Saturday, March 25, 2017

AD&D Players Handbook part 34: 4th-Level Druid Spells

Druids get twelve spells at 4th level, nine of which have carried over at the same level from OD&D. Two spells are new (call woodland beings and repel insects), while hold plant used to be a 5th-level spell. OD&D druids could cast insect plague as a 4th-level spell, but in AD&D that's been bumped up to 5th.

Animal Summoning I: Allows the druid to summon up to eight animals of a type of his choosing, as long as the animals have no more than 4HD each and are already found within the spell's range. This is potentially very powerful, but it's also completely subject to the DM's whim, as it's the DM who gets to determine how likely it is that the named animal is present.

The OD&D version of the spell was almost completely different, in that it allowed the summoning of one large animal, 3 of medium-size, or six small animals. Obviously it was lacking in power, but it also didn't have the stipulation of the animals already being present.

Call Woodland Beings: Works much like animal summoning, but instead of animals it calls a set number of woodlands creatures, e.g. 2-8 brownies, 1-4 centaurs, 1 treant, etc. Again, it's up the the DM to determine if the desired creature is present. If there are evil characters accompanying the druid, the summoned creatures will flee if they make a saving throw, and regardless of alignment they need to pass a loyalty check if the druid asks them to fight.

Control Temperature 10' Radius: Allows the druid to alter the temperature up or down by 9 degrees Fahrenheit per caster level - which could get potentially deadly for anyone within range, even though no concrete spell effects are given. If there's one limiting factor it's that the spell is centered on the druid, and there's no indication that the caster is immune to  the spell's effects. It's probably intended more as a way to offset environmental hazards, but if you get a high-level druid who somehow gains immunity to heat or cold, and the ability to raise temperatures by 100 degrees+, that could get very dangerous. The OD&D version of the spell had a maximum temperature variation of 50 degrees up or down, which was probably for the best.

Cure Serious Wounds: Just like the cleric spell of the same name, except that it requires mistletoe to cast.

Dispel Magic: Just like the cleric spell, but it has a longer range and larger area of effect, and it also requires mistletoe.

Hallucinatory Forest: Creates an illusory forest that affects those within it as though it were real. Other druids will recognise the illusion, as will certain forest-dwelling creatures (such as centaurs, dryads, nymphs, satyrs, treants and even green dragons), and the spell can be negated with dispel magic or a reversed hallucinatory forest. There's no indication of whether characters within can attempt to disbelieve, as they can with many other illusions. The only mechanical difference from OD&D is that the original spell had a fixed shape (3" square per level); in AD&D the spell has a larger area and can be shaped into a square or rectangle as the caster wills.

Hold Plant: Can be used to stop/paralyze any form of plant life, including various plant monsters and funguses. It even specifies that it stops plants from making noise, which means that it can stop a Shrieker from doing its thing. Like hold person it can target multiple plants, but it's more effective the less targets there are. As for the OD&D spell, it seems that that version couldn't affect regular plants: as it said, "this spell will affect only vegetable matter which is self-ambulatory or magically animated".

Plant Door: If I'm reading this correctly, the spell allows the caster, higher-level druids and dryads to pass freely through trees and undergrowth, and also allows the caster to step inside a tree trunk and hide for the duration of the spell. For some reason, druids can't hide for as long inside an ash tree, which might make sense to tree-heads but means zilch to me. The major difference from OD&D is that the path created is now taller and wider, and it's length is based on caster level.

Produce Fire: Creates a 12' square area of fire that burns for a single round, deals 1-4 damage to everyone within, and sets combustibles alight. It can also be reversed to put fires out, but to my eyes it seems a little weak for its level. The OD&D spell had a smaller area and a lower range, and didn't specify damage dealt.

Protection From Lightning: Just like protection from fire, but for lightning - meaning that it grants immunity to normal lightning and a hit point buffer against magical lightning. The OD&D spell was different, in that it granted complete immunity to all lightning, but was negated after the first bolt.

Repel Insects: Creates a barrier that wards out all normal insects. Giant types with 2 or more HD can pass through if they make a saving throw, but will still sustain 1d6 damage. It only works on actual for real insects, not spiders and scorpions and such - so it requires some genuine real-world knowledge.

Speak With Plants: Just like the cleric spell, but has a longer duration and a greater area of effect. It also requires mistletoe.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

AD&D Players Handbook part 33 - 2nd- and 3rd-Level Druid Spells

 2nd-Level Druid Spells

There are twelve 2nd-level druid spells in AD&D, up from eight in OD&D. Seven of those spells were taken directly from OD&D: produce flame, locate plants, cure light wounds, obscurement, create water, heat metal and warp wood. There are five brand new spells: barkskin, charm person or mammal, feign death, fire trap, and trip. The odd spell out from OD&D is speak with animals, which was changed to be 1st level in AD&D.

Barkskin: Makes one creature's skin tough like bark, and grants a +1 bonus to AC and all saves except those against magic. It sounds good, but having a short duration and being limited to a single creature really hampers its utility, especially for a 2nd-level spell.

Charm Person or Mammal: This spell works pretty much exactly like charm person, but it can affect "mammalian animals" as well. As with charm person it doesn't mean that the caster can necessarily communicate with the target, so a speak with animals spell might be a good idea. Mammalian animals is a good descriptor to limit the spell a bit - it explicitly rules out fantastic creatures as well as solving the Dinosaur Quandary.

Create Water: The druid can create one cubic foot of water per caster level. In OD&D the spell was based on the 4th-level Cleric spell, which didn't give a precise volume but instead created enough water for a dozen men and horses for a day. As I mentioned when I discussed the cleric version, I'd really like the spell description to include both.

Cure Light Wounds: This is exactly like the 1st-level cleric spell.

Feign Death: The spell description here points to the 3rd-level magic-user spell of the same name, so let's look at that. It lets the caster put a willing recipient into a "cataleptic state" that makes them appear to be dead. The person in this state is still conscious, but they can't move or feel anything, and they can't see. Curiously, any damage done to their body is one-half normal - does this make half of all damage psychological, the result of pain or shock? The one feigning death is also protected from paralysis and energy drain. Paralysis I get, but I'm not sure about energy drain. Perhaps the "life force" is disguised or shunted away somewhere, and so can't be drained? Poison affects them once the feign death spell wears off though (probably because that's when blood flow starts up again).

Fire Trap: Again, this spell points to a magic user spell, this time of 4th level. It can be cast on any closable item (usually a container of some sort), as long as it's the only spell affecting that item. The caster can then open the item safely, but anyone else will trigger a 5'-radius explosion that deals 1d4 damage +1 per caster level (save for half damage). It's harder for thieves to detect than normal traps, though to be honest I'm surprised that the thief roll even applies to magical spells. I've been in two minds over that for decades, but I guess now I can lay that to rest. The druid spell is identical, except that it takes a bit longer to cast. It's a bit weak though, isn't it? I suppose it's good for protection your stuff from regular folks, but against seasoned adventurers it's a nuisance.

