Is Magic Missile a change too far?

I’ve been thinking long and hard about the change to Magic Missile, and whether it has a place at our gametable. On the surface it’s a pretty incongruous little spell doing the least amount of damage of any damaging At-Will Power in the game. It also happens to be the most game-breaking Power there is. Here’s why.

The largest change to Magic Missile is that now doesn’t require a to-hit roll; it’s a Ranged Power that automatically hits and does a fixed amount of damage. Let that sink in. Magic Missile ignores Cover. It ignores Superior Cover. It ignores Concealment and Total Concealment. It ignores Invisibility. Your Wizard can use it when Prone (hell yeah!), Restrained, Blinded, Marked or Running, all without penalty. Those actions and conditions penalize the Attack Roll – which Magic Missile doesn’t have any more!

Do I have your attention yet?

While it just does just 2+INT damage at Heroic Tier, even that’s not to be sniffed at. Your INT 20 Eladrin Wizard will be doing 7 damage every round, guaranteed. That’s more than enough to kill a Minion (more on those in a mo’), but really comes into its own when you add in Feats which boost effect, especially the White Lotus Feats. Add Battle Caster’s Defence from PHB3 and Magic Missile is usable when the Bad Guys manage to get up close and personal too.

Then there’s Wizard’s Fury. This is a Daily Spell which lets your Wizard fire off a Magic Missile as a Minor Action for the rest of the Encounter. Your INT 20 Wizard could cast a wide area Encounter Spell (Standard Action) then drop Prone (Minor Action) and cast Wizard’s Fury (Minor Action replacing his Move Action). From there he can fire 2 Magic Missiles a round (one Minor, one Standard) for 14 guaranteed damage or mix it up with other spells as required and still have his Move Action to Shift as needed. Add the White Lotus Hindrance Feat and any enemy you hit with the Magic Missile treats the squares around you as Difficult Terrain too.

Forget Laser Clerics. That’s a frickin’ machine gun emplacement!

In short, if you’re playing a Wizard and don’t take Magic Missile, you are an idiot. The Mage for D&D Essentials write-up says as much by including it as an automatically given Power for that build. Heck, Magic Missile is good enough that it should be the immediate go to Power for multi-classed Wizards and the Half-Elf’s Dilettante feature. Even as a per-Encounter Power, it’s well worth taking.

On to Minions.

To date, the highest level Minion in the game is the Crawling Blood Swarm from the Underdark supplement. This is a whopping Level 34 critter worth a total of 9,750 experience points. That’s enough to take a lone 1st level Wizard up to just shy of 7th level in a single jump – and with Magic Missile, he can kill it with a single shot. Given that this beastie has an Armour Class of 48 (and similar other defences) nothing outside Epic Tier can touch him but a single Magic Missile will fell him every time. Of course, this is an entirely fake situation because a) monsters in Fourth Edition tend to travel in packs, b) your lowly 1st level Wizard would be dead long before he got close to a Crawling Blood Swarm’s stomping ground, and c) players tend to hit GMs who put them against unreasonably high-level foes. It still leaves a sour taste in my mouth though.

Now you could argue that this is a problem with the Minion rules as a whole, and to an extent I agree. While the Minion rules in Mutants & Masterminds work spectacularly well as they’re designed to provide hordes of cannon fodder (mooks, lackeys, ninjas and the like) for the Superhero to smash through en route to the Evil Supervillain. Even so, Minions in M&M do get a Toughness save if they’re hit meaning there’s no guarantee they will fall on the first punch. Over in 4e D&D though, any Minion drops (dead, unconscious or otherwise out of the fight) on a hit regardless of level or ability, every time. Also, in M&M you don’t see many Super-powered Minions. While it’s cool to toss Cyborg or Robot Minions at the heroes, even they tend to be much lower down the power scale than their Evil Overlord. Supermen just don’t fight Supermen who have glass jaws (apart from in DC Comic’s Hundred Minute War story arc where is seemed everyone had a glass jaw. Let’s ignore that one, ok?).

In D&D-land though, your typical high-level Big Boss is likely to surround himself with Minions who are within a handful of levels of himself. Even at high Tier that’s cool as it means your Awesome Heroes ™ can smash around Giants and Other Massive Things like ninepins. I like that, a lot. But not enough to justify that a single frickin’ Magic Missile from some dirtfarming 1st level Wizard can take out those selfsame Massive Things with one shot. Oh no.

I’m planning to implement a House Rule in my 4e game where Minions get Hit Points equal to their level rather than just a meagre lonely 1. This shouldn’t slow combat down too much but means there’s a (slim but steadily increasing with level) chance that one hit won’t take down a Minion every time. That first level Wizard will be eaten by the Crawling Blood Swarm right after he’s let off his first Magic Missile. Just as nature intended.

Anyhow. Back on plot.

Picture the scene. A mighty Elder Red Dragon swoops over the city, confident in its power and prowess. 250 voices all shouting “MAGIC MISSILE!” reach him, closely followed by arcane bolts of force. They each do an average of 5 damage (assuming INT 16 low-level Wizards) and the beast falls to the ground, quite dead. The people look up bored, and carry on their business.

With 250 Wizards, a city could defend themselves against pretty much anything. In a city with, say, 20,000 people that’s just 1.25% of the population. Why the feck would they need adventurers?

So, am I going to nerf Magic Missile and reject the errata?

I haven’t decided yet. What do you think of it?

