I’ve always loved wizards. Whether they’re called magic users, mages, sorcerers, warlocks, or even stranger titles, it’s probably the class I want to play. Now I’ve never been one to play the “blaster” type mage. I usually prefer the more subtle arts. This is why I usually avoided taking Magic Missile. I always felt like I could get more bang for my buck from other spells. Sure, the guaranteed hit was nice, but... eh. I was never impressed by the d4+1 damage. Sure, you get more as you go up in level, but even with 3 or 4 you’re still only doing 10 to 14 damage (on average) to a single target. I'f I'm going to blast you it's more likely that I'll drop a lightning bolt or a meteor shower on someone’s head, rather than the humble magic missile.
In 4e, they made magic missile an at-will power, which I thought was a good choice, especially because they made the wizard roll to hit. I felt that it was a good compromise. Wizards *should* be able to pop out (every round) low levels of magical zaps, but they *should* miss sometimes. Ok, yes, in Essentials they added a version that was an auto-hit, but it was also way less damage.
DnD Next kept Magic Missile as a cantrip (at-will) but they also kept the auto-hit feature. Granted it’s only 1d4+1 damage, but it’s automatic. Every round, at range, up to 100 feet away. Also, as in previous editions, it scales with level.
Another cantrip, Ray of Frost, causes no damage, but merely reduces a monster’s speed to 0, needs to to hit roll. Now, depending on the DM's ruling, this could be very effective against creatures in flight, especially if it isn't magical flight - stirges for instance.
Shocking Grasp, another cantrip also needs to to hit roll.
A few other thoughts while we’re on the topic:
Detect Magic as a cantrip... While I like the idea of it being something you can do whenever, just snapping your fingers to have magical vision? Eh. I can see it, but I rather like the idea of it being more of a ritual spell. Make it take a whole minute.
Mage Hand can go up to 50' away from the caster, but only 5' above the ground. I guess we can't use it to tie a rope across a chasm or up a short cliff.
Is my chainmail bikini getting in a twist because of a minor aspect of a early beta-test edition?
A bit, sure. But then as a fan of wizards, I want to see them handled well, because I want to play them, and have fun doing so...
For those who've given it a shot, how did you feel about the magic system?