Is it possible, by pure game rules, that a wizard become capable of casting a explosion-like spell so strong that can be compared to a small Nuke?

By small Nuke I mean:

  • completely destroy a small town
  • destroy a castle

It should be based only on hard rules, and of course, it is perfectly acceptable that the spell don't kill someone if it has enough hit points (a Nuke indeed would kill everyone), I just need it capable of damaging buildings like a Nuke and have overall similar effects.

Is there any skills/items/class/potions/buffs combination that would allow something similar? Note, I want only official stuff coming from player's books. (Yeah, I know there is a unofficial "Megaton spell", but I want, if possible, a official solution).

Some characteristics that are desirable but not mandatory:

  • Disintegrate properties
  • Wide radius
  • Explosive like with fire damage
  • Very bright
  • The caster could be killed by the spell

It is allowed to cast the spell as a combination of multiple spells: in that case the spell could be cast by multiple wizards at same time (probably willing to stay within the effect radius of the spell and eventually die in the explosion).

It has to be magic: you are not allowed to find a Uranium deposit and build an atomic bomb.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Part of our fine cheese collection. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    May 15, 2018 at 18:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's just amazing. What a collection of great stuff indeed! :D \$\endgroup\$ May 27, 2018 at 6:48

7 Answers 7


Note: This answer challenges the question's frame. Believe it or not, there's an official recommendation in as to how a DM can handle, among other things, a nuclear explosion, and statistics for such an event are present in official and compatible Wizards of the Coast d20 System products.

While the question defines what features its author would like to see in a D&D 3.5e nuclear explosion, for a DM's nonfantasy needs the Dungeon Master's Guide recommends Wizards of the Coast's own "d20 Modern Roleplaying Game, a D&D-compatible role-playing game for present-day adventures [that] contains a much more extensive treatment of firearms and other high-tech gear" (146; link mine). Assuming similar compatibility, the d20 Future supplement for d20 Modern has statistics for a nuclear missile, but, as that nuclear missile omits some important details, the DM may also want to consult the compatible d20 Future Tech supplement for d20 Future for more information on a nuclear explosion.

d20 Future's nuclear missile is a 1-megaton munition that's "essentially a fusion bomb rigged to a guided rocket" (141) that deals only 16d8 points of damage. (But apparently offering no saving throw—I mean, seriously, you got hit by a nuke! No save for you!) The missile deals generic energy damage, however, so typically resistance to energy doesn't apply, and the missile likely deals full damage to objects (see Energy Attacks on PH 165). Instead of rolling the weapon's damage, d20 Future suggests speeding play by using the weapon's average damage, and in this case that's 72 points of damage. (Darn these pesky time-consuming nuclear weapons!) This is about equivalent to 21d6 points of damage.

At its most basic, a similar explosion—except that it deals fire damage and that there's a Reflex saving throw for half damage—can be created by the 7th-level Sor/Wiz spell delayed blast fireball [evoc] (PH 217) cast by a level 14 wizard who also employs the metamagic feat Sudden Empower (Complete Arcane 83). (The sudden metamagic feats, while they can only be employed once per day, are used in this answer to avoid increasing a spell's slot level.)

But d20 Future assumes a nuclear missile is fired in outer space by a starship at another space-based target and that, if it hits, it deals damage to the entire target, no matter the target's size (and, if it misses, it's somebody else's problem). Thus the nuclear missile has no entry for area. However, d20 Future Tech describes the similarly-themed Fusion Power Core (78) that's available contemporaneously with d20 Future's the nuclear missile. When (no, not if) the Core explodes (because vehicle its powering is destroyed or because its self-destruct is triggered), the Core deals 20d6 points of damage to the pilot of the Core-powered vehicle (or, presumably, anyone else at exactly ground zero) and 16d6 points of damage to all creatures and objects (attended or not is unspecified) in a 120-ft. radius! The text says nothing about saving throws, so this DM assumes there aren't any: it's just boom! and consequences.

The problem, then, is not dealing 16d6 points of damage but dealing that damage to everything in a 120-ft. radius. (By comparison, the spell delayed blast fireball has as its area a relatively meek 20-ft. spread.) There are effects that deal less damage yet affect a wider area (like this answer's 9th-level Corrupt spell apocalypse from the sky [conj] (Book of Vile Darkness 85), especially if modified by the feat Sudden Widen (Complete Arcane 83)) and effects that deal more damage yet typically only to a small area or one target (e.g. the 6th-level Sor/Wiz spell disintegrate [trans] (PH 222), the 8th-level Sor/Wiz spell polar ray [evoc] (PH 262-3)), but only a handful of off-the-shelf spells approach a Fusion Power Core detonation.

