Magic missile...

Discussion of all things magical for DCC RPG -- "Let the Phlogiston take you where it will..."

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James Harrison
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Magic missile...

Post by James Harrison » Wed Feb 05, 2014 12:55 pm

Hi,

briefly looking over the spell section (but just briefly), but I've noticed Magic missile seems aoften a better damage dealer than Burning Hands, lightning bolt (which is often single target... and even when not is not great damage, pluss involves a save) and often Fireball (although multiple tagrets trumps)... many things at +CL each is really good, and no save is excellent.

Now I know spell are random, and the others have elemental coolness but It feels odd that Magic misslie could sometimes be better than 3rd level spells. Am I just wrong for some reason (which I hope) :)

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Re: Magic missile...

Post by Doug Kovacs » Wed Feb 05, 2014 1:39 pm

Magic doesn't recognize notions of hierarchy, balance or fairness.

You could have a horrible mercurial effect making it not so good, or one making it much better.

Magic missile just might be better because it has "magic" in it's name. Try not to worry about it. Wizards are brave.
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Re: Magic missile...

Post by Rick » Wed Feb 05, 2014 2:10 pm

Maybe look at them from the bottom up? Least possible successful result w/ 1st level spell MM does 1 hp. Least successful results w/ 3rd level spells Lightning Bolt & Fireball do 3d6 (half that w/ save).

PS What DK said

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Raven_Crowking
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Re: Magic missile...

Post by Raven_Crowking » Wed Feb 05, 2014 3:19 pm

Also because Magic Missile can be completely blocked by Magic Shield.
SoBH pbp:

Cathbad the Meek (herbalist Wizard 1): AC 9; 4 hp; S 7, A 7, St 10, P 17, I 13, L 8; Neutral; Club, herbs, 50' rope, 50 cp; -1 to melee attack rolls. Hideous scar.

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James Harrison
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Re: Magic missile...

Post by James Harrison » Thu Feb 06, 2014 2:39 am

Hum, I'm not sure about the hirearchy; clearly there is a heirarchy in spells - a level three spell should, do more than a level one spell.... the only 'issue' arrises with multiplication and single targets; (1d4+2)*(1d4+CL) can swiftly be a lot... The notion of balance simply comes that later delayed toys should ahve more ooh! :)

The high levels of the table seemingly doing stageringly more to one guy then lightningbolts or fireballs... I want wizards to desire fireball and lightningbolt over magic missile. I get the entire mercurial amgic thing, but I dont want the desire to get lightning bolt to be "mecurial magic messed up magic missile" :P

As for shield i did notice that - but if half the enimies fail there save and 1/4 of enemies have the shild spell up things would be equal... but 1/4 of enimies dont have the shild spell...

I think I might "fix" it by saying the + caster level only applies to each opponent once. It's still awesome, at the highest level kicking out an average of 8d10+CL to one target, or 1d10+CL to 8 targets... It wont outshine fireball for multiple targets, or outshine lightning bolt for frying that one guy :) And it would still be scary!

Anyway thanks for the responces, sleeping and them helped me work out what I would do; I'll not worry (and try my fix).

God bless,
james

~PS Being a mathsy person I find it hard not to compair numbers in my head, and couldent help but notice the awesome power for multiplication tunrning one spell 'on' far above the spells of it's friends. :-D

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Re: Magic missile...

Post by cjoepar » Thu Feb 06, 2014 4:23 am

Consider this as well, before you change things around: In previous editions of D&D, you got a finite number of spell slots that were gone for the day when you cast the spell. So as a wizard character, I might have memorized a fireball and two magic missiles as part of my repertoire for the day. It was natural for higher level spells to be clearly better because I was probably going to need to use the lower level spells at some point in an adventuring day anyway. I only had one Fireball to cast, so I was going to save it for when I really needed it! If you reduce the power of lower level spells in DCC, you almost remove the need to use them. They are a little easier to cast, but otherwise they have no reason to be cast when I can just nuke everything with a higher level spell that will do more damage over a greater area, because I won't lose that spell when I cast it. Both spells are lost from memory with a check result of <11, and honestly, if I'm a 5th level wizard I'm fighting things where the Magic Missile results of 12-17 are practically negligible anyway.

