On fireballing chairs


Rules Discussion

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Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

How do unattended items react, mechanically speaking, to area of effect attacks? Say I cast fireball and attempt to incinerate a wooden chair resting in the middle of the room.

What happens? Does it just take Failure damage? Does it get a save of some sort? (And if so, what?) Does it not get a save and just always takes double damage?

How are we expected to adjudicate this?


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"The GM determines any effects to the environment and unattended objects." Core Rulebook pg. 455 [effects-areas]

"Damaging an unattended item usually requires attacking it directly, and can be difficult due to that item’s Hardness and immunities." Core Rulebook pg. 461 [Items and Hit Points]

So you usually have to directly attack an object to damage it and fireball has no targets, so it can't be a direct attack. So the only way a fireball harms objects is DM fiat: as such if it's damage and how much damage it takes is 100% up to them. Throw a dart at the dartboard for an answer.


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graystone wrote:
Throw a dart at the dartboard for an answer.

Would you count that as being a direct attack on the dartboard?


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Artificial 20 wrote:
graystone wrote:
Throw a dart at the dartboard for an answer.
Would you count that as being a direct attack on the dartboard?

It's a perform skill check to divine a Dm's answer so it's not an attack ability per se.


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Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Such refined rules in this edition, and yet we are left with huge gray areas and massive table variation.


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Schroedingers chair. You don't know what will happen until you actually cast fireball on it...


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Just allow the chairs/tables or whatever take damage. Do they even have health totals? Is there even a point in calculating their damage received? Some of you really have to stop letting game mechanics affect how you fluff your encounters and your ability to enjoy the game.


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Sauce987654321 wrote:
Is there even a point in calculating their damage received? Some of you really have to stop letting game mechanics affect how you fluff your encounters and your ability to enjoy the game.

Yes it is. I for once would like to know what happens before I potentially waste a spell or effect on something I deem plausible/possible, however the GM does not.


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Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Sauce987654321 wrote:
Just allow the chairs/tables or whatever take damage. Do they even have health totals? Is there even a point in calculating their damage received? Some of you really have to stop letting game mechanics affect how you fluff your encounters and your ability to enjoy the game.

What a novel concept! ヽ(ಠ_ಠ)ノ


So just ask your GM before you cast the spell (or preferably before the game) There are spells/effects that specifically do damage to the environment as well such as sunburst.


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Personally I'd find strict rules for collateral damage to be pretty restrictive and unnecessary. I can't imagine how such rules would be written without being a massive hassle to actually implement in practice.

Like, if my players are fighting in a tavern, throwing fireballs and lightning bolts then they're probably going to wreck the place. Actually tracking the destruction on a detailed level would slow things down considerably and not really serve a purpose within the context of the rules.


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What are the effects on PCs from the smoke from burning chairs, and what are the consequences beyond difficult terrain for moving through the square of a burning chair?


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Since there definitely is not a Rules answer for this question, it could still be worth looking at what could be used as a basis for an Advice answer.

The only inanimate objects that I see any rules for attacking are Wall spells (Wall of Ice, Wall of Thorns, Wall if Stone) which give the walls 10 AC, a certain hp and hardness, and immunity to critical hits and precision damage. Saves are not addressed, but of I was trying to derive a rule from those spells, I would probably use fail damage, with no chance of critical fail.

What I think is probably the best rule to use, though, after a bit if further thought, is to determine the save level based on the damage type and material of the object, using Fail damage for items logically susceptible to the damage type, and Success damage fore items that should logically be more resistant, leaving critical fail only for extreme cases (so, something like succeed fir stone, fail for wood and critical fail for loose papers, in the case of Fireball.)


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I for one am really upset that the effect of disposed chair ashes on local crop yields has barely any rules around it.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Ubertron_X wrote:
Sauce987654321 wrote:
Is there even a point in calculating their damage received? Some of you really have to stop letting game mechanics affect how you fluff your encounters and your ability to enjoy the game.

Yes it is. I for once would like to know what happens before I potentially waste a spell or effect on something I deem plausible/possible, however the GM does not.

If you're trying to fireball chairs you're already wasting spells mate.


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Enemy in the open. Enemy behind a Japanese paper wall. Enemy behind a glass window. Enemy behind a plywood wall. Enemy behind a log wall. Enemy behind a brick wall. Enemy behind a stone wall. Enemy behind a metal wall. Damaging objects and damage possibly carrying over matters, especially if you do not have line of sight/effect for damage AoEs.