One spell that does come close is the 8th-level Clr spell lion's roar [evoc] (Spell Compendium 133) that when cast by a level 17 cleric deals 10d8 points of sonic damage to enemies within 120 ft. of the cleric, but an enemy that succeeds on a Will saving throw suffers half damage, and dealing 56 points of damage like a Fusion Power Core with the roar spell means again using the feat Sudden Empower. (A roar spell deals about 67 points of damage when so modified but only an average of 45 points of damage without using the feat.) The spell also probably doesn't affect objects in the area (unless the DM—perhaps too generously—allows the cleric to designate objects as enemies).

Other spells that might serve as ersatz Core explosions include the more-like-a-cinematic-neutron-bomb 3rd-level Sor/Wiz spell jungle razer [necro] (Spell Compendium 127-8) and the 5th-level Sor/Wiz spell cyclonic blast [evoc] (Spell Compendium 57), yet both are lines not bursts; and the only-if-it's-in-the-water-but-then-it's-awesome 8th-level Sor/Wiz spell maelstrom [conj] (Spell Compendium 135-6), especially if modified by the feat Sudden Empower.

Further, if modified by the feats Sudden Empower and Sudden Widen, a Core explosion can be sort of simulated with the 3rd-level Sor/Wiz spell resonating bolt [evoc] (Spell Compendium 174) yet it's a line and will likely also require employing the feat Sudden Maximize (Complete Arcane 83); or the 5th-level Sor/Wiz spell blast of flame [conj] (Spell Compendium 31) or the 9th-level Moon domain spell moonfire [evoc] (Spell Compendium 144), both of which are cones not bursts.


As someone has already said in the comments, the Locate City Bomb is an excellent and well-known choice for a nuke-like spell; however, much like Pun-Pun, your DM may shoot you if you try to use it in an actual game, as it's an exploit far more powerful than anything else at an equivalent level.

I don't claim credit for coming up with this, but the basic exploit of the Locate City Bomb goes something like this;

  1. Use the Snowcasting feat (Frostburn) to give a non-damaging spell the [Cold] descriptor.
  2. Use the Flash Frost Spell metamagic feat (PHB II) to make the spell deal a tiny amount of cold damage.
  3. Use the Energy Admixture Spell metamagic feat (Complete Arcane) to make the spell deal lightning damage
  4. Use the Born of the Three Thunders metamagic feat (Complete Arcane) to make the spell require a Reflex save.
  5. Use the Explosive Spell metamagic feat (Complete Arcane) to make the spell push people out of its area of effect and deal +1d6 damage for every 10 feet traveled.

This combination of metamagic feats raises the spell level by 7 (you could reduce it to 5 with the right feats/PrCs), so you have to be a high-level wizard or sorcerer to pull it off, but if you place this string of metamagics on a spell that affects a really large area (such as Locate City from Races of Destiny, a 1st level spell that can find a settlement within 10 miles/caster level radius of you), and you consider that most ordinary townsfolk are going to have a hard time hitting your high-level save DC, and you consider that 1d6 per 10 feet traveled equals 528d6 damage even over a single mile, then you can basically kill off anyone not an adventurer or a high-level monster within 100-200 miles (provided they don't hit the side of a building before flying off to the edge of the spell)

The legality of this trick is very questionable. Some common counterarguments against it are:

  • Locate City has an area of a circle, not a sphere. Explosive Spell, the most important link in the chain, can't affect a circular area, and even if it could, there's an argument that a target's closest path to the edge of the circle is straight up or straight down. They may die from fall damage, but it's not instantly or ridiculously fatal.
  • Frost Spell deals "2 extra cold damage," implying that it's not enough that the spell have the cold descriptor; the spell must actually deal some amount of damage before you can apply the metamagic.
  • Also, Flash Frost says you must apply it to a spell "that affects an area;" if you want to really split hairs, you could argue that Locate City doesn't actually affect an area (though Control Weather, per @Murphy's suggestion, would still work with that interpretation).

In terms of sheer damage, I doubt there's any other combination that can compete. If your goal is to kill rather than blow up, you could even swap out some of the metamagic feats for Fell Animate or Fell Drain, both from Libris Mortis.

  • 21
    \$\begingroup\$ It might be wise to point out issues with the proposed combination. For example, the feat Flash Frost Spell says that a modified "spell deals an extra 2 points of cold damage per level of the spell to all targets in the area" (PH2 91; emphasis mine), and there are those who maintain that extra damage can't be dealt by a spell that normally deals no damage (like locate city). \$\endgroup\$ Feb 14, 2017 at 14:30
  • 11
    \$\begingroup\$ Important note to all; I didn't come up with this combination, nor have I read enough 3.5 books to suggest improvements to it. I knew of it, so when OP asked his question, I wrote a short explanation so this answer wouldn't be "Here's a link, go look at it." (my understanding is that this sort of answer is frowned upon b/c links can be broken or changed) \$\endgroup\$
    – chif-ii
    Feb 14, 2017 at 16:45
  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ Link-only answers are thoroughly frowned upon, but posting an answer (even if the idea is unoriginal) makes the poster responsible for the answer's content. I think there's room in this answer (after some more research) for Some folks don't believe the locate city bomb works because X, Y, and Z, but it remains a popular topic nonetheless when a discussion turns to destroying populations or whatever. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 14, 2017 at 17:06
  • The 9-level spell gate opens a gate to an alternate plane, and "anyone or anything that moves through is shunted instantly to the other side". If you open a gate to a plane with a high water pressure, you can generate a very large amount of water. If you open a gate to a plane with very high temperature and ambient lava, that will have the expected effects. Depending on your planar cosmology, you might be able to open a gate to the interior of a star...

