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    Default Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time look like balls made of fire rather than "A glowing, pea-sized bead streaks from the pointing digit and, unless it impacts upon a material body or solid barrier prior to attaining the prescribed range, blossoms into an explosion of flame that detonates with a low roar and deals 1d6 points of fire damage per caster level (maximum 10d6) to every creature within the area. Unattended objects also take this damage. The explosion creates almost no pressure."?

    Is there a reason for that?

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    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Yes, it's called artistic license.

    There isn't much difference most of the time whether or not a pre-exploded fireball is pea-sized or not, and having it be larger fits with the more generally known notion of what a fireball is. Anyone watching the show who isn't closely familiar with D&D wouldn't understand what the pea-sized fireball was unless and until it goes off, and that can be seen as a problem for people who want their show to be relatable and understandable to the masses.

    It's the same reason why D&D-related or D&D-inspired media normally doesn't cling too strictly to the D&D rules themselves, either.
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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    I would guess it's some combination of the fireball only being depicted while it is detonating, the artist being ignorant of the rules text, and the author choosing to deviate from the rules text for aesthetic reasons.

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Ultimately? Because Gygax had to deal with players wanting to know how to use the in-universe physics to their advantage, and a small exploding pea was easier to work with than a 40' wide ball traversing the whole distance. Artists and directors are more concerned with what looks cool. That often makes fireballs significantly smaller than the explosive end of their d&d counterparts, but they look like actual balls of fire instead of small pellets the whole way through.

    Or to be both more general and succinct, what's best for one guy in complete control of a story often isn't the same as what's best for an RPG.

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    The classic fireball would be quite effective at being incredibly creepy though. Just a barely visible little speck flying through the air with no noise or anything, then KABOOSH!
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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Quote Originally Posted by Zurvan View Post
    Is there a reason for that?
    Depends what you mean by D&D media, but a single pea will be barely visible on screen, so you won't even see the fireball rushing towards the enemy.

    More importantly a big glowing ball of fire looks cooler and visual media is about looking cool.
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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Because the D&D Fireball spell existed for a quarter century before that description was written. It's one description of the spell, but by no means the only one.

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    I am going to disagree on "cool" here. I picture the following: A small globe flies toward the party. The rookies in the party just look at it wondering what it is while the veteran shouts "Get down!" He tackles the rookie fighter and knocks the rookie mage out of the way, basically making them make their reflex save. The rogue sees the explosion as it comes and backflips behind an altar. One of the rookies doesn't make it.
    The party then jumps into action. The cleric heals the guy who's down while the fighter jumps up and charges the mage. The veteran pulls out his bow and begins firing in rapid succession. The rookie mage throws a magic missle, and the attacker is forced to retreat or die, his surprise fireball attack having failed to wipe out the party as he'd hoped.
    All in the space of a few seconds.
    Last edited by Calthropstu; 2017-11-29 at 04:08 AM.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Because a ball of fire that explodes into a huge ball of fire is cool, while a pea-sized bead is lame and, like other posters pointed out, won't even be visible in any kind of visual medium.

    While we're at it, spells that are shot from a pointing digit are lame too, unless you are deliberately going for a smooth criminal vibe of a spellcaster with magic finger bullets. Projectiles emerging from the palm, literally thrown at the enemy, or just appearing out of thin air as a manifestation of arcane power - now that's cool.

    Quote Originally Posted by Calthropstu View Post
    I am going to disagree on "cool" here. I picture the following: A small globe flies toward the party. The rookies in the party just look at it wondering what it is while the veteran shouts "Get down!" He tackles the rookie fighter and knocks the rookie mage out of the way, basically making them make their reflex save. The rogue sees the explosion as it comes and backflips behind an altar. One of the rookies doesn't make it.
    The party then jumps into action. The cleric heals the guy who's down while the fighter jumps up and charges the mage. The veteran pulls out his bow and begins firing in rapid succession. The rookie mage throws a magic missle, and the attacker is forced to retreat or die, his surprise fireball attack having failed to wipe out the party as he'd hoped.
    All in the space of a few seconds.
    Okay, first of all, a pea-sized bead is not "a small globe". It's so tiny that no one except superhuman gods of perception would be able to notice it on time and, once again, in any kind of visual medium it wouldn't be possible to even show it.

