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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Do Your Magic Missiles Automatically Hit, or do You Need to Roll?

I was listening to the Dead Games Society podcast on the drive to work this morning and they were talking about Holmes Basic and Magic Missiles came up as a topic.

In Holmes, the magic user needs to roll to hit with MM, and as all weapons do 1D6, and MM does 1D6 in Holmes if I recall correctly, why would one even bother to memorize the spell? Just throw a dagger with the same chance to hit and damage.

As for the Sleep spell, it's always been the low level nukes, but that's a topic for later.

So, do you prefer your magic users to roll for their Magic Missiles?

23 comments:

  1. I'm a B/X man, so automatically hit "any visible target" for 1d6+1 with an additional 2 missiles per 5 additional levels. Why +1? Because it's magic and magic is way better than throwing a dagger.

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  2. If it's a roll, why bother making it a memorizable spell? Just make it a special ability of wizards: "Magic Missile: can always try to attack with a low-powered missile spell, 1d4 damage if it hits."

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    1. Because no one else does 1d4 damage at range withouut expending a resource.

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    2. Why not just make arrows spell components in that case?

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    3. Lots of spells require a hit roll (Melf's acid arrow, flame arrow, shocking grasp to name three) and lots more grant the target a saving throw (i.e., a roll).

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    4. A memorized spell is a resource.

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    5. I actually do that in my retro-clone, only it does 1d3 damage. So it gives them something to do at low levels.

      Easier than them constantly using darts or daggers as thrown weapons, though that's still an option if they want.

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  3. Hey new podcast to listen to! Thanks, Eric!

    Also, auto hit dealing 1d4 + level damage up to 10th.

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  4. Yeah auto hit, however, we didn't roll damage dice. Each missile did four points of damage + level up to 10th. Still didn't kill anyone with it :)

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  5. In the Holmes. edited basic they are equivalent to magical crossbow bolt so they outclass a thrown dagger in range and the damage is 1d6+1. It requires a hit roll and can hurt creatures that aren't harmed by normal weapons: that's why someone would take the spell.
    Part of me favors a hit roll for many MU attack spells, it would be a major step to shrink the power gap between higher level MU and Fighters.

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    1. ^ This right here. What's great is that it makes Magic Missile useful for certain situations, but not a "must have" spell

      I've been flip-flopping on which method I'll use. The auto-hit just seems more magical to me, though I'd balance it out by making it temporarily enchant arrows rather than making them appear out of thin air. I love the idea of magic altering your environment like that, instead of just making them pop out of nowhere

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  6. We use the standard AD&D version. Auto-hit 1d4+1, gain an extra missile at 3rd, 5th, 7th, etc.

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  7. It most likely requires a 'to hit' in Holmes Basic because that's what Gygax intended for the original spell in OD&D. It was changed to auto-hit for AD&D. See the discussion of the Magic Missile spell in this post:

    http://zenopusarchives.blogspot.com/2013/12/part-10-book-of-first-level-spells.html

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  8. As a GM I've always done auto-hit, 1d6+1 damage, but I don't have a huge preference from that side of the table.

    As a player, I'd hate to have to roll, but since I generally take something other than MM anyway (like sleep or charm person), it becomes kind of a moot point.

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  9. I run the B/X - AD&D mix typical of people who started playing in the early 1980's, so magic missiles hit automatically.

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  10. In my game spell casters use mana points. A magic missile costs 1 mana point to cast and the caster has to roll to hit. If the caster has a wand the mana point is returned to them after casting the missile. On a roll of 1 to hit the spell fumbles and an additional mana point is consumed (which the wand wont recoup).

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  11. Pierce, I like the wand idea. How about the wand giving a bonus to-hit?

    I started playing D&D in the 80's and MM was auto-hit. Also, they can be loosed in adverse conditions (strong winds, underwater, heavy woods) without penalty. It is magic after all!

    I'm not against requiring MM to have a hit-roll. I've played games where it, or similar variants of the spell, are dependent on a hit-roll. I've also played with mana or magic points. Inevitably they end up being similar to memorise and forget spell casting.

    How about a Zap ability for spell casters that requires a hit-roll but doesn't use a spell slot?

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  12. I kind of think it should be two different spells.

    One creates magical missiles out of thin air that require a roll to hit.

    The other turns bolts or arrows into self-propelled missiles that automatically hit.

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    1. The second spell sounds like telekinesis.

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  13. I keep the auto-hit feature, but if I were to require a roll of some kind, it wouldn't be a ranged attack roll, which would needlessly punish magic-users with low dex. I'd make it a concentration check against intelligence, or perhaps use the "know spell" percentage as a threshold to roll under.

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  14. I give them a choice, auto hit MMs do 1d4 and roll to hit 1d6+1. Not a huge fan of auto anything.

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  15. I'm weird here. In my system, it's 4 + Int Bonus + 1/2 level damage + knocked down. The target is allowed a Saving Throw. And the Caster has to roll to activate the spell, but they can keep casting as long as they are making the rolls. I know this isn't exactly Old School.

    http://jdh417.blogspot.com/2012/09/fantasy-core-rpg.html

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  16. AD&D 1e was my first and my goto game for years. It was a d4+1 get an extra missile every 2 levels after the first. I am pretty sure 2nd Ed and 3rd Ed were in step with this. When I saw 4 Ed had a Magic Missile that could miss, I was offended. That just wasn't right. Had forgotten that they worked like that in Holmes. I had the Holmes book, but we didn't play it long before moving to AD&D and we never looked back.

    Jeff

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