Magic Missile and Sleep too powerful?

Two 1st level wizards meet at dawn to setle a grudge.
They roll initiative.
The winner casts Sleep, which almost surely succeeds.
The winner then casts magic missile, almost certainly killing the other.

My point is that these two first level spells are extremely effective against other first level characters.

I'm not convinced that MM should hit automatically or that Sleep should not have a saving throw.
 
The problem here is not the spells, it's that first level HP are way too low.
I think Magic Missile should scale slower as it deals and Sleep should offer a saving throw.

Magic Missile deals too much damage as an autodamage spell compared to other spells and Sleep too is powerful by not being avoidable when under the HP threshhold IMO.

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

Historicaly magic missile main use was to distrupt magic users, the automatic hit usually made sure that if you hit the enemy Mage before his turn you wasted his spell.

Of course, in the move from per round initiative to cyclic initiative in and the watering down of the spell interrupt mechanics they had to make magic missile better since its such an iconic spell so it received damage bumps, or became an at will attack cantrip.

My solution is to bring back spell distrupt rules and per round initiative, while lowering the number of darts to one per slot level.

Warder 

My Ignore List: blacksheepcannibal

lokiare

englishlanguage

verdegris_sage

Polaris

Two first level wizards dueling with each other knowing full well that whomever loses initiative will die sounds pretty cool to me.  Like gunslingers.

A duel should be quick and end in instant death.  

These spells are designed for a party of adventurers to face off multiple attackers (or one big one).  If wizards go toe to toe with one another and end up blasted they get what they deserve.   
The problem here is not the spells, it's that first level HP are way too low.



No.
The winner would be the elf who prepared shield.
The winner would be the elf who prepared shield.

As it should be!

Danny

Even gunslingers can miss.

Anyway, that was just one example. If a first level wizard wins initiative when attacking a 1st level party, she is almost guaranteed to kill their wizard unless the DM intentionally holds back. A sleep spell could then knock out 1-2 more. 

I guess that's fine for some people but not for me. 
Shield is a good point. I guess the rogue dies instead!
Of course, if you are asleep, you can't cast anything.
 
A more serious point is that spells shouldn't be balanced for player vs player situations. They should be balanced for regular encounters. You could still make a case that sleep deserves a save, though I kind of like it without myself. But you'd need to argue that on the basis of actual encounters, not one on one duels. Magic missile, I think you are stuck with; auto-hitting has always been its schtick.
A more serious point is that spells shouldn't be balanced for player vs player situations. They should be balanced for regular encounters.



True.  The rules should not be written to the exception.  Player versus player is not the main style of this game.  Not that it never happens, but the rules are designed for group play versus the environment.

A more serious point is that spells shouldn't be balanced for player vs player situations. They should be balanced for regular encounters. You could still make a case that sleep deserves a save, though I kind of like it without myself. But you'd need to argue that on the basis of actual encounters, not one on one duels. Magic missile, I think you are stuck with; auto-hitting has always been its schtick.

I'm thinking about NPCs vs players. I don't see why they shouldn't be used in regular encounters. I guess a 1st level wizard could be considered a higher level monster…

 
A more serious point is that spells shouldn't be balanced for player vs player situations. They should be balanced for regular encounters. You could still make a case that sleep deserves a save, though I kind of like it without myself. But you'd need to argue that on the basis of actual encounters, not one on one duels. Magic missile, I think you are stuck with; auto-hitting has always been its schtick.

I'm thinking about NPCs vs players. I don't see why they shouldn't be used in regular encounters. I guess a 1st level wizard could be considered a higher level monster…

 

The problem with NPCs that have character classes being used as antagonists has always been that player character powers must be designed so that they are effective when used against the monsters of the game in their typical numbers appearing in an encounter (a bunch of goblins, a squad of orcs, or a smaller number of much tougher creatures like a couple ogres or a dragon)... which makes them tend to work overly well when turned against a small number of not very powerful targets, such as a party almost always tends to be.

It is, however, to that end which old-school versions of D&D calculated the experience value of a monster or NPC in such a way that ability to cast spells increased the effective Hit Dice of the creature - a level 1 wizard NPC would be equivalent to a level 2 fighter NPC in that system, and as more potent and numerous spells became available the difference would actually grow to the point that a high level wizard NPC would be the equivalent of a fighter NPC 3 levels higher.

