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View Full Version : [3e/4e] It's a Spell, Not a Grenade



Tequila Sunrise
2009-03-04, 12:41 AM
Am I the only DM who's okay with players shrinking their burst and blast powers on the fly? I allowed this in 3e too, but just recently realized it might not be common practice. It's not like area damage powers can't use a boost in versatility, or that they can't get better video game prop...I mean, Spell Accuracy. (Or Mastery of Shaping for those 3e viewers.)

So how about it, do other DMs allow this?

TS

Mark Hall
2009-03-04, 01:32 AM
While it's a spell, it doesn't mean you completely control every aspect of it. Allowing people to control the size of the burst really adds to the tactical flexibility of spellcasters.

TheOOB
2009-03-04, 01:55 AM
From a balance and tactical standpoint, I don't allow players to shrink their spells area unless they have a feat or ability that lets them do so. If you need an in world rational, think of it like this. Every spell has a form(a mental image, formula, mantra, ect) that calls it into existence. This form is set for each spell and cannot be changed on the fly beyond what is mentioned in the spell. You could, in theory, craft a spell that has the exact radius you wish, but doing so would take, hours, maybe even days, when a precrafted spell only takes a standard action.

averagejoe
2009-03-04, 02:00 AM
I don't think any of us have even asked whether this was possible. I wouldn't have allowed it even if they had.


better video game prop...I mean, Spell Accuracy.

I don't understand this.

Eeezee
2009-03-04, 04:42 AM
From a balance and tactical standpoint, I don't allow players to shrink their spells area unless they have a feat or ability that lets them do so. If you need an in world rational, think of it like this. Every spell has a form(a mental image, formula, mantra, ect) that calls it into existence. This form is set for each spell and cannot be changed on the fly beyond what is mentioned in the spell. You could, in theory, craft a spell that has the exact radius you wish, but doing so would take, hours, maybe even days, when a precrafted spell only takes a standard action.

Or if you're a sorcerer it only takes a full action (ie metamagic) or less (rapid metamagic feat), and that includes being able to increase the area by up to a factor of 2

I would suggest that reducing a spell's targeted area should just require a Spellcraft check. Or maybe Concentration, since Spellcraft is technically about identifying (although the Incantatrix uses it for hardcore spell modification)

Tsotha-lanti
2009-03-04, 05:03 AM
I don't allow it, and I yearn for the days of fireballs that filled a certain volume rather than extended to a certain radius, and lightning bolts rebounded off surfaces.

Oracle_Hunter
2009-03-04, 06:22 AM
Balance issues aside (you could reduce any burst spell down to a single 5 x 5 blast and use it just like a single-target spell) I think you have your metaphors reversed.

Magic is not technology; it is not endlessly customizable nor easy to control - it is a force of nature.

Once could make a Variable Grenade (http://www.schlockmercenary.com/d/20041017.html) that can be dialed up or down on the fly for whatever level of violence you need. That is the hallmark of technology, after all - the harnessing of physical laws to serve Man. Magic is supposed to be something more exotic than a plow or a sword; something that is not even fully understood by its users. If you allow an apprentice wizard the ability to shape magic as a blacksmith molds iron, then how are they truly different?

AslanCross
2009-03-04, 07:11 AM
Combining fluff, crunch and balance reasons for 3.5:

Magic is not something one can command like a dog. It is a force that is to be respected. In the same way that not everyone can throw a fireball, not every wizard or sorcerer can control the way that fireball comes into being. That's why it takes Metamagic feats to make magic behave in a prescribed behavior, and that's why it bumps up the caster level. Only truly experienced arcanists know enough about how magic works to make it bend to their whims.

Tequila Sunrise
2009-03-04, 10:23 AM
Magic is not technology; it is not endlessly customizable nor easy to control - it is a force of nature.
Before I continue I just want to emphasize that I'm not just talking about spells here--it just happens that there aren't many blast or burst martial powers and most (all?) divine powers automatically omit allies.

The way I think of it is: a power requires knowledge and experience to wield, unlike a piece of technology. Any shlub can toss a grenade but only a select few shlubs can cast a fireball. Technology is limited to the physical laws, while powers are endlessly customizable (as demonstrated by the plethora of spells in 3e, and the inevitable deluge of 4e powers).

