A Magic Missile By Any Other Name…

Last week the latest update to the 4E rule set came out and it included the much discussed on Twitter change to the Wizard Magic Missile power. The justification for the change was “an effort to restore the power to its classical form”, which is something that the “Old Time Gamer” in me can respect. I mean I started playing with the 80’s Red Box, and my Elves and Magic Users loved that spell. I loved it through 2E, and 3E as well. When the player of the Wizard in my home game was first asked to roll to hit with Magic Missile he looked at me like I was joking then lamented 4E’s change of a classic spell. In short we all learn to change to the 4E Magic Missile in PHB1 over the last 2 years and none of us have anything against the idea of a Magic Missile that never misses, it is after all the one we have spent the most time playing with.

So it was that I downloaded the update, and read the change and knowing how important it was as a spell to the Wizard player told him to be sure to update his character. I knew in the last two years I’ve gotten used to rolling to hit and so had he. Still I wasn’t about to just ignore the update after all never missing is a handy thing!

Come Friday night we sat down and started playing after a quick “hey MM doesn’t have an attack roll anymore and does X damage all the time, oh and Dispel Magic is now and Encounter”. The first of which was met with some concern due to the importance of the spell to the player’s concept of his character, the second of which was met with an “awesome” (though he later forgot to use it!).

Everything went fine through the first encounter, not in the least because in 3 rounds the Avenger pulled 3 crits and did 150 points of damage to the Elite Troll and a couple of well placed blasts and such cleaned up the minions leaving one Brute Elite Orc to finish off. The “Auto Hit” hardly came up and the small damage his magic missile was doing was not really noticed.

Then came the second encounter; Elite Dragon, Cambion, and 2 themed hounds. When I placed the miniatures and described the scene both players and characters thought “maybe we should run?” Now they are solid players, and from experience knew that holding their ground and waiting for the Paladin to drop Wrath of the Gods was going to matter a lot. This is when the trouble started.

“Wrath isn’t going to work with MM.” I said.

“What?” Wizard player said unhappily.

“Wrath works when you roll damage, and you don’t roll anymore with MM.” I said.

“That is not very good,” or words to that effect he said.

So the encounter got started and eventually the wizard was down to at wills, and had a choice between Magic Missile and Scorching Burst. He looked down at his sheet and saw “Arcane Reserves” as he blew his last encounter and smiled. Then the trouble really hit.

“Arcane Reserves doesn’t work with Magic Missile either because it boosts rolls,” I said.

He said things that amount to “I hate this errata” but that were less polite.

So it was that we played out the session with him casting Scorching Burst every round, because even needing 12 to hit the chance to do 1d6+15 and score crits was much better to him than the chance to do 7 damage. A point that was brought home much more painfully when the Cambion fled and only magic missile could hit it and 7 damage was simply not enough to kill it (but 2d4+14 might have!). (For those wondering his third at-will is Chilling Cloud for when the melee PCs are in the way but I expect that to change now.)

The session finished with the Wizard player being deeply unsatisfied, and me left with no good mechanical reason why he should feel that way. It wasn’t like the change to magic missile had come about because of some great imbalance in the power; it came about simply because someone wanted back that “old feel”. Further the player had a good point, in the two years we had been playing he had chosen many features of his character to support a power and the group’s tactics, and even role play, based on the PHB1 wording of magic missile and the reason for the change was “flavour”.

I drove home and had time to think about it without the immediate pressure of the game bearing down on me. I couldn’t help but agree with his logic as it pertained to his character and that game. So when I got home I cracked open the email and sent a message to the players saying that baring strong objection we would continue to use MM as it was printed in PHB1 and so our first major house rule for 4E was born.

Now I’m happy to have my Wizard have a 9 damage never miss spell she can use as a melee attack (yay Shadar-kai) for when I play her in the Living Forgotten Realms, and I’ll love that old time feel of just hitting. I’m also sure that the player above would have loved that old time MM feel if it hadn’t so changed his vision of how his character worked. However I will be continuing to have a house rule in my game – after all the point is to have fun, and sometimes that means we have to break the rules.

John Pope
aka @ObsidianCrane



Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.


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Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.
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