76 Comments on “Is Magic Missile a change too far?”

  1. I’m inclined to agree, and I saw nothing wrong with the original magic missile power. I’m going to ignore the errata for my games (easy enough, since none of the players are playing a wizard).

    Looks to me like WoTC caved-in to some of the internet pressure; although I know others who welcome the change.

    If I was going to keep it as rewritten, I’d make a house-rule wherein total concealment and invisibility still works– which I think it does, as don’t both eliminate line-of-sight/effect, which are needed for the attack anyhow?

    Nice blog.

    1. It’s a -5 penalty to the Attack roll against foes with Total Concealment or one that’s Invisible it you target their square, so that doesn’t apply against Magic Missile.

      Silly, eh? :)

  2. I think you find problem thet doesn’t exist.
    1st level wizards never meet high level minions. If they do – DM is doing it wrong.
    And 250 wizards in the town? What happend with adventureres being special and stuff?

    1. You’re right – 1st level wizards should never meet high level minions. I said as much in my post; it’s an artificial situation. Still leaves a bad taste in my mouth though.

      Let’s put it another way – a high-level PC could fell those selfsame high-level Minions with the lowest Spell he knows without chance of failure. Where’s the challenge in that?

      To put my point about 250 Wizards in a city to the test, I ran the Myth-Weaver’s Town Generator for a Large City run by a Magocracy (check my results here). This was entirely random and on first result gave me a population of 14,430 with 256 2nd level Wizards as well (this being a 3.5e generator) loads of Adepts and higher-level magic-wielders.

      Even though it’s 3.5e rather than 4e, I’d say those numbers still stand.

      Sure, the adventurers are special – but the ability to use magic in a typical fantasy world is far from unique to them. Of course, your campaign may differ :)

  3. Missile Missile automatically hits in most old-school versions of D&D as well. I’ve never found it to be a problem, probably because game world realism/verisimilitude was important in these editions. You still had to know where your target was if the magic missile was to hit.

    The magic missile in TSR editions was basically an energy arrow that you fired at a target. It might not need a hit roll, but it still needed a line of sight to the target. If you were trying to hit an invisible target that in thought was in the right corner of the room and it turned out to actually be behind you, the missile missed. It didn’t loop around and show you where the target was. It did not go through hard cover or around corners. It did not dodge around terrain or other targets in its path. Verisimilitude-based common sense applied.

    The revised magic missile you describe is an example of where 4e’s ignore verisimilitude and just apply the rules approach really breaks down. There is a simple solution, although many 4e players will not like it. Consider verisimilitude/game world reality first.

    If applying the rules as written doesn’t make sense from the point of view of the “reality” of the game world, ignore the rule in favor of something that does make sense. This solves many problems with 4e from powers that let you trip a gelatinous cube to magic missiles with the ability to locate objects and to phase through total cover.

    1. Also, I loved the old-school Magic Missile, but that’s where it belongs.

      Auto-hitting at-will Powers just have far too much game breakery potential in 4e D&D where Powers can be layered with additional effects and side-effects with Feats, racial abilities and the like.

  4. I think the Magic Missile as it is now written is so overpowered its unbelievable. I think its going to have to be houseruled in my play group, in that i will allow players to take it as is but make an attack roll or allow it to be used as it is in the books.

  5. Great post and I think you make a lot of interesting points. Funnily enough, my players (most of whom aren’t power-gamers) don’t like the new version as they don’t get to roll any dice so we’re leaving as is for now ;)

  6. See, I always imagined it more like a guided missile than an energy arrow, partly because its called magic MISSILE and not energy arrow. ; )

    That said, I agree with visibility and line of sight. You need to see your target to ‘lock on’ as it were. Once launched (to continue the analogy) it automatically hits because it follows the target.

    So in my D&D campaigns it does turn corners, zip around cover and the like but it can not hit an invisible object since the targeting system (the wizard’s eyes) wouldn’t be able to lock on to an invisible object.

  7. Well, if you are running pure dungeon delve ganmes, it wouldn’t be so much a problem. Only when you start thinking about verisimilitude as you mentioned (250 young wizards) then it gets nonsensical.

    Even back in older edition, including 3.5/Pathfinder, 250 level 1 wizards would only get to cast MM once. In 4e, we can gather an army of level 1 wizards to wage war as they spam MM every 6 seconds.

    Stick to dungeon delves and it will work fine.

    1. Remember that only PCs use the Player’s Handbook character creation rules… Everyone else is made with the monster builder, with only the powers the plot requires.

      So my response as a DM is simple: There are no 250 PHB Wizards in a city.

      There’s only one: you (and maybe your old master)

      There might be a few arcanists (people with the arcana skill and some rituals), but that’s it.

      1. Call me crazy if you want, but I quite like my game worlds to at least try to be internally consistent.

        The Human Mage in the Monster Manual (page 163) uses the full old-style Magic Missile (INT vs Ref, 2d4+INT damage) I’d expect (nay, demand!) that it be “fixed” as well.

        Otherwise we’ll end up with encounters where the Human Mage’s Magic Missiles fail to hit (or, worse still, do more damage than the PC’s) and that will never do :D

        Did the idiot who came up with this Update not think about these things? Playtesting? Hello?

        Just wondering.

        There’s your 250 Wizards, right there. Page 163, Monster Manual.

        1. Yes, but those 250 wizards are not PC wizards!

          They are not the protagonists of the story and thus, their magic missiles don’t always hit targets.

          Protagonists are expected to drop mooks with a single slash of the sword or gunshot or blaster bolt.

          The same does not apply for secondary characters and antagonists.

          The D&D world should not be consistent. It should be HEROIC!