Technology is only customizable at the creation stage--if you want your grenade to be variable you have to spend extra time and money to create it that way. Otherwise, it's going to explode in a certain radius and if your ally is within that radius you'd better pray for him. But powers are part of the character who uses them; a warrior adjusts the arc of his sword's slash to avoid hitting a nearby ally. While most mages don't have such fine-tuned control over their spells, they too can adjust their spells as the situation demands.

Also I'd like to point out that most spells are already customizable on the fly: you can adjust the range of a fireball, for example (and the caster level, if we're talking 3e).



I don't understand this.

AoE powers in most video games don't hurt your allies. Kinda like how Spell Accuracy and Mastery of Shaping allow casters to not hit allies with AoEs.





...Okay, it was a lame joke.

TS

Tequila Sunrise
2009-03-04, 10:33 AM
Magic is not technology; it is not endlessly customizable nor easy to control - it is a force of nature.
Before I continue I just want to emphasize that I'm not just talking about spells here--it just happens that there aren't many blast or burst martial powers and most (all?) divine powers automatically omit allies.

The way I think of it is: a power requires knowledge and experience to wield, unlike a piece of technology. Any shlub can toss a grenade but only a select few shlubs can cast a fireball. Technology is limited to the physical laws, while powers are endlessly customizable (as demonstrated by the plethora of spells in 3e, and the inevitable deluge of 4e powers).

Technology is only customizable at the creation stage--if you want your grenade to be variable you have to spend extra time and money to create it that way. Otherwise, it's going to explode in a certain radius and if your ally is within that radius you'd better pray for him. But powers are part of the character who uses them; a warrior adjusts the arc of his sword's slash to avoid hitting a nearby ally. While most mages don't have such fine-tuned control over their spells, they too can adjust their spells as the situation demands.

Also I'd like to point out that most spells are already customizable on the fly: you can adjust the range of a fireball, for example (and the caster level, if we're talking 3e).



I don't understand this.

AoE powers in most video games don't hurt your allies. Kinda like how Spell Accuracy and Mastery of Shaping allow casters to not hit allies with AoEs.





...Okay, it was a lame joke.

TS

Edea
2009-03-04, 11:10 AM
Am I the only DM who's okay with players shrinking their burst and blast powers on the fly?

Assuming this is directed at a wizard character (or another kind of character that targets creatures rather than enemies with its area and close powers): In 3e, a wizard had more options than mere evocations, and many of the best spells were single-target, so in that case no, it's not really necessary to change how the spells' areas work.

4e, on the other hand? Good god, that was the class IS. Hell, in the game(s) I'm in we don't even bother to merely shrink the blasts of bursts, we simply change their targeting from 'all creatures' to 'all enemies.' (Just like you were saying about video games). We've found that things proceed very smoothly that way. If I had a 4e DM that said 'no, you can't do that' to this, I definitely would not play a wizard under them, and would be exceedingly wary of any other player that did (multiclassing wizard, on the other hand, to cherrypick the best powers, I might do instead). We subscribe to the 'wizards shouldn't be d****' camp of thought.

I believe up to the point where we decided to use that house rule, all the spells I'd picked were either single target or otherwise never targeted allies by RAW (in other words, the 'area damage' vaunted about for controller was nonexistent). In fact, if there was a normal close burst 5/creatures that caused stun and a close blast 3/enemies that merely did ongoing damage, I'd take the second one in a heartbeat. Friendly fire is bull****; this is why legion's hold is so good, it does what it does at a great range -without targeting allies-. I believe the other two level 29 dailies cause friendly fire incidents as per usual.

lsfreak
2009-03-04, 12:32 PM
I'd probably allow alterations to spell areas, but it would take Spellcraft checks. Large ones. Magic is not something you control, it's something you tap into by using formulae (whether by prayer, book, or simply "knowing" what you must do). Altering that should be difficult. I would probably allow halving the area of a spell with a DC 20+CL check. Any less than halving it gets into very difficult checks. In order to keep one ally from being hit by it, DC 30+CL. Beyond one ally, you're in the realm of feats.

Irreverent Fool
2009-03-04, 01:07 PM
I don't allow it, and I yearn for the days of fireballs that filled a certain volume rather than extended to a certain radius, and lightning bolts rebounded off surfaces.

