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Outside of the classes the spells are available to, what is the advantage to using Flame Strike over Fireball in AD&D 1st Edition? Many of the advantages I'm used to seeing later editions (mixed damage type, lack of treasure destruction) aren't apparent in the original version of the spell. It may be that the only advantage is that Flame Strike is castable by Clerics, which may be an acceptable answer.

What advantages, if any does casting Flame Strike have over Fireball?

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Clerics cannot cast Fireball

That is really the biggest advantage of Flame Strike over Fireball. Clerics not only get it later (5th) but they have no access to Fireball (3rd) at all. Flame Strike doesn't scale with the cleric's level, while Fireball does (+1d6 per level). So it would be every cleric's wet dream to be able to cast Fireball.

Magic Users get the cake here. Clerics get a candy to make up for it.

Physics

Not only that, but Fireball also comes with physics, explaining how things will combust, how the flames expand and all of that, which is absent from Flame Strike. Things like "impacts upon a material body", or "the burst will generally conform to the shape of the area in which it occurs", forces the caster to think twice before sending a fireball flying towards his enemies, which might have a high possibility of also hurting her allies.

To clarify, casting fireball in any area that couldnt fit the cubic explosion would make it expand beyond the intended area, potentially hurting allies or innocent standbys. It was quite common for magic users to cast it inside a dungeon room or corridor and incinerate themselves and their allies.

All of that is absent in Flame Strike, making it safer to cast.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @GcL note that 4d8 isn't entirely accurate as it would have a different distribution than 8d8/2 \$\endgroup\$ – OganM Apr 19 at 1:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OganM AD&D didn't do divide by two for half damage all the time. Sometimes, it listed half the number of dice. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Apr 19 at 13:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras I mistakenly thought the answer was for 5e upon first reading. Erroneous comments have been removed. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Apr 19 at 13:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras - That's not just "generally used", it's RAW. AD&D PHB, p.73: "The area which is covered by the fireball is a total volume of roughly 33,000 cubic feet". (Citation taken from a blog post; I don't have a PHB available to verify it.) That's potentially very dangerous if you're casting in a dungeon and haven't fully explored what's on the other side of the target area, so you don't know how much of that 33,000 cubic foot volume can go that way vs. how much will be coming back at you! \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Sherohman Apr 20 at 9:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ I know it is raw, but I also know many GMs didnt stop the game to calculate that. There was an article in the dragon magazine about that. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Apr 20 at 11:04
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Flame strike cannot be blocked, and doesn't ruin money.

The advantages the original flame strike had were:

  • Rolls d8 for damage
  • Can't be blocked by an object getting in the way
  • Doesn't melt soft metals and light items on fire

Flame strike has higher damage until level 8 fireball

Flame strike damage output is 6d8. Fireball does 1d6 per caster level. A caster of fireball needs to be a level 8 before max damage of fireball is equal to that of flame strike.

Flame strike has better precision

It makes a column of flame down on the exact spot called for by the caster. Fireball has to be directed with a pointed finger and the range and height called out by the caster.

Downsides of fireball that flame strike does not suffer:

Fireball can be blocked on the way to the destination.

An object in between where the wizard aims the fireball and his finger will cause the fireball to detonate early. Flame strike does not have this limitation.

Fireball melts gold

Fireball has the problem with wreckin a lot of the material wealth it's area. Flame strike does not have the same problem.

Fireball can backfire

A fireball conforms to the area it's confined in filling in it's entire volume. This can inadvertently fill the space the wizard or her allies are in if the target space was small and the fireball spills back into the area from which it was cast.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In first edition, Flame Strike was 6d8, not 8d8. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Apr 18 at 21:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras thanks. I didn't have my book in front of me. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Apr 18 at 21:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Clerics learn flame strike at 9th level. By then, Magic Users have 9d6 fireballs while Clerics get 6d8 flame strikes. In every possible scenario, fireballs outputs more damage. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Apr 18 at 22:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras I agree assuming casters of equal level. I'll see about reword that part to make the point more clear. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Apr 19 at 13:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ I dont think its possible for a 8th level cleric to ever cast flame strike. So, there is no realistic situation where flame strike will be more powerful than fireball. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Apr 19 at 16:42

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