As a DM, do you let PCs precisely "place" areas of effect for spells?

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  1. #1

    As a DM, do you let PCs precisely "place" areas of effect for spells?

    Do you allow PC casters to position their spell effects exactly where they want them?

    (For example, pick exactly where on the battlemat the center of the fireball will be -- so that it misses all of the party members while hitting baddies.)


  • #2
    In all but extreme situations... yes.

    The one exception I make to this is the fireball "pellet".
    You have to have a clear shot between where you are and
    where you want the "pellet" to explode. If it hits something
    between you and there, then it'll blow up early. So
    if you're going to shoot past two combatants in melee, you'd better be sure you miss them... or you just might fry yourself.

    As for the size of the fireball, I've been able to place fireballs pretty precisely (enough to hit only enemies but not party, when they are in melee) in computer role playing games (BG, IWD, etc)with a little bit of practice. I don't see why "real" wizards wouldn't be able to pick up the nack for knowing how big their spells are going to be even better.

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  • #4
    Yep. I once doubted if the should be able to do it, but then someone argued that if a Wizard can place a spell exactely, then a fighter shouldn't be able to charge exactely too:

    DM: The goblins are about 60' away.
    Fighter: I charge them.
    DM: They were actually 65' away, so you just don't reach them. On their action they take a 5' step and attack you.

    That kinda changed my mind.

    Of course, when there are in a dense forrest or someplace with a lot of objects blocking the path, it gets a lot tougher...
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    Absoutely. It might not be entirely "realistic" (and I use the term loosely,) but D&D is an abstract game. Also, I can't be bothered to come up with a house-ruled system for margin-of-error. Why add unnecessary die rolls to a game already replete with die rolling?

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    Yes. If I wanted to be a jerk about it, I'd have the players bring a template for area effect spells and give them three seconds to place the template where the fireball would be (six seconds if they want to take a full round action. But I don't want to be that way.

    As I see it, if I force PCs to target imprecisely (and doing that would be somewhat difficult--would I place roll a d8 and say "7-8 you overshoot the target by 2d6 feet, 3-6 on target, 1-2 it's short 2d6 feet", would they make an int check, if I went with the int check, would avoiding two friends who are ten feet apart be harder or easier than avoiding two friends who are next to each other, etc, etc) I would have to either invent new mechanics to simulate imprecision (thus changing the balance of the current rules which do not seem to be balanced on the assumption that wizards will regularly miss with their fireballs) or create imprecision by making arbitrary, ad hoc rulings "Mialee, I don't care if you did it yesterday without hitting Redgar, today either Redgar or Lidda is in the fireball's area of effect--roll a d6... high. Sucks to be you Redgar, roll a reflex save DC 16." Arbitrary, ad hoc rulings would have all the balance difficulties of the new rules but wouldn't have the advantage of automatically having the perception of PC/NPC fairness and balance.

    If I have a problem with wizards calculating the ground level area of a fireball cast to airburst at 15 feet (airbursting area spells is a wonderful way to avoid hitting your friends), I'll simply tell the wizard to pick a target within a set time limit and then do the calculations for what it effects myself.

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    Re: As a DM, do you let PCs precisely "place" areas of effect for spells?

    Originally posted by haiiro
    Do you allow PC casters to position their spell effects exactly where they want them?
    Yup. Never been a problem either.
    No, I am not Sean K. Reynolds.

  • #8
    Absolutely. My thinking is that spells that require targeting already have a built in mechanic - the ranged touch attack. A wonderful little rule that, IMO, is sorely underused. It gives a nice little 'balancer' to some of the more powerful ray spells. I haven't expanded the list of ranged touch attack spell beyond what is listed in the PHB but I have been tempted to. I'm just concerned that i might go over board and make too many spells require a RTA.

    That being said I will always allow players to place their area of effect spells where they want. I have always used minis in my games (at least as much as possible) and this works very well.
    "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel." - Samuel Johnson 18th century English author.

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  • #9
    It depends on the circumstances. Normally, exact placement isn't an issue and I'll let it slide. On the other hand, if it does matter, such as long range or precision fire, then it's ranged touch attack with grenade-like weapon scatter on a miss.
    -This is all IMHO, of course

    Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
    And then is heard no more. It is a tale
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    Signifying nothing.

    -William Shakespeare, MacBeth

  • #10
    I make them roll a ranged touch attack for the square they want it to go in (effective AC=10 for this roll; the range increment for this attack is 25 for Close Range spells, 50 for Medium range spells, 100 for Long Range spells -- Unlimited Range spells I do not worry about in this way.). If they miss, then I use the grenadelike weapons scatter rules (PHB, page 138).

    Charging I had not thought about as an equivalent... but you are right. I may have to think about this one a while.
    K. David Ladage
    Lord of Umbragia -- The Arcanum: 30th Anniversary Edition

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