We still do this in the games my friends and I play. Of course, this led to the 'pillar of fire incident'


We had fallen into a trap on the way to a vault we knew to be full of powerful treasure held by a corrupt city official. The exact details of why we were robbing him are not important.

Three characters became cut off from the group: The sorcerer(my character), the ninja, and the tinker(not sure of his exact class, he was playing something from iron kingdoms, built a lot of magical gizmos) We had descended a staircase and come into a nondescript chamber. Stone blocks slammed down on either side of us and the sounds of gearworks began to echo around us. The sorcerer felt his connection to the arcane cutoff as an enchanted block lowered into place above us, radiating a field of anti-magic.

We thought the roof would simply lower and crush us but we were wrong. Slots opened along the floor and whirling bladed constructs roughly a foot tall began to swarm the floor. Our blades shied off of them with no effect. A quick spellcraft check revealed that they were clearly protected by magic! The field cut off just high enough for the constructs to slip beneath it. At this point, the ninja was pressed into a corner, the tinker was still partially up the stairs, safe from the blades. With whirling death closing in around the now impotent sorcerer, he had an idea.

The sorcerer pressed flat against the floor as the constructs closed in. He knew the ninja was safe in the anti-magic field, and he himself had a powerful ring of immunity to electricity. He focused for a moment and sent forth a maximized sculpted lightning bolt: Essentially a fireball made of lightning. Unable to extend upward into the field, it shot across the entirety of the room, decimating the lightning-weak technomantic constructs...and shooting up the stairs.

The tinker rolled a 1.

He had a backpack full of mechanical alchemical exploding rats.

The resulting chain reaction collapsed the ceiling upon the tinker, cutting off the ninja and sorcerer's escape and destroying the entire building above.

That was a memorable session. This brought the sorcerer's party-member kill count to two.


While we've never allowed reduction in area without a feat, it is considered perfectly reasonable for a clever spellcaster to aim his area spells at a point in the air. The sphere-shaped explosion hits a smaller area on the ground, or in the case of a giant, none of the party members at its feet.

Edit: This was in reference to 3.5, obviously. I see less of a problem allowing this sort of thing in 4e, as the system is designed for more tactical battles and less for the simulationist aspect. (Note that this is not saying 3.5 is simulationist, just that it is moreso than 4e.) On that same note, 2e players would just laugh at the silliness of being able to cast a fireball that only hits specific people in its area.

obnoxious
sig

ColdSepp
2009-03-04, 01:19 PM
We don't allow it. It's what the War Wizard feat is for.

On the other hand, the designers of 4E have admitted this is a flaw of Wizard design. Compared to Divine Casters, the Wizard has more Area effects that don't omit allies.

If you look at any of the PHB2 controllers, you will see that they follow the path of Divine Casters. Furthermore, the developers have hinted in many of the staff blogs and podcasts that the Arcane Power will significantly boost the Wizard, as the admit they made the class slightly underpowered compared to other controllers. And this will include powers that are 'enemies only'.

I really can't say about 3E, as no DM I played with allowed it without the proper class/feats.

Artanis
2009-03-04, 01:27 PM
Before I continue I just want to emphasize that I'm not just talking about spells here--it just happens that there aren't many blast or burst martial powers and most (all?) divine powers automatically omit allies.

The way I think of it is: a power requires knowledge and experience to wield, unlike a piece of technology. Any shlub can toss a grenade but only a select few shlubs can cast a fireball. Technology is limited to the physical laws, while powers are endlessly customizable (as demonstrated by the plethora of spells in 3e, and the inevitable deluge of 4e powers).

Technology is only customizable at the creation stage--if you want your grenade to be variable you have to spend extra time and money to create it that way. Otherwise, it's going to explode in a certain radius and if your ally is within that radius you'd better pray for him. But powers are part of the character who uses them; a warrior adjusts the arc of his sword's slash to avoid hitting a nearby ally. While most mages don't have such fine-tuned control over their spells, they too can adjust their spells as the situation demands.

Also I'd like to point out that most spells are already customizable on the fly: you can adjust the range of a fireball, for example (and the caster level, if we're talking 3e).
I don't think "the Wizard is more skilled" is a valid reason to automatically let him be better. A Wizard is immensely skilled, and the grenade-thrower doesn't have to be, it's true. But it takes a lot more skill just to use magic in the first place. Just to get it to work. Skill doesn't automatically let you customize a spell when it's taking all of that skill to get it to cast at all.

