Is this spell not just... garbage? There's a chance of doing damage, but a chance of doing none at all with good reflex checks. It can be put out with a cantrip (create water) or a good bucket of water. It only does damage to one creature and can't move through a pile of creatures to get through to others. People can walk through it without worry.
Why take it?
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I like the spell.
The movement of the sphere is decent, it can jump over things, it can go vertical, lots of movement options.
The wizard can stand still and use his move action to direct the sphere. Then he can use his standard action to cast a different spell.
Reflex saves aren't usually the best save for a cleric or other wizard, so it's a great way to do damage to an enemy spellcaster or healer.
Is it the end all/be all of damage spells?
Nope, but it's useful.
I also like using the spell as a readied action to ram it into an enemy spellcaster, forcing a concentration check.
Why take it?
A Few Reasons:
- At low levels, spell casters don't have many slots. This spell allows them to "attack" for rounds/level per casting. This feels more mage-like.
- At mid levels, this spell is an extra attack for the second round and after. Example: At 6th level, on the second round, a wizard can cast a magic missile (3d4+3) and attack with the flaming sphere (3d6). This bonus attack is just extra.
- At all levels, it acts as a bit of battlefield control. Not many enemies will run thru or run up and stand in a big ball of fire. And it can soak up an enemy action completely if they act to put it out.
- At high levels, this is a nifty means to start a fire in multiple places. This can be very effective for a mischievous NPC, good for lighting up an oil moat at a far distance, or entertaining those primitives that like to see magic dance around while you pick their pockets.
This spell will not be the "go to" spell for BIG damage beyond levels 3 to 4 perhaps, but it definitely has uses.
Let's compare it with another 2nd level damage-dealing spell: Scorching Ray.
At. 3rd level, Scorching Ray deal 4d6 damage to a target and Flaming Sphere deal 3d6 damage for 3 turn (9d6 damage). Scorching Ray requires a ranged touch attack, so, even if you are 100% precise, and your targets fail only 50% of time against your Flame Sphere, it worth (4d6 vs. 4,5d6 damage)
At. 11th level, you fire 3 ray with Scorching Ray, dealing, at best, 12d6 damage. Flame Sphere will stay for 11 rounds, dealing, at best, 33d6 damage, but you targets possible will pass the Reflex save more often, since Reflex goes up faster than spell CD. But I guess it still worth.
At higher level, Flaming Sphere will deal at best +3d6 damage per level (one more turn), while Scorching Ray will be capped.
Well it says " It can be extinguished by any means that would put out a normal fire of its size. "
I wouldn't equate that to putting out a 'campfire', a 5' diameter sphere is quite a bit larger than a normal campfire,
and I would interpet "globe of fire" to mean the entire globe including interior is burning making it much harder to extinguish.
Far from clear what volume of water (and thus CL) would be needed, regardless if it's nominally possible,
IMHO it is large enough that tossing some water on it is not clearly immediate extinguishing it,
firefighting would be much easier if all fires were trivially extinguished that way.
If you can completely immerse it in water that should work fine, but that's far from "any old Create Water works".
5' cube = 125' cubic feet = 1000 gallons, Create Water only does 2 gallons/level or max 40 gallons @20th.
Flaming Sphere is great because it takes a Movement action to move it around. So each round you can cast a spell as a Standard action and then move your Flaming Sphere as a Move action.
This is the type of spell you can cast when you think the enemies are vulnerable to dealing with a flaming sphere rolling around everywhere and you want to get your group to get ahead in action economy, because it can put them behind when they attempt to deal with it. For the cost of one Standard Action and your movement actions each round, you can cost several move actions from your enemies who are trying to stay away from it or even one of their Standard actions once they attempt to deal with it properly-- even though Flaming Sphere can be put out with a cantrip like Drench, it still costs that enemy spellcaster their Standard action to cast a cantrip, and that's one round that he isn't hurling fireballs or hold person. Plus, it deals modest damage while all the nonsense is happening.
A very brief and quick search indicates it takes roughly 1 gallon of water for every 3 square feet of fire. That sounds like it will take at least 8 gallons of water to potentially extinguish a Flaming Sphere (25 square feet). That is not accounting for the verticle element of the fire either, but if this non-firefighter followed the article(s) well enough it would be roughly the same figure in gallons/minute flow for a "structure fire" ... and that would be a lot of water somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 gallons over 10 rounds of 6 seconds each. For me I'd say that means the caster would need to be at least 4th level before they'd even have a chance of generating the necessary volume of water. And none of that takes into account whether the Sphere is igniting its surroundings as it moves about which it can do (becoming a true structure fire in the process).
