I don’t know about you, but it always seems a little bit odd that spells such as fireball detonate in the precise spot the caster desires. Sometimes, I’ve even seen players move the detonation point when they discover they’ve accidentally caught a friend in the area of affect! Surely spellcasters shouldn’t have that level of precision?
I don’t know about you, but that’s never seemed right to me. Given that spellcasters need to hit with many other spells – ray of frost, scorching ray, disintegrate and more – it makes sense they should also have to make an attack roll to get spells like fireball to land/detonate/originate exactly where they want. After all, combat is chaotic – combatants could easily get in the way of a spell’s trajectory or distract a spellcaster at the vital moment.
Thus, I suggest the following house rule.
Attack: To place a spell on a desired intersection, make a ranged touch against AC 5. If the intersection is adjacent to a combatant, the spellcaster suffers a -4 penalty to this attack roll as it is deemed to be in combat. Additionally, if the intersection has cover from the spellcaster, apply the cover bonus in the normal fashion. You can’t target a grid intersection occupied by a creature or one that has total cover from you.
- Hit! You hit the desired location and the spell effects occur as normal.
- Critical Hit: On a confirmed critical hit, every target in the spell’s area of affect suffers a -2 penalty made to resist the spell’s effect.
- Miss: On a miss, you still cast the spell but it does not hit the intended location. Rather, it deviates in the same fashion as a splash weapon. Roll 1d8 to determine the direction in which the spell deviates, with 1 falling short (off-target in a straight line toward you) and 2 through 8 rotating around the target intersection on a clockwise direction. If the spell has a short range, it deviates 1 square. If the spell has a medium range, it deviates 1-2 squares. If the spell has a long range, it deviates 1-3 squares. After you determine where the spell lands, determine its area of affect as normal.
This rule makes spellcasters slightly less effective in that they can’t guarantee exactly where their spells will strike. This means, their companions may suffer or that their spells may miss their target entirely. I like the extra level of uncertainty this adds to combat, so for me this isn’t a problem. It means the party may have to come up with slightly different battle tactics; fighters may have to wait for the wizard to cast fireball or web before charging into battle!
I should note, I wouldn’t think of instigating this rule in mid-campaign; it’s something we’d use in the future from the start of a new campaign or one-shot. Ultimately it’s up to the GM to determine which spells this house rules affects. Fireball, for example, seems eminently suited to it, while lightning bolt is a bad fit.
What do you think?
Does this house rule work for you? Do you hate it? Let me know what you think, in the comments below.