5E What's up with Vicious Mockery?
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  1. #1

    What's up with Vicious Mockery?

    For the life of me, I cannot figure out why both of the Bard guides rate Vicious Mockery as gold and partly blue.

    http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthr...ore-Bard-Guide
    http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthr...e-A-Bard-Guide

    You're giving up your action for the round in order to give your opponent disadvantage on their next attack. Oh, and you do a pittance of damage.

    How is this any better than True Strike? You give up your action (and, thus, your guaranteed ability to do something useful) in order to give your opponent a _possibility_ of failing to do something useful (and only under specific circumstances (i.e. he doesn't have multiple attacks and isn't a caster)). The only scenario I can see where this would be useful is if you have a large adventuring party all attacking one opponent who gets only one attack per round and isn't a caster.

    Don't misunderstand. I fully grasp the roleplaying fun of this spell. But, mechanically? It seems like a loss. I don't believe that roleplaying should ever have to make up for mechanics.

    I could easily grasp VM's potential if it gave the opponent disadvantage in their attacks (one attack at levels 1-4, two attacks at levels 5-10, three attacks at levels 11-16, and four attacks at levels 17+) as long as those attacks are in the round following the casting of Vicious Mockery.

    I've seen comment by some players that Vicious Mockery, as written, is good enough. I'm just not grokking the rationale to make that claim.
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  2. #2
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    Against a horde, it's not much use. You're better off using higher level CC spells to shut as many down as possible.

    Against a creature with only one or two hard-hitting attacks, it's relative value is much higher. Making them miss even one attack is preventing 20-40 points of damage.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Augoeides View Post
    You give up your action (and, thus, your guaranteed ability to do something useful).
    This is not true. You are not guaranteed of anything. That's why we roll dice.

    Like most of everything else, it's situational. There may be times where that spell is the best option available to you.
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Augoeides View Post
    I could easily grasp VM's potential if it gave the opponent disadvantage in their attacks (one attack at levels 1-4, two attacks at levels 5-10, three attacks at levels 11-16, and four attacks at levels 17+) as long as those attacks are in the round following the casting of Vicious Mockery.
    Because most people aren't playing at high levels.

    Vicious Mockery is one of the best attack cantrips from levels 1-4. Maybe the best. Compare it to Firebolt or Eldritch Blast.

    I will give up 3 damage to give my opponent disadvantage to an attack.

    It drops off after 5th level as it doesn't scale well. Still, from 5-10 which is the majority of the game for most people, it is still good circumstantially. I would still rather do 6 less damage to give a big brute disadvantage on one of their attacks.

    Think about when you want to use cantrips. You use them to conserve resources. A wizard using Firebolt will not be contributing much to the party's damage. With Vicious Mockery you can at least conserve the party's HP.
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  5. #5
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    It's damage and disadvantage, in one action. Which would be rather nice by itself, but have you seen the rest of the Bard cantrip selection? It's only real competition for your Bardic "Combat Cantrip" pick is Thunderclap, which is risky to use for numerous reasons.
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  6. #6
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    Let's make an actual comparison.

    Here is a standard party's damage output at 5th level when not expending resources. This will err on the low side.

    Fighter Longsword/Shield Dueling - 21 dmg
    Rogue Rapier - 19 dmg
    Cleric Sacred Flame - 9 dmg

    Total damage: 49

    Bard Vicious Mockery - 5 dmg
    or
    Wizard Firebolt - 11 dmg

    = 54 dmg or 60 dmg

    Vicious Mockery represents a 10% loss in damage per round in this scenario.

    Let's compare with a couple monsters (note that the calculations are different in order to incorporate the to hit difference of disadvantage):

    Hill Giant CR 5 - 2 attacks 18 dmg each +8 to hit - against AC 18 will hit 55% and w/disadvantage 30%. So from 20 to 15 dmg/round. That is a 25% loss in dpr.

    Troll CR 5 - 3 attacks 7, 11, 11 +7 to hit. 50/25% to hit. 14.5/12.75 or a 12% loss in dpr.

    So even against a Troll it still comes out ahead of Firebolt.

    I think the only cantrips that can compete with Vicious Mockery are Booming Blade/Green Flame Blade and an enhanced Eldritch Blast.

    It should also be said that most cantrips scale poorly at high level. Eventually you will want to use low level AoE/Save or Suck spells to take out low threat hordes/brutes.
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  7. #7
    @ad_hoc It's not that I necessarily think you're wrong, but you skip over consideration of the attack role and saving throw of fire bolt and vicious mockery respectively. Back of the envelope, it looks to me like you're 10% more likely to hit the hill giant with a spell attack than you are to land vicious mockery. Assuming a +4 Cha/Int mod, that's a 75% chance to hit vs. a 65% chance to mock viciously. The attack also has the chance to crit. Thus, average damage when casting fire bolt against the hill giant is 11*0.7+2*11*0.05=8.8. The average damage of vicious mockery is 5*0.65=3.25.