Take driving, for instance. Most people can drive a car. It gets you from point A to point B, no more, no less. For the most part, you can't really do much to customize a car's ability to go from point A to point B once you buy it.

A Formula 1 car, on the other hand, goes really, really fast. It's immensely customizeable, both between races and even during a race. A Formula 1 car is a marvel of technology and engineering, each one costing millions of dollars to design, produce, maintain, and supply. It's more like a jet fighter than it is like a Civic. And each and every Formula 1 driver is one of the best drivers in the world, putting most racing series' drivers to shame.

But.

All of that skill is required just to keep the car on the track. If you or I tried some stupid, crazy stunt on the interstate, we'd fly off the road and die in a firey crash. But that inhumanly skilled F1 driver? For all his skill, training, and talent, if he tried some stupid, crazy stunt during a race, he'd fly off the road and die in a firey crash. All we can do and all he can do is try to get from point A to point B as fast and as non-fatally as possible.




NOTE that I am not saying a Wizard shouldn't be able to. I'm merely saying that "he's more skilled" doesn't AUTOMATICALLY equate to "he can do it".

Kaiyanwang
2009-03-04, 01:28 PM
IIRC, in 3rd you can regulate the area of some spell, even without metamagic.

If the spell has a fixed area of effect, you cannot change it withou metamagic.

But if the spells has an area linked with caster level, you should be able to choose if maximize the caster level for that area, or to limit the effect.

only1doug
2009-03-04, 01:55 PM
I'd probably allow alterations to spell areas, but it would take Spellcraft checks. Large ones. Magic is not something you control, it's something you tap into by using formulae (whether by prayer, book, or simply "knowing" what you must do). Altering that should be difficult. I would probably allow halving the area of a spell with a DC 20+CL check. Any less than halving it gets into very difficult checks. In order to keep one ally from being hit by it, DC 30+CL. Beyond one ally, you're in the realm of feats.

These DC's aren't hard to achieve for mid level PCs.
My L13 Gish has +24 spellcraft skill (without any feats focusing on it) which would guarantee 1/2ing the area of up to 5th level spells (cannot fumble skill checks).

lsfreak
2009-03-04, 02:23 PM
These DC's aren't hard to achieve for mid level PCs.
My L13 Gish has +24 spellcraft skill (without any feats focusing on it) which would guarantee 1/2ing the area of up to 5th level spells (cannot fumble skill checks).
The way I wrote it, you'd need a DC 33 check to halve a 5th-level spell cast at CL13. I based it off CL, not spell level. You've still got a pretty good shot of halving it, yes, but if you focused on such things I (personally) wouldn't have too much of a problem with that.
(Also, those DC's where kind of made up on the spot, if I thought about it I'd probably alter them some).

Oracle_Hunter
2009-03-04, 03:36 PM
Before I continue I just want to emphasize that I'm not just talking about spells here--it just happens that there aren't many blast or burst martial powers and most (all?) divine powers automatically omit allies.

The Blast/Burst Martial powers only target enemies because the guy with a sword can pick who he wants to hit.

The main difference between Divine & Arcane Burst/Blast powers is selectivity. Most (if not all) Divine Burst/Blast powers only harm enemies, but they also generally have smaller areas of effect and/or damage. Arcane spells have huge blast areas (Burning Hands and Color Spray, for example) and powerful effects, but they cannot discriminate between friend and foe. That is the trade off; giving wizards blast shaping gives them a power boost for no good reason.

As for range: that is aiming the power, not using it. This is much like firing a rocket - you can point it where you want it to go, but there's little you can do to affect the outcome once it is fired. The 2E Lightning Bolt is a classic example of this sort of "force of nature" philosophy.

Of course, the "force of nature" idea is a stylistic choice, but the mechanical points above still stand.

Tequila Sunrise
2009-03-05, 01:07 AM
I'd just like to remind everyone that when we're talking about spells/prayers, we're talking pretend. I'm not claiming that my way of doing things is right, least of all from an in-game PoV, so neither can I take any in-game magical "logistics" to heart.


The main difference between Divine & Arcane Burst/Blast powers is selectivity. Most (if not all) Divine Burst/Blast powers only harm enemies, but they also generally have smaller areas of effect and/or damage. Arcane spells have huge blast areas (Burning Hands and Color Spray, for example) and powerful effects...
If this was universally agreed upon, you would have a point. But as this thread has demonstrated, there are many who see AoE spells as decidedly weak.

