One of the many ways FunctionalMagic varies between settings is what range spells can be cast from, or how exactly they find a target. In some stories, the WickedWitch may simply be able invoke a spell's name (or point her finger) and -- poof! -- somebody's been [[BalefulPolymorph turned into]] a [[BewitchedAmphibians frog]]. (There may be other rules involved -- maybe she needs [[NoEyeInMagic direct eye contact]], or to be within easy speaking distance for it to work. But that's not what this trope is about.)

This trope, is when magical spells are treated a lot like modern bullets or projectiles ([[TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons "magic missiles"]], if you will): A physical manifestation of magical energy is launched through the air and flies towards its target, and only by physically hitting someone (or something) does its effect take hold on them. As a direct result, it may be possible to evade the spell by simply leaping out of harm's way (or, alternately, if the mage's aim was a bit off) while the magical energy continues onwards and strikes something less fortunate. Many other tropes associated with physical projectiles also start to apply, too: The would-be victim can [[ConcealmentEqualsCover dive for cover]] behind an obstruction, block it with a BulletproofHumanShield (or a bystander [[TakingTheBullet takes the spell in their place]]), and so on.

Of course, the most popular side effect of this is that a person may be able to deflect the spell itself (often with a simple {{mirror|sReflectEverything}}) and/or send it [[HoistByHisOwnPetard right back to the caster]] -- like a magical analogue of the MisguidedMissile.

If a spellcaster [[GenreSavvy knows]] that their spell can be potentially dodged, they may opt to launch [[MoreDakka a whole flurry of them at once]] to compensate -- creating a MagicMissileStorm.

See also KiAttacks, which are less explicitly magical (and popular among martial artists). May overlap with PainfullySlowProjectile.



[[folder:{{Anime}} and {{Manga}}]]
* Kido, in ''Manga/{{Bleach}}'' is another example of this.
* In ''VisualNovel/FateStayNight'' Rin has her "Gandr" spell. It was originally a curse to give someone the flu, but Rin powered it up so it's more like a gun being fired. It makes gunshot holes in the walls. It even ''sounds'' like a gun.
* The majority of offensive spells in ''Franchise/LyricalNanoha'' are like this, even status dealing spells like Hayate's Misteltein, which has a [[TakenForGranite Petrify]] effect delivered through lances of magical energy.
* ''MahouSenseiNegima'' There is also the Exarmatio type spells, a magical attack for [[BlastingItOutOfTheirHands disarming]] and [[ClothingDamage disrobing]] a target that, as shown by Yue during the contest in the Ariadne WizardingSchool, can be deflected or focused into a tight, piercing beam.
* In ''Anime/YuGiOh'', the Dark Magician's "Dark Magic Attack" evolved into this.

[[folder:Fan Fiction]]

* Magic in FanFic/DungeonKeeperAmi works on somewhat similar principles. Most of the time. Keepers can sense everything within their domain, effectively 'seeing' it. Outside their dungeon, they have to scry to 'see' the target. Except in the case of dark temples/light temples, which require actual line-of-sight from either a keeper or one of their minions. Most spells can be dodged.

[[folder: {{Film}}]]
* In the film of Lil' Abner, Evil Eye Fleagle attempts to put a whammy on Lil' Abner, but Earthquake McGoon reflects it with a silver platter, and it strikes Gen. Bullmoose, forcing him to confess his evil plot.

* Most spells in ''Literature/HarryPotter'' work like this. Even ''[[OneHitKill Avada Kedavra]]'', the most feared spell in the Wizarding World, a Killing Curse that cannot be resisted and bypasses all magical defenses, is still useless if the victim takes cover in time or uses telekinesis to get a solid object into the way.
* At least some offensive abilities (in application, not reader reaction) in the ''Literature/{{Xanth}}'' series function in this manner. [[BalefulPolymorph Trent]] in particular encounters problems relating to aim, exacerbated by the fact that [[spoiler:in the first book he fights a character whose AntiMagic forces him to miss, to the point of accidentally polymorphing ''bacteria in the air'' into other things.]]
* Perhaps lacking imagination, nearly every wizard in ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles'' has some version of this, but you can always tell the badass ones by how effectively or inventively they use their magic. Harry, for example, casts big fireballs and beams, which shows both his significant strength in magic and his lack of fine control. Luccio, commander of the Wardens, uses a needle-thin beam of fire like a laser cutter, showing both power ''and'' control. Warden Ramirez uses small bolts of water and earth magic in his duels, showing control and smarts that make his shallower well of power go further, etc.
** When a squad of Wardens lead by Senior White Council members go to town, there are so many variations of these that it apparently looks like a shot from ''Star Wars''.