Heat Metal: Causes ferrous metal to become blisteringly hot, with the main application seeming to be the heating up of armour with people inside. The spell last for seven rounds. On the first round, the metal becomes warm but does no damage. On the second, it deals 1d4 damage to anyone touching it. On rounds 3 through 5, it deals 2d4 damage and also disables certain body parts. This is where it gets vague. Contact with the head results in 1-4 turns of unconsciousness, which is fair enough. But what about disability of hands or feet, or the body? We get durations for each of these, but no mechanical effects. I can figure out stuff for hands and feet easily enough, but what does it mean to have a disabled torso for 1-4 days? Is the character completely out of action? It's a massively potent spell if so. After round 5 it goes back to 1d4 damage, then to harmlessly warm, then back to normal.

It also causes materials like wood, leather and cloth to burn if exposed, which I assume means rolling on the dreaded item saving throw tables. This spell just gets more and more powerful. It can be negated with the spell's reverse (chill metal), as well as an immersion in water or snow, fire resistance, or being hit with an ice storm. To me, the ice storm damage sounds preferable to being hit with the effects of heat metal.

Chill metal can also be used to damage foes, though it only does half the damage listed. It can also cause frostbite, requiring the amputation of fingers, toes, noses and ears. For a 2nd-level spell, this is brutal stuff.

The OD&D spell worked similarly, but it only stayed searing hot for two rounds, didn't inflict as much damage, and only had mechanical effects for injuring the head and hands.

Locate Plants: The caster can find any type of plant desired within a 10" diameter circle per level. There are no significant changes from the OD&D spell.

Obscurement: Creates a fog that limits visibility to 2d4 feet. In AD&D, the area affected is a 1" cube per caster level. In OD&D, the area was 100 cubic feet per caster level. That's a massive drop.

Produce Flame: The caster creates a flame about the size of a torch in his palm, which can be used for light and to burn things. It can also be hurled like a missile, but it doesn't seem to do any actual damage. The only difference from the OD&D spell is that the missile can now be hurled a little further.

Trip: Causes a length of rope, a vine, a stick or a similar object to trip anyone (including the caster) that tries to step over it. The creature being tripped gets a saving throw. If the target was running, a trip causes 1d6 damage, and if it lands on a hard surface will be stunned for 2-5 rounds (!). That's a bit harsh - if that happens in the middle of combat you're basically dead (depending on your definition of being stunned, I suppose). I'm sure just about everyone reading this has fallen on concrete or a basketball court, and I'd hazard a guess that most weren't stunned for two to five minutes, or even more than a few seconds. I understand trying to make the spell useful, but there's logic to consider, and I just know that this would strain credulity if I tried to use it on my players.

Warp Wood: A spell to bend and warp wood, with a number of practical applications. The description is mostly focused on weapons; at 1st level a druid could warp an axe handle or four crossbow bolts, and at fifth level he could warp a spear. It doesn't seem all that great to use one spell to disable a single weapon, unless that weapon is very powerful. Of more use is the ability to warp doors and chests and the like. The AD&D caster can affect 15 inches of wood per level, whereas in OD&D it worked on about 3 feet per level. Obviously the OD&D spell was much better, but I wonder if Gary nerfed it because casters were warping the shit out of ships and siege engines. If so, I don't know why he bothered - shouldn't high-level casters be able to do that sort of thing?

3rd Level Druid Spells

There are once again twelve spells for 3rd level druids in AD&D, up from eight in OD&D. All eight OD&D spells have carried over into AD&D: pyrotechnics, protection from fire, call lightning, cure disease, hold animal, plant growth, water breathing, and neutralize poison. The following new spells have been introduced to the list: snare, stone shape, summon insects and tree.

Call Lightning: As in OD&D, this spell allows the caster to summon lightning bolts to strike at their enemies, but only if there is already a storm of some sort in the sky. The bolts deal a lot of damage (1d8 per level, plus an extra d8) - more than fireball or lightning bolt - but they're mitigated by the weather constraints, as well as the limitation of one bolt per turn. The major difference from OD&D is that the bolts formerly dealt "8 dice + level of the druid" damage, which could be interpreted as , say, a 6th-level druid dealing 8d6+6 damage, or 14d6 damage. So it's either potentially less powerful than the AD&D spell, or far more powerful. Take your pick, I guess.

Cure Disease: Works just like the cleric spell, but uses mistletoe as a material component. It also shortens the casting time from 1 turn to 1 round, which may be an error.

Hold Animal: Paralyzes a number of animals (birds, mammals or reptiles), with a total body weight equal to 400 lbs. per caster level. (For some reason, non-mammals are more resistant to the spell, and only 1/4 as many can be affected.) The druid can split the spell between up to four targets (within the weight limit, keep your encyclopedias handy people), but the more targets there are the less likely the spell will be effective. The spell has a number of changes from OD&D, the first being that fish are specified as being affected by the earlier version of the spell. Only 200 lbs./level of mammals could be affected (although non-mammals were still 100 lbs./level), the range was increased from 6" to 8", and the duration cut from 1 turn + caster level to 2 rounds/caster level.

Neutralize Poison: Same as the cleric spell, but druids get it a whole level earlier, and can cast it a little bit quicker (5 segments vs. 7 segments).

Plant Growth: The druid causes pre-existing plant life to grow and create a barrier that slows movement down to 1" per round (or 2" for creatures of larger than man-size). The area affected grows larger the more levels the druid has, and can be shaped as the caster wishes. The major difference from OD&D is that the earlier version of the spell affected a flat area of 30" square (though it could still be shaped by the caster), and the range was only 12" as opposed to 16" in AD&D.

Protection From Fire: The effect of this spell differs depending on the target. If a druid casts it on himself, he becomes totally immune to regular fire, and gets a buffer of 12hp/level against magical fire - he's effectively immune to magical fire until that buffer is used up. When cast on someone else, the target is immune to regular fire, and gets a +4 bonus and 50% damage resistance to magical fire.
  The OD&D version of the spell was different, in that it only granted druids immunity to magical fire for a single turn (or round, OD&D was screwy with the terminology). To others it gave the same protection as a ring of fire resistance, which was immunity to normal fire, a +2 save bonus against fireballs and dragon breath, and -1 from every die of damage caused by those attacks as well as Balrog immolation. Gary has beefed this one up by quite a bit.)
  (Can I just mention how irritating it can be to look things up in old-school D&D? The druid spell directed me to the ring of fire resistance, which referred me to the potion of fire resistance, a process that can really slow things down at the table.)

Pyrotechnics: This spell requires a fire of some sort, and has two effects: a blinding fireworks display, or a cloud of obscuring smoke. The main difference here is that the OD&D version of the spell never specified any mechanical effects; the fireworks in particular had no obvious application, and using them to blind your enemies would have required you to convice the DM.

Snare: The druid creates a snare from a rope or a vine or something similar, and it will contrict around the "member" of any creature that steps inside it. (Gary's words, not mine.) The snare is 90% undetectable without magic, and it's very difficult to break: a Strength of 23 is required during the first hour, and every hour after that the requirement to break it drops by 1. The target will be freed regardless after 12 hours. It doesn't sound like a great spell, until you get into how difficult the thing is to escape - 23 Strength isn't all that common (although I guess the far more common dispel magic would also do the trick).

Stone Shape: A super-versatile spell that allow the caster to reshape stone to his will, to a volume of 3 cubic feet + 1 foot/level. It doesn't allow for fine detail, but I could see clever players wreaking all sorts of dungeon havoc with this thing.

