I was a part of a small group of college students which had the pleasure of having Dave as our Dungeon Master (DM). Dave was an intelligent man. I know this because he had a PhD in psychology, but we each have our limits when it comes to areas of study with which we are unaccustomed…Dave was no exception.
My character was a wizard, or magic-user, with the name Silence. I enjoyed playing a wizard because I liked trying to use brains over brawn to overcome the obstacles we encountered in Dave’s dungeons. In one particular instance only, Dave took pleasure in trying to set my character up for failure. He evidently had seen this played out in a previous campaign and wanted to get the same experience for our group.
Most people want to play a magic user because when you reach the 5th level of capabilities, you are able to throw a fireball spell. I enjoyed being a wizard so much that I read and re-read the details for most of the spells, including the fireball spell….I should say most assuredly the fireball spell because I wanted it to be just right when I used it since you’d imagine a huge ball of fire exploding around you…you don’t want to accidently fry your own group of players!
The first dungeon we encountered after I had made 5th level, I made sure I had everything lined up for my fireball spell, and sure enough we ran into a perfect scenario for my fireball to be used.
Dave explained that while in this underground labyrinth that we came across a set of double-doors in one wall, and we could hear a sort sound inside like a huge gathering of some kind was taking place inside. We had two of our largest characters hit the doors with all their weight to bust the doors down (remember, this is a dungeon, not a dance hall in the middle of town. Anything we find inside the dungeon is most likely something that wants to kill us). Inside the doors we see a large banquet hall full of lizard men. That there were roughly 45 lizard men in the room, all seated at tables with their chairs facing the other end of the hall, and that the lizard king was seated with his two guards at the other end of the hall. For those not familiar with the game and don’t know what we were seeing, picture this: a lizard man is about the same size as a man, only covered by lizard scales, has a lizard’s tail (maybe four feet long) with lizard claws and lizard heads…basically a man-sized lizard capable of all movements that a man could make. Now imagine an entire banquet hall full of these lizard men, having a party if you will, until we bust down the doors leading into the hall. Now they are all very mad at our interruption and intrusion and start to head our way to kill us if possible and defend their lair and king!
As most players know, the rules for combat always state “magic before melee”, which means spells are cast before anyone has time to throw a punch or swing a sword; so I announced to the DM that I was placing a fireball right in the middle of the banquet hall.
Dave got a huge smile on his face as he felt the thrill of thinking he had caught me in a stupid blunder and said “ok, each of you roll five dice and tell me how much damage you took”. Of course the rest of my party was all upset at having to take damage from my fireball, but I exclaimed "I think you're making a mistake, Dave". He asked me to explain, so I opened the player’s handbook to the section that described spells and showed him that the spell description stipulated that the size of the fireball was either 33,000 ft³ (cubic feet) if the spell was cast indoors (as the confines of an indoor area would constrict the movement of the gases away from the center of the explosion), or 33,000 yd³ (cubic yards) if cast outdoors.
Dave cheerfully said “See, 33,000 feet is a HUGE fireball, most assuredly large enough to encompass the entire banquet hall and engulf your entire party…you must each roll five 6-sided dice to show how much damage your character took”.
Now it was my turn to smile and chuckle at Dave’s blunder. I said “Dave, those are CUBIC feet, not linear feet…see the little 3 after the ‘ft’ for feet? So we need to know the height of the ceiling in the room, and the width of the room.” Dave had a look of confusion on his face as he told us that the ceiling was 15 feet tall, the width of the hall was 30 feet, and the length was 80 feet long.
Once we did the math of multiplying those three numbers, we found that the size of the banquet hall was 36,000 cubic feet. Since I placed the fireball in the very middle of the room, that left roughly four feet of space where the edge of the fireball stopped on each end of the room….which meant that all of us at the door were completely un-touched by the fireball (but we probably felt the heat and blast coming through the door), AND, at the other end of the room, the lizard king and his two guards were also likewise untouched…..every lizard man in the room was fried to a crisp and fell dead before we stepped into the room!
Dave was now happy to have learned a little math, and proud that I was able to correctly navigate the use of the spell even though it thwarted his plan to let us get a little crisp around the edges…..truth be told, probably half of our party would have died depending on the roll of the dice if we hadn’t used the correct method of calculating the effect of the fireball, and those who survived would have been hard-pressed to survive with only half of the party left!
Dave was very generous and awarded me enough spell points from that fight to go from a brand-new 5th level magic-user to level 6!! I would still have to wait for more training back at town for the new level to be official and have the effects ‘in the books’….but I was very happy to have the extra experience points and jump to the next level so quickly!