to the default 2d8?

2d8 + 3d8 = "to a maximum of 5d8" damage total?
2d8 + "to a maximum of 5d8" extra total = 7d8 ?

My guess is the first choice, since without Multiclassing a Paladin can never have more than 5th level spell slots and could never have the 6th level slot required to add 5d8 to the attack. My PC differs though.

Best Answer

The maximum is on all the extra radiant damage that Divine Smite adds to your normal weapon damage, necessarily including the first 2d8 (emphasis mine):

[…] you can expend one paladin spell slot to deal radiant damage to the target, in addition to the weapon's damage. The extra damage is [a variable amount], to a maximum of 5d8.

The 5d8 maximum is a limit on the extra radiant damage that Divine Smite is adding to the weapon's damage.

(For Improved Divine Smite, see the question Improved Divine Smite Differentiation.)