Last night one of the most mathematically beautiful things that has ever occurred to me happened in a 5e D&D game.
My mind flayer dungeon had players on the back foot—they were battling six standard mind flayers backed up by an elder brain. One of the players—Dan—had two prior long-running D&D games summarily ended by mind flayers.
Gang, it was rough—six mind flayers will end a session in a hurry. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I made that room. Possibly I was angry at one of my players; possibly that player is a barbarian who resists all damage except psychic and I was thinking, “It is time to make him regret his choices.”
At one point, three squid-faces got shoulder to shoulder and barfed Mind Blast onto the party. It was like a psychic damage bukkake. Mom, don’t look up that word. This is a terrifying spell for two reasons: it targets the ultra-rare Intelligence save; and anything it affects gets stunned. Stun, by the way, makes you vulnerable to a crap ton of abilities used by mind flayers, elder brains, and their buddies. You get stunned in a mind flayer dungeon and you don’t have a buddy to help you, the next turn you will probably get your brain eaten. That’s why they end so many parties.
Enter the wizard.
Once upon a time, Emily thought to play an illusionist. Clever mind games! Twisted perceptions! Battlefield control! Maybe five sessions in she realized she’d rather just nuke shit.
Emily is good at nuking shit.
Because she is a wizard and the party is pretty dope, she made all three consecutive saving throws against three Mind Blasts, walked forward…
…and maximized a Cone of Cold.
The short? Evoker wizards can maximize one spell (5th level or lower) per day and Cone of Cold is indeed a level 5 bitter wind of doom, dealing 8d8 damage. Three shoulder to shoulder mind flayers makes a nice, neat stack for cones. That maximizes to 64 damage, but WAIT, an evoker wizard adds some damage bonuses and Emily has a few more from items. The total?
Open your Monster Manual to page 137. What does it say next to a mind flayer’s HP? Oh, is that also a 71?
Oh, what’s a mind flayer’s weakest save in that entry, by the way? Constitution!
Naturally, none of the flayers got the natural 20 required to save against Emily’s cone and she gave the ancient psionic race the worst case of brain freeze ever.
There is an elegance there. Not one hit point of damage over. Not one wasted. The tool fit the problem so snug, so perfectly that I shivered. Because she also hit the Elder Brain it turned into a 284 damage spell and was the turning point for the fight. No doubt that single move saved every stunned player and prevented a total party wipe.
Reasons to play evoker, I suppose.