    Second, how different would this scene play out if the fireball was a ball of fire and not a small globe? Either way everyone has only mere moments to react. The "party jumping into action" part would be identical too.

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Quote Originally Posted by tensai_oni View Post
    Okay, first of all, a pea-sized bead is not "a small globe". It's so tiny that no one except superhuman gods of perception would be able to notice it on time
    GLOWING pea-sized bead. That word makes the difference from imperceptible to easily visible.

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    Because the D&D Fireball spell existed for a quarter century before that description was written. It's one description of the spell, but by no means the only one.
    Plus the term "fireball" predates any spell description significantly, and even if it didn't it's a word where you could get the definition pretty close to accurate simply by being familiar with the words "fire" and "ball".

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Quote Originally Posted by tensai_oni View Post
    Because a ball of fire that explodes into a huge ball of fire is cool, while a pea-sized bead is lame and, like other posters pointed out, won't even be visible in any kind of visual medium.

    While we're at it, spells that are shot from a pointing digit are lame too, unless you are deliberately going for a smooth criminal vibe of a spellcaster with magic finger bullets. Projectiles emerging from the palm, literally thrown at the enemy, or just appearing out of thin air as a manifestation of arcane power - now that's cool.



    Okay, first of all, a pea-sized bead is not "a small globe". It's so tiny that no one except superhuman gods of perception would be able to notice it on time and, once again, in any kind of visual medium it wouldn't be possible to even show it.

    Second, how different would this scene play out if the fireball was a ball of fire and not a small globe? Either way everyone has only mere moments to react. The "party jumping into action" part would be identical too.
    First: See the comment directly below yours. It would be like a small floating LED.
    Second: You see a ball of fire coming at you, you know it's a ball of fire. There's no curious "What's that?"

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Quote Originally Posted by Zurvan View Post
    Is there a reason for that?
    Whoever wrote the description missed every obvious opportunity to put some drama into it, making it intensely boring, which is why no one sees it that way. Simple. Drama is why.

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Probably because the "original" fireball-as-a-weapon was fired from a catapult. A Flaming ball of fire has that same look as an flaming arrow, just a ball rather than an arrow.

    The description of the spell would look more like an explosive tracer round. Maybe a mortar or a tiny glowing RPG. Pew - Hit - Boom. While that is cool, it's doesn't actually look like a ball of fire. It is a spell that causes a ball of fire. That's a very subtle distinction.

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    Last edited by Vogie; 2017-11-29 at 10:47 AM.

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Quote Originally Posted by Vogie View Post
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    More like Delayed Blast Fireball.

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    I once lost a familiar due to the "pea-sized" aspect.

    Cats (even intelligent ones) and small glowing explosive objects do not mix. He ate it, figuratively and literally.

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    More like Delayed Blast Fireball.
    It's not a delay if it goes off in the same round. That GIF shows the action of one round. Tank shoots and misses, Tony shoots back and hits, all in less than 6 seconds.

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Quote Originally Posted by Xuc Xac View Post
    It's not a delay if it goes off in the same round. That GIF shows the action of one round. Tank shoots and misses, Tony shoots back and hits, all in less than 6 seconds.
    Debatable, as Tony does pause briefly, turns, and starts to walk away. But the "delay" of a "delayed blast fireball" can by any time between "instantly" or "when the maximum time limit is reached, as specified by caster level, etc."

    Spoiler: Although, technically, this would probably be a better example for a delayed blast fireball....
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    Last edited by Mutazoia; 2017-11-30 at 02:47 AM.
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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    I seem to recall, but won't try to cite a location, that at least in one edition, the bead could be expressly aimed with an attack roll to go through narrow openings.

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    I seem to recall, but won't try to cite a location, that at least in one edition, the bead could be expressly aimed with an attack roll to go through narrow openings.
    It's like that in 3e/3.5, at least.
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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Quote Originally Posted by Mutazoia View Post
    Debatable, as Tony does pause briefly, turns, and starts to walk away.
    "Less than 6 seconds" is not debatable. You can time it.

    Tank shoots and misses. Tony shoots, hits, and takes his free 5 foot step. One round.

    Movie fights often work a lot like RPGs with turn-based initiative. The camera can only focus on one thing at a time, so actions that would realistically be simultaneous are shown sequentially instead.

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Quote Originally Posted by Xuc Xac View Post
    "Less than 6 seconds" is not debatable. You can time it.

    Tank shoots and misses. Tony shoots, hits, and takes his free 5 foot step. One round.

    Movie fights often work a lot like RPGs with turn-based initiative. The camera can only focus on one thing at a time, so actions that would realistically be simultaneous are shown sequentially instead.
    You really don't want to try to break this down in AD&D (1e only?) timekeeping. Players are expected to be "running as fast as they can [per Gygax, many chapters away from the rules]" but still take one minute to go 20 feet. Each round of combat takes one minute, with 6 seconds being nearly instantaneous (and since initiative was rolled on d6, if it is prorated you still won't be able to act ahead of the fireball).

    1e needed a lot of work. RAW was not an option.

    It was also never clear if there was any force behind the explosion. By rules there wasn't, unless you wanted dramatically damaged scenery (TSR sold modules [L1? was one] that included "fireball" damaged ruins that implied explosive fireballs. Plenty of DMs made use of fireball underground wildly dangerous (of course, fire was often used by sappers to remove underground supports), even before considering that there is virtually no way to fire a fireball down a corridor without hitting the entire party as well (it fits x cubic feet, that's a lot of 10'x10' corridor).

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    I recall hearing that the pressure clause was included later because the pressure used to blow up walls and cause other unintended consequences like roasting the party or caving in dungeons.

    Also, I don't think anyone actually uses the 'pea-sized bead' lore. I don't like it myself. And nobody resolves fire damage to the players' belongings.

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    It's a common argument. Heck, even in other works of fiction this argument occurs, both how it should look and how it should WORK...

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    The wizard shrieked, and a fireball whipped over my head, exploding twenty-one feet in front of me, then spread out in a perfect circle, like the shock wave of a nuke, burning and roasting thugs as it went and stopping a bare twelve inches shy of my nose.

    “Oh, come on!” I said. “It doesn’t work like that!”

    “What?” demanded the wizard.

    “It doesn’t work like that!” I insisted. “Even if you call up fire with magic, it’s still fire. It acts like fire. It expands in a sphere. And under a ceiling, that means it goes rushing much farther down hallways and tunnels. It doesn’t just go twenty feet and then stop.”

    “Fireballs used to work like that.” The wizard sighed. “But do you know what a chore it is to calculate exactly how far those things will spread? I mean, it slows everything down.”

    “It’s simple math,” I said. “And it’s way better than the fire just spreading twenty feet regardless of what’s around it. What, do fireballs carry tape measures or something?”

    Billy the Werewolf sighed and put down his character sheet and his dice. “Harry,” he protested gently, “repeat after me: It’s only a game.”

    I folded my arms and frowned at him across his dining room table. It was littered with snacks, empty cans of pop, pieces of paper, and tiny model monsters and adventurers (including a massively thewed barbarian model for my character). Georgia, Billy’s willowy brunette wife, sat at the table with us, as did the redheaded bombshell Andi, while lanky Kirby lurked behind several folding screens covered with fantasy art at the head of the table.

    “I’m just saying,” I said, “there’s no reason the magic can’t be portrayed at least a little more accurately, is there?”

    “Again with this discussion.” Andi sighed. “I mean, I know he’s the actual wizard and all, but Christ.”

