I may not agree with Sorcerer, but goddamn if I don’t sympathize. Fireball is a special kind of spell, you know? There’s the nostalgia factor of course. I mean, I’ve certainly got a special place in my heart for that first troop of flambéed orcs back in my early wizarding days. There’s the wow factor too. Fireballs are big splashy effects, and there’s something about that bright burst of pyrotechnics that screams “magical badass.” But even more than that, I think there’s a question of what’s effective. And when the enemies are massed up and you’re a dedicated evocationist and the team has the element of surprise, nothing satisfies quite like an artillery mage.

Of course, there’s nothing harder than watching somebody do something wrong. I know that was the case for my dragon-blooded pal down on Level 8 of the local megadungeon.

So no shit there they were, wafting ever so slowly forward on their flying carpet. The party had good reason to be cautious. They were at the bottom of a dark pit in an undead-themed level. They’d found an iron door at the bottom of the pit, saw the blood smears on the wall, and smelled the reek of death all around. Behind the door was an encounter that the module called “ghoul storage,” and that miserable little broom cupboard lived up to its name. No less than nine ghouls and six ghasts were waiting behind the door, crammed into a 20′ x 20′ space.

Someone put out a trembling hand to test the door. As per Monte Cook:

“Sounds of fiddling at the door attract the ghouls, who likely open the door and attack those outside with surprise. Show the players the Charging Ghoul Illustration handout.”

Suffice it to say that it was not a fun first round for our heroes. It still lives in my memory as the most frustrated I’ve ever seen a caster. You see, that particular group had a pair of magic-users: the aforementioned draconic bloodline sorcerer and a considerably less offensively-inclined support wizard.

Now remember folks, there were 15 undead minions charging out to tangle with the party. It was a tight space, and a well-placed fireball could have yielded some truly spectacular results. Unfortunately, ghouls are all about paralysis, and those 15 undead minions had the surprise round. My pal the sorcerer got bad-touched straight away. It would be a full five rounds of not doing shit.

“Blast them!” shouted the helpless sorcerer.

“Very well, I shall,” said the wizard. “Burning hands!”

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s 5d4 fire damage (average of 12.5). Compare that to the draconic sorcerer’s 9d6+8 fireball (average of 39.5 ). Of course, the wizard didn’t roll average. Average would have been a godsend. Average might have left the sorcerer less red-faced and indignant.

“That’s seven perfectly respectable points of fire damage,” says the wizard.

“WHY DON’T YOU HAVE FIREBALL?” explodes the sorcerer.

“Well,” says the sheepish wizard. “I didn’t want to step on your toes.” The ghouls, who had mostly made their saves to half (three fire damage! woo!)continued to gnaw on the sorcerer.

So always remember, kids. Whether you’re a dedicated blaster or not, make sure to prepare fireball. You’ll usually be glad you did.

That brings us down to today’s question of the day! For today’s discussion, what do you say we swap tales of our favorite AoEs? What’s the most effective fireball you’ve ever cast? When did lightning bolt save the day? Tell us all about your greatest explosions, ice storms, and thunder waves down in the comments!


ADD SOME NSFW TO YOUR FANTASY! If you’ve ever been curious about that Handbook of Erotic Fantasy banner down at the bottom of the page, then you should check out the “Quest Giver” reward level over on The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. Twice a month you’ll get to see what the Handbook cast get up to when the lights go out. Adults only, 18+ years of age, etc. etc.