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A bad guy is hiding down a dim corridor. Actually, he's in a side corridor, and at the intersection there is a large mirror set at 45°, reflecting his appearance towards the adventurers.

None of the adventurers realise/perceive that what they see is a mirror, they just see the bad guy, in the corridor, facing them.

The mage in the party casts magic missile.

You are the GM, now what do you do?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is this is a thought exercise or an actual in-game event that occurred? (And, of course, answers are to assume the caster is in range of both reflection and bad guy, correct?) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 28 '17 at 5:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Planning out an encounter, so might well happen. And yes, range is ok. \$\endgroup\$ – Erics Nov 28 '17 at 7:56
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The range section of the PHB says:

Range: This lists the distance from the caster at which the spell effect occurs or begins. [...]Unless otherwise specified, [...] spells [other than those with a range of 0 or touch] are centered on a point visible to the caster and within the range of the spell. [...]Spells can be cast through narrow openings only if both the caster's vision and the spell energy can be directed simultaneously through the opening. A wizard standing behind an arrow slit can cast through it; sending a fireball through a small peephole he is peering through is another matter.

Magic Missile says:

Range: 60 yds. + 10 yds./level

Area of Effect: 1-5 targets

Use of the magic missile spell creates up to five missiles of magical energy that dart forth from the wizard's fingertip and unerringly strike their target. This includes enemy creatures in a melee. The target creature must be seen or otherwise detected to be hit, however, so near-total concealment, such as that offered by arrow slits, can render the spell ineffective. Likewise, the caster must be able to identify the target. He cannot direct a magic missile to "Strike the commander of the legion," unless he can single out the commander from the rest of the soldiers. Specific parts of a creature cannot be singled out. Inanimate objects (locks, etc.) cannot be damaged by the spell, and any attempt to do so wastes the missiles to no effect. Against creatures, each missile inflicts 1d4+1 points of damage.

For every two extra levels of experience, the wizard gains an additional missile--he has two at 3rd level, three at 5th level, four at 7th level, etc., up to a total of five missiles at 9th level. If the wizard has multiple missile capability, he can have them strike a single target creature or several creatures, as desired.

If within range, then the missile would hit, as the caster has line of effect through the open corridor, and can see and identify the target. If he can identify and specify his target, and the target is not concealed from sight, then the missile(s) unerringly hit their target.

The characters will see the missiles arc around the corner, and may also notice the missiles' reflections as they approach and then pass the mirror.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Such a ruling may still have the spell yield unknown results. I mean, the caster's designated as the magic missile spell's target the reflection that's the exact opposite of the actual creature… and that opposite creature doesn't exist. (That ruling would likely see the DM pelted by dice, though.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 28 '17 at 5:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I guess that it depends on whether seeing a creature's reflection is equivalent to seeing the creature. If so, then my ruling stands, otherwise yours does. \$\endgroup\$ – Chemus Nov 28 '17 at 5:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ "target creature must be seen or otherwise detected" would seem significant while yet vague. \$\endgroup\$ – Erics Nov 28 '17 at 7:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm a bit vague on the details of line of effect in 2nd edition, but - shouldn't line of effect be, well, a straight line? If what you describe here works, a wizard can shoot magic missiles over walls and around corners using a hand held mirror or an improvised periscope... \$\endgroup\$ – G0BLiN Nov 29 '17 at 10:27
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The Player's Handbook on Range says,

Unless otherwise specified, all other spells [i.e. those with ranges other than 0 or touch like magic missile's range of 60 yds. +10 yds./level] are centered on a point visible to the caster and within the range of the spell" (Player's Handbook (1995) pg. 168)

Given the caster is unaware of the ruse, the point at which the caster's centered his spell is not the real bad guy but the bad guy's reflection.

Thus, having designated as the target the bad guy's reflection, the caster would see this DM rule that reflection is what the magic missile spell fruitlessly hits: "Inanimate objects cannot be damaged by the spell, and any attempt to do so wastes the missiles to no effect" (176).

(Had the magic missile's caster been aware of the mirror before casting the spell, this DM would've ruled the magic missile spell could hunt down the bad guy via the bad guy's reflection, the caster then capable of centering the spell at a point seen in the mirror.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Suggestions for improvement welcome. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 28 '17 at 5:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not my down vote, but perhaps using quote blocks would help. (I have a vague suspicion that it comes down to a simple disagreement with your conclusion.) \$\endgroup\$ – royalmurder Nov 28 '17 at 12:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Per your last paragraph: Magic missile requires a line of effect. You cannot send a magic missile zooming around a corner any more than you can send a fireball around a corner. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadoCat Nov 28 '17 at 20:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ShadoCat I agree that magic missile does require a path to its target, but the spell has a special exception for its targeting, requiring only that a "target creature must be seen or otherwise detected to be hit" yet placing no restrictions on how the creature must be seen or detected. (I'm happy to remove that final 'graph if contrary evidence can be marshaled!) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 28 '17 at 20:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan, I can't find any specific ruling but it seems inconstant to me that one spell can do this while not pointing out that it can go around corners. No down vote but I do think you are incorrect and we've always played the line of effect rules as such. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadoCat Nov 28 '17 at 21:04

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