    When the giant attacks, its first attack has a 65% chance to have disadvantage. 18*(0.3025*0.65+0.55*0.35)=~7.00 damage. You've reduced its damage per round from 19.8 to 16.9, a loss of 14.6%.

    Relative to casting fire bolt, the player has reduced his or her damage by 63% to reduce the giant's by 14.6%.

    I've only just roughed this out in the last few minutes, and it's absent of context, and it's only one example, etc. I don't think it's at all conclusive, but I do continue to question the value of vicious mockery. Granted, it is just about the only offensive cantrip available to bards, but then they also have proficiency in short bows.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cognomen's Cassowary View Post
    @ad_hoc It's not that I necessarily think you're wrong, but you skip over consideration of the attack role and saving throw of fire bolt and vicious mockery respectively. Back of the envelope, it looks to me like you're 10% more likely to hit the hill giant with a spell attack than you are to land vicious mockery. Assuming a +4 Cha/Int mod, that's a 75% chance to hit vs. a 65% chance to mock viciously. The attack also has the chance to crit. Thus, average damage when casting fire bolt against the hill giant is 11*0.7+2*11*0.05=8.8. The average damage of vicious mockery is 5*0.65=3.25.

    When the giant attacks, its first attack has a 65% chance to have disadvantage. 18*(0.3025*0.65+0.55*0.35)=~7.00 damage. You've reduced its damage per round from 19.8 to 16.9, a loss of 14.6%.

    Relative to casting fire bolt, the player has reduced his or her damage by 63% to reduce the giant's by 14.6%.

    I've only just roughed this out in the last few minutes, and it's absent of context, and it's only one example, etc. I don't think it's at all conclusive, but I do continue to question the value of vicious mockery. Granted, it is just about the only offensive cantrip available to bards, but then they also have proficiency in short bows.
    Sure, we can analyze the MM and get into attacks vs the different saves too.

    I was trying to simply an already long and confusing post by directly responding to the OP's complaints.

    The premise of the OP as I take it is that it is better to deal a few more damage than it is to invoke disadvantage on an enemy for one of their attacks.

    I think where the OP goes wrong is not taking into consideration the rest of the party and how the damage difference must be taken as a % of that total rather than just the 1 character's.

    Something else to consider is the loss of damage that occurs if a party member were to go down. While I don't take into consideration the chance for a firebolt to crit, as far as I can see you do the opposite for the Hill Giant. Disadvantage greatly decreases the chance of a crit.

    Also, I actually count it as being the same.

    +7 to hit vs AC 13 = 6+ = 75% success
    15 DC vs -1 Wis Save = 16+ = 25% = 75% success

    It is safe to say that Vicious Mockery is at least on par with Firebolt overall. Whether it is better is certainly up for debate.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cognomen's Cassowary View Post
    @ad_hoc It's not that I necessarily think you're wrong, but you skip over consideration of the attack role and saving throw of fire bolt and vicious mockery respectively. Back of the envelope, it looks to me like you're 10% more likely to hit the hill giant with a spell attack than you are to land vicious mockery. Assuming a +4 Cha/Int mod, that's a 75% chance to hit vs. a 65% chance to mock viciously. The attack also has the chance to crit. Thus, average damage when casting fire bolt against the hill giant is 11*0.7+2*11*0.05=8.8. The average damage of vicious mockery is 5*0.65=3.25.

    When the giant attacks, its first attack has a 65% chance to have disadvantage. 18*(0.3025*0.65+0.55*0.35)=~7.00 damage. You've reduced its damage per round from 19.8 to 16.9, a loss of 14.6%.

    Relative to casting fire bolt, the player has reduced his or her damage by 63% to reduce the giant's by 14.6%.

    I've only just roughed this out in the last few minutes, and it's absent of context, and it's only one example, etc. I don't think it's at all conclusive, but I do continue to question the value of vicious mockery. Granted, it is just about the only offensive cantrip available to bards, but then they also have proficiency in short bows.
    I think you're doing something wrong in your math. A hill giant has a -1 on Wisdom saves and an AC of 13. To hit it with a firebolt (which will have a +7 to hit) requires a 6 or higher, or 75% chance like you say. That same +7 translates to a DC 15 save. with a -1 to saves, you need a 16 or better to make the save, which, again, translates to a 75% chance of failing the save and taking its effects.

    EDIT: Ninja'd by ad_hoc

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by ad_hoc View Post
    While I don't take into consideration the chance for a firebolt to crit, as far as I can see you do the opposite for the Hill Giant. Disadvantage greatly decreases the chance of a crit.
    Quite right.

    Also, I actually count it as being the same.

    +7 to hit vs AC 13 = 6+ = 75% success
    15 DC vs -1 Wis Save = 16+ = 25% = 75% success
    Yup, right again. I must have gone the wrong way with the -1.
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