The locate city bomb is a series of metamagic feats you can apply to a the locate city spell to do high damage over a very wide area.

Typical process:

  1. Cast locate city from Races of Destiny.

  2. Use the Snowcasting feat from Frostburn to add the Cold descriptor to locate city.

  3. Use the Flash Frost feat from Player’s Handbook II, which can only be applied to cold spells, to add 2 cold damage to all creatures within the area of the Snowcasted locate city.

  4. Use the Energy Substitution feat from Complete Arcane, which can only be applied to a spell that deals acid, cold, electricity, or fire damage, to turn the cold damage to electricity damage.

  5. Use the Born of the Three Thunders feat from Complete Arcane, which can only be applied to an area spell with the electricity or sonic descriptor that deals hit point damage. Among other things, this forces creatures within locate city’s area to make a Reflex save.

  6. Use the Explosive Spell feat from Complete Arcane, which can only be applied to a cone-, cylinder-, line-, or burst-area spell that allows a Reflex save, to force those within who fail the Reflex save to the edge of the effect, taking 1d6 damage for every 10 feet moved.

If the locate city spell were banned, what other spells could use this combination of feats to produce a similar effect?

The locate city spell has a radius of 10 miles/level; I'd consider a spell to have a similar effect if its area of effect was also very large (and if the rest of the locate city feat stack worked with it).

(Context: https://rpg.stackexchange.com/a/159280/21179)

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ AFAIK this doesn't actually work because Flash Frost can't affect a spell that doesn't end up with the Cold descriptor... YMMV but I doubt most GM's would allow an "order of operations" for metamagic. Similar to the peasant railgun, this is a tropified exaggeration that is fun to talk about but ultimately doesn't accomplish what you'd want. (That doesn't mean that the question is invalid for funsies, of course, just making a PSA) \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Jan 29, 2021 at 6:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso: Does Energy Substitution change the descriptor, or just the damage type? If it's the latter, then it's a Cold descriptor spell that just happens to deal non-cold damage. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 23, 2022 at 20:24

2 Answers 2


The rules are not good about defining “bursts” versus “emanations.” However, I am going to treat all ongoing effects “centered on you,” or that are otherwise mobile, as emanations, and therefore not bursts, and therefore not eligible for Explosive Spell. That dramatically narrows things down.

Likewise, any kind of instantaneous effect in a circle/sphere (the rules use the terms interchangeably) is a burst unless it specifically says otherwise. I’m also going to include spreads here—those are “like bursts,” and fireball uses one—and fireball is literally the example spell used in Explosive Spell’s description, so I suppose they must be OK.

When an effect has a duration, but doesn’t move, there is usually no difference between burst and emanation, and the rules almost never bother to define which something is. I will list these, but with an asterisk to highlight that you could argue/rule that they are emanations and therefore not allowed with Explosive Spell.

Those rules dramatically limit the list; as of this writing, I have found only three. I’ll also include locate city itself just for comparison.

Spell Level & School Area Source
Apocalypse from the sky 9th-level conjuration 10 miles/level Book of Vile Darkness
Dark tide* 7th-level blackwater necromancy One-half mile spread Stormwrack
Locate city 1st-level bard divination 10 miles/level Races of Destiny
1st-level ranger divination
1st-level sor/wiz divination
Shadow landscape* 9th-level druid illusion 1-mile-radius spread Spell Compendium
Shifting paths* 7th-level druid illusion 1 mile + 1 mile/level Spell Compendium
8th-level sor/wiz illusion
Weather eye 3rd-level druid divination 1 mile + 1 mile/level Spell Compendium
4th-level cleric divination

Clearly, locate city is vastly superior to any other option, but these other options can still be heavily problematic.

While apocalypse from the sky works—and without needing Snowcasting, Flash Frost, or Energy Substitution, as it can deal sonic damage natively—as a 9th-level spell it almost doesn’t matter (Explosive Spell will still add vast amounts of damage to it, though—instead of 10d6 it will be many thousands of d6s). At lower levels, weather eye is the clear winner—far less area than apocalypse from the sky or locate city, but still quite large. The rest are smaller, much higher-level, and/or dubious targets for Explosive Spell.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Pleasestopbeingevil I limited my search to spells that used “mile” in their area. Plant growth has an area of 100 feet. A mile is 5,280 feet. The difference is vast, and more than enough to disqualify plant growth. I doubt there are any spells that measure things in feet but still have areas that are comparable to even 1 mile. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Nov 11, 2019 at 18:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pleasestopbeingevil Ah, fair, read too quickly. Still, it’s the same level as weather eye, and has one-twelfth the radius. I’m happy enough leaving it out. Damage isn’t the real concern—the actual area hit is more what I have in mind there. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Nov 11, 2019 at 19:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Would Detect Ship also qualify? \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Nov 13, 2019 at 2:05

Detect ship is listed on page 115 in Stormwrack. It should work I would think and it has a 1 mile/CL radius. 3rd lvl Bard or Sorc/Wiz.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I've gone ahead and given you an upvote, but this answer could be improved with a few more details. \$\endgroup\$
    – goodguy5
    Nov 13, 2019 at 18:35
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Hmm, I’m not so sure—the effect of detect ship is “You,” not any area. The spell gives you a sense that is very wide, but it’s not clear that the sense would carry the benefits of Flash Frost. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Nov 13, 2019 at 18:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan. Good call on that one. I completely glossed over the target “you” as I was familiar with the spell and was primarily grabbing the page number and book. There are so many ways that you can interpret 3.5 rules but I think on this one due to the area being “you” it won’t work. It has great range but I would rule against this working. I would probably let someone use the other options above for “the bomb”, it would most likely be the last time that anyone did it as the wrath of the Deities (for losing mass followers 😀) or even just “the powerful” that survived would seek retribution. \$\endgroup\$
    – NColaDon
    Nov 15, 2019 at 13:09

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