Summon Insects: The caster can summon a swarm of flying insects (70% likely) or crawling insects (30% likely) that will attack a single target dealing 2 points of damage per round. Ideal for disrupting spellcasters, I'd say. When underground, there's also a chance that 1-4 giant ants might be summoned.

Tree: Transforms the druid into the shape of a small tree, shrub or a large dead tree trunk. The druid is fully aware of what's going on around him, and can change back at any time. Nothing is said about what might happen if the druid is chopped with an axe, or burnt (my instinct would be to have them take damage, seeing as they're able to change back and defend themselves at will).

Water Breathing: A spell that allows creatures to breathe underwater. It can also be reversed as air breathing, and allow aquatic creatures to come up on land. The OD&D version wasn't reversible, and had a flat duration of 12 turns, as opposed to 6 turns/level in AD&D.

Monday, February 06, 2017

AD&D Players Handbook part 32: 1st Level Druid Spells

Before the book gets into the spell descriptions for druids, it goes into the use of mistletoe (or holly and oak leaves) as a druidic holy symbol. Every druid spell with material components requires one of these plants, and the type used affects the range, duration and area of the spell (and possibly saving throws in some cases). Oak leaves are the weakest (reducing said factors to 50% normal), then holly (about 75%), then borrowed mistletoe (that which hasn't been personally harvested by the caster), then lesser mistletoe. To get the full effect of a spell the druid requires greater mistletoe, which must be harvested at Midsummer's Eve with a gold or silver sickle, and caught in a bowl before it touches the ground. (This is all great flavour, but it sounds like hell to adjudicate in the game. I doubt the rule gets used much; it's the first time I've ever seen or heard about it.)

And now, the spells. Druids in AD&D get twelve 1st-level spells, up from six in OD&D. Those six were predict weather, locate animals, detect snares & pits, detect magic, purify water and faerie fire; all of them have carried over to AD&D. In addition they get five all-new spells (animal friendship, entangle, invisibility to animals, pass without trace, shillelagh) and one ported over from the 2nd-level cleric spell list (speak with animals).

Animal Friendship: Allows the caster to befriend any animal of semi-intelligence or less. The animal will follow the caster around, and can be taught three simple tricks per point of Intelligence. This training takes a week per task, and must be done within three months of casting the spell. The druid can so befriend more than one animal, but is limited to a total Hit Dice of no more than twice his level. The spell is basically permanent, which pretty much guarantees any starting druid character at least one or two pets/sidekicks.  (Once again, though, the Dinosaur Quandary rears its head: is a dinosaur an animal for game purposes? Game balance says no, but Rad's Law* says yes.)

*Rad's Law: If it's rad, go with it.

Detect Magic: It's the same as the cleric version of the spell, only it lasts a little longer, has a slightly longer area of effect, and takes less time to cast.  (It's range and duration are less than they were in OD&D.)

Detect Snares & Pits: When in "the underground" (which I assume to be another word for a dungeon), it detects only simple pits and no other types of trap. Outdoors it detects all forms of trap, with specific examples given being deadfalls, missile traps, and snares. The OD&D version of the spell would only function outdoors, but it had a duration of over an hour, whereas the AD&D version has a duration of 4 rounds per level.

Entangle: Causes any nearby plants to wrap around and immobilise any creatures within a 4" diameter for 1 turn. Targets that make their saving throws can still move at half their normal movement. (No consideration is given here for the size and strength of any affected creature, so things are left to the DM's discretion here.)

Faerie Fire: Outlines multiple creatures or objects with a glowing light (the higher the caster's level, the more targets can be affected). The glow doesn't harm the target, but makes them easier to see and hit when in the dark. (The OD&D spell seemed to only affect one target, and gave no explicit mechanical advantages.)

Invisibility to Animals: Makes one creature touched completely undetectable by normal animals with an Intelligence under 6. Finally, we get a definition of what a normal animal is: "Normal animals include giant-sized varieties, but it excludes any with magical abilities or powers". The tyrannosaurus rex is specifically called out as  being affected by the spell, and so the Dinosaur Quandary is solved (and just five paragraphs after I named it).

Locate Animals: The caster faces a direction and concentrates on a type of animal, and the spell tells him if it is with range. The OD&D spell was basically the same.

Pass Without Trace: The target can move through any terrain, and leaves behind no tracks or scent. It should be noted, though, that he does leave behind a trail of magic, and could still be tracked that way.

Predict Weather: The druid knows the exact weather conditions within 9 square miles, for a length of time equal to 2 hours per caster level. The OD&D version of the spell allowed a flat forecast duration of 12 hours, but had a range of 2 square miles per level, and so gave a much greater spread of knowledge. It was also only 95% accurate, whereas the AD&D spell gives 100% accuracy.

Purify Water: Makes one cubic foot per level of water safe for consumption, and can be reversed to contaminate a like volume. It even works on holy/unholy water. The OD&D version of the spell was exactly like the cleric spell purify food & drink, but worked only on water.

Shillelagh: Aside from being fun to say, this spell transforms any oaken cudgel into a weapon that deals 2-8 damage and has a +1 bonus to hit. Not the best spell, but handy when confronted with monsters that are immune to regular weapons.

Speak With Animals: Works exactly like the cleric version of the spell, but is quicker to cast and has a longer range. The druid also gets it as a 1st-level spell, as opposed to 2nd-level.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

AD&D Player's Handbook part 31: 7th-Level Cleric Spells

There are ten 7th-level cleric spells in AD&D (down from the 11 that were in OD&D).  Nine of those spells were previously in OD&D: Astral Spell, Control Weather, Earthquake, Holy Word, Restoration, Symbol, Wind Walk and Resurrection (previously known as Raise Dead Fully).  Aerial Servant and Part Water were 7th-level spells in OD&D, but in AD&D have both been dropped to level 6.  The sole new spell is Regenerate (which sucks for me, because it's a lot easier to write the entries for new spells than preexisting ones).

Astral Spell: This spell allows the caster and up to five others to enter the Astral Plane, and from there to journey to the first level of any of the Outer Planes.  (It can also be used to explore the material plane.)  An astral character leaves their body behind, and is connected to it by a silver cord; if that silver cord is somehow severed, both astral and physical forms are killed.  The most common occurrence that can sever the cord is the "psychic wind" of the Astral Plane - all of this stuff was previously introduced in the rules for psionics in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry, and it's cool to see it carried forward into later editions. 

This spell also plays with ideas that Gary had previously introduced in earlier articles about the Planes.  For example, only certain magic items which have a multi-planar existence can be taken along by an astral character: magic swords in particular were posited by Gary as existing in multiple planes.  The Prime Material Plane is said to contain "the entire universe and all of its parallels".  It's all consistent with the articles from The Dragon, and is expanded later in the appendix.

The major difference between the AD&D and OD&D versions of the spell is that this one actually explains what the hell it does.  In OD&D, the spell was said to "allow the user to send his astral form from his body to other places".  I suppose it was intended at that point to allow exploration without being detected, as no mention of the Planes was made (most probably because the D&D conception of the Planes had yet to be introduced).  Most of the rest of the spell description was devoted to the chance that spells cast while in astral form would fail, and result in the caster being forcibly returned to his physical body, a factor not present in AD&D.