That said the spell is middle of the road in my opinion with one of its biggest issues is that it really doesn't scale up well, particularly since it's a flat damage not variable with caster level. Most lower CR/lower HD creatures however, will be quite susceptible likely to fail the Reflex save and then severely injured if not slain by the damage. Until better spells like Scorching Ray and then Fireball come online it should be a good if not great offensive spell for a caster. But middle of the road is no where near useless either.
They're handy for dealing with a druid's overlapping Entangle and Spike Growth. (Our mounted party was stuck in that once, and I asked the wizard to roll a sphere right over me, voluntarily eating the ~7pts of fire damage in order to be freed from that nonsense. Then we just followed the sphere's burn hole through the thicket.)
The damage does kind of scale with level. It’s just that it’s a damage over time. Potentialy 3d6 per level over the course of a fight. But the problem is that most fights won’t last that long past mid level and the damage will get saved against half the time.
Good point, not a standard sort of scaling but it does scale as a secondary effect to a scaling duration. Potentially useful if the target can't move (Held, Paralyzed, Pinned or otherwise trapped) or is slow.
Do folks give saving throw for each casting once, one save per round or one for each instance of contact or "other"? Or is my sleepy brain missing an obvious answer ...
I still think it's best use is to bottle neck. Many instinctive or dimwitted creatures wouldn't willing enter a 5 foot sphere of fire, and more than a few smart ones wouldn't either. Putting it in a place where larger creatures HAVE to touch it to get through could allow for a great amount of damage over the course of its lifetime, as the sphere would not have to be moved to deal its damage on its turn.
It also has the side benefits of lighting things on fire and producing torchlight. Meaning that of all flames are extinguished this gets light back in the room on top of dealing damage, and can set things ablaze causing more than just it's own damage.
|Darigaaz the Igniter|
Bottom line is 75%+ of the time, what it is competing againt is a normal Move Action (or Full Attack, but we are talking Arcane/Druid spell here).
Which indicates the major balance changes of it in 2nd Edition Playtest.
REQUIRING 1 action/turn for it to not be lost, on top of single actions being much more flexible in 3 action system (unlike 3.x/PF1 Move Actions with very few uses other than Moving or Full Attack). In fact I strongly critiqued the Playtest version of it on that basis, suggesting changes that it no longer require [1 action] Concentration for Duration but only when 'moving' the sphere.
Both 1stEd and Playtest version only have Reflex Negates does feel off to me, Reflex Half seems more appropriate to me... Certainly in 2ndEd with spectrum of CritSuccess/Success/Fail/CritFail, fitting Half Damage in there somewhere seems appropriate [Playtest version doesn't even have CritSuccess entry]. Given 3 action system giving more potential opportunity cost for Concentrating on Sphere, having it be somewhat more damaging (e.g. 1/2 damage on normal Success) seems plausibly justified as well as coherent with "realism" (if a giant ball of fire is in same 5' square as you, yeah that might burn some).
Alternatively, allowing further Concentration checks in same round to force 2nd check might be other option - That could either be potential for twice as much damage OR simply a 'worst of 2 checks' dynamic. I could also see allowing Concentration to deal damage to enemy in square it already is in AND 2nd Concentration moves it to other square/enemy to deal damage to that enemy. (but one square/enemy can't be subject to damage more than once, only 'worst of X checks' per X Concentration actions)
Absolutely it can be useful without moving it, and yeah that was the Playtest incarnation of it... Crossing fingers on that [changing].
(the Playtest incarnation also happened to remove normal physicality of it's movement, it functionally was more like 'teleport to new location within range' which I suggested new visualization of as 'flame pool that moves itself via flame hurricane tendrils'. Fully implementing normal physicality of movement is inclined to impose damage on ALL targets in path of movement ala Trample, which probably is higher level spell than one that doesn't do that)
It also apparently doesn't need line of sight or line of effect from the caster to go somewhere. So if there's someone hiding around a corner, you can go and cook him. It's unclear how well it goes through holes like windows and arrow slits, but if it can do that it's good for removing archers and casters from inconvenient places.