          1. All very true :)

            But a Magic Missile should still be a Magic Missile, and work using the same rules whoever casts it, whether it’s PC, NPC or villain.

            That’s just like a Longsword – in the hands of a PC Fighter or Orc Warrior, the base damage is still d8 and it work the same way. The PC Fighter may well be able to carry out Heroic Martial Exploits with it, but the Basic Attack remains the same.

          2. Let me use an example.

            In Star Wars, a blaster is a blaster.

            However, if Leia shoots a stormtrooper, then the trooper dies. But when a stormtroopers shoot at Leia, she escapes 99.9% of the time

            And when Leia actually got shot in RotJ, she didn’t die, but was only wounded (and was fine 5 minutes later)

            Such is the difference between a Heroic Magic Missile and a regular one…

          3. No, that’s because the Stormtroopers are Minions while Leia is a PC. They drop on one shot because that’s what Minions do. On the other hand, Leia soaks the damage with her Hit Points.

            The blaster is the same.

          4. Actually, that’s not entirely true in 4E. A minion does X damage. A hobgoblin warrior (minion) is doing 6 points with it’s longsword. A PC that picks that up is going to be doing d8+str. So, a longsword isn’t always a longsword, sometimes it’s just the means that the minion is using to do it’s standard dam.

            And as for your specific situation mentioned above. Okay. So, a Magic user can spend a daily to automatically do 7 points of dam twice a round? Yeah, okay, it can kill minions but that is the point of minions… to die. So they can kill two minions a round. Okay.

            And I take issue with your numbers of mages. As I read the base setting PC levels are supposed to be /rare/. There shouldn’t necessarily be 250 mages in the entire land… much less a single city. But millage will vary there, I suppose.

          5. Minions always do minimum (fixed) damage. That Hobgoblin minion is doing his STR + 1 (lowest result on a d8) damage every time. Longsword is still a Longsword, even if it’s in the hands of a Minion.

            Two Minions every round isn’t a huge amount I agree – but 14 damage is more than the average roll on most attacks, and that’s guaranteed automatic damage that ignores all cover and concealment.

            Over the duration of an encounter Wizard’s Fury + Magic Missile does far more damage than any other Power in the game of the same level. If an Encounter lasts 7 rounds, say, your INT 20 Wizard can do a total of (14*7) 98 points of damage with no chance of missing. That’s one heck of a combo!

            When it comes to Wizards/Human Mages it’s entirely up to the GM how many there are in a city or the land. Having 250 Human Mages in a city isn’t a huge stretch though – somewhere like Waterdeep or any number of Eberron cities would likely have that number, easily.

            Remember, this is a lowly 1st level Spell we’re talking about, which other classes (not to mention half-elves) could easily have picked up from multi-classing. 250 casters in a city? No problem.

  8. I think I’ll buy a [expletive here] copy of the PHB and write a review on covering the game from the start to the finish. On all important aspects of the game.

    I believe the GSL was left out of the review process. People didn’t review the GSL, which is the most important part of 4th Edition. Although I have ranted about the GSL before, people don’t seem to listen to me on how bad it is.

    (Come to think of it, after watching the Sorcerer’s Apprentice magic missile in 4th edition is okay from the standpoint of that film. Wizards and sorcerers are capable of using the whole of their brains to perform feats of creation, transmutation, and to blast their enemies with plasma bolts [magic missile]).

    I’ve come to believe that 4th Edition can’t stand on it’s own two feet if Wizards of the Coast has to resort to Monopolist behavior to make us buy it. What I’d like to do is to encourage everyone to buy 3rd party products for 4e. Those people publishing third party products for 4e are risking everything they have in order to support the game.

    Buying 3rd party 4e products, and using them in your games, will encourage them to make more 3rd party products for 4th edition. After all, at RPGnow, there are 27 products for sale for 4e vs. 350 for Pathfinder. Clearly, on the virtue of Inde Designer support, Pathfinder is the more successful game. If you truly want a free 4th edition and a free D&D, give your support and your dollars to the 4e third party publishers.

    Buy stuff from Goodman Games, Alluria Publishing, etc. and use their products in your games.

    1. You mean you’ve still not bought a copy? Go and fix that oversight right away! :)

      Seriously, the GSL isn’t that bad. It’s a huge step back from the openness of the OGL but is still a far improvement over most other game industry licenses (ie, none at all). At least WoTC allow third party publications without complete supervisory lockdown or control.

      Anyhow. Back on topic…..

      1. I prefer the Plasma Bolt. The wizard’s and sorcerer’s number one defense against an evil wizard.

        No, I haven’t got my copy. And remember, I’m not buying one just because everyone else has one.

  9. You are grasping at straws a little, dude.

    I am not too happy about the magic-missile change, but that doesn’t mean its the end of the world or that it is suddenly overpowered.

    Like anything else in the D&D game, common sense while DMing still applies.

    Yes, you can do magic missiles from prone and yes, they ignore cover, but since you don’t have line of sight against an invisible enemy, you can’t target one with it.

    Wizard’s Fury is more powerful now, but not totally gamebreaking, either. A couple of little pings per round is not going to bother a brute monster too much in the couple of rounds it will take a lurker from reaching the wizard.

    The Wizard, like other controllers, is strong against minions, and the change to magic missile just emphasizes this, no more.

    1. Not the end of the world by a far cry, but it’s definitely open for power creep. I know my players :)

      Remember that against invisible foes you can target a square. Normally that’s a -5 to hit as well. With the new “improved” Magic Missile there’s no penalty (because there’s no roll to hit) meaning if the foe is in that square it’s an auto-hit against an invisible foe.

