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    Default Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    A lot of very smart people have started threads about fixing spells in 3.5; there's one going on right now about forcecage. However it occurred to me that fixing all the spells in 3.5 is a gargantuan task if you do it from the bottom up. By that I mean looking at each spell individually. What I'd like to accomplish in this thread is a way to fix most of the spells (there will always be exceptions) without having to single out too many.

    I plan to do this by ironing out a set of game design principles (something Wizards should have done for us). Once you have a principle, the fixes should flow free & easy.

    Here's what we have so far that is mostly accepted:

    Principle: A spell-caster should not be able to fight as well as a melee class without temporarily suspending their spellcasting ability to do so.
    Result: The spell Tenser's Transformation is perfectly balanced because this is what it does. Divine power, however, is not. So the fix would be that for the duration of divine power, the cleric cannot cast any spells. Likewise, you'd have to ban the natural spell feat for druids, so that they can't spend all day wild shaped and be effective.

    Principle: A spell-caster cannot trap a foe without a reflex save.
    Result: Forcecage has to allow a reflex save.

    Principle: All force effects allow spell resistance, and all can be brought down via a rod of cancellation.
    Result: Wall of force & forcecage must allow spell resistance. [The idea that a golem can walk through a prismatic sphere but not a wall of force is silly beyond measure] Blade barriers can be neutralized by a rod of cancellation.

    Principle: All mass spells are 4 levels higher than the normal version
    Result: Bump mass resist energy up to 6th level and mass fire shield up to 8th. I think you'll find people still taking them.

    Here's what we have that is still being debated:

    Principle: Touch and ranged touch spells that inflict a condition (in other words, do something other than damage a foe) must allow a saving throw at -4 to negate. If there is already a save allowed, then the spell is negated if the save is made by 4 or more. If the save is made but not by 4, then the normal result occurs. Spells that already allow damage resulting on a save for half are unaffected. The save penalty increases from 4 to 8 on a successful critical.
    Result: Look a few posts down.
    Possible Mitigation: 7th level and up touch & ranged touch spells do not have to provide a saving throw.

    Principle: All energy spells must allow spell resistance.
    Result: The 4th level orb spells in Spell Compendium must allow spell resistance, as well as the blast of flame spell.
    Last edited by ken-do-nim; 2007-04-02 at 09:04 PM. Reason: separated into 2 sections

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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    I like what I see so far. I hope you'll add any new principles that you or others come up with to your first post, so it can serve as a repository for the thread.

    Regarding the orb spells, it's worth noting that the school for these spells was set as conjuration precisely in order to allow spellcasters to bypass spell resistance. They also allow spellcasters (in particular Warmages) to bypass energy resistance, simply by choosing an orb spell that deals the right kind of energy damage. Because the spells are all of the same level and all have similar effects only with different energy types, taken together they function like a swiss army knife.

    I suspect that this functionality (the ability to overcome both energy resistance and spell resistance) may have been necessitated by the Warmage class, given the Warmage's spell list, which is limited largely to dealing damage. One solution to the problem (this is what I do) is to limit these spells to Warmage colleges, requiring Wizards and sorcerers to go to extra trouble to obtain these secrets from the Warmage colleges.

    In addition to skewing the system in other ways (as you note), the Orb spells also skew the system of magical schools, making Conjuration a viable alternative to evocation for dealing energy damage.

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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    Touch and ranged touch spells allowing saving throws to negate would by and large make them too much weaker--there's already a chance of missing the ranged touch, against most creatures, often roughly equivalent to the creature saving.

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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    Quote Originally Posted by Bears With Lasers View Post
    Touch and ranged touch spells allowing saving throws to negate would by and large make them too much weaker--there's already a chance of missing the ranged touch, against most creatures, often roughly equivalent to the creature saving.
    At low levels that's true, at medium to high levels it is not. One thing I noticed is that in 1E, the slow spell did not allow a save. In 2E, it did, but at -4. So what I was thinking is that touch & ranged touch spells that currently do not allow a save allow one but at a -4 penalty. This could even apply to spells that already allow a save. Let me explain:

    Ray of enfeeblement
    1E & 2E: no ranged touch, allowed a save to negate
    3E: ranged touch, no save.
    Proposal: ranged touch, save at -4 to negate

    Ray of exhaustion
    2E (ray of fatigue): no ranged touch, allowed a save to negate
    3E: ranged touch, save for 1/2 first time, but already fatigued opponent gets no save
    Proposal: ranged touch, if save at -4 is made, negated; if save made but not 4 more than needed, behavior as above.