Control Weather: A spell to control the weather, obviously, which sounds powerful on the surface.  I'm not so sure, though; as written, there are three factors that can be altered: cloud cover, temperature and wind.  The caster can change the weather one step away from the prevailing conditions.  So while the spell can't turn a heat wave into a sudden blizzard, it can lower the temperature to warm.  A light wind can be calmed, or turned into a strong wind, and so on.  For a 7th level spell, I'd expect something more dramatic.  The weather effects don't even come into play straight away: the spell takes a turn to cast, then another 1d4 turns to take effect.  That's around half an hour, give or take.  It seems weak, but I feel like I'm missing something having never seen the spell in practice.

(Also, the practical effects of these weather conditions aren't given here, or elsewhere in the PHB.  I'm all for DMs coming up with this stuff on the fly, but there should be some sort of rules framework to go on.  So far, AD&D doesn't provide that.)

The OD&D version of the spell simply gave a list of effects that the spell could achieve, with things such as Rain, Heat Wave and Tornado.  None of these effects were determined by the prevailing weather, they could just seemingly be created as the caster desired.  If anything, this version of the spell seems over-powered, and I wonder if Gary overcompensated in the other direction when updating this for AD&D.

Earthquake: Creates a sudden tremor that affects an area of 5 feet per caster level.  Everything within the area is affected: caves and tunnels collapse, buildings sustain damage, and creatures of less than Large size may be swallowed by cracks in the ground and killed instantly.  This is much more in line with what I'd expect from a spell of this level.  If anything, it's too strong: there's the potential for killing high-level characters with a single die roll that doesn't sit well with me.  Actually, it's not dying to a single die roll that bothers me, it's that the die roll is has nothing to do with the character's capabilities.  I have no problem with save-or-die effects, but that's not what this is.  This is an area effect, and every Medium-sized character in that area has a straight, unmodified 1-in-6 chance of death.  Small characters have a 1-in-4 chance of death.  I feel like any die roll that can kill or injure a character should interact with their stats on some level.

The OD&D version was similar, but didn't factor size in when determining which creatures are killed.  That spell specified creatures and left it at that, which sounds all kinds of over-powered.

Gate: The caster specifies the name of a demon or deity, and said demon or deity will step through a portal to aid the caster.  Well, something will step through: the spell always works, but there's no guarantee that the correct entity will answer the summons.  This is another spell that requires further information, presumably to come in the Dungeon Masters Guide.  (I would think Supplement IV would come in handy here as well.)

The OD&D version was broadly similar, but it's hard to pinpoint exactly how this spell differed, because the percentages of success aren't given in AD&D.  OD&D is much more specific about what kinds of entities can be summoned: it name-checks Odin, Crom, Set, Cthulhu, and the Shining One (which I'm not familiar with, but is apparently from The Moon Pool by A. Merritt).  There's something to be said for the flavour gained from specific examples, but AD&D doesn't wear its influences quite so openly as OD&D did.

Holy Word: This spell is cast by uttering a word of power.  Said word banishes evil otherplanar creatures to their home plane.  The next sentence says that "it further affects other creatures of differing alignment as follows".  I find this unclear: does it mean creatures of differing alignment to the cleric, or differing alignment to the aforementioned evil creatures?  The OD&D version of the spell seems to affect everyone regardless of alignment, so I guess it's the latter.

As for effect, it kills creatures of less than 4 Hit Dice, paralyzes creatures of 4 to 7 HD, stuns those of 8 to 11 HD, and deafens those of over 12 HD.  All this with no saving throw, I might add.  Potent stuff.  It can also be reversed as Unholy Word, which allows it to banish good otherplanar creatures.

Regenerate: This is the only new 7th-level cleric spell in AD&D.  The spell regrows lost body parts such as limbs and organs, and will even regrow heads for creatures that have more than one.  The process goes quicker if the original part is there to be reattached, but it's not a necessity.

The spell can be reversed as Wither, which is one I had forgotten about.  It requires a touch attack, and will cause the touched "member or organ" (Gary's words, not mine) to stop working and shrivel away to dust.  Once again, there's no saving throw: just as in OD&D, this seems to a standard thing for the highest level of cleric spells.

Restoration: Simply put, this is a spell to reverse level drain.  It's not a perfect restoration, as it only raises your XP to the minimum needed for the lost level, but it's better than nothing.  It can be reversed as energy drain, which replicates the level-draining capabilities of a wight.

The OD&D version of the spell was similar, but it didn't mention any rules for restoring lost XP.  It also had a cost in that the caster would be incapacitated for 2-20 days, and it was specifically stated that this made it difficult to find NPC clerics willing to cast it.  (Gary giveth, and Gary taketh also.)  That penalty seems to have been taken out in AD&D, but it's added a restriction not present in OD&D: a requirement that the spell be cast within a certain amount of time to be effective.

Resurrection: This spell was formerly known as Raise Dead Fully, and the new name is a vast improvement.  As before it's a spell to restore the dead to life, but unlike Raise Dead it also restores the target to full hit points.  This spell refers back to Raise Dead for limitations on what types of creatures can be brought back, so it look as though elves are still out of luck.  The caster must have a day of complete rest for every level of the creature resurrected.

The reverse of the spell is Destruction, which requires a touch attack and instantly turns the victim to dust.  No saving throw, again.  High-level clerics are a nightmare.

The OD&D version of the spell functioned much the same way, but no mention was made of the cleric having to rest after, and there was no explicit time limit on who could be raised (AD&D gives a limit of 10 years per caster level, which is plenty generous).

Symbol: The cleric inscribes a symbol in the air or on a surface.  There are three symbols to choose from: hopelessness, which causes enemies to flee or surrender; pain, which penalises attack rolls and Dexterity; and persuasion, which alters the alignment of foes and makes them friendly to the caster.  So far, this is the only 7th-level spell that allows the victim a saving throw.

The OD&D spell was similar, but had double the number of symbols to choose from.  None of these symbols match the ones in AD&D, so the AD&D version is effectively an entirely new spell.

Wind Walk: This spell turns the caster (and others, depending on caster level) into a gaseous cloud that is blown around by a magical wind.  It's good for escaping, scouting, and other stealthy activities, but it does seem a touch under-powered for its level.

The OD&D version was much the same, but the magic wind propelled characters a little more slowly.  It also had a maximum limit of one passenger, whereas in AD&D the caster is able to take more allies at higher levels.

And that's it for cleric spells in AD&D.  There wasn't much in the way of new lore, or tidbits to be picked up on, but what I'm finding with AD&D is that it's less about introducing new elements and more about consolidating what was already out there.  Next up is the druid spell list, which ought to go by a bit more quickly, and then the magic-user spell list, which is going to be a slog.  There's definitely more in the way of interesting bits and bobs to glean, though, so it'll be worth going through.

Monday, November 28, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 30: 6th-Level Cleric Spells

There are ten 6th-level spells in AD&D, up from the six that were in OD&D.  Blade Barrier, Conjure Animals, Find the Path, Speak With Monsters and Word of Recall were all in OD&D as 6th-level spells.  Animate Object was in OD&D as well, but named as Animate ObjectsAerial Servant and Part Water were there as 7th-level spells.  The only brand-new spells here are Heal and Stone Tell.