[[folder:Live Action Television]]
* In ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' some spells work like this, while others can be done from across the world. In an early episode Amy's witch mother shot a glowing pink blast at her. True to the trope, Buffy deflected it back with a mirror, and she disappeared. The end of the episode revealed the spell was designed to trap someone inside her own old cheerleading trophy.
** Magic tended to be nearly instantaneous (or involve manipulation of nearby objects) on Buffy, but this was used again in the season 6 finale. When [[spoiler: Dark!Willow]] is fighting Giles, she creates a fireball that will seek out her earlier targets and "bury them". Buffy is able to follow the rather slow projectile and save them, but that was entirely the point: she wanted to get rid of Buffy, and didn't actually care if they lived or died by that point.
* Witches in ''Series/SabrinaTheTeenageWitch'' use this trope, among others.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* From ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'':
** Formerly named after the "Magic Missile" spell, wherein a magical force of energy darts out from the user and subsequently strikes the target. Note that prior to 4th edition, Magic Missiles don't do that much damage compared to other attack spells, but they are [[AlwaysAccurateAttack guaranteed to hit the target]] ([[NoSavingThrow no exceptions]]), even if the magic missile has to pass through solid obstructions to actually reach it. And while it can't be dodged, there are still special circumstances (like a Shield spell, or Spell Resistance) that can negate its effect after it hits.
*** 4th edition Magic Missiles were handled more like regular ranged attacks, with a chance to simply ''miss'' the target. (Note that if the target successfully dodges it, the spell will not continue to fly onwards and strike something else). They eventually errata'd it back more toward its original incarnation. And 5th edition made them almost identical to the 3E version.
** Any spell that follows a "ray" or "line of effect" will fly out and hit the first thing it comes into contact with (target or otherwise). Characters from the ''TabletopGame/ForgottenRealms'' setting frequently call wizards "spell''hurlers''" for a reason.
** The Warlock class's Eldritch Blast ability is similar to a ray effect spell. Except that it can be used at will.
* 3d Edition ''TabletopGame/{{GURPS}}'' ranged curses work like this (the caster specifically needs the Curse Missile spell to make them ranged).
** For that matter, ''[=GURPS=]'' has "projectile spells" as their own little subcategory that operate differently from "normal" ones -- regular spells don't need a projectile effect but run up range penalties to the ''casting'' roll quickly enough to make success rather dicey over even fairly modest distances beyond touch, while a projectile spell needs to be first cast and then thrown but the magical projectile then has a better effective range. Curse Missile is specifically such a spell that can be "loaded" with one of several "regular" curse spells, but others (like the obvious fireballs) exist.
* While it's not exclusively magic, the power system of ''MutantsAndMasterminds'' distinguishes between three ranges (four really, but the fourth is not germane to the topic). Touch is melee range, must be within adjacent squares, possibly further for a longer reach. Ranged has a maximum range and range increment penalties. Perception hits anything you can see. The first two require attack rolls. The last auto-hits. Most attacks are done as Ranged because it's cheaper, it fits in with comic book conventions where you can dodge just about anything, and mechanically it can have higher damage.
* By default, spells in ''TabletopGame/MageTheAwakening'' affect the target's [[{{Magibabble}} Pattern]], which means that as long as the target is within range (which could be anything from "touch" to "anywhere in the world"), it's going to be affected. However, mages always have the option of turning harmful spells into semi-physical projectiles. This can ignore the target's magic resistance, but obviously gives it a chance to avoid the spell if it's quick enough or has cover.
* The Huckster in ''TabletopGame/{{Deadlands}}'' has Soul Blast as the go-to attack. Its damage is determined by how strong a poker hand you draw; draw a DeadMansHand and [[OneHitKill the target dies instantly]].
* From ''TabletopGame/{{Exalted}}'', the Dragonbloods have Elemental Bolt Attack. It's fairly basic, but [[AllYourPowersCombined when used in a group]], it gets proportionally more effective.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* [[Franchise/SuperMarioBros Magikoopas]] tend to throw around magical geometric figures at Mario. In ''VideoGame/SuperMarioWorld'', if they miss you, they might hit a block instead, turning it into an enemy or a coin. In fact, getting these shots to hit blocks is integral to your progress in some places.
** Also in Franchise/SuperMarioBros, the wands used by the Koopalings in Super Mario Bros 3 and New Super Mario Bros Wii (apparently at least for the latter). The Magic Wand type item in the original VideoGame/TheLegendOfZelda game too.
* Xavier's spells in ''EternalChampions'' are projectiles that can be dodged.
* Magic Arrow in ''VideoGame/CastleOfTheWinds''.
* VideoGame/{{Touhou}}: The [[BulletHell danmaku]] in Gensokyo is largely composed of "nonlethal" magic missiles (nonlethal in the sense that they weren't originally designed to kill people). A few exceptions exist, like Reimu's yin-yang orbs, ofuda, and talismans, as well as Sakuya's and Yumeko's ''knives'' (although Yumeko's are said to be ''SWORDS''.)
** More literal example: You can play with Marisa Kirisame in Perfect Cherry Blossom with two sets of signs; her A mode unfocused danmaku is aptly named Magic Missile.
* If the ''Reflect'' spell is anything to go by, all single-target spells in most titles of ''Franchise/FinalFantasy'' actually take the form of magic missiles, even if they aren't graphically represented as such.
** However, they are in large part shown as classic, very dodgeable magic missiles in both ''VideoGame/{{Dissidia|Final Fantasy}}'' and the ''Franchise/KingdomHearts'' series. There are some spells that spawn directly over the target, like Bind, but even they can be dodged with sufficient reflexes.
** ''{{VideoGame/Final Fantasy XIII}}'' and [[VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIII2 its]] [[VideoGame/LightningReturnsFinalFantasyXIII sequels]] show basic black magic spells as projectiles (including the Fire, Blizzard, and Aero families. The Thunder spells are difficult to say.)
* ''{{VideoGame/Dota 2}}'', ''VideoGame/LeagueOfLegends'', ''{{VideoGame/Smite}}'' and similar MOBA games term these abilities "skillshots". Most, such as Pudge's hook are linear. Some, such as Diana's crescent strike have unorthodox patterns. Most can travel through walls.
** In ''VideoGame/LeagueOfLegends'', "targeted" spells can also fire a projectile. While the player simply has to click on their target, the PlayerCharacter will fire a magical bolt/[[BadassNormal throw a spear]] which will fly towards the target and [[AlwaysAccurateAttack never miss]]. There's an important distinction here: skillshots can be dodged, targeted abilities will always home on you even if you use Flash or a dash ability to escape. Of course, abilities like Zhonya's Hourglass or an InvulnerableAttack can prevent targeted projectiles from having an effect.
* Any spell in the later ''[[Franchise/TheElderScrolls Elder Scrolls]]'' games that doesn't target the caster acts this way. ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIIIMorrowind Morrowind]]'' had some touch-ranged spells but even then it still counts as a variation since it wouldn't work if you weren't close enough or facing the wrong direction.
* ''VideoGame/WarcraftIII'': Single-target missile spells such as Death Coil and Storm Bolt will move towards the target and always hit.
* ''VideoGame/BowMaster'': Spells are triggered at the arrow's point of impact, which can be extremely annoying if a flying enemy happens to get in the way, resulting in a masive meteor or comet hitting the ground ahead of the enemy mob.

