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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Spell Study Series: 3rd Level Missile Spells

Time for the missile spells!
Fire Ball: A missile which springs from the finger of the Magic-User. It explodes with a burst radius of 2" (slightly larger than specified in CHAINMAIL). In a confined space the Fire Ball will generally conform to the shape of the space (elongate or whatever). The damage caused by the missile will be in proportion to the level of its user. A 6th level Magic-User throws a 6-die missile, a 7th a 7-die missile, and so on. (Note that Fire Balls from Scrolls (see Volume II) and Wand are 6-die missiles and those from Staves are 8-die missiles. Duration: 1 turn. Range: 24"

Lightning Bolt: Utterance of this spell generates a lightning bolt 6" long and up to 3/4" wide. If the space is not long enough to allow its full extension, the missile will double back to attain 6", possibly striking its creator. It is otherwise similar to a Fire Ball, but as stated in CHAINMAIL the head of the missile may never extend beyond the 24" range.
I've said before that i regret the choice made in Greyhawk to include Magic Missile as a 1st level spell, since it breaks a nice little rule you could deduce from Men & Magic: ranged damage spells begin at 3rd level. I'm not against lower-level missile spells that do no damage (Web) or spells equivalent to a thrown dagger (short range, limited damage) or that may cause incidental damage.

I'd personally like to change the blast radius of the Fire Ball. I mentioned under the Light spell that a simple 10 feet radius per spell level solution would cause problems later on, Fire Ball being one example. I don't think I want a 30-foot radius Fire Ball, especially since the described 2 scale inch radius is more than the Chainmail 2 scale inch diameter. I think instead that I'd go with a 30-foot (3 scale inch) diameter, between the Chainmail and OD&D values.

I'd change the shape of the blast area only on a crude basis: halving one distance doubles another, reducing one by a third means tripling another. So, in the average 10-foot-wide corridor with a 10 foot ceiling, the Fire Ball will blast everything in a 180-foot stretch of corridor. Better aim for maximum range!

Speaking of which, there was a discussion elsewhere (I believe on Delta's D&D Hotspot) of different interpretations on how Fire Ball is meant to be handled. The interpretation I'm going with is; caster calls range, not target. If the player wants to know how far away the orc chieftain is, the GM gives an approximation to the nearest 30 feet, then rolls for exact position.

Since the Fire Ball is an actual missile "which springs from the finger of the Magic-User", I think there should be saving throws for each intervening figure between the caster and the target. Failure means the missile strikes too soon and explodes. LESSON: Beware of aiming into crowds in a tight space.

Lightning Bolt has some peculiarities that I don't think I've seen anyone mention. Everyone's aware of its reflective property, but what happens if you call 240 feet as your range? The bolt begins at that range, but can't extend beyond it, so it essentially becomes a limited area electrical Fire Ball.

And what is the area of effect for a Lightning Bolt? Presumably, the 3/4" listing is scale inches, so it's seven and a half feet wide underground. Lightning Bolt thus does less potential damage, since it will hit fewer targets.

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