Aerial Servant: Summons an aerial servant that can be sent to retrieve an object or creature.  This spell description notes that there are consequences for the caster if the aerial servant is prevented from completing its mission; those aren't detailed here, but the creature's description in the Monster Manual says that it goes berserk and returns to kill the caster.  The cleric also requires some sort of magic protective circle to summon an aerial servant in safety, and as I recall these are detailed in the Dungeon Master's Guide.  (The cleric's religious symbol is also said to be viable protection, which seems a little too easy for my liking.  How often is a cleric not going to have that on their person?)

A strength of at least 18 is required to resist being carried off by the Aerial Servant.  The percentage chance of resistance is based on percentile Strength, which implies that only Fighters/Paladins/Rangers (and only exceptional ones at that) have a chance of escaping.

Aerial Servants gain a whopping four rounds of surprise against foes who can't see invisibility, and I'm pretty sure that this is the first indication that multiple surprise rounds are possible in AD&D.

Otherwise it's pretty much the same spell as in OD&D, only dropped a level.

Animate Object: Brings inanimate objects within the target area to life, and compels them to attack a target specified by the caster.  The exact spell effect is vague: movement, attacks, damage, weaknesses, etc. are all left to the discretion of the DM, with a few examples given for the sake of comparison.  It seems like a potentially good spell, but the ability to create a lot of relatively weak opponents isn't going to be much help when fighting more powerful monsters.

The spell in OD&D is similarly nebulous.  The only concrete change is the duration (which goes from a flat 6 turns to 1 round/level), range (it's halved from 6" to 3"), and the area of effect.  In OD&D, the spell affects a set number of objects based on their size; in AD&D, it affects an area of 1 cubic foot/level, presumably being able to bring to life any objects within that area.  It's not entirely clear.

Blade Barrier: Sets up a barrier of whirling blades that deal 8d8 damage to any creature that tries to pass through.  The barrier can cover an area as small as 5' square, or as large as 2" square.  (Note the inconsistent use of the measurement symbols here; 5' obviously means five actual feet, whereas 2" is the game notation for 20 feet.  Gary had a knack for making things needlessly confusing.)

To make things even more confusing, the maximum area of effect is said to be 20'x20' when underground, and 60'x60' outdoors.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the conversion of feet into yards when outdoors only apply to range?  I was sure it's not applied to area, but this example seems to indicate that it is.  (I just double-checked it, and I was correct.  It's so important that Gary yells about it in ALL CAPS.  So either this spell is wrong, or a special exception to the rule.)

This spell has some small differences between the AD&D and OD&D versions.  The damage in OD&D is 7d10 rather than 8d8.  The area of effect was up to 3" in diameter (seemingly creating a circular barrier rather than a square one).  The range in OD&D was 6", but in AD&D it's been halved to 3".  The duration was a flat 12 rounds, but in AD&D that's been changed to 3 rounds/level.

Conjure Animals: This spell summons a number of mammals whose Hit Dice add up to the caster's level.  A 12th-level caster, for example, could summon one 12 HD mammal, or two of 6 HD, or any other such combination.  The animals summoned attack the caster's enemies.

The spell is specifically worded to say that it summons mammals.  So insects, lizards, birds, and fish are out.  Technically, this spell should be able to summon humans, and a bunch of other monsters.  What constitutes a mammal can get pretty nebulous once you start delving into the Monster Manual, but I'd limit it to mammals found in the real world.

The OD&D version of the spell allowed the summoning of one large animal (like an elephant), three of medium size (bear-sized), or six small ones (wolf-sized).  The animals obey the cleric, rather than being restricted to attacking.  So while the spell has become more powerful, it's now less flexible.

Find the Path: For the duration of the spell, the cleric will always take the correct path to reach his intended destination.  It works outdoors and underground, and can even free the caster from a maze spell.  The spell can be reversed as lose the path, causing the target (who must be touched) to always take the wrong path (it can be led by others, though).

The main difference between the OD&D and AD&D versions of the spell is the duration.  In OD&D it lasted 6 turns + the caster's level, and would last a full day when outdoors.  AD&D has seriously nerfed that, having a duration of just 1 turn/level.

Heal: Making its debut here is possibly the best healing spell in the entire game.  It restores the target to within 1d4 of their maximum hit points, and completely cures disease, blindness and the feeblemind spell.  That's potent, but perhaps not so potent as harm, the reversed version of the spell, which drains the target and leaves it with 1d4 hit points remaining.  Harm requires a successful touch attack, but there's no saving throw, so it's definitely worth a shot against a tough enemy.  I feel like this spell should have some sort of exotic material component to curtail its use, but there isn't one.  It's a bit overpowered, innit?

Part Water:  Creates a tunnel through a body of water, the size of which depends on the caster's level.  The OD&D version of the spell had a fixed area for most characters, with only clerics of over 17th level being able to part a greater area of water.

Speak With Monsters: Allows the caster to speak with any creature capable of communication within the spell's area.  The OD&D version of the spell had a duration of "3-12 questions", whereas AD&D gives it as 1 round/level, allowing whatever conversation can fit into that time (provided the creatures want to talk).

Stone Tell: This spell is appearing here for the first time.  When cast on an area of stone, that stone will speak to the caster.  The stone can give information about what has touched it, or what is concealed behind it (if anything).  A drop of mercury and a bit of clay are required.  Obviously this one's good for finding secret doors, or tracking.  It has interesting implications regarding the sentience of inanimate objects, as well.  Does everything in the D&D world have some level of awareness, and life?

Word of Recall: Instantly transports the cleric back to a predesignated sanctuary, with no chance of teleport failure.  The higher-level a cleric is, the more stuff they can take with them (including living creatures) Basically, it's a one-way escape route for the cleric, and perhaps some of their friends.  The example given is that a 15th level cleric can take 375 pounds with them, so unless you have a really small party and minimal gear there's no way to save everyone.

The OD&D version of the spell did not allow for other people to be transported (and didn't indicate whether equipment was allowed either, which I imagine led to some heated player/DM arguments.)

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The El Raja Key DVD Archive Is Out And I Must Eat My Words

A few weeks ago, I posted about the imminent release of Rob Kuntz's El Raja Key DVD Archive.  It's an exciting product, featuring 1,000+ files full of Rob's maps, notes, and other materials from the games he ran in the 1970s.  I'd intended that post to drum up some support for Rob's work, but in the process I made some unfounded comments about 'Rob's lack of timeliness'.  Those comments, intended in the spirit of good humour though they were, were out of line.  Rob's extensive body of work speaks for itself, and I - who don't know him personally or professionally (and can barely even run a timely blog, let's face it) - have no place taking cracks at the man.  I hope he can accept my apology, and we can move on from this.

In this instance I'm quite happy to admit that I was wrong, because the Archive is out!  Right now!  If you want to check it out, head over to and take a look.  I honestly haven't been this interested in a new RPG-related product in years (perhaps since Castle Zagyg).  I'll admit it, I'm a mark for any material from D&D's earliest days, so I was always on the hook for this one.  I have to admit - and I only have screenshots to go on - it looks even better than I was expecting.  (That's not a slight: my expectations were pretty high at the outset.)  The interface has a cool retro look, and the sample images that can be found on the blog ( look great.  This is what I wanted from Castle Zagyg - the notes and maps as they were, untouched, and apparently with loads of historical commentary.