* ''Webcomic/SluggyFreelance'' [[ spoofed]] ''Literature/HarryPotter's'' use of this trope during the [[ fourth "Torg Potter" storyline]].
** Gwynn is more of a "demons and [[VoodooDoll dolls]]" type of witch though.
* Naturally, since it's used in ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'', it's used in ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick''.
* In ''Webcomic/{{Drowtales}}'' this is the easiest and most common attack for a fae to use. Can be dodged. [[ Seen in action here]], together with mana shields and ordinary crossbows.
* Subverted in ''[[ Apple Valley]]'' where one of the few spells main character Arthur can successfully perform is called "Tragic Missile". It functions much in the same way the traditional Magic Missile does, except it doesn't fly in a straight course - it arcs around and targets whatever it would be the most traumatic and drama-inducing for it to strike. Despite it being his only quasi-effective offensive spell, it doesn't get used often (for obvious reasons).

[[folder:Web Original]]
* Most base magic in ''Literature/{{Phaeton}}'' is either bullet like, bomb like or wave like. Of course there are still anywhere and smart magics.
* SCPFoundation: SCP-219 was taught rudimentary (read:fake) spellcasting to mentally limit her RealityWarper abilities. Unfortunately, this also makes her believe she's the strongest witch ever. Then she casts magic missile. The blast could be seen from a helicopter.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/JackieChanAdventures'' the [[PlayingWithFire Dragon]], [[EyeBeams Pig]], and [[BalefulPolymorph Monkey]] [[MacGuffin Talismans]] function like this.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Shrek}} 2'': The fairy godmother's spell, which was reflected to hit King Harold and the godmother herself.
* The wands of the three Good Fairies in the Franchise/DisneyAnimatedCanon movie ''Disney/SleepingBeauty''. The best example is when Merryweather is trying to stop Maleficent's raven from warning her of Prince Phillip's escape. She flies after him shooting magical blasts, with the raven dodging all except the last, which petrifies him. On [=YouTube=] [[ starting at 7:20]].
* This applies to at least some unicorn magic in ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'', with the projectile naturally shot from their horns. The most obvious example is in the episode "Too Many Pinkie Pies", where Twilight Sparkle is trying to turn an apple into an orange and, when she's interrupted by Pinkie Pie, the magic blast hits a different target and affects it instead.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* It's possible to achieve this visual effect with a [[ Roman Candle.]] [[ At least one nerd has made this connection, and invoked this trope by name.]]