      Does that make it better? Worse? I dunno.

  10. Well, I think only a few additions allow the new magic msisile to be fun, entertaining, and not entirely game-breaking.

    Common sense, if the wizard can’t see the monster, sure he can hit the square he thinks the monster is at, every time, but, what if the monster isn’t there?

    Next, the rule addition, simply make it only effective against equal or lower level monsters (level -2 if you want to weaken it, or level+2 if you’re feeling generous) no one hit killing inappropriately high minions at that. Rule it as the monster shrugging it off as a bee sting :)

    Even as is, there’s circumstances where it’s appropriate, as it makes the wizard fill a particular role, that of minion extermination. Pack an encounter full of minions and a big baddie or two, the wizard will be busy picking off the minions to prevent the party from being swarmed, while the rest of the praty has to deal with the big bad or it squishes the wizard.

    The level rule would prevent 250 wizards from felling a dragon as well, especially if they’re all level 1 :)

  11. The “Rules-as-written” here sound a little fuzzy, but it sounds to me like they were trying to duplicate Perception ranged attacks from Mutants and Masterminds. IE, the attack hits automatically, but only if you can accurately perceive the target with at least one of your senses (and normally visual senses are the only accurate sense, unless I’m forgetting something).

    That’s how I’d treat it, anyway – slightly less game breaking, but still a little frightening, especially since 4e doesn’t have power level constraints. . .

  12. Two and a half things:

    1) A standard action from a wiz to kill a minion of any level has never been a bad trade for our DM. I could see it being a problem if a few strong minions made up the challenge of a given encounter as large numbers or repop should require a better kill rate then one per standard from your controller if your controller is plinking instead of controlling. Course using minions in this way (few and buff) doesn’t seem as right as it doesn’t fit the role of a minion.

    (1 1/2)That said wizard’s fury is questionable. Should be taken out or have it’s level increased? Thing is a wiz can auto damage with flaming sphere. Minor to maintain granted it is location dependent which makes it weaker but only not by much as it can be adjusted with a move.

    2) This spell doesn’t auto-hit. It doesn’t hit at all. All damage is done with an effect and as such does not trigger feats, powers, abilities or items that have an “on hit” trigger such as white lotus anything, staff of ruin, and 95% of all spell enhancing options out there for a wizard.

    Personally I’m on the fence I liked having secondary effects trigger off my at-will for my force wiz (almost all required a hit with force power.)

    It would been better if they just done it as a new spell and named it Archaic Missile or something.

    1. Re: This spell doesn’t auto-hit.

      I’ll post it up here (we’ve been discussing this over twitter) just so my own personal GM ruling has a place in this lovely ongoing thread:

      The new Magic Missile does hit.

      Of course it hits. Common sense says it hits. All my experience as a GM says it hits. The fact there’s no “Hit:” line in the Power description is neither here nor there. There’s a Target. There’s an Effect. That Effect does damage. That’s a hit by my book.

      Or, to put it another way:

      The White Lotus Feats in question say “When you hit an enemy….”, not “When you Hit an enemy….”. The lack of capitalization is significant. It’s hits, not Hits – not a reference to the Power definition or glossary term. The Feat isn’t necessarily triggered by the “Hit:” line (or lack thereof), but by whether the Power, y’know…. hits.

      On this particular blog, in this context, and for these reasons, this GM’s decision is final :)

      1. In that case yes the new MM is too strong.

        But does that mean hold true for other spells that have effects which are obviously attacks?

        For example: Cloud of Daggers, assuming nothing moves the target(s) of this spell, anyone in the area will be hit with daggers of force and take at least 1 damage when their turn starts.
        Lets say a wiz had WLEvasion and 3 targets were in the area and they failed to meet Reflex on all 3 of them when they cast it. Assuming no one entered the area the wiz would get 3 shifts, 1 shift on each of the target’s turns. The other WL feats would also be guaranteed, all be it not until the start of individual target’s turns and of course no benefit stacking would occur. Although there are some class abilities that would be overwhelmingly effected.

        I 100% agree that both the new MM and other spells with effect base damage are a form of attack but maybe there could be some differentiation in the nature of that attack.

        Maybe an auto-hit doesn’t connect with the same umph as a directed attack and thus doesn’t proc the same stuff. Nothing ventured, nothing gained… except damage.

        Just something to consider.

  13. I love the idea behind minions, but I think their use should be restricted to low level adventures. Low level parties benefit from increased combat survivability & variety. As the adventurers increase in level, I like them to face tougher, larger monsters, not chumps that you can ALWAYS take out with 1 hit. Plus, you can still face a hoard without facing a hoard of minions…

    1. I second that. I love throwing monsters that are four, five, six, even seven levels lower than the group. The players like it too – it seems more real to them.

  14. (1) I have zero experience with Wizards. So, I’d like to see the Magic Missile in play for several levels, before I decide if I like or dislike the change.

    (2) On the surface, it seems that the new Magic Missile might help speed up combat. No?


