Damaging Spells That Need to be Fixed

Some of the damaging spells are really out of balance and need to be changed. This is just from comparing the spells to each other. I know martial damage is ridiculous right now and exceeds even these overpowered spells, but they've already said that's going to change.

Chain Lightning specically allows the same target to be hit twice, doubling the spell's damage from 10d6 to 20d6. That's even more damage than disintegrate, also a 6th level spell, and chain lightning hits up to 4 targets, while disintegrate hits only one. IMO, they should have Chain Lightning hit more targets, like it used to, but make it so it can only hit each target once per casting. They also need to allow the spell to increase in damage with higher level spell slots, like most damaging spells do.

Cloudkill deals the same damage as Cone of Cold, but CoC is instantaneous and Cloudkill keeps doing its damage round after round. Both are 5th level spells.

Disintegrate, like Chain Lightning, needs to increase in damage if used in a higher level spell slot.

Magic Missile is the worst offender of them all. It does the most single target damage of any spell in the game, plus it autohits. Disintegrate, a 6th level spell, deals 16d6 damage, more than any other spell except for double-hitting chain lightning (which needs to be fixed) and magic missile. (16d6, avg. 56 damage for disintegrate vs. 12d4 +24, avg. 67 for a 6th level magic missile) And unlike both disintegrate and chain lightning, magic missile doesn't offer a saving throw!

1st and 2nd level spells end up being outdamaged by cantrips at higher levels. This is quite odd. Spells like grease and charm person are just as useful at 20th level as they are at 1st, so why should damaging 1st and 2nd level spells become obsolete? I'm not against cantrips scaling, but this is just bizarre.
Some of the damaging spells are really out of balance and need to be changed. This is just from comparing the spells to each other. I know martial damage is ridiculous right now and exceeds even these overpowered spells, but they've already said that's going to change.

Chain Lightning specically allows the same target to be hit twice, doubling the spell's damage from 10d6 to 20d6. That's even more damage than disintegrate, also a 6th level spell, and chain lightning hits up to 4 targets, while disintegrate hits only one. IMO, they should have Chain Lightning hit more targets, like it used to, but make it so it can only hit each target once per casting. They also need to allow the spell to increase in damage with higher level spell slots, like most damaging spells do.

Cloudkill deals the same damage as Cone of Cold, but CoC is instantaneous and Cloudkill keeps doing its damage round after round. Both are 5th level spells.

Disintegrate, like Chain Lightning, needs to increase in damage if used in a higher level spell slot.

Magic Missile is the worst offender of them all. It does the most single target damage of any spell in the game, plus it autohits. Disintegrate, a 6th level spell, deals 16d6 damage, more than any other spell except for double-hitting chain lightning (which needs to be fixed) and magic missile. (16d6, avg. 56 damage for disintegrate vs. 12d4 +24, avg. 67 for a 6th level magic missile) And unlike both disintegrate and chain lightning, magic missile doesn't offer a saving throw!

1st and 2nd level spells end up being outdamaged by cantrips at higher levels. This is quite odd. Spells like grease and charm person are just as useful at 20th level as they are at 1st, so why should damaging 1st and 2nd level spells become obsolete? I'm not against cantrips scaling, but this is just bizarre.





My own opinion:


First - Disintegrate versus Chain Lighting.  The first question is which is 'right' for that level and which is off.  Disintegrate is a single target attack - so what damage does MM do at that level:  12 missiles for an average of 54 points, autohit.  Disintegrate does 56 points on a failed save (and nothing on a successful save).    Monsters fail around 2/3 of the time (probably more often than that, actually) - so the MM is more effective at pure damage.  But the disintigrate does so much more.  But I'll assume your analysis is correct and Chain Lighting is (aside from the double hit) the correct value and disintigrate is too low. Even so, I don't mind the lower damage on Disintegrate.  I look at is as:  If you want a pure damage spell, you cast a pure damage spell.    Maybe Chain Lighting.   More likely Magic Missile (If you only have one target). Disintegrate has other uses which chain lighting does not.  So you take disintegreate so you can disintegrate things. It also does some decent damage - especially to things with fewer than 60 hit points.  But its point is not to be a pure damage spell, so I don't mind it not measuring up in the pure damage category.   I'd prefer that it not be changed - and if a character wants more damage, you just don't take that spell.