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Captain Morgan wrote:
Ubertron_X wrote:
Sauce987654321 wrote:
Is there even a point in calculating their damage received? Some of you really have to stop letting game mechanics affect how you fluff your encounters and your ability to enjoy the game.

Yes it is. I for once would like to know what happens before I potentially waste a spell or effect on something I deem plausible/possible, however the GM does not.

If you're trying to fireball chairs you're already wasting spells mate.

Chairs are just an example: say the bad guys are doing a ritual and you're trying to stop it. Does you fireball destroy unattended expensive components? For instance, if it required human fat tallow candles in a circle to create a rare undead would a fireball destroy them all?

And even if it's a chair, I might want to know if it'd be damage or not [furniture can be sold for a surprising amount if you can figure out the logistics of moving it].

HammerJack wrote:
Since there definitely is not a Rules answer for this question, iThe only inanimate objects that I see any rules for attacking are Wall spells (Wall of Ice, Wall of Thorns, Wall if Stone) which give the walls 10 AC, a certain hp and hardness, and immunity to critical hits and precision damage.

There are basic rules for Material Statistics [hardness, hp, BT]. "commonly targeted items include doors and traps" for objects: Traps have stats for being attacked but it assumes "directly attacking" a door is possible even though it provides no AC.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I had missed hazards, while I was looking at inanimate objects. Hazards also have save stats, though.

I was aware of the hardness and hput being given without an AC for other objects, and thought that was part of the core assumption of the question here.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I'm guessing a lot of the "gm discretion" stuff is going to have guidelines to that discretion in the gmg. The gmg taking avwhild to come out is an issue as in think most people agree that a dnd lineage game since 3rd ed kinda needs its triumvirate of rule books to be really done.


HammerJack wrote:
I was aware of the hardness and hput being given without an AC for other objects, and thought that was part of the core assumption of the question here.

Well, sort of. Even if every object had an Ac and saves, it also tells you that "Damaging an unattended item usually requires attacking it directly" and an area attack isn't doing that: so is an area attack not part of the "usually" or is a targeted spell that includes objects required? HOW you actually go about damaging the object is the next question if the object can in fact be damage in an area attack.


Ravingdork wrote:
Sauce987654321 wrote:
Just allow the chairs/tables or whatever take damage. Do they even have health totals? Is there even a point in calculating their damage received? Some of you really have to stop letting game mechanics affect how you fluff your encounters and your ability to enjoy the game.
What a novel concept! ヽ(ಠ_ಠ)ノ

Obviously this is sarcasm, but I really feel like it is for a lot of people.

Sure you can nitpick certain scenarios where damaging a seemingly useless unintended object is important, but I've seen the opposite much more.

It's not with only objects, but also how players and monsters are described and what they are doing. Like sliding down a stair case with a fallen enemy's shield, a hill giant tearing down a column in a room and tossing it at your players, a red dragon causing a forest fire with a single breath weapon, or even a giant monster knocking down buildings by walking through them. It's refreshing to have a GM that's comfortable with these levels of description by not limiting themselves by getting too neck deep into the rules and determining if it's mechanically sound or not. It tends to make the game not only more fun for yourself, but it makes it more fun for your players.


graystone wrote:
HammerJack wrote:
I was aware of the hardness and hput being given without an AC for other objects, and thought that was part of the core assumption of the question here.
Well, sort of. Even if every object had an Ac and saves, it also tells you that "Damaging an unattended item usually requires attacking it directly" and an area attack isn't doing that: so is an area attack not part of the "usually" or is a targeted spell that includes objects required? HOW you actually go about damaging the object is the next question if the object can in fact be damage in an area attack.

If I throw a Fireball at a group of enemies, I do believe I am attacking them directly, as well as all other things within the AoE.

But some people want a fast & loose game, without having to worry about destroying expensive loot or worse yet, a plot item. You want that note on the body to survive even if the guy's already dead when engulfed in another spell. And then there's PC equipment when they're dead and the dragon's still belching out blasts.
And then there are forest fires, cave-ins, etc.

I do hope the GMG addresses damage against the backdrop & props. While I'm in the camp that the setting is susceptible to damage, I'd prefer a simple rule of thumb over anything requiring computation and tracking. I recall early D&D have a chart of saves for a dozen types of material, something I wouldn't want to have to look up mid-game (and would want included in published adventures, at least for important items & structures, like bridges.)


Castilliano wrote:
If I throw a Fireball at a group of enemies, I do believe I am attacking them directly, as well as all other things within the AoE.

What would ever be an indirect attack then?

Castilliano wrote:
But some people want a fast & loose game, without having to worry about destroying expensive loot or worse yet, a plot item.

