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In the Neverwinter Nights video game series (I'm more familiar with NWN2 specifically, which was based on D&D 3.5e), there were two spells, "Isaac's Lesser Missile Storm" and "Isaac's Greater Missile Storm". They were both (as I understand it) basically bigger, better magic missile, but with random targeting within an area. I'll also point out that my knowledge of 3.5e is exclusively from NWN2.

I liked these spells, and want to "import" them into 5e, so I've attempted to homebrew them.

My goals are:

  • I want Isaac's lesser missile storm to be better than an upcast magic missile, and for Isaac's greater missile storm to be better than an upcast Isaac's lesser missile storm, because otherwise, what's the point?
  • I want these spells to be balanced against other options of their spell level (or at worst, for their spell level to be adjusted so that they are balanced, but ideally I'd prefer for their spell levels to remain and for them to be rebalanced to fit their spell levels, if they are currently unbalanced).

My concerns are:

  • Because they work like magic missile, in that they don't require an attack roll or saving throw, but are higher levels spells that should be "better" than an upcast magic missile, and that they deal the rarely-resisted force damage, I don't want them to be massively overpowered, like an even better fireball, which is already a must-have for almost every caster;
  • If they need to be rebalanced, I still want them to have the same "feel" as the spells I remember from NWN2, so I don't want the flavour or the fundamental mechanics (i.e. no attack roll or save, just like magic missile; random targeting, etc) to change if possible; I'd be more open to changes in damage, such as changing the number of missiles and what damage die they use.

Anyway, here's what I've come up with (available only to sorcerers and wizards):

Isaac's Lesser Missile Storm

4th-level evocation

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V, S
Duration: Instantaneous

You fire 8 missiles of magical force that randomly target and hit any hostile creature within a 10-foot-radius sphere centred on a point you choose within range. Each missile randomly targets a hostile creature. The missiles all strike simultaneously. Each missile does 1d6 force damage.

If the target is immune to the magic missile spell, such as by being under the effect of the shield spell, then they are also immune to this spell. Furthermore, any hostile creature within the area that can cast shield is able to cast it in reaction to this spell as though they were targeted by magic missile.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th level or higher, the spell creates one more missile for each slot level above 4th.

Isaac's Greater Missile Storm

6th-level evocation

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V, S
Duration: Instantaneous

You fire 14 missiles of magical force that randomly target and hit any hostile creature within a 20-foot-radius sphere centred on a point you choose within range. Each missile randomly targets a hostile creature. The missiles all strike simultaneously. Each missile does 1d6 force damage.

If the target is immune to the magic missile spell, such as by being under the effect of the shield spell, then they are also immune to this spell. Furthermore, any hostile creature within the area that can cast shield is able to cast it in reaction to this spell as though they were targeted by magic missile.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 7th level or higher, the spell creates two more missiles for each slot level above 6th.

Note that originally I had Isaac's greater missile storm deal 2d6 force damage per missile, as per NWN2, but thought that it might be a bit too strong, so reduced it to 1d6. If, somehow, it's now underpowered, my first preference for rebalancing it would be to put it back to 2d6, unless that results in it being overpowered.

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It's most likely too strong and inherently problematic

It deals a lot of guaranteed force damage

Let's compare the level 6 version to a spell that's pretty similar, Disintegrate. They are both spells that deal a lot of force damage and not much else. (Ignoring the fact that Disintegrate will...well... disintegrate stuff.)

Disintegrate allows a dexterity saving throw, if you fail you take 10d6+40 force damage. Your Greater Missile Storm on the other hand does not allow any save of any kind and deals 14d6 damage.

Now obviously, 10d6+40 is more damage than 14d6, but there's the massive downside that you can also do -no- damage if they make their saving throw. A guaranteed 14d6 damage is extremely powerful, I don't see why I would want to risk somebody making their dexterity saving throw for 40-4d6 extra damage. That seems like way too big a risk for roughly ~26 damage. (Although it may very well be 14d6+70, see below)

It's an AoE that breaks targeting

It also seems far stronger than most AoE spells, because you specify that it targets only hostile creatures. This means it's an AoE spell you can safely use in any situation, regardless of bystanders, which isn't really AoE spells in D&D really tend to do.

It is counter-intuitive for a AoE spell

On the downside, it's an incredibly random damaging spell, if Bob the Baddie is sitting in his throne and petting his cat in his typical evil villain style, you do risk obliterating his cat and leaving him entirely undamaged (and very angry) if you're unlucky, making this spell way more reliable as a single target spell.

It's going to soak up a lot of time at the table

Which brings me to the next problem, this spell is going to take a lot of time to resolve, way more than it honestly should. Not only do you roll 14d6 (as you describe it, although you'd most likely only roll once, see below), you also need to roll a random target 14 times, which will significantly slow down a spell turn.

It might be really, REALLY broken

In addition, it's technically an AoE spell, so you'd most likely only have to roll once just like with magic missile.

Magic missile. RAW: You roll 1 damage die (see "Damage Rolls," PH, 196). RAI: It doesn't matter; you choose. #DnD https://t.co/AYRRX2j3AP

— Jeremy Crawford (@JeremyECrawford) September 8, 2016

Which means that the spell has a 1 in 6 chance of dealing:

  • Rolled 1: 14 total damage
  • Rolled 2: 28 total damage
  • Rolled 3: 42 total damage
  • Rolled 4: 56 total damage
  • Rolled 5: 70 total damage
  • Rolled 6: 86 total damage

This makes the damage extremely random, you might tickle them or you might obliterate them. However, now this spell has become the strongest evocation spell the world has ever seen, because Empowered Evocation as an Evocation wizard will allow you to add your intelligence modifier to a single damage roll.

This means that an Evocation wizard would deal an extra 5 damage per missile, for a total of 70 extra flat force damage.

You've just made a spell that can kill anything with less than 84 hp instantly if they don't have shield. Forget Power Word: Kill, meet Power Word: Magic Missiles.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Dec 10 '19 at 13:56

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