There are also specific times when Fireball is significantly more powerful than Magic Missile, with the same check result. Consider a situation where the party is confronted by 12 giants coming down a dungeon passage. If I'm a 5th level wizard, a check result of 20 on the Magic Missile spell can result in a maximum of 66 points damage. If the 12 giants are all within a 40' diameter area, the Fireball spell can do a maximum of 288 points damage! Sure, this is a contrived example, but it's not an unlikely situation to find yourself in as an adventurer, be it giants or wraiths or evil knights that you are up against. If it's one giant, then yes, MM is probably a far better option, but since my spell list is fairly limited I would be expected to be careful to pick and choose the best spell for each situation.

Believe us, DCC is all about "customizing" the rules to fit your own style and perspective of how things should be and I'm not trying to say you shouldn't do so wherever you see the need. I'm just throwing out a few more things to consider when you make that decision in this case.

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Re: Magic missile...

Post by Doug Kovacs » Thu Feb 06, 2014 9:16 am

James Harrison wrote: Hum, I'm not sure about the hirearchy; clearly there is a heirarchy in spells
I know this tread is about wizard spells specifically , but remember magic ,outside of the PC' classes, is different. So the level thing is really only a very small part of what magic is overall. I think this power imbalance might seem important because that is where the numbers are but the magic is in the atmosphere of the game too. In my opinion, it is crucial to remember this for an interesting and fun game.

I like to think the hierarchy of levels is only the way a wizard engages with magic, not magic itself. Magic ,as a whole, is unconcerned with human understandings. Magic is largely unknowable. Wizards engage with magic out of a desire for power and therefore the idea of levels is an expression of that approach. It is the sandcastle( or maybe the molds used to form it) but not the sand. Levels are a sort of way for wizards to trick themselves into thinking they have some kind of control over the abyss of ecstasy and horror that is magic itself.

When you look into the phlogiston and start to truly understand the awe and terror that is magic, then questions come: "why should 1 be less than 2 ? what is less anyway? Do I shape magic or does magic shape me…" and so on.

If you have an untamable math mind , that is fine. I hope you can play and have fun with the game. I'm curious how your games could contrast with my looser, "art" based games and still be fun. As a player I don't particularly want to spend my time comparing my character to what it could be or what other peoples characters are or have , unless it is part of the story. I could role play a wizard that is overly concerned whether his fireball is as good at as his magic missile…. but I couldn't really care much about that myself. I want to play the game. "What do I see? " "Cool, this is what I do" . As a DM , most of the time when I observe , 'this is "better than that' or 'this is different than that' I also just think 'that is interesting' and move along. Imbalance is everywhere and what makes a game fun. It doesn't bother me much at all. I'd rather prepare for a lush experience, than fix existing rules.

It should go without saying , though I'll go ahead and say it ,"play the game as you like" after all that is part of the genesis of DCC.
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Re: Magic missile...

Post by James Harrison » Thu Feb 06, 2014 5:09 pm

Thanks for the thing to mull over guys. :)

I think cjoepar makes some good points; Fireball clearly seems the better spell against multiple targets. And that's good. I still struggle with magic missile outshining lightning bolt. Our 5th level caster is doing between 18 and 66 damage to one target (average 38 1/4 damage) with magic missile (oh his 20 result); our lightningh bolt is doing between 4 and 24 damage to a single target (with no multiple target potions), average 14... assuming the saves were failed (if we assume monster pass there save 1/2 the time we have 10.5 average damage). <and the comparisum is unfavorable at low and higher rolls)... And even our multi target fireball still has to be hitting 4 targets to be beating (on average) the damage from magic missile (and then by 2 points).