    Otto's dance:
    1E & 2E: touch attack with no save, but it should be noted that these editions did not have a separate touch ac so the to hit was much harder AND the caster did not stay charged if the attack missed.
    3E: touch attack with no save
    Proposal: touch attack with save at -4 to negate
    Last edited by ken-do-nim; 2007-04-01 at 07:59 PM.

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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    Quote Originally Posted by henebry View Post
    I like what I see so far. I hope you'll add any new principles that you or others come up with to your first post, so it can serve as a repository for the thread.
    Will do.

    I suspect that this functionality (the ability to overcome both energy resistance and spell resistance) may have been necessitated by the Warmage class, given the Warmage's spell list, which is limited largely to dealing damage. One solution to the problem (this is what I do) is to limit these spells to Warmage colleges, requiring Wizards and sorcerers to go to extra trouble to obtain these secrets from the Warmage colleges.
    Yeah, I thought these spells were fine in 3.0 but the change in 3.5 baffled me. If a wizard creates a magical orb in his hand and flings it at someone which then has a further possible effect, it's a magical attack that someone resistant to spells should be able to ignore. Saying that "Oh, well it's from the conjuration school, so that's why" makes no sense, and as you point out makes evocation irrelevant.

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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    Quote Originally Posted by ken-do-nim View Post
    Otto's dance:
    1E & 2E: touch attack with no save, but it should be noted that these editions did not have a separate touch ac so the to hit was much harder AND the caster did not stay charged if the attack missed.
    3E: touch attack with no save
    Proposal: touch attack with save at -4 to negate
    That kind of eliminates the point of the spell. It is Otto's Irresistable Dance, y'know.

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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    Quote Originally Posted by martyboy74 View Post
    That kind of eliminates the point of the spell. It is Otto's Irresistable Dance, y'know.
    Now it's Otto's Nearly Irresistible Dance.

    Seriously though, I don't want to make exceptions for individual spells. Rather, we could change the principle so that it doesn't apply to spell levels 7-9 or something like that if the consensus thinks that is fair. (However I think that we've just made a broken spell balanced)

    I'd also be happy to increase the save penalty from 4 to 8 on a critical hit, now that I think of it.

    Edit: It just occurred to me that we've just made maze a lot better than Otto's Dance. Of course we could give that a save at 4 worse than normal too. Any other no save spells out there?
    Last edited by ken-do-nim; 2007-04-01 at 08:41 PM.

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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    I love the idea of a top-down approach.

    I'm not so sure about the Orb spells, though. I'd have said that the point of making them conjuration was precisely to meet the condition you specify: you're hurling an orb of non-magical fire/acid/electricity/etc... that was initially created by magic. Compare to a spell where you hurl a pebble and magically transform it to a boulder in midair -- you need to roll to hit, but there's no save or spell resistance involved.

    (On the other hand... I think I'd like to see the Orb spells moved into Evocation -- as a school of magic, it definitely needs all the help it can get, and these are right up Evocation's alley...)
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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    I like the idea that force cage should give a reflex saving throw to avoid the effect (the force cage still pops into place, just you jump out of it in time). But SR? Why? Mechanically, I can understant the attempt at balance here, but in terms of realism, no. Just no. You aren't casting the spell ON a person, you are casting it on the space aound them. Inanimate objects dont get saving throws or SR. Also, its like bears said earlier, all you would really end up doing is making it so golems could walk thru force effects.

    As for the Cleric nerf.... I dont quite agree. First, Divine Power is usually the last spell a good melee cleric (and not all clerics are good melee'ers) casts before he wades into battle and starts hacking stuff up, so you wont really be limiting them much there. Besides, it's short duration, the wait won't be terribly long. Also, I *like* the idea of a divine warrior who calls upon the power of the gods while in the midst of battle? Whats so terrible about that? If anything, it is mostly just divine metamagic and unbalanced splat feats/PrC's/items *cough cough nightsticks* that need to be nerfed.

    A core cleric, with proper optimization, can outdue a fighter, but they are limited by their spell resources. No more spells, and are they do slightly worse. (Less feats, less hps, MAD dependancy, less weapon choices..) It seems pretty balanced to me, really.
    Last edited by daggaz; 2007-04-02 at 07:40 AM.

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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    Principle: A magical effect has to allow spell resistance. Only when a spell produces something that is thereafter non-magical should spell resistance not apply.
    Result: Wall of force & forcecage must allow spell resistance. The 4th level orb spells in Spell Compendium must allow spell resistance (so you'd probably consider moving them back to 3rd to re-balance them).
    No, no, no!!!