  15. I don’t agree with your analysis at all.
    First, puting any number of low-level adventurers against a high level monsters is already a break in the mechanics. Taking the example of the lv 34 minion… all lv 1 characters have a 5% chance of hiting it with *any* attack – they just have to roll a 20. So, with just 90 of them the chance of killing the target would be over 99%.
    The rules weren’t meant for use in those situations. A minion is a creatura that at you level you can kill easily – several monsters in the MM have near identical versions in low level (normal) and high level (minions). So, a minion of much higher level doesn’t make sense at all. It is also supposed that you will be facing monsters of about your level (up to 5 levels of difference) – the mechanics were not made for use out of this range, and many absurdities may happen.
    If you believe “auto hit against high level foes” is a problem, try to mess with Warlords and armies. With sufficient lv1 Warlords using Commander’s Strike, a high level Fighter could attack almost infinitely in 6 seconds. The bonus from Inspiring Presence is untyped, so you can heal at least 1 HP for as many Warlords as you see. And so on…

    Second, as said feats like White Lotus won’t work. “Being hit” is diferent than “takes damage”. If you cause ongoing damage, the target takes damage every round, but he is not hit every round. But, more important, I believe a power that can not miss should not be considered for those for the same reasons you can’t hit a bag of rats to gain bonuses (see DMG, “valid targets”): hitting with it is not a challenge, but rather instantaneous.

    Finally, I believe that a spell that simply causes damage to a target just won’t work against a target you can’t see. It’s okay to shoot a ray onto a random space, but if you cast the spell on a specific person you must know where it is. I don’t even consider this a house rule… just as I don’t need the book to tell me that a Gelatinous Cube doesn’t fall prone, I just thought it obvious you can’t cast a spell on someone you don’t see. Granted, it would ignore cover and concealment, and most conditions, but not invisibility or total concealment.

    1. I agree with all that save needing to see someone to cast on them. I’m all for spells that (when balanced correctly) allow squares to be targeted. Close counts for horseshoes, hand grenades and fireballs. The problem for magic missile is that the spell description is not conducive to that kind of spell. It unerringly goes where you put it (you need to know where to put it,) not, it goes to the area you choose and finds a suitable target for you.

      It’s obvious what WotC was trying to do and it’s just as obvious they didn’t pull it off. The system for this kind of spell is more fitting for one that is described as self guiding or like a small area effect diffusing throughout the space and giving no option for avoidance.

      1. Unless the target is a solid block occupying the whole square, it may hit the square and not the target. But, as you don’t make an attack roll, it just won’t work this way…
        For me, the spell is not cast “on the place the enemy is, thus hitting the enemy if he does not evade”, but rather “on the enemy, and thus always hitting it”. More like a charm than a ray or bolt – and I would not allow a player to charm a square.

        1. PHB, page 281, “Targeting what you can’t see”:

          “Invisible Creatures and Stealth: If an invisible creature is
          hidden from you (“Stealth,” page 188), you can neither hear nor see it, and you have to guess what space it occupies. If an invisible creature is not hidden from you, you can hear it or sense some other sign of its presence and therefore know what space it occupies, although you still can’t see it.

          Make a Perception Check: On your turn, you can make a Perception check as a minor action (page 186) to try to determine the location of an invisible creature that is hidden from you.

          Pick a Square and Attack: Choose a square to attack, using whatever information you’ve gleaned about the target’s location. Roll the attack normally (taking the –5 penalty for attacking a creature that has total concealment). If you pick the wrong square, your attack automatically misses, but only the DM knows whether you guessed the wrong square or your attack just missed.”

          1. See, now you’re quoting my own posts at me, and that’s not fair :D

            Yeah, I agree. Common sense has to prevail at all times and the “rules as written” should never take precedence.

            All the more reason why the new Magic Missile should be revoked. Auto-hitting at-will Powers call into question too many of the underlying rules of the game. That’s not a good thing.

          2. Are you saying that all area charms should only effect enemies? I mean if I can’t even give my allies a -2 to my attack roll without a feat how can you say I’m directing the spell at my enemies beyond where the area lands?

            I’m not sure what you mean about MM being a charm. It’s not a mental assault. You’re beating the tar outta someone with pure force. Is it a charm because you don’t have to roll to hit? Is Cloud of daggers’ effect a charm?

  16. Tough call. I allowed it last night in a fight versus a dragon, and the party wizard did a significant chunk of damage (around 20% of the dragon’s total, which normally would be right with 5 PCs, but we had 8.)

    I guess I just don’t like the flavor of an automatic hit in 4e. Rolling against defenses is not just about the attacker’s prowess, it also takes the defender into account. Automatically hitting does not.

  17. My group has already run into “problems” with the new MM /Wizard’s Fury combo – the wizard now puts out damage on par with the striker (12 pts per round; he’s 2nd level) and is superior in every way since he doesn’t miss, require special positioning, and the damage is virtually guaranteed every round. If you thought solo monsters in the MM1 were pathetic, it’s 100x worse now. It also means the striker no longer has a real niche in the group since the wizard, at least for the “big” encounters is so incredibly dominant. I need to sit down with the player tonight and see if he’ll agree to me banning Arcane Fury since it’s such a fun-sucking combo. This whole situation is just one more example of how piss-poor the play testing (or even deductive reasoning) is over at WotC and why I cringe every time a new Dragon magazine or splat book comes out.

  18. Excellent post Greywulf, and despite the naysayers and pooh-poohers, the changes to Magic Missile are about as close to game-breaking as I ever want to see WotC take 4E. I have no intention of allowing MM to be used in its new form in any of the games I run.

    However, I do have EVERY intention of creating a Wizard under LFR rules and going to conventions where I will obnoxiously attempt to abuse the hell out of the power in every RPGA event I can. Seems like a bit of comic irony I can really get behind.