... and all of that despite typically lower HP and defense ratings.

5e should be similarly mindful, and the mosnter/NPC creation guidelines should make absolutely certain to remind DMs that "big stack of daily resources" is a much more potent thing when given to something meant to never have a reason not to use 100% of its resources in this - the only fight of its life.

ATTENTION:  If while reading my post you find yourself thinking "Either this guy is being sarcastic, or he is an idiot," do please assume that I am an idiot. It makes reading your replies more entertaining. If, however, you find yourself hoping that I am not being even remotely serious then you are very likely correct as I find irreverence and being ridiculous to be relaxing.

Good points about encounter building.

I'm still not sure I like having guaranteed hits. The drama is greatly reduced.
I can accept that my opinion is in the minority. 
Honestly, I think Sleep should focus not on the creature's hit points, but on their Wisdom scores.  Low Wisdom creatures should be easier to sway with mind affecting magic than ones with high Wisdom. Simply replace total HP with Wisdom score.  This will keep the spell relevant at all levels, without it having to increase in dice.  Alternatively, the die increase would allow a higher level wizard to potentially effect more creatures.
That warm fuzzy feeling you get when you a forum thread you're subscribed to has a new comment.
The problem here is not the spells, it's that first level HP are way too low.



I agree with this.
Honestly, I think Sleep should focus not on the creature's hit points, but on their Wisdom scores.  Low Wisdom creatures should be easier to sway with mind affecting magic than ones with high Wisdom. Simply replace total HP with Wisdom score.  This will keep the spell relevant at all levels, without it having to increase in dice.  Alternatively, the die increase would allow a higher level wizard to potentially effect more creatures.

Having seen both spells in action over the weekend (from a 1st level caster) I was rather impressed when a 3rd level fighter npc was put to sleep instantly. The thing about sleep, despite the apparent strength, is another creature can just use an action to wake them up again, which is what I did. So, its more of an inconvenience against a large group if at least one npc is free to go around waking them up again, but against smaller groups it can be devastating. Just the fact that it offers the opportunity to coup de grace at any level is very strong. I think a wisdom save for half effect is warrented, if only to allow poor half elves to use their advantage against sleep effects Laughing

As for magic missile, a maximum of 15 damage at low level is impressive for a 1st level spell, but once the party are 2nd level and dealing with tougher creatures, its far less overpowered. I think it's fine as it is, and it gives a wizard a nice powerful punch at 1st level, instead of the old 1st edition version - wizards only got 1 spell, and if it was magic missile, it would be 1d4+1. Then they were screwed. Wink

So, I think we can agree that wizards at low level don't suck anymore!
Epic fantasy action adventure! - free ebook
I was just looking at 1e rules too and you only get 1 MM at 1st level, 2 at 3rd and so on. Yeah, it was weak. Range did increase too, though. Sleep on the other hand was more powerful for low HD monsters. Both spells are definitely already more balanced in the current Next rules.
What always got me about MM is its relation to other spells, in that, a 1st lvl spell, magic missile, can auto hit, but even an archwizard with 9th lvl spells, well that first level spell autohits but they just can't figure out how it does so to make any other spell do that like some high level death bolt, disintegration bolt, petrifying bolt, freezing bolt, meteor, or anything whatsoever? It just makes no sense to me. If a 1st level mage can manage a homing missile why can't an archwizard get some other spell to home in also? Heck with rays, just fire off all kinds of homing missiles that do various things. Just take magic missile and build on that, stack effects to it! Of course, people could use spell turning or various ways to deal, but still.  

And thinking of why does it home in and never miss? If the mage had a piece of the creature's hair or something, its name even, you could say that's why, but just firing off a magic bolt and it can't miss, what theory is even behind that? The will of the caster inside the missiles? Then why not other spells? Maybe making a box with your fingers and seeing the creature through it is what it homes in on, but then why not other spells? Maybe a blessing from the Magic Deity that will make this spell always hit?  Once a mage who had a ring of wishes got frustrated and wished the magic missile spell would never miss its target, and the deity decided it was a good idea and made it the way the spell always works now?  But for most concepts I'd think there would then be spells of every level that build upon the MM to auto-hit various abilities.