    Once a spell has "conjured" something, it does have spell resitance and it shouldn't have spell resistance. This is because it has now created a nonmagic item/effect and thus there is nothing magical about it. If I were to create an ice spear and throw it, the ice spear is no longer magical after the creation, it shouldn't get SR when it hits the monk.

    If you find these spells unbalanced, such as the orb spells in CArcane/Spell Compedium the way to balance them is to make them occupy a higher slot, an orb that is 5th or 6th lvl suddenly loses much of its omph for you get it later and there is more of an opportunity cost for using the slot for such a spell. Furthemore it gets rid of orb spells with wands.

    Principle: Touch and ranged touch spells that inflict a condition (in other words, do something other than damage a foe) must allow a saving throw at -4 to negate. If there is already a save allowed, then the spell is negated if the save is made by 4 or more. If the save is made but not by 4, then the normal result occurs. Spells that already allow damage resulting on a save for half are unaffected. The save penalty increases from 4 to 8 on a successful critical.
    Result: Look a few posts down.
    With this the devil is in the details, some spells -4 is balanced, some its too strong, some its not weak enough. You can't make a general rule, this one you have to tailor make.
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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    Quote Originally Posted by daggaz View Post
    I like the idea that force cage should give a reflex saving throw to avoid the effect (the force cage still pops into place, just you jump out of it in time). But SR? Why?
    That one's easy. It is a force effect. All other force effects in the game allow SR. Prismatic wall & prismatic sphere, both higher level effects allow SR. If a golem can walk right through a prismatic sphere, why not a forcecage?

    Perhaps I should back off from the global change to what allows SR and what doesn't and limit it to force effects. I still don't see what is different about shooting a scorching ray at someone vs. throwing an orb of fire at them though.

    As to clerics - divine power is a 4th level spell that is better than a 6th level wizard spell (Tenser's). My playing & DMing experience has shown me that it needs to be brought in line, and I think this is the best way. This will also make righteous might clearly better. From a game design perspective, we are basically saying if you want to match another class at what they do, you can't function well in your own class at the same time.
    Last edited by ken-do-nim; 2007-04-02 at 08:37 AM.

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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    I approve of the top-down approach. In my day job I'm a systems analyst and top-down analysis pretty much always wins versus bottom-up. The only exception is when there's limited time and the product needs to be produced *fast*, in a damn-the-torpedoes kind of way. Top-down produces more consistant rules that can be applied to anything new coming down the pike. You'll end up with weird corner-case spells, of course, but that will prompt a more thorough analysis of the general rules. Very Lawful.

    I don't really have any comments about these particular rules yet, because I have to think them through. I just wanted to say good job so far.
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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    I already decided on a top-down decision that no spell can affect your BAB. So Divine Power gets nerfed - still provides bonus to Str and such, but no "instant fighting mastery". It's ruled out for the same reason a fighter can't take a feat that lets him cast spells. A fighter spends years of training to get that extra edge in how to use weapons. No spell is allowed to replace that. This also takes care of some of the balance issues of polymorph et al - you might have the body of a huge dire boar, but underneath you're still this pencil-necked bookworm who barely knows one end of a sword from the other...

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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    Quote Originally Posted by henebry View Post
    Regarding the orb spells, it's worth noting that the school for these spells was set as conjuration precisely in order to allow spellcasters to bypass spell resistance. They also allow spellcasters (in particular Warmages) to bypass energy resistance, simply by choosing an orb spell that deals the right kind of energy damage. Because the spells are all of the same level and all have similar effects only with different energy types, taken together they function like a swiss army knife.
    That's not so bad.

    Remember that dealing direct damage is exactly where the 'warrior-type' classes excel. As many very intelligent people have pointed out on this site, it's battlefield control magic that allows arcane casters to dramatically outperform warrior-types, not direct damage ability. So allowing the arcane caster to throw bolts of magical energy capable of damaging almost any opponent probably won't cause as much of a problem as allowing them to cast irresistable trapping or crippling spells.

    Quote Originally Posted by ken-do-nim View Post
    At low levels that's true, at medium to high levels it is not. One thing I noticed is that in 1E, the slow spell did not allow a save. In 2E, it did, but at -4. So what I was thinking is that touch & ranged touch spells that currently do not allow a save allow one but at a -4 penalty. This could even apply to spells that already allow a save. Let me explain:
    To balance this will take some math.