Sure, but you don't have to treat items equally: important items can be assumed to crit save and normal items burn.

Castilliano wrote:
I do hope the GMG addresses damage against the backdrop & props.

Just adding ac and saves to Table 11-4 would answer a lot of questions. Then add a blurb clarifying attacking/targeting objects and I think that's all we'd need. Even if they are optional, it'd be a way to get on the same page easily on how it's done.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

You can also always play "Quantum Clue." If the party totally incinerate someone that was going to be carrying an important note, the same information can always be somewhere else that they haven't seen yet.


graystone wrote:
Castilliano wrote:
If I throw a Fireball at a group of enemies, I do believe I am attacking them directly, as well as all other things within the AoE.
What would ever be an indirect attack then?

Are you saying casting an AoE against enemies isn't a direct attack on the area? Furniture damage might be collateral damage, but the bomb still targeted all things when it struck their area. At least as directly as it targeted the enemies, which it did, didn't it?

Indirect damage is a wonky term needing a definition which makes it distinct from direct damage. Most of the examples I can think of involve falling, like dragon corpses & ice shelves, except I'd also find it odd if such things did no damage. Dead dragon lands on vase. Vase is fine?
Philosophically, cause leading to immediate effect seems the most direct interpretation. Cause leading to effect which causes another effect would then perhaps be enough to called indirect.

Note that I do think the rules should flex to fit the story, and the story depends on the table. So I'm not sure I'd want rigorous definitions for tertiary topics. When a huge Earth Elemental burrowed up in the middle of a sanctuary full of pews, I did no calculations other than "pews destroyed and/or tossed to edges of the room". Done.


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Castilliano wrote:

Are you saying casting an AoE against enemies isn't a direct attack on the area? Furniture damage might be collateral damage, but the bomb still targeted all things when it struck their area. At least as directly as it targeted the enemies, which it did, didn't it?

What I'm saying is, the quote "Damaging an unattended item usually requires attacking it directly" means nothing if any damage is direct no matter what the target is. To me, targeting something is direct damage and collateral damage is indirect: so an area attack is attacking the area, and not individual items and creatures in that area. I mean direct LITERALLY means "lineal rather than collateral".


The way I run it, collateral damage happens but you can't intentionally damage individual objects (unless the object is your primary target). A fireball will burn chairs in the area but which individual chairs get burned and which ones come out (somewhat) unharmed is a matter of DM discretion. Spells that specify that they damage objects may allow for a greater degree of PC control or cause further destruction (depending on the nature of the spell).


Eh. At least it is bergen than Shadowrun, which required you target a single creature with your grenades so they they got a chance to dodge (no one else in the blast could, though) which could result in missing your throw and having it go off at your feet. In effect, they banned attacking furniture with grenades.


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Sauce987654321 wrote:
It's not with only objects, but also how players and monsters are described and what they are doing. Like sliding down a stair case with a fallen enemy's shield, a hill giant tearing down a column in a room and tossing it at your players, a red dragon causing a forest fire with a single breath weapon, or even a giant monster knocking down buildings by walking through them. It's refreshing to have a GM that's comfortable with these levels of description by not limiting themselves by getting too neck deep into the rules and determining if it's mechanically sound or not. It tends to make the game not only more fun for yourself, but it makes it more fun for your players.

This is not about what the GM can do or not do, because he can usually do anything, but what players can do while staying within the given framework of rules. Which does not mean that you need to shut down your imagination and only play by the book, but GM decisions should only be required when you try something out of the ordinary like sliding down a stair case with a fallen enemy's shield, not when you aim a fireball against a wooden door.


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Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Fireballs don't Target things (note the capital T, denoting the game term), but I can target a group of chairs with my fireball if I want.

An example of an indirect attack would be cutting a rope to a chandelier that then falls on the enemy.

Knowing when certain things take damage can be extremely important.

It seems to me that people ca t make up their mind on 2nd edition. Whenever I ask for a hard rule, I get a bunch of freedom from rules posters, and when I encourage a loser style of play I get the crowd that insists certain thi gs cant be done because the res dont say so.

Which is it? Is P2E rules loose or rules restrictive?


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

There are plenty of things where the answer to "how can I do X?" is "there is no way by the published rules."

But that absolutely ALWAYS includes the correlary, whether it's called out or left unspoken, that the GM can make a ruling on how to handle the attempt. But it does mean that you can't rely on how that will work, based on forum answers, but need to rely on an actual conversation with, or at least past experience with, your own GM.