  • The 7th-level spell "dark tide" (see here) creates dark water in a half-mile radius spread. This drowns civilians, but note that it also generates a very large amount of water pressure (being suddenly half a mile underwater is hard on buildings).

  • Options listed in this question include apocalypse from the sky which deals 10d6 fire, acid, or sonic damage in a very wide radius. There's also the ever popular stacked-explosive-runes and stacked-necklace-of-fireballs.


If you allow the Epic ruleset, then Verdigris Tsunami may be appropriate. It has a 1,000 ft. radius hemisphere and does 40d6 points of damage to creatures that fail Reflex saves (which would be high for an Epic spellcaster), and 40d6 damage to unattended objects. Note that this does not have the visual effects you want (bright light, fire, etc.), but does have the size and damage values that are most likely desirable.

Of course, you could also just create a new spell using the Destroy seed. You can then customize the spell to have all of the components you wish.


Epic Nuking

Honestly your easiest choise here is to just use the Epic Level Handbook to create a new spell that has the required characteristics. The rules for making epic level spells can get a little confusing, but they allow for plenty of customization, including:

  • Variable damage (both the amount, and the type)
  • Variable casting range (going from feet to miles)
  • Variable effect radius (from personal to miles again)
  • Change spell type to ritual (decrease cost by requiring more casters)
  • Change spell to include damage to caster(s) (reduce cost but almost definitely a suicide spell)

To cast epic spells you have to be able to hit their spellcraft DC first, which can get incredibly high once you start playing with the variables. The example that is listed in the ELH that comes closest to what you want already is the Vengeful Gaze of God spell. This does 305d6 damage to the target and 200d6 damage to the caster. Assuming the caster can hit a 419 DC Spellcraft check.

So you can take that spell as a base, and then figure out how the Spellcraft DC would change if you made changes to its variables. The main reason the DC is so high for Vengeful Gaze of God is the crazy damage that it does. lowering the damage would lower the DC sizably, although increasing the area of effect will raise it a bit as well.

Adding more casters to make it a ritual could potentially reduce the DC by a fair margin. That depends on the spell slot level they give up, but even just a sixth level spell slot is worth -11 to the DC. They all get hit by the 200d6 damage though, so don't expect repeat performances.

  • 11
    \$\begingroup\$ "Adding more casters to make it a ritual could potentially reduce the DC by a fair margin." The Manhattan Ritual? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 14, 2017 at 23:24

If you want to achieve something like a nuke you should consider looking into epic spells:

Rain of Fire

This spectacular epic spell causes 20 hour long rain of flames in an area of 2 mile radius. Everything unsheltered receives 1 fire damage on a failed save every round, which sums up to 12 000 fire damage total if every save was failed. Because of the constant fire damage there comes the question should the buildings catch on fire. Unfortunately I was unable to find anything covering this subject. Wooden or ice villages would be easily destroyed with it.

Something close to a nuke

The Sandstorm supplement proposes quite devastating epic spell.

Dire draught deals everyone 2d6 or 2d8 against plants and water subtype elementals of dessication damage every round for the next 20 hours in 1 000 feet radius area. Unless the victims are immune to dessication type damage, the only way to protect against it is to be under Protection from Dessication spell.

Furthermore there is an additional effect of a sandstorm accompanying the murderous heat, which can cause the victims to choke and suffer penalties.

After 20 hours of the heat emanation, the spell deals damage in range of 24 000 - 144 000 damage in total or 24 000 - 192 000 damage against plants or water subtype elementals.


You will need: to crit an intelligence check to know antimatter exists

You will need: willing to die (you will be near the center of the blast)

Abuse of Marvelous Pigments could be used to make anti-iron in a diamegnetic trap, then break the trap. http://www.aidedd.org/dnd/om.php?vo=marvelous-pigments

Also, polymorph self -> antimatter elephant http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/polymorph.htm

Polymorph any object would do better but it's all the way up at level 8. http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/polymorphAnyObject.htm

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ It's dubious that D&D 3.5e features antimatter, given there's no evidence it uses the standard model of physics. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 15, 2017 at 17:11

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