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Is there a way to shape a spell to, for instance, strike a single point so a fireball can be used as a sort of shaped explosive?

Sculpt Spell has a series of shapes you're limited to and does not have a cone coming down to a point (at least, the cone's shape appears to have the wide end going away from the caster. If that isn't the case, or isn't necessarily the case I suppose that would work.)

Explosive spell just explodes, but has no shape that can be formed, unless you apply sculpt and explosive together, but then you still don't have a proper cone where the narrow end goes away from the caster.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please do not misuse code formatting for anything other than actual code fragments; it can cause problems with alternate browsing technologies and make the site less accessible. See this meta discussion for more details. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Sep 21, 2018 at 13:37

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The few things that actually do what you want...

The level of control you want is rare and hard to find in 3.5e. The only source (that I’m aware of/have found so far) is:

Mastery of shaping high arcana

The archmage’s mastery of shaping high arcana can do what you want. Mastery of shaping can remove as many squares as you like from a spell’s area, up to and including removing all but one to make sure fireball only hits that square.

Mastery of Shaping
The archmage can alter area and effect spells that use one of the following shapes: burst, cone, cylinder, emanation, or spread. The alteration consists of creating spaces within the spell’s area or effect that are not subject to the spell. The minimum dimension for these spaces is a 5-foot cube. Furthermore, any shapeable spells have a minimum dimension of 5 feet instead of 10 feet. This ability costs one 6th-level spell slot.

The obvious difficulty is that archmage is a high-level prestige class that requires at least one worthless feat in Skill Focus (Spellcraft), and another two that may not be very useful to you depending on whether or not you use spells that allow saves from two schools of magic, not to mention seven Divination spells which may not align with your interests at all. Wizards can become archmages trivially once they reach the requisite level thanks to unlimited spells known and the master specialist prestige class in Complete Mage (which grants the Skill Focus you need, and also requires one of the Spell Focus feats, doubling up on the weight that feat is pulling), but spellcasters with limited spells known like sorcerers can have an extremely difficult time, and without master specialist the feats can be really painful.

Spellwarp

The signature ability of the spellwarp sniper prestige class from Complete Scoundrel is spellwarp, the ability to turn instantaneous area spells (like fireball) into rays. That means a ranged touch attack (replacing any Reflex save, which is great for Reflex-save spells), and only one target. Spellwarp can only affect spells up to your class level, and since spellwarp sniper is a 5-level class, you’re stuck with a max of 5th-level spells that you can do this to (barring uncanny trickster or legacy champion abuse, anyway). The class does advance spellcasting on all five levels, but other than spellwarp itself the class features are a bit on the mediocre side, and the prerequisites (Point-blank Shot and 1d6 sneak attack damage) are a bit rough.

Other stuff that sort of does something similar...

Shaping spells, in general, on the other hand, isn’t so uncommon, so there are some similar-ish things that don’t quite meet your specifications but might be useful, particularly considering archmage’s high level requirement and often-onerous feat and spell taxes.

Spellguard rings or Selective Spell metamagic, sort of

Spellguard rings from Complete Mage come in pairs, where you wear one and someone else wears the other. You can make the person wearing the other immune to your spells for 1 round as a free action, up to 3 times per day. No indication is given of allowing a single caster ring to apply to multiple companion rings, though you could wear up to five of them (two regular ring slots, two for the Extra Rings feat from Eberron Campaign Setting, and one for a hand of glory) to exempt up to five allies. Per the magic item price guidelines, changing from 3/day to at-will should cost an extra two-thirds again of the original price; you might be able to convince your DM that this is fair (or at least, some price is fair for that).

Alternatively, Selective Spell, a +1 spell level adjustment metamagic feat from Shining South, allows you to exempt one creature from an area spell, no need for anyone to be wearing particular rings. The feat slot and spell level cost might make the spellguard rings the superior choice, though.

Anyway, either of these is clearly not the same as reducing a fireball down to a single target, but it’s close, ish, and there aren’t a whole lot of options here.

Sculpt Spell metamagic, but not really

Even less applicable than Selective Spell, Sculpt Spell from Complete Arcane is also +1 spell level, and allows you to change a spell’s area into a 20-ft-radius ball, a 40-ft cone, a 10-ft-radius, 30-ft-high cylinder, a 120-ft line, or four cubes 10 ft to a side. Obviously, none of those is a single 5-ft cube as requested.

And no, 3.5e defines cones as having the point starting at the caster and spreading out from there; you cannot invert the cone with Sculpt Spell (or, as far as I am aware, anything else).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don’t, off the top of my head, know of any other source of this feature, but considering the size of 3.5e there probably are some. I’m doing some digging. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Sep 21, 2018 at 13:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is it worth mentioning Spellwarp Sniper? It's not ideal, but it's at least relevant. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Sep 21, 2018 at 14:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman Good call! Yes, will definitely do that. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Sep 21, 2018 at 14:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @fectin Probably not, as if the walls were sufficient to block the blast, they’d also be sufficient to prevent you from placing the area spell inside to begin with. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Sep 21, 2018 at 14:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Alas, a 2nd ed version of fireball combined with an enclosing force effect could pull this off nicely. I suppose one could use the "Research a New Spell" rules to recreate the 2nd ed fireball, or even use them for the exact effect that is being sought.... \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Sep 23, 2018 at 19:49

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