I know that my own answers can vary, depending on what type of question is being asked, whether it is:
Question A. "What are the rules for atempting X, which is not covered in these books?"
or
Question B. "How would you handle a character attempting X, which is not covered in the rulebooks, at your table?"


Ravingdork wrote:
Which is it? Is P2E rules loose or rules restrictive?

Looser than Pathfinder 1E, more restrictive than D&D 5E.

Rules looseness isn't simply about picking "loose or restrictive" and always sticking to that. It's deciding what should have detailed rules and what shouldn't. Pathfinder 1E, Pathfinder 2E and D&D 5E all have their own answers to that (and so does every d20 RPG).


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Ravingdork wrote:
Sauce987654321 wrote:
Just allow the chairs/tables or whatever take damage. Do they even have health totals? Is there even a point in calculating their damage received? Some of you really have to stop letting game mechanics affect how you fluff your encounters and your ability to enjoy the game.
What a novel concept! ヽ(ಠ_ಠ)ノ

Now be reasonable about this Ravingdork. When you hurl a fireball onto the floor of a crowded inn, you've gotta expect table variation afterwards.


Ravingdork wrote:
Fireballs don't Target things (note the capital T, denoting the game term), but I can target a group of chairs with my fireball if I want.

No, target is a specific term in the game: you can only set an area that happens to have chairs in it as the spell targets nothing.

Ravingdork wrote:
An example of an indirect attack would be cutting a rope to a chandelier that then falls on the enemy.

IMO, that's a direct attack with the chandelier: You're attacking with the object or using it as a hazard/trap which has it's own attack.

Ravingdork wrote:
Knowing when certain things take damage can be extremely important.

Agreed.

Ravingdork wrote:
Which is it? Is P2E rules loose or rules restrictive?

It's Schrodinger's rules. As long as you don't look t them closely it's in a state of flux between having rules and being dm fiat. As long as you don't open the book and look for a rule, it's unknowable.


Artificial 20 wrote:
Now be reasonable about this Ravingdork. When you hurl a fireball onto the floor of a crowded inn, you've gotta expect table variation afterwards.

I don't think it's unreasonable for the rules to tell you what happens by default in that situation even if a DM might deal with it differently. 'it might or might not do... something to something depending on what something/someone does' isn't ideal.


Definitely something I've noticed as well, being rules loose on a lot of stuff. It might be fun for some, but to others I think it can drive them crazy. I think it can be a little too much of a cop out to just go by the rule of fun. I don't play pfs myself but I wonder how well it works with so much (I assume) table variation.


Ubertron_X wrote:
Sauce987654321 wrote:
It's not with only objects, but also how players and monsters are described and what they are doing. Like sliding down a stair case with a fallen enemy's shield, a hill giant tearing down a column in a room and tossing it at your players, a red dragon causing a forest fire with a single breath weapon, or even a giant monster knocking down buildings by walking through them. It's refreshing to have a GM that's comfortable with these levels of description by not limiting themselves by getting too neck deep into the rules and determining if it's mechanically sound or not. It tends to make the game not only more fun for yourself, but it makes it more fun for your players.
This is not about what the GM can do or not do, because he can usually do anything, but what players can do while staying within the given framework of rules. Which does not mean that you need to shut down your imagination and only play by the book, but GM decisions should only be required when you try something out of the ordinary like sliding down a stair case with a fallen enemy's shield, not when you aim a fireball against a wooden door.

This is what I spoke about in my first post, and my examples afterwards go hand in hand. If a GM is willing to hold their game up for a very simple task, like aiming your fireball spell at a door, they generally aren't willing to let players act in ways that aren't clearly defined by the rules. Not saying anyone here is guilty of it, but this isn't something I'm making up either.

Really, though. If this is something that really isn't defined by the rules, then I think it's fine to just let it go and just deal normal damage or more, depending on the material. It truly adds nothing to anyone's game to make a hassle about it and can only take away from it, unless it's just some thought exercise. I also feel like this wouldn't be much of a discussion if we replaced the fireball spell with another AoE, like a grenade launcher.

Liberty's Edge

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There's only one thing that I know how to do well
And I've often been told that you only can do
What you know how to do well
And that's be you,
Be what you're like,
Be like yourself,
And so I'm having a wonderful time
But I'd rather be Fireballing a chair
.....
Fireball (Fireball), Fireball (Fireball)
Chair (Chair), Chair (Chair)


I'll mess things up: what if the chair is a mimic?


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Megistone wrote:
I'll mess things up: what if the chair is a mimic?

