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I have magic missile with caster level 3 and the toppling spells feat.

Magic missile says:

For every two caster levels beyond 1st, you gain an additional missile - two at 3rd level, three at 5th, four at 7th, and the maximum of five missiles at 9th level or higher. If you shoot multiple missiles, you can have them strike a single creature or several creatures. A single missile can strike only one creature. You must designate targets before you check for spell resistance or roll damage.

Toppling Spell says:

The impact of your force spell is strong enough to knock the target prone. If the target takes damage, fails its saving throw, or is moved by your force spell, make a trip check against the target, using your caster level plus your casting ability score bonus (Wisdom for clerics, Intelligence for wizards, and so on). This does not provoke an attack of opportunity. If the check fails, the target cannot attempt to trip you or the force effect in response.

So 1 missile, 1 target...simple. 1 trip attempt.

But I'm CL3, so I get to fire 2 missiles.

2 missiles, 2 targets...seems pretty simple, 1 trip attempt on each.

But I can fire both missiles at one target.

Magic Missile explicitly says that it creates additional missiles, not just increasing the damage from a single missile, so it's hitting the target multiple times. However Toppling Spell is talking about the spell.

So do I get 2 trip attempts or 1 when I fire both missiles at a single target?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You could mark such a question as a FAQ candidate. However, it's not likely to matter past, like, level 5 according to the grousing on this thread. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 19 '16 at 13:13
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By RAW there is no way to answer this for sure, magic missile does say it generates multiple missiles but this seems to be flavour rather than mechanical.

The key part I'm relying on in this answer is in the description of toppling spell: your force spell [snip] If the target takes damage

This clearly says that if the spell deals damage to the target then you get a trip attempt. It does not say anything about damaging the target multiple times, it just says that if the spell deals damage.

Based on this part of the rules the way I've been using the spell is to say that you get a trip attempt against each target struck by the spell that you deal damage to no matter how many missiles you hit that target with. If you hit three targets you get three trip attempts (one on each). If you hit one target three times you get a single trip attempt.

I'm aware of the sneak attack/rays FAQ but it's speaking about a completely different ability and a completely different style of spell so I do not see how it applies.

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However many people you damage with the [Force] spell.

If the target takes damage, fails its saving throw, or is moved by your force spell, make a trip check against the target, using your caster level plus your casting ability score bonus

This is the only relevant rules text. If you have a spell with the [Force] descriptor, and the Toppling Spell metamagic applied to it, and you cast that spell, any target that takes damage, that fails a saving throw, or that is moved (a defined rules term) by the spell, is the target of a trip attempt.

It doesn't matter whether you damage them via missiles or lasers or emanations or using Havoc of the Society. It doesn't matter whether they are making saving throws against mind control, sneezes, falling over, being entangled, whatever. It doesn't matter if you're moving them with a [Force][Teleportation] spell or with Bigby's Bullrushing Hand or whatever. If the triggering conditions are met, you make a (aka, a single) trip attempt using different modifiers than the normal trip attempt uses.

It doesn't matter how many times you damage, or how many saves they fail, or whatever. All the effect requires is a single instance of any of those things, caused by a force spell, and then it makes a single trip attempt. There is no point at which multiple trip attempts would be made unless there are multiple targets, by the wording of the ability (if the target [..] by your force spell [...] make a trip attempt) and the usage of the 'or' list.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While I agree with your conclusion I don't agree with your statement that it's so definitive. By the wording of the ability you could argue for multiple trips on one target. The real question is whether being hit by 3 magic missiles deals one lot of [3d4] damage or 3 separate lots of [1d4] daamge. The spell is ambiguous about this as is the feat. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim B Feb 19 '16 at 13:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TimB All the targets—whether that's one target or five targets—are dealt damage simultaneously upon the spell's resolution, though, aren't they? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 19 '16 at 13:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Simultaneously sure, but that doesn't change whether it's 1*3 or 3*1 . Basically all I'm saying is that while I agree with this ruling it's not as clear by RAW as this answer makes it sound. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim B Feb 19 '16 at 14:13
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One Trip Per Casting

The damage done by magic missile happens all at once, only triggering Toppling Spell a single time.

This is answered in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook FAQ in a question labelled, "Sneak Attack: Can I add sneak attack damage to simultaneous attacks from a spell? ":

No. For example, scorching ray fires simultaneous rays at one or more targets, and the extra damage is only added once to one ray, chosen by the caster when the spell is cast. Spell-based attacks which are not simultaneous, such as multiple attacks per round by a 8th-level druid using flame blade, may apply sneak attack damage to each attack so long as each attack qualifies for sneak attack (the target is denied its Dex bonus or the caster is flanking the target).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually from your quoted text it looks like it's one trip per casting, not per target. \$\endgroup\$ – Bill K Jan 11 '16 at 21:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ That is a completely different ability... And in fact using that example would even disallow the trip on multiple targets, which is clearly wrong. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim B Jan 11 '16 at 22:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TimB Disallowing it on multiple targets is a good way to make sure an ability remains balanced and cannot as easily be abused. You can still use Toppling Spell to try to trip one monster per standard action, free of charge. This can be used quite effectively. I think it likely that many would consider an ability that tripped half a dozen enemies on the battlefield, every single round, as too good. \$\endgroup\$ – Jonathon Jan 11 '16 at 23:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JonathonWisnoski It's not free of charge. It's a heavy cost on feats/traits/spell levels/etc. Would you similarly argue that an AoE force spell should only trip one target? That Q&A is for sneak attack with rays. Magic missile is not a ray and a metamagic feat is not sneak attack. The example is irrelevant. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim B Jan 12 '16 at 9:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that intense spells: d20pfsrd.com/classes/core-classes/wizard/arcane-schools/… specifically says "Whenever you cast an evocation spell that deals hit point damage, add 1/2 your wizard level to the damage (minimum +1). This bonus only applies once to a spell, not once per missile or ray, and cannot be split between multiple missiles or rays." if they need to specifically state it for that ability that suggests there is no similar global rule. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim B Jan 12 '16 at 10:11
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Hmm, that's a real tough one. Seems like there is little RAW on this topic, so I'll have a go with my feelings:

MM explicitly states that they are seperate missiles. Toppling Spell adds a force effect to the spell. It undoubtedly topples multiple targets with one spell and also for AOE spells. So the only question remaning is what happens when this effect is focused on a single target. Personally, I don't feel it OP the let the caster use a better (in terms of leveled up, feat using) MM to topple a single enemy by forcing 2-5 trip checks on him instead of one.

A way of arguing against that could be that the multiple missiles still hit at the same time as there is no reason to assume they travel at different speeds. Then you could conclude this effect is just one hit, causing only one trip check. Still in this case you need to account for the fact that multiple hits cause a stronger force effect and thus harder trip check. This would lead to the ruling of one trip check with a penalty per missile. I can see a -2 penalty here per missile, making it a -8 check if all missiles are used.

Doing another comparison: What is the spell slot used by a MM boosted with Toppling Spell? Compare that to the spell level of a completely new spell designed to topple a single enemy with no save? Does the improved MM really feel too powerful now?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Toppling Spell doesn't add a force effect to the spell. Magic Missile is a force spell. Toppling Spell adds an additional ability to force spells that you cast. \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Feb 19 '16 at 13:39

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