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Sunday, January 19, 2014

How Strict Are You With "Fireball Volume"?

A "fireball blast" not only has a burst radius of 20', but also fills 33k cubic feet (33 10' x 10' x10' cubes - paraphrasing S&W Complete, but it follows AD&D if I recall correctly)

Outside, a fireball is fairly easy to account for, but in a dungeon, the opportunity for substantial blowback is considerable.

I remember an article in the Dragon (issue in the late 60's or early 70's of numbering I think) that dealt with the issue, but damned if I can find it.

How do you handle the area of effect of a fireball? BTB, handwave, guestimate or something else entirely?

(The magic-user in the party is now 4th level - I expect fireball will be one of the spells he will be looking to learn ASAP after hitting 5th ;)

35 comments:

  1. Very, very strict. The whole point of precisely defining the Fireball volume in the rules to begin with is to make sure the PCs think bloody twice about using a howitzer in a broom closet.

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    1. By very, very strict, it means I first say "ummm, the space down here is quite cramped, you know...", and then I count out 33 cubes around the impact point if the players insist on casting. To be fair, players in our group are much much more paranoid about Fireball than the GM is...

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  2. Sounds like a great way to make gameplay grind to a halt and be super punitive. No thanks.

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    1. I agree.

      This is kind of like being punitive about vague wishes. Do it a tad too much and it's an arms race. And there will always be one to out-rules-lawyer yourself when that's the game you want to play.

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  3. Strict. It's easy & quick to count squares while the player is rolling & adding damage.

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  4. I'm all handwavey with it. If it' a really confined area like a cramped hallway then I'll probably have them doing a save to avoid some damage. Otherwise I let them have some fun and blow things away.

    After all it is a MAGIC fireball so why should any rules of physics apply to it. That and we game to have fun and doing a bunch of math or telling the magic user that he can't use the cool stuff isn't that much fun to us.

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    1. I keep telling my players that if they ever try to make magic and physics work in the same area then I'll make small explosive devices and their characters' brains work in the same area too.

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  5. Main reason to use other spell in a dungeon ;)

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  6. Also: Adventurers that don't like the inconvenient self-damage possibility of fireball (and lightning bolt) should instead employ ice storm, once they are high-enough level. (One of ice storm's advantages is its more controlled area of effect.) Or they can research their own spell...

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  7. I tend to be fairly strict. As much fun as fireball can be to cast, just remember, magic or not, fire is fire. Play with it carelessly and you will get burned.

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  8. I'm just a pubic hair shy of 4th level, but you're right in regards to me wanting that as the first third level spell I can cast. :)

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    1. Dispel magic is the first 3rd level spell you should take IMO. It's a hundred times more generally useful than fireball, unless your DM never uses spellcasters or magical traps.

      Just a suggestion.

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    2. General agreement here. Doubly so in 3.x era or later games where fireball does comparatively less damage than in earlier editions (same actual damage, but characters & creatures have a lot more hit points).

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  9. Wands and necklaces of fireballs would be appreciated while i climb my way to fifth level tho... ):

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  10. I'm strict. I count squares from point of impact out, with fire taking the path of least resistance, so yes, my players avoid fireball in cramped dungeons.

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  11. I can't be bothered to use this rule. Fireballs are 20' radius, period.

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  12. Just so we're clear: the volume of a sphere with 20 foot radius is 33500 cubic feet. I keep the blast as a circle with 20 foot radius, but have no spillover if the ceiling isn't 40 feet high. So it's a cylinder with 20 foot radius and 20 feet high.

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  13. Don't forget that the fireball will also use up all the available oxygen in the immediate vicinity.

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  14. Oh FUCK NO.

    In my games:

    1. Magic doesn't consume oxygen because then the game becomes about making non-air-breathing magic users.
    2. 3.x did fireball right, not by volume but by burst effect size. It will never exceed that burst effect, no matter what.
    3. I've read too many DMs bragging about building dungeons specifically designed around the volume of a fireball so it wasn't possible to cast the spell in the dungeon without filling the whole place.
    4. Hell, as it stands, using the volume rules it means that a fireball thrown at the floor-level will always explode much larger than the base rules would imply since half the burst is blocked by the floor.

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    1. Complete agreement on this. So wish there was a +1 button for comments here.

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    2. Yes, I do agree.

      Also, if one wanted rules about oxygen consumption and blowback, then you need to play rulesets like Shadowrun, possibly also Hero or GURPS. SR definitely has blowback rules, and they are a horrible pain to execute just from reading them.

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    3. LOL... If you think the SR grenade rules are a pain, you must not have read the magic and matrix rules. Compared to those their down right easy. And the critical fumble to using a necklace of fireballs my character had, is the only time I've seen a little hand waving to the blast radius (3 Ed). Sadly my character did not survive. Though the cratered hole of a sewer entrance made life interesting for the rest of the party...

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  15. I don't buy the oxygen thing either, way to fiddly. If it can create it's own fire source it can create its own oxygen supply UNLESS the spell was a nasty, specially designed custom spell meant to deplete oxygen.

    Never heard of a dungeon built to nerf fireballs, but that's an interesting idea.

    I guess, as always, it all depends on your interpretation. I had one DM back in the 80s who played fireballs like the big giant ball of fire shown in Firestarter. Anything in its path took damage _before_ the explosion. We had some serious munchkin style fun with that one, especially considering at age 12 we _were_ munchkins. . .

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  16. According to the 1st Edition DMG use of Fireball underwater is prohibited, so it would seem the spell doesn't produce its own oxygen. But what the hell.. just chucking an idea into the mix, its all down to personal choice in the end.

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    1. Or that could be read as it must be cast in a gaseous area, not a liquid or solid. Nothing about oxygen.

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  17. Anything that requires more math than my finger I don't do. I think we use a 30' radius...done.

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  18. I seriously wouldn't have thought about the whole issue. And I guess I still wouldn't. If a player would like to have that conversation I would probably say "It's a game and it's supposed to be magic. You're arguing physics?"

    If somebody told me a real neat effect they could achieve by doing that I'm game. Else it's just rulebook noise to me.

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  19. We found out just how dangerous the 33 cubes rule is when we ran into a Wight on the wandering monsters table and all we had to deal with it was a Wand of Wonder we found a few rooms earlier... WOOSHHHH!!!

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  20. The expanding nuke fireball is ridiculous and exploitable by clever players. Want fireballs to be dangerous indoors give them a hit roll and hope it doesn't slap into something too close to the caster on the way to the target.

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  21. "I'm right!"

    "No, I'm right!"

    "You're an idiot, I'm right!"

    Later, rinse, repeat... (yawn) You'uns bring way too much passion to a simple rules discussion.

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  22. Somewhere in between. I don't play the full blowback rules. I essentially assume the volume lost to lack of height is wasted because the fireball flash is too fast for some Michael Bay style explosion. I do, however, have it fill a minimum ground level footprint of 12 squares. I think chucking a fireball into a very enclosed space should "be a bad idea".

    In general I agree with the sentiment of keeping magic and physics separated so I don't like trying to model a sphere of super-heated plasma.

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  23. I think I was fairly strict as a DM, but I never had players that didn't count squares, and I certainly did. Fireball's ability to squeeze around corners and down hallways was a benefit not a disadvantage. If you're too close to the target, just aim past it, or move back.

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  24. Yeah, prior to 3E we definitely counted squares. But I'll admit, it did lead to arguments. Things like: "I never would have placed it there! While 'I' don't have an 18 intelligence, my character does! He can do Euclidean Geometry in his head while he sleeps..."

    But that was pretty rare. Most of the time we used it wisely, knowing full well that to get caught in the blowback was bad juju.

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