    1. Absolutely! While my inner GM is screaming that this is oh so broken, the player side of me is just itching to use and abuse it :)

      I’m picturing a Wizard wearing a cowboy outfit (because Wizards in stetsons ROCK), complete with wand shaped like a Colt Peacemaker. He draws. He fires. And he doesn’t miss!

      There goes my inner GM screaming again. I better shut up now.

  19. The first Brooch of Shielding I’ve seen in play since ad&d made an appearance at last nights session. You should have seen our wizards face. I hadn’t seen a face like that since my sister got my 6 year old nephew nothing but clothes for x-mas.

  20. Here’s another thought to throw into the mix.

    The Arcane Reserves Feat (prerequisite: Human) gives +2 damage to any At-Will Spell once all Encounter Spells are expended. Add that to Wizards Fury and your first level INT 20 Wizard will be doing a guaranteed, autohitting 18 damage every single combat round after the first.

    Round one: Fire off Encounter spell, cast Wizard’s Fury then drop prone (+2 defences with no penalty to Magic Missile!)
    Round two: Magic Missile x2 = 18 damage
    Round three: etc…

    To put that into context, a STR 20 Fighter wielding a Longsword and using his heaviest hitting Daily Power – Brute Strike for 3[W]+STR damage – will do an average of 18.5 damage. Once. Maybe. Compare that with 18 damage GUARANTEED round after round after round. No contest.

    I’m not normally a fan of optimization just to see how far things can be bent before they break, but this doesn’t need bending very far at all.

    Does it need retconning? I’m beginning to think so.

    1. Yeah, that’s what we’ve discovered with the wizard from the group I run. Without ever realizing what he was doing, he chose the MM –> Arcane Fury –> Arcane Reserves combo and now has no incentive to be anything but an auto-hitting magic missile machine gun in combat. So much for WotC’s playtesting process.

      1. Yeah. I’m wondering if this was fully thought through at all.

        That’s the problem – it’s such a good combo that it overshadows anything else to the detriment of that character and the other players at the table too.

        The fact that it’s already in Red Box as a done deal is…. well, I ain’t happy about that.

    2. Oh, and before anyone says you can’t add to the damage done by Magic Missile because you don’t “roll” damage, I’ll nip that in the bud right away.

      That (just like whether a Magic Missile hits or not) is semantics bollocks which has no place at my game table.

      PHB 57 is clearly referring to non-rolled damage such as ongoing effects over and above the baseline damage (if any) which (at the time when the PHB was written) was always rolled. The fact that WoTC have seen fit to start giving some Powers fixed baseline damage as well is neither here nor there.

      ‘Kay? :)

      1. It will depend wether the feat says “bonus to damage rolls” or bonus to damage. If it say it is a bonus to rolls, it is specifically saying that with no roll, there is no bonus.
        You may play as you want, but them don’t say “Wizards lacked playtest” or “the rule is broken” because they probably intended to make it work like this (thus the fixed damage instead of “1d4”, for example).
        Instead, say “Wizards makes nonsensical distinctions of effects due to the semantics” or “it’s ridiculous that an in-game effect depends on wheter I roll dice or not”.

        1. Elda, I suggest you re-read the PHB, page 57 again. It says:

          “Some powers add modifiers to attack rolls or damage rolls. These modifiers apply to any roll of the dice, but not to ongoing damage or other static, nonvariable effects. The paladin’s wrath of the gods prayer, for example, adds her Charisma modifier to her and her allies’ damage rolls until the end of the encounter. When her cleric ally invokes flame strike, the damage equals 2d10 + Wisdom modifier + the paladin’s Charisma modifier fire damage and ongoing 5 fire damage. The ongoing damage doesn’t increase, because it’s a static effect.”

          It clearly differentiates between the base damage (which in the PHB was all rolled if present) and any “other static, nonvariable effects”, such as ongoing damage. It states that any such damage doesn’t get any damage bonuses, not that the initial damage doesn’t get the bonus. The fact that with Magic Missile, that initial damage isn’t “rolled” (here’s where the semantics come in) doesn’t make any difference at all.

          That’s my reading of the rules anyhow, and I stand by it :)

          1. I remember it clearly from the PHB. But, by my understanding, it doesn’t differentiate between the “base damage” and “all other damage”. It says “damage which you roll” and “static damage”.
            The fact that the base damage was always rolled on the PHB was merely incidental.
            In my opinion, the fact tha MM damage is “base damage” is that wouldn’t make any difference.

          2. The real issue, as I see it, is that the section you’re both referring to is referencing the Hit term but the MM power doesn’t actually “hit.” It’s text reads “Effect” for which there are no rules (AFAIK) regarding what modifiers do or even how damage works. Clearly there’s going to be some sort of update (yeah, again and likely it’s too late to clarify in the essentials stuff…) regarding it.

          3. Quite so. We have two different (and equally valid) interpretations of the same rules paragraph.

            Oh what a kettle of worms this new Magic Missile has opened up, eh?

  21. And this is why I’ve pretty much left 4E behind me in the dust… because I’ve realized that WotC doesn’t care enough to actually put out a playtested, finished product.

    Look at the Tiefling book. Updated less than a month from release. Updated before it even hit the CB…

    And now with the fact that the Updates are more whim than need and the Essentials fiasco…

    I’m glad to be washing my hands of 4E.

    In fact, with Saga System dead, and leaving 4E, I’m no longer a WotC customer at all…

    I agree with your assessment that WotC doesn’t really think through their decisions much at all.

  22. I think this highlights the problems with both minions in 4e and auto-hit powers. If I still ran 4e, I’d toss out this change.