This is exactly why Monsters(used to refer to NPCs or anything the PCs may be fighting) follow different rules for creation than PCs.  PCs, or NPCs made usinc PC rules, are not meant to fight PCs.
Even gunslingers can miss.

Anyway, that was just one example. If a first level wizard wins initiative when attacking a 1st level party, she is almost guaranteed to kill their wizard unless the DM intentionally holds back. A sleep spell could then knock out 1-2 more. 

I guess that's fine for some people but not for me. 



I'm sorry but I feel that the hypothetical here is just lame.  If two 1st level PC wizards duel then one or both deserve to die; they are proving their own stupidity and unworthiness to progress past their masters' training.  If a single 1st level PC wizard attacks a party (spells or no spells) he or she is going to be ripped apart by those that survive the initial assault.

D&D is not just a tactical game for PCs to face off against PCs.  An adventure scenario is more than a single fight sequence.  If the PC party, which contains that 1st level PC wizard, can't get past the first encounter without defeating or at least bypassing the NPCs or monsters then the adventure is over anyway - roll new characters and start again.

The question shouldn't be "are these spell too powerful"  (unless they are dramatically OP devastating) but whether they, in their relative short supply, provide an adequate continuation of the adventure and its storyline without ultra-frequent rest breaks.
There's a weird hidden assumption not stated in the OP : It's either A: The thing has to be balanced for PVP, dammit! or even weirder B: The world just wouldn't work that way, man! It wouldn't work that way because...uh...sad players!

It's mostly weird because it's unstated. I'm not even sure it's a concious 'oh, it has to be about this' assumption. Instead it's just fixedly working from the world view that D&D just is about A or B.

"In the game there is magic" - Orethalion

 

Only got words in my copy.

Odd, looking at the spell list for wizards and comparing spells and cantrips, I was kinda thinking Magic Missile does feel off.  3d4+3 for a first level spell at first level that doesn't miss seems very powerful.  Scaling up though, a 9th level spell that deals 9d4+9 and never misses...well not so much given what the options become.  So it starts strong, but becomes weaker pretty fast in the face of other available options because it must be memorized in a higher slot to get stronger.  

Honestly I would make it require a to hit roll, make it a cantrip again, and give it the scaling from 3rd Ed; 1 missile at 1st level, and then another missile every other level after the first, up to 5 missiles by 9th level.  In order to gain the ability to auto hit, it must be memorized in a 1st level or higher spell slot instead.
Odd, looking at the spell list for wizards and comparing spells and cantrips, I was kinda thinking Magic Missile does feel off.  3d4+3 for a first level spell at first level that doesn't miss seems very powerful.  


So that's 10.5 damage to a single target, compared to Burning Hands at 9 damage to an area, Thunderwave at 10.5 to an area plus push. You ought to be able to get two or three enemies with the area spells, but call it two. They are save half, so if saves are a 50% chance, they drop to about 7 and 8 respectively. It is more likely that saves will be less than 50% than more, so this is conservative. So at two creatures, your DPR with the area spells are around 15 points, comfortably more than magic missile. Of course magic missile is longer range, and single target damage is good, so I don't think MM is underpowered. But I don't think it needs to be nerfed unless you want to nerf all the spells. Thunderwave might be a bit strong, but it doesn't scale as well as BH or MM, and sometime the loud noise is a disadvantage.
This is exactly why Monsters(used to refer to NPCs or anything the PCs may be fighting) follow different rules for creation than PCs.  PCs, or NPCs made usinc PC rules, are not meant to fight PCs.



Last I checked, NPCs have spells too.
Odd, looking at the spell list for wizards and comparing spells and cantrips, I was kinda thinking Magic Missile does feel off.  3d4+3 for a first level spell at first level that doesn't miss seems very powerful.  


So that's 10.5 damage to a single target, compared to Burning Hands at 9 damage to an area, Thunderwave at 10.5 to an area plus push. You ought to be able to get two or three enemies with the area spells, but call it two. They are save half, so if saves are a 50% chance, they drop to about 7 and 8 respectively. It is more likely that saves will be less than 50% than more, so this is conservative. So at two creatures, your DPR with the area spells are around 15 points, comfortably more than magic missile. Of course magic missile is longer range, and single target damage is good, so I don't think MM is underpowered. But I don't think it needs to be nerfed unless you want to nerf all the spells. Thunderwave might be a bit strong, but it doesn't scale as well as BH or MM, and sometime the loud noise is a disadvantage.



