More Magical Combat
Just as melee and ranged attacks can deliver critical hits, magical attacks can also be critically successful. A magical critical hit is a great opportunity to embellish the description of a magical effect, emphasizing the spectacular effects of combat magic.
Kyra extends her arm, eyes flaring with fiery light as a glowing nimbus envelops her hand, the acrid smell of scorched air filling the area as she unleashes a ray of searing fire, the blast striking the giant in the face and erupting in a burst of flame.
Scorching ray (ranged touch): 1d20 + 5 ? (19) + 5 = 24
Fire: 4d6 ? (4, 2, 6, 3) = 15
Scorching ray (ranged touch) Confirmation: 1d20 + 5 ? (12) + 5 = 17
Fire: 4d6 ? (4, 1, 4, 2) = 11
Not all spells used in combat are offensive, but describing their effects can add to the visual and overall dynamic feel of a battle. Describing the effects of a spell you cast can also give your fellow players something to work with when coming up with a reactionary post.
As the kobolds race forward, Asha steps forward, calling upon the power of the natural world. With a primal chant, she channels the might of a rampaging bull into the Cole as she touches his shoulder. For a moment, the shimmering image of a bull surrounds the fighter.
Cast Bull’s Strength
On Cole’s turn
Cole’s eyes widen as he feels power flow into him at Asha’s touch, his muscles cording as he feels the amplified strength of the spell. With a grin he raises his great-sword, charging the lead kobold with newfound power.
In this way, we emphasize not only the mechanical effects of spell casting but the physical and visual effects as well.
On the other side of the coin, we have the reactionary post of what it feels like to be hit by magic. Not only can the spell caster add to the game with vivid descriptions of their casting, but players describing what it feels like when are the subject of a spell can make the idea of magical combat feel more meaningful.
Consider things like your character’s background, level, and previous exposure to magic when writing a reactionary post to magic. A high-level wizard hit by a necromantic spell would likely know exactly what is happening to them, whereas a low-level fighter might feel like he’s having a heart attack.
What does it feel like to be hit with a shocking grasp spell? What does stinking cloud taste like? Phantasmal killer conjures up the target’s most fearsome image imaginable; what did you see if you survived? What’s the last thing you see before you die?
Another major element of magical combat is the saving throw, the mechanical representation of a person’s ability to resist magic or some other form of outside effect. Out of character, a die roll determines whether a spell has the desired effect or falls somewhere in between. In-game, however, it represents a lot more. The saving throw is a character’s inherent defense system, think of it as the immune system for magic. How hard does the body fight it? What does that feel or look like?
A reflex save represents agility, awareness, reaction time, or in some cases just plain luck, that allows a character to avoid all or at least some of the damage a spell would otherwise do. A failed save can be due to a lack of any of these elements, distraction or some other form of mishap, and in some cases may have dire secondary circumstances.
Consider for this example the beloved classic, fireball.
Successful save (half damage)
Constantly scanning the battlefield to assess the situation, Geriant sees the telltale glowing bead of the fireball spell seconds before it erupts. Years of training kick in an instant, his shield coming up to protect his face, his breath held as the wash of flame passes over him, the half-crouch presenting a smaller surface, avoiding the worst of the blast.
Failed save (full damage)
Head still ringing from the last hammer blow, Jacinth pushes through the pain, his vision clearing up in time to notice the only thing he could see….fire. It was everywhere, everything, the blinding light, the pain, that roar unlike anything he’s ever heard……and the pain. He’d been cut, stabbed, punched, broken bones and been injured in a dozen other ways, but nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, felt like fire.
In some cases, a character may possess a special class ability that aids them with saving throws in a manner that far exceeds the norm. Incorporating these into your posts helps to make these abilities seem and feel more exceptional, allowing the character’s unique talents to stand out.
Special: Evasion (no damage)
Ylrhea had never found a way to put it into words. It was just something that happened, a feeling that took over the split second before danger occurred, a warning to react before even knowing what she was reacting to. The wizard was still completing the last word of this spell when she started moving, scanning everything in the area to find a place to hide. As the roaring torrent of fire washes across the area she steps behind the minotaur that was trying to kill her, it’s massive body a perfect screen from the hungry flames. The stink of burnt fur a small price to pay for not getting incinerated.