Why else would you fireball a chair? Assume every chair is guilty of trying to eat you until proven innocent.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Siro wrote:
Megistone wrote:
I'll mess things up: what if the chair is a mimic?
Why else would you fireball a chair?

It stubbed your toe one too many times.


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Siro wrote:
Megistone wrote:
I'll mess things up: what if the chair is a mimic?
Why else would you fireball a chair? Assume every chair is guilty of trying to eat you until proven innocent.

Well it was in first edition but the last session we played had a group of devils in a mess hall using the tables to keep our heavy hitter from having a charge lane. This lasted until my turn came around and I chain lightininged the devils, the tables and a few chairs for good measure. Charge lane clear for use, and bad guys hurt all in one go.


Ravingdork wrote:
Siro wrote:
Megistone wrote:
I'll mess things up: what if the chair is a mimic?
Why else would you fireball a chair?
It stubbed your toe one too many times.

That’s how they soften you up. The chair revolution is coming my friends. Will you stand up for humanity, or welcome our 4 legged overloads sitting down?


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I think practically we're much more likely to see a "can I destroy the chair with a fireball?" rather than a "I throw a fireball at the chair."

Phrasing things as a question like this for a player is completely legitimate since the player doesn't live in the game world, but the character does and presumably has tried to burn things with their magic before to see what happens.


Siro wrote:
Megistone wrote:
I'll mess things up: what if the chair is a mimic?
Why else would you fireball a chair? Assume every chair is guilty of trying to eat you until proven innocent.

Animate object? It killed your father? The will left everything to the chair? It's friends with the ottoman and you've never liked the ottoman? The possibilities are endless. But the main question is... is the mimic unattended or not?


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Megistone wrote:
I'll mess things up: what if the chair is a mimic?

Mimics as chairs is very deceitful.

Fireballing suspect chairs is equally deseatful.


graystone wrote:
Castilliano wrote:

Are you saying casting an AoE against enemies isn't a direct attack on the area? Furniture damage might be collateral damage, but the bomb still targeted all things when it struck their area. At least as directly as it targeted the enemies, which it did, didn't it?

What I'm saying is, the quote "Damaging an unattended item usually requires attacking it directly" means nothing if any damage is direct no matter what the target is. To me, targeting something is direct damage and collateral damage is indirect: so an area attack is attacking the area, and not individual items and creatures in that area. I mean direct LITERALLY means "lineal rather than collateral".

Personally, I do give that a more standard english reading than a rules terminology reading. The idea being that if you are doing damage to the scenery, you have to spend actions and abilities to do so. You aren't going to damage the chair on the backswing of a strike against the enemy next to it, for example.

Thinking of it another way. If the GM wants to describe the damage done to the scenery due to a battle, that is fine. And is probably a good thing to do. However, if a player wants to damage the scenery, they have to actually state that this is what they are trying to do. Casting a fireball at an unattended chair should work just fine though. That seems like a perfectly valid and reasonable attack against a chair that the player wants to destroy for whatever reason.

But casting Disintigrate at an enemy during a battle in a warehouse and missing... The rules don't (and probably shouldn't) specify what gets destroyed. That is what I see as indirect or collateral damage.


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breithauptclan wrote:
Personally, I do give that a more standard english reading than a rules terminology reading.

Then look at it in a more general way like direct and indirect fire: one is "fire delivered on a target using the target itself as the point of aim" and the other is "fire delivered on a target that is not itself used as a point of aim for the weapon". [US Department of Defense definitions]

breithauptclan wrote:
Casting a fireball at an unattended chair

The game doesn't allow for this: you can only fireball an area that contains the chair, but you can't fireball the chair directly. Intending to either hit or miss the chair doesn't really factor into the damage the chair takes. If that's the case, I'd just intend not to hit my allies and intend to hit my foes and fireballs now becomes a selective targeting spell... :P


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If a GM doesn't allow you to destroy a chair with a fireball when the chair is your only target... you need to find a better GM. No amount of rules can save you from bad GMs.


Henro wrote:
If a GM doesn't allow you to destroy a chair with a fireball when the chair is your only target...

Fireball doesn't have any targets... Now if you mean that there is a featureless void containing only a chair and you fireball area contains said chair, that's up to the DM. If the Dm allows objects NOT to be hit my collateral damage [such as scrolls, books, ect], being consistent and not damaging the chair isn't a bad DM. There are ramifications to allowing or disallowing object damage with this ruling and I don't think either is the act of a bad DM. Is the DM a jerk for not burning up an unattended wand and marking it off the treasure? And if he applied the same rule to a random chair, is he a jerk? Not IMO.

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