Thus the fix; it dosn't nerf magic missile much but it does stop it overshadowing spells that should thematically be atleast as powerfull (baring DK's "magic" in the name amkes it super charged... I dread to think what a Quantum bolt would do :P)... Anyway that was the mathsy bit. I dont want to go to much into the maths cause it's a bit dull to read about eh? (ooh this number is bigger). But I do want to continue my thoughts (I'm enjoying having them) and I loved Dougs post also :)

I like your descriptions of magic, very evocotave. And I really do like magic being mysterous in games. It is a real challange to do that in a roleplaying game with "crunch" and I am very impressed hoiw DCC has brought that mystery back to magic. It makes runing and playing with magic fun again. A conversation I had with my friend Jacob about playing mysterous characters revolved around how if you want a character to be mysterious he needs something that is a mystery to him. It's cool to play the mysterous mage, but in pathfinder you have to come up with a reason why you are mysterous. In DCC you magic is mysterous, you will gain corruptions that you must hide, your magic is unpradictable and crapricious, you deal with otherworldly beings, your spell vairies in effect and look from his spell; you cant help but be evocotive and mysterous. It is awesome!

As for the hierachy of spells: I like your descriptions of magic; far etter than i could produce without some serous thought. But mechanically I have a deep issue with a level 1 spell flat out trumping a level 3 spell: I dont mind niche spells... but when there are two spells that deal damage to things having MM>Lightning bolt is an issue for me. Because I want LB to be cool and it to be awesome for a mage to weild it. I want a mage who's survived to 5th level, is intelegent enough and who has seen LB's called from the eather to harness that power and use it! But mechanically if MM is better, less likly to fail, has significanly less harsh corruption - well MM is gonna be used more than LB - great new depths of untold power have not really been uncovered. OK they might for thematic reasons; just as the fighter who has found the fabled scythe of jal-nar the crippled may use it for thematic reasons sometimes - but if it is a +1 weapon that does d4 damage they will normally use their +1 magic longsword.
If you have an untamable math mind , that is fine. I hope you can play and have fun with the game. I'm curious how your games could contrast with my looser, "art" based games and still be fun. As a player I don't particularly want to spend my time comparing my character to what it could be or what other peoples characters are or have , unless it is part of the story. I could role play a wizard that is overly concerned whether his fireball is as good at as his magic missile…. but I couldn't really care much about that myself. I want to play the game. "What do I see? " "Cool, this is what I do" . As a DM , most of the time when I observe , 'this is "better than that' or 'this is different than that' I also just think 'that is interesting' and move along. Imbalance is everywhere and what makes a game fun. It doesn't bother me much at all. I'd rather prepare for a lush experience, than fix existing rules.
This is a really good question :) I do have an untamable maths mind! I brought it up to indicate why this jumped out at me - I'm not pro-activly compariring the spells, but having read magic missile more than the other spells (in the designers journal threads recently) and then looking up LB & fireball to see what cool things do they did now I have the book the liniarity vs square nature of the spells jumped out at me. I think it will only happen with the damage spells anyway - which are few and far. The 'do things' spells are cool and awesome, and need no such thought. :)

But I will play and have fun with tha game. What has really drawn me to DCC is that it aims to simulates Sword and sorcery, which I love. So when running it I will be wanting to emulate Ffhard and the Grey mouse style adventures. I want evocotive and awesome. I do not want a wargame or a number crunching game - and I enjoy the imbalance in the game. I agree that compairing character or thinking what I could be is not what I want to do. I have done that before - it's not fun. I've learnt It's not about the numbers, it's about the awesome (as it was orrigionally when I started as a kid). I love the randomness in the characters and the Character gen - it's how I want ot be running and playing. I dont mind if he has 18 int and i have 12... he's destined to be an archmage I'm not (unless I swindle and bargine my what there)... I dont want to discuss if a dwarf is better than a warrior :) But I would like it that when i choose the spell that is thematically appropriate for the job at hand my choice is mechanically backed up.

Hum, I would like to be as chilled as you. I am really looking forward to playing, and as I read more of the book I will discover what I think about the imbalances. My thoughts are I wont mind them. I think your lush experince is right; I want that from my game. (PS right now I've just come accorss your pic at the start of judges rules, it's awesome! I love the cosmoss starry wizard).

I think if you sat at a table when I ran you have a blast, and If I played a game next to you it would be awesome - My mathsyness is outside the game table itself. I'll try and illustrate this a bit: the last campaign I was in (lasting 1.5 years, before I upped for 6 months in Uganda) was called Sea of worms. The setting was fantastic; my friend jacob's world where the surface of the world is covered in small green photosynthasising everything-eating maggots called the Grack. Civilisation existed on platforms ala waterworld, or in the great tops of the great forests, deep underground or a gret twin floating island of the 'elves of the second shame'. The gods were born of the deams of men and sorcerss, and rose as giant unmoving heads and torsos out of the grack. Proximity to them meant madness, priests going madder much swifter and further away than most, and the great "paddle steamers" (with poles like gondalsa on the padals) that pulled there way from platform to platform had to set corses to avoid the gods...