Not to mention that if you are not an evoker BH is safer to use around the party than a 15ft cube centered around you.
To read about my playtest sessions click here: http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/29995793/?sdb=1&pg=last#533677003


D&D Home Page - What Class Are You? - Build A Character - D&D Compendium

Well, the area of TW is a cube originating from you, I took that to mean you're on the edge of it, not the middle of it.
Well, the area of TW is a cube originating from you, I took that to mean you're on the edge of it, not the middle of it.



Hmm that would make it more useful, I see it as a burst of sound originating from you as the point of origin and pushing everything away from you the epicenter.
To read about my playtest sessions click here: http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/29995793/?sdb=1&pg=last#533677003


D&D Home Page - What Class Are You? - Build A Character - D&D Compendium

Well, I added it to my problem spells list. If they pay any attention to that, maybe it will get clarified.
Well, the area of TW is a cube originating from you, I took that to mean you're on the edge of it, not the middle of it.



Hmm that would make it more useful, I see it as a burst of sound originating from you as the point of origin and pushing everything away from you the epicenter.




Yeah, the wording is pretty ambiguous.  However, I think I would have to agree with Garimeth's initial reading of the spell.  In my mind it's the perfect "Oh crap I'm surrounded!" spell when the wizard accidentally ends up in melee.  If I was a goblin, I'd think twice before walking up to the guy that just killed four of my pals with thunder.

I'd actually love to see a version of this spell where the damage is reduced, but the distance ennemies are pushed away increases.  Imagine pushing a big baddy more than a full-move away from you to get out of a tough spot.
I used it last night as a cube originating from me, and it definitely made it so I could actually use it. 

BUT, in rereading the spell AOE rules in the How to play section I think my initial reading may be right.  Here's why:

1.  There is no description for "cube" but there is for "sphere" which is the next closest thing, and based of of its wording it makes sense that it expands from you as the center, else it would be a cone, right?

2.  If it comes without the collateral damage of hitting things around you, then why would you ever use burning hands instead, unless you needed fire?  TW does more damage, and pushes. We busted into a room of 7 thieves last night and I thunderwaved into the room like a shotgun blast and instakilled 4 of them right off the bat, but I don't feel its op, because our barbarian can do like 16 damage all the time, and I need to use one of 3 spells a day!

That said...if my interpretation is right you would almost never be able to use the spell, the damage isn't THAT much more, and I can see interpreting it being the other way because there is no description of cube, and the fluffs use of the word "wave".

So I guess I'm not sure.

To read about my playtest sessions click here: http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/29995793/?sdb=1&pg=last#533677003


D&D Home Page - What Class Are You? - Build A Character - D&D Compendium

I'm sure my interpretation is also colored by the fact that Thunderwave is a standard 4e spell, that produces a cone-like blast. Doesn't mean that's what they intended here, but given the history, I think they would have made sure to be clearer if they were significantly changing how it worked. Anyway, it's a playtest. Finding these kind of problems is what we're doing it for.
Odd, looking at the spell list for wizards and comparing spells and cantrips, I was kinda thinking Magic Missile does feel off.  3d4+3 for a first level spell at first level that doesn't miss seems very powerful.  Scaling up though, a 9th level spell that deals 9d4+9 and never misses...well not so much given what the options become.  So it starts strong, but becomes weaker pretty fast in the face of other available options because it must be memorized in a higher slot to get stronger.  

Honestly I would make it require a to hit roll, make it a cantrip again, and give it the scaling from 3rd Ed; 1 missile at 1st level, and then another missile every other level after the first, up to 5 missiles by 9th level.  In order to gain the ability to auto hit, it must be memorized in a 1st level or higher spell slot instead.



Actually, that isn't true, since all spellcasters are spontaneous spellcasters.  You would prepare Magic Missile and simply cast it with whatever level of spell slot you wish to use.  Granted, since you have only one slot of each level for levels 5 through 9, you would be hard pressed to justify the use of the spell at this level in lue of other options you likely have prepared. Sorry if someone else already pointed this out.
That warm fuzzy feeling you get when you a forum thread you're subscribed to has a new comment.
Sign In to post comments