As for range: that is aiming the power, not using it. This is much like firing a rocket - you can point it where you want it to go, but there's little you can do to affect the outcome once it is fired. The 2E Lightning Bolt is a classic example of this sort of "force of nature" philosophy.
Firing a rocket is more like a fireball, and was what I was referencing. When you fire a rocket, you can aim it but you can't directly choose where it detonates during its flight path [barring the even more costly smart rockets]. It explodes when it hits a solid object, and if you miss your intended target then it will explode at a very different point. Not so with a fireball, which the caster aims and chooses its exact intended range.

Now, comparing lightning bolt to a flame thrower would be more accurate, but my point remains: there is already precedent for customizing spells on the fly.

Of course, the "force of nature" idea is a stylistic choice, but the mechanical points above still stand.
Your "force of nature" references puzzle me. All technology is governed by the physical laws, which are the laws of nature. Meanwhile, magic is very often governed by codes, spirits and traditions with no discernible link to nature.

TS

lsfreak
2009-03-05, 01:38 AM
Those codes, spirits, or traditions are all a means to tap into an unseen force that's all around everything. They are governed by their own laws, which mortals at least are only able to tap into through formulaic rituals. One does not manipulate magic, one follows the steps and rules to obtain the desired result.

At least this I believe is the mindset of the standard D&D campaign. The rules of magic are rules just as much as the laws of physics, and one cannot simply alter things on the whim as it fits their desire. That's what feats and the like are for.

That said, it could be very different in your campaign.

d13
2009-03-05, 01:43 AM
Reducing a X ft radius SPREAD AoE can be accomplished by taking into account the height at which the spell takes effect.

I think the PHB had some clarifications on this in some page xD

averagejoe
2009-03-05, 02:28 AM
AoE powers in most video games don't hurt your allies. Kinda like how Spell Accuracy and Mastery of Shaping allow casters to not hit allies with AoEs.





...Okay, it was a lame joke.

TS

I think I see. I just don't think I've played a lot of video games with AoE's. Or, really, a lot of video games at all since high school.

Wait, my maybe favorite but definitely top five video game, Bauldur's Gate Two had AoE's that hurt your allies. When Imoen cast a fireball, everyone got damaged who was in the area of effect. :smalltongue:

Oracle_Hunter
2009-03-05, 02:31 AM
Your "force of nature" references puzzle me. All technology is governed by the physical laws, which are the laws of nature. Meanwhile, magic is very often governed by codes, spirits and traditions with no discernible link to nature.

"Force of Nature" is a shorthand for an uncontrollable (or barely controllable) force or entity, typically of great strength. Typhoons, tsunami, volcanoes and tornadoes are good examples of pure forces of nature. In some fiction you see Man has discovered a power that he does not fully understand, but one that is too great to leave alone; the original atomic bombs fall into this category.

There is a certain mystique in these "Forces of Nature" because trying to use one is fraught with uncertainty and danger. Typically, people who try to master these Forces approach it more as an Art than a Science - experience alone can teach you how to control a Force.

Technology is the opposite - safe, easily repeatable, and totally malleable. A car, a gun, or even a solar power plant may be impressive for what it can do, but rarely because there is some mystique surrounding the forces involved. Anyone willing to sit down and study the necessary subjects can figure out how these all work, and make them work exactly as desired with very little practice.

I prefer Magic to be more the former than the later. I like the idea that magic has a mystique to it, and that its practitioners are pioneers rather than engineers.

I hope that makes sense :smallsmile:

TheOOB
2009-03-05, 02:42 AM
In 3e I often reduced my spell area simply by casting it in mid air. By making a sphere detonate above ground level, it will affect a smaller area at ground level, and my wizard with 20 Int should be able to do that math.

The cubes of 4e don't allow that, but I do believe all creatures or all enemies should be a key point of powers. I also believe wizards do not have enough of those.

Cybren
2009-03-05, 04:28 AM
Niven's corollary to Clarke's Laws: "Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology"

Oracle_Hunter
2009-03-05, 11:40 PM
Niven's corollary to Clarke's Laws: "Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology"

I prefer this formulation. (http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20081205) :smalltongue: