Jeremy's Reviews Blog

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Behind the Spells: Fireball (rough draft)

Behind the Spells: Fireball is another installment in (as you might guess) the "Behind the Spells" series. Which is a line of short PDFs that takes a look at the history behind a classic spell from D&D/d20. At least as imagined by the mind of Bret Boyd, aka Napftor (no "h"!). And besides the history, some closer examination of the implications of the rules as written, as well as a variant or two (two in this case). (For more on the series, see my previous review)

If Fireball isn't the favorite spell of D&D players, it's pretty much near the top of the list. (Personally though, when I play mage types, I usually pick "lightning bolt" instead, as I often misjudge the blast radius).

I don't want to give away too much of the history, but basically it involves a drunken half-elf evoker and a bar fight. (Not unlike how Ben Franklin came up with the idea for bi-focals).

The mechanical analysis revolves around the early impact clause. Despite its name, "Fireball" really isn't a fireball, at least not until it explodes. It's actually just a flying pea until then. (Which also ties into the inventer being a drunk, though they usually let fly a different sort). If it falls short and hits something else, it's problematic (much like the other sort, actually). In this case, it explodes early, possibly missing the target or singeing the caster.

So anyway, there's rules for this impact bit to be exploited by a PC. Complete with example, which is also illustrated by flavor text, in a nice touch.

One of the variants is a version which is higher level, but the projectile pea is etheral until the target spot, so won't hit anything. (This ability to make the projectile of a spell etheral until the target could be a decent idea for a metamagic feat). The other variant is a split-fireball, basically 2 tiny ones instead of 1 big one. (This review is making me feel like a Shock Jock. Well, maybe one from the 80s). There's also an option to tweak the damage type of the spell a bit, which seems a bit of a stretch, but not too much of one.

It's a plain (no art), but clean PDF. Complete with bookmarks. Since the author just emailed a copy to me, I don't know if there is a printer friendly version or not, but this does have some grey shaded boxes (for rules) which can suck up ink on an inkjet. (Though not as much as those stupid white text on black boxes some like)

While this is just as clever as magic missile, the backstory behind the spell doesn't has as much adventure seed potential as that of magic missile. In that, you got a pretty vivid description of the inventer's home base/secret lab. In this, you just get a mention of a magical college and bar and a burned out monestary and missing tablet. Conversely though, the game mechanics are far more useful. Not quite perfect, B+