  23. My new MM/Wizard’s Fury/Arcane Reserve machinegun wizard’s player decided tonight to dump both WF and AR – he thought the possibilities, while cool from a power gaming perspective, were going to suck from a fun perspective since he’d be using nothing but MM 90% of the time. It became even goofier once we all realized that the dwarf artificer’s magic weapon power was going to add another 4 points of damage per missile on to the whole thing for a potential whopping 24 points of damage per round when he used his daily. No one in the group really wanted to play that way.

    The other thing that’s become apparent, at least to me, is that the new MM version is pretty anti-climactic at the table: The wizard simply says “Magic missile, 6 points of damage.” and we move on to the next turn… there’s no suspense, consideration of the situation, or chance of failure involved. On the upside, his turns go quickly when he used the power.

  24. I’m surprised that everyone thinks a broken power (or rather, collection of powers) is evidence of no play-testing, or an example of how 4e is so badly broken, etc. etc.

    I remember players asking what alignment dungeon walls were in 1e, so that they could communicate with them using Alignment Languages. Or, in 3rd edition, you could create a magic item of Cure Minor Wounds, at will, for 1000g, that would refill you to full after every combat, etc. The games have always been broken. In fact, I think we should ban an incredibly broken element of these games:
    role playing.

    Can you imagine what would happen if players began to role play? They could conceivably talk their way out of anything. Gain unbalanced allies! Or more treasure than the parcels declare! They could even avoid an entire encounter! I mean, yeah, a wizard can do 28 points of damage round at level 2, or whatever, with this combo. But imagine the group that doesn’t even have to fight! It’s broken beyond belief. In my game, I’ll be sure to abstract the role playing out, and base the entire fun of the game on combat encounters and performance. Whew. Crisis averted.

    1. If a Power or combo is easily found to be broken or open to abuse to the point where it’s problematic then yes, I do expect it to be discovered during playtesting. And if it’s not fixed then I’ll question whether adequate playtesting took place. Simple, really :)

      And damn those role-players with their fancy pants ideas. Never catch us role-playing round these parts. Nope. No siree……


    2. The problem is that, so far, we had no rules that unbalanced the game per se. Maybe some very strong combos, but nothing like some 3E’s prestige classes for example.
      So, depending on your interpretation, Magic Missile may be the first time this line is crossed…

      And, while roleplaying can be unbalanced, you may balance it by giving the enemies the same advantages. Imagine a villain bringing together a full Evil Alliance! Imagine a courtier that prevents the characters from fighting with logic and quotes from the laws! Or worse – turning what they say against themselves! If your players are benefiting from roleplaying, you are playing the monsters wrong. Roleplay should always be harmful for the PCs – that is why most powergamers avoid it at all cost.

      1. Agreed 100%. WoTC have done a terrific job of creating classes that are mechanically sound and appealing to play across the board without having any one of them being noticeably more powerful than any other. Kudos to them for that, all the way.

        Sure, some Powers are more powerful than their level would suggest. In some cases, that’s an intentional design feature to keep the D&D flavour and in others there’s a degree of power creep snuck in. I don’t mind that at all too – give me interesting powers and abilities which enhance the role-playing side of the game, and I don’t care if the damage output is a tad too high.

        That’s why the change to Magic Missile is so surprising. It was unnecessary (the old 4e MM worked just fine, thanks), and causes headaches at the table. It’s a very un-4e-like alteration as a whole.

        I’m a firm believer that great role-playing should be rewarded, and not just in terms of a few bonus XP. If the players can role-play convincing an Elder Red Dragon into helping them clear out an infestation of Kobolds and actually manage to pull it off, then that’s what happens :D

  25. Great article. I love the comparisons, even though they are not plausible.

    Honestly, I don’t care about MM either way. I can play it as intended or as errata’d. Why? Because I’ve houseruled minions a long time ago.

    I think the root of the problem is minions as written.

    I may implement the “minions get a saving throw” and see how it goes, but honestly, I think I like my solution better.

    1. Minions don’t have hit points per se. Their lives are measured in “hits”.
    2. Some minions are 1 hit minions, others are 2 hit and even some rare 3 hit minions. (also, I have lots of trap minions that explode, poison cloud, evil auras, etc.

    This does a couple of things.

    1.No minion drops in 1 hit that I don’t WANT to drop in one hit.
    2. The players never know for sure which baddies are minions which keeps combat fresh.
    3. They can still wade through lots of baddies as was the intention of minions.

    I love minions but they need to be errata’d more than Magic Missile did.

  26. Nobody has mentioned a couple other tricks that can happen when you combine this with some items.

    Masters wand of magic missile, Push 1

    There was some other item (Arms?) that increases any push by 1

    Yet another item added +2 to any basic ranged attack.

    This means twice a turn mage can get 12 damage and push 2 at level 8.

    A bag of air–1 hour clean air.

    Mage casts stinking cloud (blocks line of sight) right on top of himself and starts breathing from bag.

    After this mage casts magic missile twice a round (he knows where enemies are unless they stealth, even if he can’t see them) and minor-sustain the cloud.

    He can also push enemies into clouds or walls at a rate of 2/turn.

    It may be better to cloud/missile one combat and double-missile the next so he’s not action-starved.

    I gotta play this build.

  27. Another note: Many powers auto-kill minions of any level. Even the at-will blades wizard power kills any minion that starts it’s turn in the square, and everyone uses the flaming sphere to kill all minions adjacent to it without rolling attacks on them (isn’t that what it’s for?)