Unfortunately for me, it's that hellish nightmare time of the year, the time for creeping dread and unknown horrors.  No, not Halloween, I mean Christmas.  As usual money is tight this time of year, so I must endure the agonising wait to order the Archive until January.  I'll most probably do a follow-up post after that, giving my thoughts on the Archive, at least as an overview (something tells me it'll take more than a couple of weeks to really dig in to it).  I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 29: 5th-level Cleric Spells

AD&D provides ten 5th-level spells for clerics, up from the six that were in OD&D.  Carrying over from the previous edition we have commune, dispel evil, insect plague, quest and raise deadCreate food was a 5th-level spell in OD&D, but in AD&D got shifted down to 3rd level.  Atonement, cure critical wounds, flame strike, plane shift and true seeing are all-new.

Atonement: This spell, new in AD&D, grants atonement to any character for deeds done against their will, i.e. when under mind-control or some other outside influence.  It doesn't work on deeds done deliberately, or those that the character has no remorse for.  It also removes the effects of magical alignment change.  It's a niche spell, but very useful when said niche must be filled, especially for paladins and clerics.  (I guess this is confirmation that the gods - or whatever entities or forces govern the universe - recognise the difference between acts done unwillingly, and those done willingly, and that they value repentance.)

Commune: The cleric contacts their deity, or the deity's agents, and can ask a number of "yes or no" questions that are always answered correctly.  The DM is encouraged to put a limit on the amount this spell can be used, as the gods get annoyed with this sort of thing (probably given concrete rules in the Dungeon Masters Guide).

The implication of this spell is that all of the gods are all-knowing; how else would they have the answers to any possible question a cleric might ask?  I'm not a fan of this, as I prefer the gods to be more fallible than that, as they often are in mythological tales.

In OD&D, clerics casting this spell were allowed three questions, but here that number is now one per caster level.  In OD&D, the spell was limited to one use per week, as opposed to AD&D's nebulous guidelines.  It also had a special "one time a year" casting that allowed double the normal number of questions, which has been cut out of the AD&D version completely.

Cure Critical Wounds: The next step up in the healing spell hierarchy, this spell heals 3d8+3 hit points.  It can also be reversed to cause damage.  I'm surprised that this is debuting so late; OD&D was really lacking in high-end healing spells.

Dispel Evil: Causes any evil summoned creature to return to its home plane, or place of origin.  It lasts for 1 round per level, and is delivered with  touch, so I wonder if multiple creatures can be so dispelled?  While it's in effect, evil summoned creatures suffer a -7 penalty to hit the caster.

It also says that it works on "monsters enchanted and caused to perform evil deeds".  Does that mean characters that have been charmed?  I'm not sure how that would work.  I can understand applying the to-hit penalty, but should they be banished to their home plane?  What if they're from the Prime Material?  Would the spell banish a possessing entity, or dispel the charm?  It's all a bit vague.

The OD&D version of the spell was a higher-level version of dispel magic, that worked on any "evil sending or spell".  In effect, it reads to me like a completely different spell.  Oh yeah, it was originally written as dispell evil, but Gary learned some grammar and spelling between editions.

Flame Strike: A very rare damage-dealing cleric spell makes its debut here.  It creates a column of flame that deals 6d8 damage (save for half).  Doesn't get much more basic than that, does it?

Insect Plague: Creates a swarm of insects that obscures vision and deals 1 point of damage per round to anyone within the area.  It also causes all creatures of less than 5 Hit Dice to check morale or flee, while those of less than 2 Hit Dice flee automatically.  Mostly the spell seems useful for frustrating spellcasters and dispersing low-level opponents.  Smoke will drive insects away, and most area damage spells will temporarily clear a space.

The OD&D version of the spell was very different.  Firstly, the caster could direct the insects, whereas in AD&D the spell is stationary.  The OD&D spell had an area of 36 square inches, while AD&D gives it a 36" diameter.  The spell didn't deal any damage in OD&D, but it automatically routed creatures of 3 Hit Dice (while seemingly having no effect on those higher).  AD&D dropped the range from 48" to 36".  Lastly, in OD&D the spell could only be used above ground, which might be the biggest difference of all.

Plane Shift: This spell can be used to transport the caster and up to seven others (or maybe six, it's not super-clear) to another plane of existence.  The material component is a forked metal rod, with the size and type of metal determining which plane is reached.  (This is another thing I expect to be explained in the DMG.)  It can be used as an offensive spell as well, if you feel like sending your enemies to Hell or something.

Quest: Ah, quest, the favoured tool of tyrannical DMs everywhere.  The victim of this spell is forced to undertake some task for the cleric, and for every day that they avoid the task they suffer a cumulative -1 penalty to all saving throws.  I've never seen this one used by PCs, as in my experience players like to do important tasks themselves.  As alluded to above, I've mostly seen it used by DMs to force players into an adventure.  If you said that the game would be better off without this spell, I wouldn't disagree with you.
  The major difference between this and the OD&D version of the spell is that OD&D clerics could curse those who avoid the quest with pretty much anything they wanted.  Sometimes OD&D went a little too far in leaving things to the DM.

Raise Dead: Can raise the following creatures from the dead: dwarves, gnomes, half-elves, halflings and humans.  Not monsters, not animals, and most notably not elves and half-orcs.  No explanation is given here for why those races can't be raised; I'm pretty sure that later on it's explained that they have no souls, but at this point it's a mystery.
  The spell can also be reversed as slay living.  (I've never considered this before, but elves and half-orcs should be immune to the reversed spell as well.)  Good clerics are warned against indiscriminate use of the spell, generally only being allowed to use it on people they know are super-evil.
  In a neat touch, raise dead can be used on newly created undead (as when used on a regular corpse, it can be dead no longer than 1 day per caster level).  It won't work on skeletons, though, because the spell doesn't restore lost body parts.  (It's not stated, but it probably shouldn't work on any incorporeal undead either.)
  Looking at the OD&D version of the spell, I'm surprised to see that it worked on Men, Elves and Dwarves, and excluded Hobbits.  That's going to be a hard one to reconcile.  Looking back at the post where I first covered this spell (waaaay back in 2009) I took a stab at it thusly: "I'll tie this into the waning of the elven peoples - as they grow weaker in life, so they are drawn ever more strongly to the realm they reside in after death. With Hobbits and other creatures, I'm theorizing that it actually takes contacting the land of the dead to return the departed soul to life - wherever hobbits go when they die hasn't been discovered yet."  That's a decent start, and allows me to explain how this spell will work on other creatures later on as well.  Alternatively, I could tie it in to the 3rd edition idea that dead creatures have to want to come back in order to be raised successfully.  If Hobbits are content in the afterlife, it's very probable that they'll want to stay there unless they are the rare adventurous sort.