    If touch/ranged touch spells have both a miss probability and a save probability, then we can determine the odds of the spell working by multiplying the two probabilities together.

    If the wizard's ability to score a ranged touch tends to improve faster than the target's ability to avoid a ranged touch, then we need to introduce a second chance of evading. This should probably not be a Reflex save: you already benefit from dexterity once because it improves your armor class vs. the touch attack. Getting the benefit of high dexterity twice would make dextrous creatures nearly immune to ranged touch attacks.

    I have no idea how to do the calculation to determine what additional probability would be appropriate to offset the fact that the wizard's ranged touch accuracy outpaces the target's touch AC; I only hope to narrow down the problem.
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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    Quote Originally Posted by Pocket lint View Post
    I already decided on a top-down decision that no spell can affect your BAB. So Divine Power gets nerfed - still provides bonus to Str and such, but no "instant fighting mastery". It's ruled out for the same reason a fighter can't take a feat that lets him cast spells. A fighter spends years of training to get that extra edge in how to use weapons. No spell is allowed to replace that. This also takes care of some of the balance issues of polymorph et al - you might have the body of a huge dire boar, but underneath you're still this pencil-necked bookworm who barely knows one end of a sword from the other...
    So does this mean you ban Tenser's Transformation as well?

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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    Quote Originally Posted by Dervag View Post
    That's not so bad.

    Remember that dealing direct damage is exactly where the 'warrior-type' classes excel. As many very intelligent people have pointed out on this site, it's battlefield control magic that allows arcane casters to dramatically outperform warrior-types, not direct damage ability. So allowing the arcane caster to throw bolts of magical energy capable of damaging almost any opponent probably won't cause as much of a problem as allowing them to cast irresistable trapping or crippling spells.
    Actually I believe the orb spells have additional side effects too btw that the victim hit needs to save against.

    There's also that blast of flame spell that does a cone of fire which does not allow SR. Um, why? Oh, because it's conjuration, see? Yeah, sure. It's like fuzzy math.

    If the wizard's ability to score a ranged touch tends to improve faster than the target's ability to avoid a ranged touch, then we need to introduce a second chance of evading. This should probably not be a Reflex save: you already benefit from dexterity once because it improves your armor class vs. the touch attack. Getting the benefit of high dexterity twice would make dextrous creatures nearly immune to ranged touch attacks.
    Sorry I didn't spell it out earlier, but I didn't expect the save to come as a reflex save. In most cases the save is obvious:
    necromantic touch/ray -> fortitude
    mind-affecting touch attack -> will

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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    Conjuration creates something nonmagical but it can be hostile like fire. D&D physics then apply suchs as it being hurled or you walk into a flamewall. Sometimes the magic "holds" the item together (such as the orb spells" but the spell doesn't do damage directly, no the elements themselves do it. No direct interaction thus no SR.

    Evocation creates energy out of nowhere. It justs poofs and then its there. "Evocation spells manipulate energy or tap an unseen source of power to produce a desired end. In effect, they create something out of nothing. Many of these spells produce spectacular effects," Since it directly affects a target there is SR.

    Read more here
    http://www.d20srd.org/srd/magicOverv...scriptions.htm
    Last edited by Ramza00; 2007-04-02 at 09:44 AM.
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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    Quote Originally Posted by Ramza00 View Post
    No, no, no!!!

    Once a spell has "conjured" something, it does[n't] have spell resitance and it shouldn't have spell resistance. This is because it has now created a nonmagic item/effect and thus there is nothing magical about it. If I were to create an ice spear and throw it, the ice spear is no longer magical after the creation, it shouldn't get SR when it hits the monk.
    To my mind, your example neatly works against the argument you're making. An ice spear should do no more and no less damage than a typical spear (and should probably be harder to hit with, as it is an improvised weapon). The orb spells (1d6/level, so 7d6 when the spell is first available to Wizards) do damage way out of range of alchemical acid or fire, say. So how is this a conjuration of some ordinary, non-magical fire/cold/acid/sound/force?

