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I'm considering picking up Melf's Minute Meteors (from Elemental Evil) since it allows me to spread my damage out a bit and still cast a cantrip or other spell on my turn. However, I'm a little curious about this component of the text [emphasis mine]:

You create six tiny meteors in your space. They float in the air and orbit you for the spell's duration. When you cast the spell-and as a bonus action on each of your turns thereafter-you can expend one or two of the meteors, sending them streaking toward a point or points you choose within 120 feet of you. Once a meteor reaches its destination or impacts against a solid surface, the meteor explodes.

Does this mean that the meteors will explode while they orbit me, if another creature enters my space or I press against a wall without launching them? Obviously this means I make a save for damage as well, but it might change whether or not I pick up the spell.

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No

Read the sentence in context -

When you cast the spell-and as a bonus action on each of your turns thereafter-you can expend one or two of the meteors, sending them streaking toward a point or points you choose within 120 feet of you. Once a meteor reaches its destination or impacts against a solid surface, the meteor explodes.

Unless and until you "expend one or two of the meteors" they are not subject to the subsequent sentence. The meaning of this sentence is if it hits its target or misses and would therefore strike a solid surface, it explodes; if it misses and would not strike a solid surface it doesn't explode.

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Short Answer:

Yes, they could. They explode once impacting against a solid surface. It does not say, that they have to be launched before that.

Long Answer:

1.) Will it explode when a creature enters your space or intercepts the meteor? No.

While looking through other spells you will find, that the spell Catapult (EE p.14) differentiates between creatures and a solid surface

In either case, both the object and the creature or solid surface take 3d8 bludgeoning damage.

I would guess that a solid surface implies immovable and not alive, else it would be an object.

This is supported by some mentions in the PHB:

[...] you can try by pressing yourself up to a solid surface, such as a tree or wall [...] (PHB p.92)

And:

[...] upon a surface (such as a table or a section of of floor or wall) [...] (PHB p.245f)

A surface is literally a surface. A creature or weapon/shield etc. with which one might intercept the meteors does not count as surface.


2.) Will it explode when you press against a wall? Maybe, probably yes.

The meteors float and orbit you. THiebert clarified that "float and orbit you" implies that they are at some level within your height. So if you press against a 5-foot wall, one might argue, that the meteors do not impact with said wall, if they float higher than that. Nowhere is mentioned how high those meteors orbit. So it depends on your visualization.

This seems to be the downside of this spell, that you have to be careful with taking cover.


Yet there is another way to avoid the damage.

One word: Concentration.

The meteors only explode too early when impacting against a solid surface. So, if you know you have to take cover you might as well drop concentration at any time, no action required. Unlaunched meteors will dissipate and you are safe.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hey Thyzer, I edited my question to clarify that the problem I'm having is more about whether or not they'll explode without you "launching" them. Hope that makes sense. \$\endgroup\$ – Eidolon108 Feb 11 '17 at 21:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Eidolon108 adjusted my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Thyzer Feb 11 '17 at 21:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ The spell does not say the meteors orbit above you, only that they float and orbit you. This likely means that they are at some level within your height, rather than above it. As such I'd recommend editing the second part of your answer. \$\endgroup\$ – inthemanual Feb 13 '17 at 1:56
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The short answer is clearly "sure, that could happen", but in practice I think you need to consider what's actually likely to happen.

If you're actively placing yourself in a situation where your meteors might come into contact with something (i.e. "pressing up against a wall"), presumably you know it's happening, so you can drop your concentration if necessary.

The more interesting case is where something else is going to run into your meteors against your will (i.e. "we got stuck in an avalanche", or "an enemy archer is shooting at them", or "I get grappled by some enormous monster"). You can break these sort of situations down into the plausible (why yes, if you're caught in an avalanche I suppose that odds are something might run into one of those meteors, and a DM might rule that you don't have a chance to drop concentration first) and the implausible (no, I don't think enemy archers are going to have much of a chance of hitting them).

If you're concerned about the plausible cases, well, most of the times when that sort of thing happens you're already kind of in trouble, a couple of explosions are probably a rounding error at that point. If you're concerned about the implausible ones, then you don't have a "my spell is risky" problem, you have a "my DM is a jerk" problem.

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