For one of D&D’s most iconic and basic spells, Magic Missile sure has a lot of weird rulings around it. I’m here to help you understand them. Let’s dig in!
While D&D doesn’t neatly identify what it means by a “target”, range limitations and specific language within most spells will place constraints on how it can be cast. A valid target must be within range:
In the case of magic missile, here are the stated limitations on targets:
- Choose creature(s)…
- …within 120 feet…
- …that you can see.
The first reason you can’t target the darkness is because magic missile doesn’t allow you to target locations (or objects). Rather, magic missile requires its target to be a creature.
The second reason you can’t target the darkness is because you need to be able to see your target. If the target is heavily obscured by the darkness, you can’t see it to target it. There’s ways to get darkvision (via racial bonuses or items), but once you can see, you’re not really targeting the darkness any more.
Magic Missile also has some weird rules revolving around the mechanic that causes the darts to “strike simultaneously.” This has ripple effects.
How Many Dice to Roll?
One of the most common misconceptions about Magic Missile is that each dart gets a different die. In fact, you’re only supposed to roll ONE damage die when you cast Magic Missile, and that die represents the damage for every dart.
Now, before you put the kibosh on this rule and reach for a fistful of d4s, consider the effects it might be having elsewhere. Any feature that modifies a single roll has the potential to effect every dart, instead of just one. For example, the Evoker Wizard’s Empowered Evocation adds damage equal to your Intelligence modifier to a single roll:
If you’re making a single damage roll for all your Magic Missile darts, you’ll get the Empowered Evocation damage bonus on ALL the darts.
One of the neat things about Magic Missile is that you can split the darts up between different targets. But, if you don’t, how do multiple darts hitting a single target affect spell concentration?
The typical concentration rule tells us to make a Constitution save to maintain concentration on a spell for each different source of damage:
The arguments go as follows:
- Magic Missile only requires one concentration check, because the spell is a single source of damage. The fact that the darts “strike simultaneously” reinforces this narrative.
- Since each dart of Magic Missile is a separate source of damage, the target needs to roll a separate concentration check for each dart.
How you rule this will have an impact on the nature of the concentration check. The “one source” ruling is more likely to cause a higher DC concentration check (when upcast). The “multiple darts” ruling will cause multiple concentration checks, but none of them will surpass the standard DC 10.
Although there’s no official Sage Advice on how to rule this, Principal Rules Designer Jeremy Crawford did weigh in on twitter once upon a time (Twitter rulings have since been deemed unofficial):
I hope this clears up any questions you may have about Magic Missile. If you think of anything else, please ask in the comments below. You can support us on the ThinkDM Patreon.