Second - Cloudkill versus Cone of Cold.  Cone of Cold does virtually the same damage as fireball or Ice Storm when cast as a level 5 spell - so its damage is right in line with where it should be.  So the question is Cloudkill.  It's initial damage is exactly what you would expect for a damage spell - but it also has a utility use:  It is a battlefield control spell.  As such - I agree with you completely (for many of the same reasons I gave under Disintegrate).  If you want pure damage - you take a pure damage spell.  You take cloudkill because you want its other effects.  And as such - I would expect it to do useful, but reduced, damage.  I think it should be dropped by about one die in damage.  (Compare to Stinking Cloud, which is a comparable spell at level 3  - and does 5d6 or one die less than fireball at that level.)


Magic Missile does the most damage because it is a pure damage spell.  It doesn't have major utility effects  and it doesn't increase its total damage the more targets you give it.  Thus it a) serves as a benchmark for other spells and b) has the best damage because the other spells usually do damage and something else.  If you want that 'something else' you cast those spells - and if you don't, you cast magic missile. What would be the point of putting in spells which both do more damage than magic missile and do something else  Just to invalidate magic missile?


I'd argue it the other way around.  If a spell both did more damage than magic missile (after accounting for saving throws or attack rolls) and had a secondary effect - I'd argue that that spells damage was too high.


Carl
Carl, thank you for your analysis.

One thing I do want to point out though is that, IMO, higher level spells should be a bit betetr than lower level spells that are cast in higher level slots. A higher level spell takes up one of your daily prepared spells but is more limited in how many spell slots you can use it with. For example, Meteor Swarm, as a 9th level spell, can only be used once per day at the very most, so it should be spectacular, and certainly better than a fireball cast with a 9th level slot. And it is. They do similar damage, but meteor swarm has superior range and area of effect.

If a Magic Missile is just as effective as a 6th level spell as disintegrate is, there's not really any point to disintegrate. MM would be superior because it's more flexible, being able to be used in lower level slots and being able to be divided up among multiple targets. Disintegrate does have some utility, being able to vaporize walls and such, but I don't think that quite makes up the difference in this case.
Under the old spell preparation rules I would have agreed with you.


But under the current rules in which a wizard (we'll use 12th level since we are mostly talking about level 5 and 6 spells) prepares only 13 spells, but can cast 16 - and to maintain flexibility has to memorize spells for a variety of situations besides just damage - I think that the ability to cast low level spells in higher slots isn't a secondary choice for when you don't have a high level spell - but a significant part of the class design.


I don't see it as 'we let them cast low level spells but they can be a bit more powerful' - I see it as "well, we could design a higher level version of each spell and they would then have to memorize it at that level (they way it would have worked in the past) - but it is more flexible for the wizard and saves space in the book if we consolidate the description.


I don't see magic missile cast in a level 6 slot as poor substitute for a real 6th level spell.  I see it being a sixth level spell and thus I expect it to be as good as any other 6th level spell.


To put it another way:  Many have pointed out that they can (and probably should) consolidate the cure X wounds spells into a single spell that scales with level slot.  If they did that - does that mean that they should reduce the healing that cure critical does, because it isn't really a level four spell anymore?


Carl            
Under the old spell preparation rules I would have agreed with you.


But under the current rules in which a wizard (we'll use 12th level since we are mostly talking about level 5 and 6 spells) prepares only 13 spells, but can cast 16 - and to maintain flexibility has to memorize spells for a variety of situations besides just damage - I think that the ability to cast low level spells in higher slots isn't a secondary choice for when you don't have a high level spell - but a significant part of the class design.


I don't see it as 'we let them cast low level spells but they can be a bit more powerful' - I see it as "well, we could design a higher level version of each spell and they would then have to memorize it at that level (they way it would have worked in the past) - but it is more flexible for the wizard and saves space in the book if we consolidate the description.


I don't see magic missile cast in a level 6 slot as poor substitute for a real 6th level spell.  I see it being a sixth level spell and thus I expect it to be as good as any other 6th level spell.


To put it another way:  Many have pointed out that they can (and probably should) consolidate the cure X wounds spells into a single spell that scales with level slot.  If they did that - does that mean that they should reduce the healing that cure critical does, because it isn't really a level four spell anymore?