True Seeing: This spell allows the caster to see things as they really are.  Not only does it see through illusions, but it reveals invisible, ethereal and astral creatures, as well as secret doors.  It even lets the caster see a creature's "aura", revealing their alignment.  Even polymorphed creatures will be seen in their original form.  The spell can be reversed, and the target will see things as their opposites.
  The material components for this spell ensure that it won't be overused.  It requires an eye ointment made from mushroom powder, saffron and fat that must be aged for 1-6 months.  (The reversed spell instead uses ointment made from oil, poppy dust and pink orchid essence.)  The ingredients have no value listed, but the time needed is the real factor in limiting this spell.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook Part 28: 4th-Level Cleric Spells

Clerics have ten 4th-level spells in AD&D.  Five of those have carried over from OD&D: cure serious wounds, neutralize poison, protection from evil 10' radius, speak with plants and sticks to snakes.  Four are all-new: detect lie, divination, exorcise and tongues.  The last spell - lower water - was in OD&D, but only as a 6th-level magic-user spell.

Cure Serious Wounds: A touch spell that heals 2d8+1 points of damage, which can also be reversed as cause serious wounds.  The OD&D version of the spell is exactly the same, except that it healed 2d6+2 points of damage.  Although the OD&D spell appears to be slightly less powerful, it should be noted that characters in that game had less hit points than those in AD&D.

Like cure light wounds, there are a number of creature types that this spell can't affect.  This includes all creatures that can only be hit by silver, iron or magical weapons.  I wonder what the rationale is here?  From memory, most of the relevant monsters at this point are things like demons, undead, gargoyles, and similarly fantastical beings.  Those kinds of creatures being unaffected by cure spells seems fair enough, but I feel as though there'll be monsters added to the game later that don't quite fit this mold.  I'm tempted to tie this immunity back to Gygax's idea about creatures with immunity to normal weapons existing in multiple planes of reality.  So far, it's the only concrete thing we have to go on regarding the topic, so I'm going to run with it.

Detect Lie: A new spell that allows the caster to tell if the target is telling the truth.  It can be reversed as undetectable lie, which either counters detect lie or makes complete untruths seem reasonable.  Detect lie requires gold dust to cast, while its reverse requires brass dust; in neither case is the value of the required dust indicated.

Divination: This new spell reveals information about an area such as a small forest or a section of a dungeon level: strength of monsters, value of treasure, and the chance that invaders will incur the wrath of a powerful supernatural being.  The chance of obtaining accurate information starts at 60% and climbs by 1% per caster level.
  The spell components required are incense, a holy symbol, and a sacrificial creature.  Perhaps it's my background as a player of BECMI and 2nd edition AD&D, but I'm surprised that's in there.  I wonder how sacrificing animals affects PCs of good alignment?  I'd be inclined to be allow it.  Lawful good clerics aren't forced to be vegans, so I don't see why they can't sacrifice a goat or a sheep or whatever.  No humans allowed, of course.  Hobbits are a toss-up.

Exorcise: Frees a single target from any form of possession by an outside force.  It can also be used on any item that contains a creature's soul, and will force said soul into its nearest material body.
  The spell description is written in the standard over-complicated Gygaxian style, so I'm not entirely sure how it works.  I think the caster rolls d100 to randomly determine the base chance of success.  That base chance is modified up or down by comparing the caster's level to that of the possessing entity or magic.  The caster gets to roll every turn to determine success, and can seemingly keep rolling forever.  To me it looks as though the spell will always work eventually, unless its interrupted for some reason.  The chance of success can also be increased by using a holy relic, but that seems a bit pointless unless you need the spell to succeed really quickly.

Lower Water: What was one a 6th-level spell for magic-users is now available as a 4th-level cleric spell.  It causes water (or "similar fluid", whatever that means) to lower by 5% per caster level.  Area of effect is also increased by caster level, and the spell can be reversed to return liquid to its normal height.  Material component is a pinch of dust.
  The OD&D version of this spell lowered water to a flat 50%, so it's not as effective in that regard.  It's range was 24" though, which is double that of the AD&D version.  The duration was 10 turns, whereas AD&D has a duration of 1 turn per level.  The OD&D spell wasn't reversible.
  (I wonder, would blood be considered a "similar liquid"?  Could you lower the blood inside a creature, perhaps causing it to pass out?  The answer, of course, is "fuck off with that bullshit", but it's something to think about.)

Neutralize Poison: This spell completely removes poison from any creature or object touched.  Not only can this be used to heal a character who has been poisoned, but it can also make a poisonous snake harmless, or remove the venom from a trap or weapon.  Using the spell to remove poison from monsters is a genius move, and one I have never seen or thought of.  I've read this spell description before, but only on a careful reading now am I realising that this can be done, and it's super-cool.
  The spell can also be reversed as poison, which requires a touch attack and will kill the target on a failed save.  Is this the lowest-level save-or-die effect?  I think it might be.
  The OD&D version of this spell was a bit vague.  It was said to counter the harmful effects of poison, but specifically notes that it won't help characters that have been killed by poison.  I guess the same applies to the AD&D spell as well: while it will purge the poison from the body, it won't restore the victim to life.  Makes sense, I guess, but it does limit the spell's usefulness by quite a bit.

Protection From Evil, 10' Radius: Works exactly like protection from evil, except that the area of effect is a 10' radius globe around the caster, and the duration is increased.  This means that it completely hedges out conjured or enchanted creatures (devils, demons, imps, etc.), inflicts a -2 penalty to attack rolls on all evil creatures, and grants allies +2 to saves.  It can, of course, be reversed to affect good creatures.
  The main difference from the OD&D spell is that that version only gave a penalty/bonus of -1/+1.  It also had a flat duration of 12 turns, whereas AD&D gives a duration of 1 turn/level.

Speak With Plants: The caster of the spell can converse with plant life within a 6" circle.  The spell is a little contradictory.  It says that the caster can command thickets to part to enable easy passage, or make vines entangle pursuers.  Then it says that the spell can't animate non-ambulatory vegetation.  Which is it?  I would rule that small movements like those mentioned above are possible, but that plants can't move from where they are rooted, or be commanded to make attacks with branches, or really do anything beyond make nuisances of themselves.
  The OD&D spell is much the same as this version.  The only significant difference is that the duration was a flat 6 turns, while AD&D has a duration of 1 round/level.  (This could either be about the same or a significant drop, depending on how you interpret the use of turns in OD&D.)

Sticks to Snakes: Transforms one stick per caster level into a snake that can be commanded to attack.  Each snake has a 5% chance per caster level of being venomous (though no indication of the strength of the venom is given).  The spell can work on objects like spears and torches, but won't affect magic items.  The spell can be reversed as snakes to sticks, either to temporarily transform regular snakes into harmless sticks, or to counter the regular version of this spell.
  In OD&D the caster created 2-16 snakes, with a flat 50% that they were poisonous.  The duration was 6 turns (as opposed to 2 rounds/level) and the range was 12" (which is now radically shortened to 3").  Overall, I'd say the AD&D spell is on average deadlier; as I read the OD&D version you roll once to determine if all your snakes are poisonous, whereas in AD&D you roll individually.  Individual rolls mean that you're bound to get some poisonous snakes, and the chance goes up as you gain levels.

