When Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) released its 4th Edition (4E) of Dungeons and Dragons tabletop role-playing game in Summer 2008, it hardly received universal acceptance among gamers. The most common complaint players had against the game was, well, it wasn’t Dungeons and Dragons. Examples of “non Dungeons and Dragons” things that bugged the players are many and varied but a particular sticking point was the spell Magic Missile.
This standby spell of old D&D was guaranteed to hit monsters and scaled with the character, hitting more monsters for more damage as the character gained spellcasting levels. The 4E version simply does some damage, requiring a roll to even do that much, and doesn’t scale with character level, any more than any other character spell or power.
In the last two years, WOTC has tweaked and tweaked Magic Missile of 4E, adding numerous feats and items that allowed Magic Missile to generate more effects, or more damage, but still not satisfying players, even if now it was possible to create a wizard entirely built around the ‘new’ Magic Missile.
All that changed, however, with Wizard’s latest updates to 4th Edition, released July 6, 2010.
Magic Missile now deals automatic damage, albeit not enough to kill a non-minion monster, no matter how weak. This rules change completely negates all previous tweaks and feats and magic items related to this spell, seriously disrupting players who focused their wizards around the newer Magic Missile — this is roughly comparable to a nerf in a massively multiplayer online game making an entire class build irrelevant. This change was made as, and I’m quoting the errata document here, “an effort to restore the power to its classical form”, and not due to any known rules exploit.
Player response to the change has been decidedly mixed — after two years, most people have gotten over the complete change in rules, after all. It’s nice to see WOTC finally acknowledge at least a little that, hey, the new game doesn’t have much in common with any of the earlier editions, but this rather sets a precedent for updates, which until now stuck to rules clarifications and “nerfs” of abilities that were too powerful. Should the 4E Fireball now actually be a ball of fire, instead of a cube? Should 4E’s Disintegrate now actually be able to disintegrate things? One can only hope the madness will end soon.
Come August 2010, WOTC will release the Dungeons and Dragons Essentials rule set, which promises many changes to the game. Stay tuned for further details.