Carl            


Good point, they should remove them and make a single Cure Wounds that says 1d8+4, increases by 1d8 per spell level slot

Especially since
Cure Light - Level 1 1d8+4
Cure Mod - Level 2 2d8+4
Cure Serious - Level 3 3d8+4
Cure Crit - Level 4 4d8+4

I doubt it would make Heal obsolete either, since even a level 9 cast would only average to ~45


If higher level spells aren't at least slightly stronger than lower level ones, then there is no reason to transition into higher level ones

However in this case
Disintegrate is 16d6 = 56 damage & auto kills 60 or less & makes it so they cant really be rezzed
Magic Missile is (2d4+4) * 6 =54 damage

So its not like Magic Missile is strictly better

a better comparison is Scorching Ray, while Magic Missile gains 6-12 damage per slot, Scorching Ray gains only 5
Under the old spell preparation rules I would have agreed with you.


But under the current rules in which a wizard (we'll use 12th level since we are mostly talking about level 5 and 6 spells) prepares only 13 spells, but can cast 16 - and to maintain flexibility has to memorize spells for a variety of situations besides just damage - I think that the ability to cast low level spells in higher slots isn't a secondary choice for when you don't have a high level spell - but a significant part of the class design.



Let me try explaining this better. A scalable 1st level spell, like magic missile, has the advantage that it can be used in any spell slot. If you run out of 1st level spells, it's okay, cast it as a 2nd level spell. Using a 12th level wizard for example, if he prepares magic missile, he can cast it 16 times, since it can be used in any of his spell slots. Disintegrate, on the other hand, can only be cast once, since its minimum level is 6th. That makes it a poorer choice of a prepared spell than magic missile is. To make up for that, it needs to be worth preparing by having a greater overall effect than a 6th level magic missile. Since there's a limit on how many spells you can have prepared, there needs to be a good reason to prepare a higher level spell instead of a scalable lower level spell.


I don't see it as 'we let them cast low level spells but they can be a bit more powerful' - I see it as "well, we could design a higher level version of each spell and they would then have to memorize it at that level (they way it would have worked in the past) - but it is more flexible for the wizard and saves space in the book if we consolidate the description.



But there are higher level versions of spells, from back in the days when spells couldn't be augmented by casting them in higher level slots. Every single spell level has its own attack spells for that very reason.

They don't have it right now, but in the future they'll probably bring back Delayed Blast Fireball. Even if a 7th level fireball did the same damage, the Delayed version has the advantage that it can be delayed. That makes it a bit better than a 7th level fireball. That gives there a reason to prepare DBF when you could instead have just prepared Fireball.  

To put it another way:  Many have pointed out that they can (and probably should) consolidate the cure X wounds spells into a single spell that scales with level slot.  If they did that - does that mean that they should reduce the healing that cure critical does, because it isn't really a level four spell anymore?



The various Cure X line of spells is a good example of spells that aren't really any better despite being higher level. If Cure Wounds was a single spell and added +1d8 healing per higher level slot used to cast it, it would basically be the same thing we have now. I suggested that they have a single cure wounds spell that adds +1d8 per spell level when I filled out my survey.

You'll notice, however, that Heal is still quite a bit better than a 6th level cure wounds. It heals more damage and cures alot of other conditions as well. That's a great example of what I'm talking about here. The higher level spells need to be a bit more potent than lowe level spells used in the same slot to make up for the fact that they must be used in higher level slots. If Heal didn't have those advantages, there'd never be any reason to prepare it and instead just rely on Cure Wounds!
I agree. I consider Scorching Ray to be underpowered. It is automatic damage like MM. It does less damage than MM (15 versus average of 18 as L2; MM increases by an average of 9 with each slot, Scorching Ray only increases by 5.

The only advantage it has is to split the damage precisely ("3 to that target and 6 to those two targets") - which is only good if the players have metagame knoweldge of their targets exact hit ponts, and - only as a level 2 spell, the ability to hit one more target (as a level 3 or higher spell, magic missile can be spread among more targets).


It is, frankly, not as good as it needs to be
It needs - at a minimum - to have it's damage gained from higher spell slots increased. For simplicities sake, I'd probaly go with 10 points for each slot past 2nd - although that does allow it to pass magic missile starting at 6th level and at 9th it would do 85 compared to 81 for MM).