Anyway as you can see the setting was awesome. We used Pathfinder for the game; and boy is that a crunchy game - but the sessions and the dangers and combats our actions were dictated by who our character was and what we wanted to do. I had a hal-elf paladin, an outcast from elves and men; he almost started a war, stole a ship to delve into undground evils, held in his mind the name of a nacent god of destruction, discovered the evil inherent in his elven ancestory. Mechanically I made him to excell at one thing (self healing with lay on hands) - here was my mathsyness - but in combats I didn't look for optimal solutions but charged through ranks of iron (so very rare!) wielding, devil worshiping dwarves to site there evil priest (and thus being pathfinder, took an inordinate number of AoO), or jumped of the top of an undergound staiway to reach the cultist leader swifter, or charging headling into the pirates that were crashing into the platform we had liberated, slaying the wormtoung who had betrayed a platform to death and destruction once he had surrended so that he could not do it again... It was fun and epic. And of course my actions were somewhat directed by my mechanical choices (self healing therefore I can take a lot of damage, this probably wont kill me) but chosen for coolness, backed up by mechanics (much like a DCC warrior may do all those things, but a fragile elf may be more cautious...or might not be in the right circumstance).

I really love the randomness of DCC characters, and like that your character is so greatly defined by the personality you give him and his actions, not the numbers. I want to live the sword and sorcery dream, survive the dungeon and escape with the loot! I don't mind being clever about it but I'm not hung up on a tatical board game... and I'm behind the theme all the way; I just dont mind tweeking bits to back it up. :D

Ok so this was a mamoth post! The fire has burnt out and it is cold here, so I'm off to bed! I hope it was enlighting somehow :)

God bless,
james

PS I am dyspraxic... err have terriable spelling; and using my mother-in-law's laptop... it dos not seem to have an auto spellchecker underlinging my words in red - so I apologise for the deadfullness that must be in this post for the literately unchallanged amoung you! I normally try and correct all the squiggly red bits! Also forgive any random bits that do not follow, it is to late (1am) for me to proofread such a thing.

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Re: Magic missile...

Post by Doug Kovacs » Thu Feb 06, 2014 7:58 pm

Again, I'm glad you enjoy the game and didn't get indigestion from my take on magic.

Thanks for the complements on the art.
One thing we have in common is that I am also a terrible speller. So, if there are any misspellings in your post they certainly didn't stop me from reading it.
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Re: Magic missile...

Post by Maxwell Luther » Fri Feb 07, 2014 8:34 am

One mustn't forget the open ended nature of Judgement in the game, as well. You say Lightning does less damage than Magic Missile, and this may be true, but do not forget the intangible assets of such a spell when interacting with the world itself.

In OD&D, as it should be with all RPGs, a clever wizard would utilize spells in ways and a god DM would allow them room to improvise. So a Lightning Bolt may not be an area effect spell normally, but what if there are a horde of orcs crossing a stream to get to your party? Of maybe a the enemy is hiding from sight on the other end of a metal door? Or maybe you need to power some sort of arcane machinery with electricity to get it going again? Or to short it out? Magic Missile means nothing in these instances, but a Lightning Bolt spell, by its elemental nature, is very useful indeed.

So get beyond the basic info. Look at the nature of the spell. Be creative and you'll find a balance that goes beyond the numbers...

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Re: Magic missile...

Post by cthulhudarren » Fri Feb 07, 2014 9:16 am

Or you could increase the damage for your version of lightning bolt. I wouldn't have a problem with that. I haven't read it in a long time, does it not effect everything in a line?

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Re: Magic missile...

Post by Rick » Fri Feb 07, 2014 1:54 pm

Maxwell Luther wrote:and a god DM...
:) Best "typo" I've seen this year so far

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Re: Magic missile...