    Kirby nodded glumly. “It’s like taking a physicist to a Star Trek movie.”

    “Harry,” Georgia said firmly, “you’re doing it again.”

    “Oh, no, I’m not!” I protested. “All I’m saying is that—”

    Georgia arched an eyebrow and gave me a steady look down her aquiline nose. “You know the law, Dresden.”

    “He who kills the cheer springs for beer,” chanted the rest of the table.
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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Quote Originally Posted by wumpus View Post
    You really don't want to try to break this down in AD&D (1e only?) timekeeping. Players are expected to be "running as fast as they can [per Gygax, many chapters away from the rules]" but still take one minute to go 20 feet. Each round of combat takes one minute, with 6 seconds being nearly instantaneous (and since initiative was rolled on d6, if it is prorated you still won't be able to act ahead of the fireball).

    1e needed a lot of work. RAW was not an option.
    Nobody is talking about 1st edition? That combat is seconds long is in all editions of D&D since 2nd as far as I recall. And a round of combat was never 1 minute, that was a turn of combat, which consisted of 10 rounds.

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Quote Originally Posted by Mordaedil View Post
    Nobody is talking about 1st edition? That combat is seconds long is in all editions of D&D since 2nd as far as I recall. And a round of combat was never 1 minute, that was a turn of combat, which consisted of 10 rounds.
    1e combat rounds were one minute, with six second segments, a turn was ten minutes.

    2nd edition also used 1 minute rounds too, prior to Combat and Tactics, which changed it to 10 seconds (I think).

    (Not that it's particularly relevant to your point that it wasn't specifically about 1e fireballs.)

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Yeah, it's rare for D&D fireballs to be presented with the glowing bead, because it can be hard to follow. I think the closest I've personally seen was in Dragon Age (which is not technically D&D, but close enough), where the fireball spell was a ball of fire that travelled to the target point and exploded into a bigger ball of fire.

    Because the spell description I'm used to would essentially look like this: the wizard finishes his chant with a point and a glowing streak leaps from his outstretched finger which explodes at the point the wizard wishes. The spell resolves within a second or two, you can't notice the bead quickly enough to shout a warning once the casting has finished and to the unware it'll look like the fireball just appeared where the wizard wanted (which would also work).

    Fireballs in fiction, even most D&D fiction I'm aware of, tends to act more like the Orb of Fire spell, a ball that streaks from the user's hand or is thrown and hits the target.
    I prefer science fiction to fantasy, and generally play in the former genre. Due to this, I generally expect the laws of physics to apply to games, and work from that perspective.

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Not sure why the travel to point of explosion whatsit is needed anyway. Couldn't it just be evoked explosive fire at range? I mean, I suppose it makes it clear what happens if there is total cover you can see through (wall of force) between you and the target.

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    Not sure why the travel to point of explosion whatsit is needed anyway. Couldn't it just be evoked explosive fire at range? I mean, I suppose it makes it clear what happens if there is total cover you can see through (wall of force) between you and the target.
    In D&D? As touched on above, because a lot of the spell's backstory comes from versions of the game that tried to have realistic magic physics. Never mind how those words do not go together well at all, or how completely off the mark some of those attempts were.

    In other fiction? Because it looks cooler to have someone throwing a ball of fire than to just have someplace explode. Plus, tying into both points, that "some random point just explodes in a ball of fire" opens the door up to a lot more sneaky tricks.

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    Default Re: Why do fireballs in D&D media most of the time

    Quote Originally Posted by Tinkerer View Post
    The classic fireball would be quite effective at being incredibly creepy though. Just a barely visible little speck flying through the air with no noise or anything, then KABOOSH!
    I agree, it would be a great slow motion element, with maybe one or two of the targets seeing it coming and trying to call out a warning, people throwing themselves behind cover etc, the back to normal time for the explosion. Maybe slightly cliche, but we all know what kind of scene I'm describing.
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