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In the SRD it states:

The first special function, ball lightning, releases one to four balls of lightning (ring wearer’s choice). These glowing globes resemble dancing lights, and the ring wearer controls them in the same fashion (see the dancing lights spell description). The spheres have a 120-foot range and a duration of 4 rounds. They can be moved at 120 feet per round. Each sphere is about 3 feet in diameter, and any creature who comes within 5 feet of one causes its charge to dissipate, taking electricity damage in the process according to the number of balls created.

It also states:

The spark shower is a flying cloud of sizzling purple sparks that fan out from the ring for a distance of 20 feet in an arc 10 feet wide. Creatures within this area take 2d8 points of damage each if not wearing metal armor or carrying a metal weapon. Those wearing metal armor and/or carrying a metal weapon take 4d8 points of damage.

http://www.d20srd.org/srd/magicItems/rings.htm#shootingStars

Neither of these functions directly address a need to either make a saving throw or the requirement to make a ranged attack to hit a target. Should these functions require either saving throws or attack rolls?

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You save against Ball Lightning but not against spark shower.

DMG, p. 214:

Magic items produce spells or spell-like effects. For a saving throw against a spell or spell-like effect from a magic item, the DC is 10+the level of the speell or effect + the ability modifier of the minimum ability score needed to cast that level of spell. For example, a 2nd level spell's save DC would be 10+2 (for the spell being 2nd level) +1 (for needing at least a 12 in the relavant abilty score to cast a 2nd level spell), or a total of 13

For rings in particular the DMG says they produce "a spell-like power". (DMG, p.211)

As the power is "spell-like" the usual save of a "ball lightning" spell applies, unless it is specifically stated that it doesn't.

Usually, a spell-like ability works just like the spell of that name. A few spell-like abilities are unique; these are explained in the text where they are described. (SRD)

Ball Lightning is a 5th level spell, so the save DC is 17 and Reflex negates. 17= 10 + 5 (level) +2 (modifier for CasterStat15))

For the spark shower function there is no spell of the same name. In this case the ommission of a save means that there is none.

The DMG says

Most item descriptions give saving throw DCs for various effects, particularly when the effect has no exact spell equivalent (making its level otherwise difficult to determine quickly).

"Most item descriptions" does not mean "all item descriptions". So: for a few items where there is a spell equivalent calculating the save DC is expected. But in case there is no spell equivalent you can dismiss a save.

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A victim typically doesn't make saving throws against the functions ball lightning and spark shower

The description of the ring of shooting stars (Dungeon Master's Guide 232–3) (50,000 gp; 0 lbs.) says that victims make a saving throw against the special function shooting stars but does not say that victims make saving throws against the special functions ball lightning and spark shower. As the ball lightning and spark shower functions of the ring of shooting stars are not said to be like other spells, those functions are unique, operating the way the ring says they do therefore not offering their victims a saving throw.

While the Dungeon Master's Guide on Rings does say, in part, that a magic ring "has a spell-like power (often a constant effect that affects the wearer)" (211), in context, that's from an introduction to magic items and not from, for instance, Saving Throws Against Magic Item Powers that says, "Most item descriptions give saving throw DCs for various effects, particularly when the effect has no exact spell equivalent (making its level otherwise difficult to determine quickly)" (214). I urge not inferring from the basics of magic items how specific magic items function.

For comparison, a ring of invisibility (232) (20,000 gp; 0 lbs.) allows a wearer to take a standard action (see here) to "benefit from invisibility, as the spell." Understanding that benefit requires the reader to visit the 2nd-level Sor/Wiz spell invisibility [illus] (Player's Handbook 245) to learn that each activation of the ring's benefit has a duration of 3 min. (the ring's caster level; see here) rather than, for example, the ring making the wearer invisible while it's worn and visible again when it's removed. Further, the reader learns that only the wearer benefits from the ring—the wearer can't render invisible an unattended object nor an object another's attending, for instance, as can a normal invisibility spell (or, for that matter, spell-like ability, like that of an ogre mage (Monster Manual 200)).

