Save or DIE! (or Why Destroy Robot is a stupid spell)

One of my favorite kinds of spells are the SAVE OR DIE spell. It just feels so good to cast one at some big bad and watch it fall down all dead. D-E-D, dead. But Paizo doesn’t like save or die spells (its true! They don’t!). I was recently sorting throw some Numeria stuff that was in my “stuff to thumb through”-queue and tripped across this spell:

Destroy Robot – druid 5, sorcerer/wizard 6

Range close (25ft + 5ft/2 levels), fortitude partial

You must succeed at a ranged touch attack to affect the target. The target takes 12d6 points of damage + 1 point per caster level, or 3d6 points of damage + 1 point per caster level on a successful saving throw. A cyborg or android can be damaged by this spell, but takes half damage and gains a +4 bonus on the saving throw to resist the spell’s effects.

Wow…just…wow. I can’t think of any level 6 spell I’d like to cast less. This spell is based on Paizo’s version of Slay Living (identical but touch ranged, vastly inferior to 3.5’s because its again Save or Damage, not death). This spell deals 53 (average) damage if the target fails a fort save AND requires a ranged touch attack.  Let’s compare this to other options.

Fireball
As a level 6 spell we can empower AND change it to any element we want. The average damage of an enpowered fireball cast at level 11 is 52.5 damage of any element the caster wants. This is comparable to Destroy Robot, but it nails ALL of his robot buddies! (It’s just gravy that we can that we can hurt other things aside from robots).

Scorching Ray
So, this level 2 spell cast at level 11 deals 12d6 damage (as a level 4 spell, we can empower it to result in 63 average damage per cast). That means its already matched the level 6 spell in terms of average dice damage. This spell has a much better range which also requiring a ranged touch attack. This spell also doesn’t care about target type.

So what does this all mean? Destroy Robot is clearly not at a power level that is reasonable for a level 6 spell (we’re talking in the range of things such as Chain Lightning, Spellcrash, and Circle of Death). When cast on a CR8 Robot (it was just a random one in the back of the AP books) who had 103 hp, it deals about half their hp in damage. I would peg this spell as level 3 in power. The damage is significant at that level (CR5-ish mobs) and actually stands a chance of functioning as an instant death spell. The narrow scope (constructs), fact that it requires a ranged touch attack and has a save to reduce the damage means that this spell is really not worth using.

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