Sunday, July 21, 2019

Sunday Survey: Blind Spellcasting

Recently on the Facebook 1E AD&D I group I asked this question:

Before I asked the question, I scoured the OD&D and AD&D books for a ruling on the subject, and was surprised when I couldn't find any whatsoever. To my knowledge, there's not even any statement that a caster needs to see their target in general! Consider the idiom from Chainmail Fantasy, referenced in text for OD&D spell like fireball and lightning bolt, that attack spells must have "range being called before the hit pattern is placed" (that is, casters specify a distance, not a target). AD&D DMG p. 65 has an example of a caster of fireball needing sight to the area of effect, but no general rule to that effect.

However, all later editions do dictate that casters must have sight of their target. This first appears in the 2E AD&D PHB (Ch. 7): "If the spell is targeted on a person, place, or thing, the caster must be able to see the target. It is not enough to cast a fireball 150 feet ahead into the darkness; the caster must be able to see the point of explosion and the intervening distance." (Note the distinct change from Chainmail/OD&D, with 1E being silent/ambiguous on the issue.) The 3E D&D PHB (Ch. 10) says likewise: "The character must be able to see or touch the target, and the character must specifically choose that target." So this is all very consistent in any edition post-1E, and by their wording would seem to definitively shut the door on a blinded spellcaster being able to get their spells off (excepting a target in touch-contact).

Frank Mentzer actually chimed in on this discussion, saying, "btb if you can't detect/sense/see a target, AND a target is Required, then you can only hit it accidentally. (If you insist, you roll to hit, basically.)" Now, I don't think his recollection of "btb" (by-the-book) is correct, because I can't find anything in 1E materials requiring sight or detection; I can't even find it in his Red Box rules after a brief search. But, again, if it was a common house-ruling and a constant throughout all later editions, then we should be too surprised at some of it bleeding back into our earlier memory banks.

That said, the consensus in the poll that most DMs would give some kind of probabilistic chance of a successful spell seems eminently reasonable as a ruling. It hasn't come up when I've been running a game, but if it did, I think I'd probably lean in the same direction.

Related, today on WanderingDMs live chat (1 PM ET): How do you like your Infravision to work?

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