I also wouldn't mind seeing it do a mixture of radiant and fire damage (it is 'light and fire'). But this wouldn't be enough to offset all of its lower damage - it would still need a damage bump with that. But less of a bump - perhaps it increases by 7 or 8 per level (and for simplicities sake I'd change the initial damage to either 14 or 16 so you can quickly calculate the damage as x times spell level).


Carl
I actually feel that Magic Missile is the only damage spell they got right. Magic Missile isn't too strong... the others are too weak!

I think the only real problem with Magic Missile is that there is no attack or save. I would rather it deal more damage and allow a Dex (or Con) save for half damage (creating an average near where it is now). I doubt that will ever happen, but I think it would work.


Let me try explaining this better. A scalable 1st level spell, like magic missile, has the advantage that it can be used in any spell slot. If you run out of 1st level spells, it's okay, cast it as a 2nd level spell. Using a 12th level wizard for example, if he prepares magic missile, he can cast it 16 times, since it can be used in any of his spell slots. Disintegrate, on the other hand, can only be cast once, since its minimum level is 6th. That makes it a poorer choice of a prepared spell than magic missile is. To make up for that, it needs to be worth preparing by having a greater overall effect than a 6th level magic missile. Since there's a limit on how many spells you can have prepared, there needs to be a good reason to prepare a higher level spell instead of a scalable lower level spell.



I don't see it as 'we let them cast low level spells but they can be a bit more powerful' - I see it as "well, we could design a higher level version of each spell and they would then have to memorize it at that level (they way it would have worked in the past) - but it is more flexible for the wizard and saves space in the book if we consolidate the description.



But there are higher level versions of spells, from back in the days when spells couldn't be augmented by casting them in higher level slots. Every single spell level has its own attack spells for that very reason.

They don't have it right now, but in the future they'll probably bring back Delayed Blast Fireball. Even if a 7th level fireball did the same damage, the Delayed version has the advantage that it can be delayed. That makes it a bit better than a 7th level fireball. That gives there a reason to prepare DBF when you could instead have just prepared Fireball.  



Exactly.  You need a reason to prepare the higher level spell (point one).  You have a reason to prepare the higher level spell (point two).


The higher level spells typically do something more than pure damage.  That is the reason you prepare them.  You prepare disintigrate because it gives you the ability to disintigrate things.  You only use the level six spell slot for damage if you run out of lower level slots or reallly really need to do that extra 9 points.  You prepare cloudkill because you want the battlefield control.  You only cast magic missile in that slot if you run out of lower level slots or really really need that extra damage.

If they put in a single target, pure damage spell at higher levels - then, yes, it should out damage magic missile.  But spells which have secondary uses are a different category and are not simply competing with magic missile.

Chain Lightning - for example - is a multi-target, pure damage spell.  It does 50d6 at level 6- more than three times the damage of magic missile.  A fireball at that level does 9d6 to each target in the range - which makes it superior to fireball in any situation where you have fewer than five targets in your area (and substantially superior when you have three targets and can double hit two of them).  You carry fireball for hitting more than five targets (54d6 with six targets) and you carry chain lightning for fights against fewer targets (3 being ideal).  If you assume that the average number of targets in a fireball blast radius is around 5 - they are comparable.

But they both have a reason to be carried and cast at level 6.  But, since both are pure damage spells, the higher level spell slightly outdamage the lower level spell cast at the higher level.  If, on the other hand, Chain Lighting applied a status effect as well - for example, lets say it dazed the target for one round - this would give it a secondary effect (as with disintegrate and cloudkill) and thus its damage should be reduced to no more than that of a fireball cast at the same level. 


Your 'reason for carrying it' is no longer just the damage that it does.  It is its ability to control the battlefield.

Carl

I agree. I consider Scorching Ray to be underpowered. It is automatic damage like MM. It does less damage than MM (15 versus average of 18 as L2; MM increases by an average of 9 with each slot, Scorching Ray only increases by 5.



Yeah, scorching ray sucks. I don't like what they did to it at all. I don't like how there's no rolled damage, I hate the auto hit aspect (that's magic missile's niche) and in any case, the damage is just way too low. All round, it's a bad spell.