Post by jozxyqk » Fri Feb 07, 2014 4:57 pm

Maxwell Luther wrote:One mustn't forget the open ended nature of Judgement in the game, as well. You say Lightning does less damage than Magic Missile, and this may be true, but do not forget the intangible assets of such a spell when interacting with the world itself.

In OD&D, as it should be with all RPGs, a clever wizard would utilize spells in ways and a god DM would allow them room to improvise. So a Lightning Bolt may not be an area effect spell normally, but what if there are a horde of orcs crossing a stream to get to your party? Of maybe a the enemy is hiding from sight on the other end of a metal door? Or maybe you need to power some sort of arcane machinery with electricity to get it going again? Or to short it out? Magic Missile means nothing in these instances, but a Lightning Bolt spell, by its elemental nature, is very useful indeed.

So get beyond the basic info. Look at the nature of the spell. Be creative and you'll find a balance that goes beyond the numbers...
But is there any reason a person cannot be just as creative with magic missile? One of the manifestations of magic missile is ball lightning. So for some casters, the spells would appear to be functionally identical, except that magic missile nearly always does much more damage. Other manifestations include rays of frost and "a screaming clawing eagle" (!). Lots of creativity options there.

The question is "why is lightning bolt third level and mm first"? The above doesn't really provide an answer.

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Re: Magic missile...

Post by James Harrison » Sat Feb 08, 2014 4:00 am

While I've loved DK's "when wizards coming to realise that 2 necessaraly isn't bigger than 1" from a rolplaying perspective, from a game perspective the game states "Higher-level spells are more powerful but harder to cast - and there are more concequences for failure" (Wizard, p48). Lightning bolt sttests to the second two clauses, but is not more powerful as we have seen (about 1/4 of magic missiles power)

I like the "inventive uses" idea, but yes, why shouldent magic missile be used imaginativly. I want a wizard who can cast lightning bolt to be terrifying! Mosts wizards won't live that long, and if they do and manage to get Lightning bolt (Or Fireball), and get a reasonable mecruial magic effect on it... well then I would like them to be awesome with the spell [as all the other spells seem to be]. I think the using the spell imaginativly just doen't cut it being one of my 9 spells; If I have magic missile (a great damage spell) I'm probably not wanting a higher level flop - I could use it creativly... but I could have deamon summoning, Eldritch hound, Haste or Fly! Lightning bolt needs something to make it awesome for me, cause if I just want the visuals of a lightning wizard I'm sure I could just ask the DM for my Magic Missile to be me shooting lighting bolts :)

So my quick and dirty fix was that Magic Missile could only do +CL damage to any given target once per casting. I think additionally adding +CL damage to Lightning bolts and Fireballs would help. This is simple, and helps a bit. However I think it might be fun to sit down and properly work out the number, give the spells good similar averages, and add some additional effects to Lightning bolt and Fire ball (Setting things on fire, blasting people of there feet etc...) to make them more Awesome; less "another flavor of damaging spell" and more a cool spell that dos more than simple damage. But If I don't sit down and look at that the simple fix will help :)

Again I'm really enjoying the descussion, and it helps a lot to formulate my thoughts, weather I agree or not - thanks guys! Youe awesome,

God bless,
james

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Re: Magic missile...

Post by Skyscraper » Tue Feb 18, 2014 12:36 pm

While I'm all for the magic is unpredictable stuff above, I'm with you James on the question of Lightning bolt vs magic missile. The game proposes spell levels, and wizards progress in power in part to gain access to such more powerful spell levels. What you've identified IMO is apparently just a freak occurence, an error, resulting from the ton of work that designing and balancing spells requires. I would certainly think about fixing it. Thanks for bringing this up.

And kuddos on being so diplomatic in your replies :) I love the game, and I love the crowd here, but this just appears like a balancing error to me; and the unilateral responses that all apparently refuse to acknowledge this possibility, to instead go into esoteric acrobatics to explain something apparently simple like why a level 1 spell is more powerful than a level 3 spell, appears like good ol' fans arguing in favor of the game they like. No offense to all of you fine people, I love you all! Really! :) :D And I do this all the time myself.

This said, most people here have way more experience with this game than I do, so take my analysis with that in mind. I'm not refusing the esoteric-magic option, at all. It just seems to me like it's more probably an error, is all.

Peace,

Sky
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