However, unlike the ring of invisibility and the spell invisibility, no spells are referenced in the description of the special functions shooting stars, ball lightning, and spark shower of the ring of shooting stars. The reader is left to rely on the descriptions of those functions as presented in the ring of shooting stars description alone, and only the shooting stars special function of the ring of shooting stars mentions victims make saving throws—therefore victims of those other two functions don't.


Note: The spell ball lightning was originally published Aug. 2001 in Magic of Faerûn (80), after the ring of shooting stars appeared in the Sept. 2000 Dungeon Master's Guide. An argument can be made for Guide authors anticipating Magic therefore the ball lighting spell, but one goal of Third Edition was to reduce the consumer's need to reference other products. Including in the core rules a reference to an upcoming product—and to not even mention that upcoming product's title!—runs counter to this goal. Also, I am aware that the ball lightning function, in part, says that spheres "impact for 12 points of damage and spread (as a fireball [spell]) in a 5-foot-radius sphere" (232), but that reference to the spell fireball is likening only that spread to the spread of a fireball spell, and not likening the entire ball lightning effect to a fireball spell. (Were it doing the latter, the parenthetical would have to be at the sentence's end.) Finally, that reference is mechanically inaccurate—a fireball spell's point of origin is a grid intersection, and the sphere's 5-ft. radius extends from the creature struck… and whether that means it's actually a 2½-ft.-radius spread or actually a 7½-ft.-radius spread is anybody's guess. (Mine's the latter.) Finally, unless the ring of shooting stars has narrative value, this player recommends selling it as soon as possible—its price inadequately reflects its utility.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It has narrative value, an NPC's I'm adapting from Pegasus #8 'Trouble in the North' into 3.5 unless you can tell me there's a more appropriate substitute for a 'Ring of Meteors' I assume the Ring of Shooting Stars is the correct 3.5 substitute. Good point on the Ball Lightning, I was aware the spell was written after the core books were published. However, the description of the ring function doesn't account for the possibility the ring wearer moves the ball lightning into a square adjacent to an opponent, it only describes in terms of whether an opponent approaches it. \$\endgroup\$ – MichaelDorf Nov 29 '19 at 0:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelDorf RE: "[T]he description of the ring function doesn't account for the possibility the ring wearer moves the ball lightning into a square adjacent to an opponent, it only describes in terms of whether an opponent approaches it." That's accurate, which means how it's described is how it works. The ring of shooting stars is a legacy item, and its ball lightning function has been working that way—no dealing damage until approached—since at least 1979 when the ring of shooting stars appeared in the DMG for AD&D. Is that weird? Sure. But so is a lot of traditional stuff. :-) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 29 '19 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ So in this is it not the case that the rule for the Ball Lightning spell is retroactively applied to the Ring of Shooting Stars? I'm not sure of the precedent here for primary versus secondary sources but it would appear the condition quoted from the SRD and in the first respondent's post is satisfied 'Usually, a spell-like ability works just like the spell of that name. A few spell-like abilities are unique; these are explained in the text where they are described.' Ergo, I would argue the spell like ability is no longer 'unique' because it is documented in a later source. \$\endgroup\$ – MichaelDorf Nov 29 '19 at 18:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelDorf Technically, because the ball lightning function of the ring is described fully, having the ring function ball lightning work in any way like the spell ball lightning causes a disagreement between rules sources, and, in that case the DMG takes precedence (see here). (And—just as an aside—the spell ball lightning is also way different from the ring function ball lightning… so much so that applying the spell wholesale to the ring function would mean rewriting ring function completely.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 29 '19 at 18:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelDorf Yes… and I'd like to think that's more than just opinion. :-) The ball lightning special function, in part, says that "any creature who comes within 5 feet of one causes its charge to dissipate" and offers no alternative method of causing the charge to dissipate. It's less like I'ma gonna kill that dude by moving these ball lightning spheres him! and more like Come at me, bro, but you'll discharge the ball lightning spheres if you do. In other words, the ball lightning function is more suited for use as area denial than as a means to blow up foes directly. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 29 '19 at 20:18

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