I actually feel that Magic Missile is the only damage spell they got right. Magic Missile isn't too strong... the others are too weak!

I think the only real problem with Magic Missile is that there is no attack or save. I would rather it deal more damage and allow a Dex (or Con) save for half damage (creating an average near where it is now). I doubt that will ever happen, but I think it would work.



Well, like I said in my first post, this was just based on a comparison of the spells to each other. Usually, if one spell stands out as much better than the rest, it's alot easier to nerf it than it is to buff all of the other spells. But it also depends on how the spells compare to other class's damage and monster HP. I don't yet know how those other factors are going to change. In any case, something needs to be done. Either they need to bring the weak spells up to par with the powerful ones, or vice versa.

The higher level spells typically do something more than pure damage.  That is the reason you prepare them.  You prepare disintigrate because it gives you the ability to disintigrate things.



You're right, having a useful secondary effect can be one way in which the higher level spell can be better than the "augmented" lower level spell. But that is only one option. Having a superior range, area of effect, or doing more damage are also other possibilites.

The problem I have with the current disintegrate vs. magic missile is that, yes, disintegrate does have some extra utility, but MM has advantages as well (like not allowing a saving throw, which is huge). If all else were equal, disintegrate's additional utility would be enough of an extra advantage. The problem is, all else isn't equal.
I agree. I consider Scorching Ray to be underpowered. It is automatic damage like MM. It does less damage than MM (15 versus average of 18 as L2; MM increases by an average of 9 with each slot, Scorching Ray only increases by 5.



Yeah, scorching ray sucks. I don't like what they did to it at all. I don't like how there's no rolled damage, I hate the auto hit aspect (that's magic missile's niche) and in any case, the damage is just way too low. All round, it's a bad spell.

I actually feel that Magic Missile is the only damage spell they got right. Magic Missile isn't too strong... the others are too weak!

I think the only real problem with Magic Missile is that there is no attack or save. I would rather it deal more damage and allow a Dex (or Con) save for half damage (creating an average near where it is now). I doubt that will ever happen, but I think it would work.



Well, like I said in my first post, this was just based on a comparison of the spells to each other. Usually, if one spell stands out as much better than the rest, it's alot easier to nerf it than it is to buff all of the other spells. But it also depends on how the spells compare to other class's damage and monster HP. I don't yet know how those other factors are going to change. In any case, something needs to be done. Either they need to bring the weak spells up to par with the powerful ones, or vice versa.

The higher level spells typically do something more than pure damage.  That is the reason you prepare them.  You prepare disintigrate because it gives you the ability to disintigrate things.



You're right, having a useful secondary effect can be one way in which the higher level spell can be better than the "augmented" lower level spell. But that is only one option. Having a superior range, area of effect, or doing more damage are also other possibilites.

The problem I have with the current disintegrate vs. magic missile is that, yes, disintegrate does have some extra utility, but MM has advantages as well (like not allowing a saving throw, which is huge). If all else were equal, disintegrate's additional utility would be enough of an extra advantage. The problem is, all else isn't equal.



Perhaps.  I'm not sure, however, that the solution is to increase the damage.  I'd rather look for a more 'disintegratey' way of improving it.   One place it falls short is the fact that the save is fail or nothing.  If you save versus the disintegrate, nothing happens.   Perhaps it should have some effect on a save?

I'll also point out that if your players are smart - they might start doing things like using it to drop the opponent into a 10'foot pit (and slapping a wall of stone over that pit right afterwards - once we get that spell).   In fact - my evil DM side tends to want to make spells like Disintegrate disintegrate something  - so if the target saves, it means that  a big chunk is ripped out of the floor or the wall.  But I wouldn't expect that to make it into the spell (you dodged the ray - but where did the ray go after that?)

I agree that it may need some work.  But I'm not convinced that the answer is just more damage.

I think the answer is for it to do something else that fits with the spell - either on a hit or on  a miss.

Carl

I think the point of Disintegrate is not that is a damage spell, its that the target mostly cant be rezzed and that it removes magical walls

Compare it to Destruction, Destruction is level 7, cost 500 gp per use and deals only 15d6

It has the advantage tho of also making the target mostly unrezzable but compared to disintegrate, it only disintegrates the target and not his items
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