    Most clouds and walls auto-hit for some damage.

    Another thing I thought of after my last post, the item that gives +2 to any basic ranged attack would only work with a standard action, if you used a second MM with a minor you could not get that +2 (because it’s not a basic ranged attack at that point, the BRA takes a standard, period)

    So the most my theoretical 8th level wizard could get would be 12/10, each with a push 2.

    It may be better than twin strike, but it’s also AMAZINGLY more expensive, costing a daily and a standard+minor per round.

    Minors are very important to wizards–most other classes couldn’t care less if they didn’t get their minors for a few rounds.

    I dunno, I’d say it’s not terribly unbalanced except for the auto-push (and many classes have an at-will push now, some auto, so even that may not be such a big deal).

  28. Honestly minions should never have been a problem for wizards. As I stated above wizards have always had a auto kill at-will in Cloud of Daggers (for minions this is obviously the hardest of controls).

    As for hit in description vs hit in system.

    I believe it is Absolutely necessary to have powers that read “on hit” or suggest a roll is needed be able to trigger only when an attack roll is made. If effect or damage by effect equals a hit there are just too many huge breaks in balance with almost no effort.

    How about a level 11 Academy Wizard dropping a Cloud of Daggers on a stacked defender? Assuming he was surrounded by enemies and/or allies the MIN bonus he would have on his arcane attack would be +9. That’s assuming three things; One, he missed everyone. Two, no one passes through the effect again enemies or allies (only wisdom in damage min 1.) Three, no warlord/rogue/fighter/etc moves an enemy so it starts it’s turn the cloud. Hell, if you move through the effect yourself you are getting at least +10 from an at-will and class feature. Drop the Academy Wizard’s level 11 encounter on it and your CoD becomes 3d6 +Int and sets you up for another bonus next round.

    Better yet, there’s only the solo, Turn one (assuming the wizard rolls nothing but 1’s): CoD action point CoD move into and out of the effect, your allies do the same in addition to what ever they want to and the solo starts there, gives you a +10 that can be used on any arcane attack before the end of your next turn.

    Have a horde coming at you? Great the more the better! Visions of Avarice, bursts 5 at a range of 10 pulling only enemies into where you’re dropped your last CoD or are going to drop the next one and leaving them immobilized. Btw VoA has a at-will that you use, IE +1 more.

    Not minions? Not a problem!
    Sustain a knot of Wall of Fire on the origin of visions of avarice and any enemy that has a will lower then your attack roll, which could easily be between +19* and +26, be pulled at least 3 squares towards an auto 3d6 +Int if it starts it’s turn in the wall, only 1d6 +Int if adjacent to it. Don’t forget the auto Wis damage from the CoD’s.

    * level 11 human wiz with starting 16 int, Imp Exp, Coordinated Explosion, +3 Imp; 15. Then +4 if CoD auto hits allies with effect only and VoA hits no one, +11 if VoA draws 9 enemies together and CoD hits at least one of them on cast. Keep in mind that’s assuming no one is other then you is moving fresh meat into your CoD.

    This is what I was talking about above in #33. I’m sure there are others and hell, I’m sure someone could do what I did better, I haven’t played a wiz in almost a year.

    The point is if hits are dictated by the nature of the descriptions in the book then the descriptions or how they are perceived should be house ruled. I don’t think the system can’t take that change without a major overhaul.

    Just something to consider,

  29. Yes TCS. If you read through the errata they changed the wording on the Wand of Magic Missiles so that instead of “when hitting with a magic missile” it now says something along the lines of “When damaging..” indicating that you are correct.

    I’m pretty sure part of the reason they did it the way they did was to remove the ability to apply effects based on “Hit”

  30. Nice Article. Last night our table experienced the new MM rules. It was a special birthday one shot we ran Epic level characters against a dragon. The Wizard had the MM WF combo. As soon as the update to the Missile was explained there was silence. Most of us are Old School. I Started with ADnD and have played each edition since. Our youngest Member is 16. This is his first Edition of DnD. There was a universal WTF moment. Having played 4rth now for 2 years we’ve gotten comfortable with team play. Everyone having and knowing their role. And that each of us have really cool things we can do no matter what class.
    The change to MM is mechanically wrong. It doesn’t fit in the game. No other class has an at will that doesn’t roll.
    To top it off its boring. There is no excitement about the Wizard turn. Nothing new to see. It was boring for the player even if her turn moved the fastest.
    We won’t be playing with the updated rule.
    The biggest thing is, if we wanted classic we’d be playing classic.

  31. The DM balance for the nMM is SO simple it hurts.

    Make the wizard do their job.

    Wizards are a control class.

    MM is the worst control at will a wizard has against anything but long artillery minions.

    If the wizard spent the combat doing little other then MM the rest of the group is either doing the wizard’s job or the DM isn’t doing his, ie making encounters where each player contributes their part.

    Now if the group is fine with picking up the slack so the wizard can pump damage that’s fine but it’s one spell and it’s force. Force is one of the easiest to mitigate and hardest to buff for damage. Coupled with the fact that there is no damage roll and it does not trigger on hits by system (if you play that it is a hit MM is pathetic compared to Cloud of Daggers.) and if a wizard is doing much more then 2 + Int bonus with each shot they’re most likely either mistaken or trying to slip something by you. And remember almost all of the secondary effects triggered of at-wills or force require a hit.

    If you have a wizard over using MM throw in more minions or weaker non-minions. And if he’s getting control effects off of it make him show you where he’s getting them from you’ll probably find a on hit or damage roll trigger.

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