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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    Nevetheless, Orbs should be Evocation spells for the sake of spell school balance. Damage isn't the best option for a wizard, but it sohuld be Evocation thing- Conjuration has enough good, if stupid and badly written, spells.
    Remember that dealing direct damage is exactly where the 'warrior-type' classes excel. As many very intelligent people have pointed out on this site, it's battlefield control magic that allows arcane casters to dramatically outperform warrior-types, not direct damage ability. So allowing the arcane caster to throw bolts of magical energy capable of damaging almost any opponent probably won't cause as much of a problem as allowing them to cast irresistable trapping or crippling spells.
    For me, battlefield control spells shouldn't exist. It's them that make wizard so unbeatable- they can hamper oppontents or totally stop them without save or SR. Damage spells can bypass SR, since they aren't game-breaking.
    Also, since we're at the subjest of SR- no spell should work in Antimagical Field. Yeah, AF rarely comes into play, but still it's supposed to render spellcasters defenceless.
    Last edited by Morty; 2007-04-02 at 09:54 AM.
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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    ...it's magical non-magical fire?

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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    Quote Originally Posted by henebry View Post
    To my mind, your example neatly works against the argument you're making. An ice spear should do no more and no less damage than a typical spear (and should probably be harder to hit with, as it is an improvised weapon). The orb spells (1d6/level, so 7d6 when the spell is first available to Wizards) do damage way out of range of alchemical acid or fire, say. So how is this a conjuration of some ordinary, non-magical fire/cold/acid/sound/force?
    Agreed, an "ice spear" should do similar damage to a normal spear, thus to do 15d6 damage you would need a very big spear and thus probably the 5th or 6th lvl spell.
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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    Quote Originally Posted by martyboy74 View Post
    ...it's magical non-magical fire?
    Magical created it, magic has little effect now on it since it was created, you get burn still like normal fire.
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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    Quote Originally Posted by ken-do-nim View Post
    So does this mean you ban Tenser's Transformation as well?
    Not ban, nerf. It does everything but modify BAB. I'm a little hesitant towards the "grants proficiency" bit, but it won't matter all that much.
    Haven't decided whether to drop spell level of Divine Power/Transformation or not. DP in particular gives you very little without the BAB increase. No skin off my back, though - it's not like either clerics or wizards are horribly underpowered for lack of that one spell.

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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    No spell should be so good that no caster is without it.

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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    Re: Ice Spear...

    Unless the spell also hurls it much faster than a human thrower (or even a ballista) could.

    Throw a bullet at someone -- it's not going to do nearly the damage the same bullet could when fired from a long rifle.

    Re: Orbs and non-magical damage...

    Who's saying that one orb of acid (7d6 damage?) is exactly the same amount of acid as in one flask of acid (1d6 damage)?

    The magic of the spell lets you hurl an amount of acid that you ordinarily wouldn't be able to hurl and target accurately. That, or it's acid that's much too strong to carry around in a treated leather flask. Or some combination of the two.

    On the other hand (I've never seen rules for this, but they must be out there) a Huge-sized giant ought to be able to hurl Huge flasks (casks?) of acid that do 4d6 damage instead of 1d6...
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    and DMing Diabolical Urban Intrigue in Bristol
    and refereeing Wizard vs. Fighter: Arena Grudgematch

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    Ramza00's Avatar

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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    Lets say the ice spear makes the ice spear is collosal size, a long spear does 1d8 size at medium size, and 6d6 at collosal size. Since a fighter can do multiple thrusts/throws due to bab it should be reasonable that a wizard can eventually create and throw two of them.

    You get my point, do you?
    Stupendous Man drawn by Linklele

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    SamuraiGuy

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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    Quote Originally Posted by Ramza00 View Post
    Lets say the ice spear makes the ice spear is collosal size, a long spear does 1d8 size at medium size, and 6d6 at collosal size. Since a fighter can do multiple thrusts/throws due to bab it should be reasonable that a wizard can eventually create and throw two of them.

    You get my point, do you?
    Yes, if your point is that you can make a poor argument for spell effects

    If you asked yourself honestly (or looked at the graphics of any one of a number of D&D computer games) do you really think the spell Ice Lance makes a colossal lance? Or that Orb of Acid creates an orb a few metres across?

    I personally agree that the Orb spells should be nerfed, maybe by raising their level.

    Quote Originally Posted by Toxic_Avenger View Post
    Trust me, Ikkitosen knows what he's talking about.

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    Lord Iames Osari's Avatar

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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    But there doesn't necessarily have to be more acid to deal more damage. It could just be more concentrated, or even a more potent kind of acid.

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    SamuraiGuy

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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    Yes, it could. Or it could just be, y'know, magic.

    Quote Originally Posted by Toxic_Avenger View Post
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    Default Re: Fixing 3.5 spells using a top-down approach

    Quote Originally Posted by Ikkitosen View Post
    Yes, it could. Or it could just be, y'know, magic.
    But it works in an AMF. So it has to be non-magical magic.

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