Tongues: A new spell that allows the caster to speak the language of any creatures with 6".  It even works on alignment languages, which is slightly surprising.  The reversed form of the spell makes verbal communication within the area of effect impossible.  I can see players attempting to use this version of the spell to disrupt spellcasting, but I would absolutely not allow that.  Spells are a means of manipulating reality, and not a form of communication.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 27: 3rd-Level Cleric Spells

There are twelve third-level spells for clerics in the Player's Handbook.  Six of those were introduced in OD&D: continual light, cure disease, locate object, prayer, remove curse and speak with deadAnimate dead was in OD&D, but there it was a 5th-level magic-user spell, and not available to clerics at all.  Create food & water seems to be a combination of two OD&D spells: create water (which was 4th level) and create food (which was 5th level).  Cure blindness had been previously introduced as part of the Healer class in The Dragon #3.  Finally, there are two spells that are all-new in AD&D: feign death and glyph of warding.

Animate Dead: This spell allows the caster to animate the bodies or bones of humans as skeletons or zombies (one per caster level).  The spell does specify humans, not humanoids; by-the-book, you can't use this spell to create dwarf skeletons or orc zombies or whatever.  The undead created obey the caster's commands, and last until they're either destroyed or dispelled.  This raises the obvious question: can any skeletons or zombies be dispelled using dispel magic?  Are all skeletons and zombies the result of an animate dead spell, or are there some that originate in different ways?  The Monster Manual says that they're both magically animated corpses under the command of the one who animated them, so it looks as though animate dead is the canonical explanation for all of them.  Given that it's not mentioned as a specific weakness in the Monster Manual, I'd rule against destroying them with dispel magic.

The main difference between this spell and the OD&D version is the number of undead created.  Clerics in AD&D create one undead per caster level, whereas OD&D magic-users (that class being the only one with the spell available to them) could create 1d6 undead for every level over 8th.  So while AD&D casters do better in the short term, OD&D casters break even around 11th level and surge ahead from there.

Continual Light: Creates a light that lasts forever (or until dispelled).  It can be cast in the air, attached to an object, or cast at a creature, and in the latter case it will blind the target on a failed save.  It can be reversed to cause "complete absence of light".

The main difference between this version of the spell and the one in OD&D is the area of effect: OD&D had a diameter of 24", while AD&D has a diameter of 12".  (In my initial reading of the AD&D spell, I had thought that the spell created a globe of light 6 inches in radius, but obviously it's supposed to be game inches representing tens-of-feet: that's how far the light extends rather than the size of the globe itself.)

The blinding effect is a useful one, especially given the spell's permanent duration.  It's about on par with the 2nd-level Illusionist spell blindness, which is fine.  What's not fine is that it far outstrips the reverse of cure blindness (cause blindness, which I'll detail below).

Create Food & Water: This spell creates "one cubic foot" of food and/or water per caster level.  It's odd that the spell is measured in cubic feet (I'm picturing a perfectly square block of ham), but it's done as a way to split between the creation of food and water.  A second level caster, for example, could create two cubic feet of food, two of water, or one of each.  Each cubic foot provides enough to nourish three people, or one horse.  It seems overly complicated, but I can just about do it in my head.

What's not specified is the type of food that appears, so I'd rule that the caster can create whatever the hell he wants.

This spell is a combination of the OD&D spells create water (4th level) and create food (5th level).  Both of those spells created enough to sustain a dozen men for a day, and doubled for every level the Cleric attained over 8th.  Obviously the AD&D version is more versatile, but it doesn't scale up as ridiculously as the two OD&D spells did.

The 1st-level AD&D spell create water should also be noted.  That spell makes 4 gallons of water per caster level, which to my eye seems more than create food & water (4 gallons would be more than enough for three people for a day).  That's as it should be - specialised spells should be more effective than versatile ones.

Cure Blindness: Permanently cures "most forms" of blindness. (Nice and vague there.)  The spell can be reversed as cause blindness, but that spell has some problems.  Notably, it's not as good as using continual light for the same effect, because continual light works at range while cause blindness is a touch spell.  Otherwise they're identical, but being able to blind someone from 120 feet away is a lot more useful.

The original version of this spell was introduced with the Healer class in The Dragon #7. That version was able to cure blindness of any sort, but wasn't reversible.

Cure Disease: This spell will cure most diseases with a touch.  I'm surprised to note that the cure doesn't take effect immediately; it can take anywhere from 1 turn to 1 week to heal the target, depending on the severity and advancement of the disease.  I've always played it as instantaneous.

The spell can be reversed as cause disease, which causes the target to lose 1 hp per turn and 1 point of Strength per hour, until both are at 10%.

The OD&D version of the spell cured "any form of disease", and that was pretty much the entirety of the spell description.  It was reversible, but the effect of that wasn't given (though one could use the disease rules from Supplement II).

Dispel Magic: Negates various magical effects within a 3" cube.  It will destroy potions, remove spells cast on creatures or items, and counter any spell-casting done within the area of effect.  It has no effect on any magic items other than potions.  The spell starts with a base 50% chance of success, with the chance going up if the magic to be dispelled is lower level than the caster, and going down if it is higher.  It's said to be very effective against charmed creatures (though nothing mechanical is given), and it will automatically dispel the caster's own spells.

The OD&D version of the spell was for magic-users only, and was written as dispell magic.  It had a range of 24", as opposed to 6" in AD&D.  It also had a duration of 1 turn, whereas in AD&D the duration is "permanent".  That "permanent" duration is curious.  No doubt it refers to the magic being dispelled permanently, but it makes me wonder how long that 3" cube stays in effect?  I'd rule it as an instantaneous flash that dispels the magic within it, then disappears.

The other big difference between the OD&D and AD&D versions of the spell is the formula used to determine the spell's success.  AD&D starts at 50%, modified up or down based on the strength of the magic to be dispelled.  OD&D uses a ratio of the dispeller over the original spell.  If I'm doing the math correctly, it seems that lower-level casters have a better chance to dispel high-level magic in AD&D; magic of equal level will be dispelled 50% of the time in AD&D, and 100% of the time in OD&D; obviously, higher-level casters automatically succeed in OD&D, while it's a more gradual scale in AD&D.  The spell was a lot more effective in OD&D.

Feign Death: This spell, making its first appearance here, puts the target into a "cataleptic state" that makes him appear to be dead.  The target is fully aware, and can still smell and hear, but he can't see or feel anything.  Any damage inflicted on the body is halved (which makes me wonder just how much hit point damage is based on pain), and the target is immune to paralysis and level drain (I guess he's protected by the spell's necromantic energy?).  Poison will take effect once the spell wears off.

The spell can be ended by the caster at any time, but otherwise lasts for 1 turn + 1 round/level.  I wonder, can the target get up at any point, or is he immobile until the spell ends?  I was starting to think that this could be a very potent offensive spell, as it grants no saving throw, but then I noticed that it only works on willing recipients.

The material component is a pinch of graveyard dust.

Glyph of Warding: Another new spell.  This one is used to protect an area from trespassers.  The cleric inscribes a glyph that wards an area of 25 square feet per level.  The glyph takes effect when touched or crossed, unless the name of the glyph is spoken first.  A few sample glyphs are suggested: one that deals 2 points of electrical damage per caster level (seems a bit weak), another that deals fire damage, and ones that cause paralysis, blindness or energy drain.  The last one is said to be available only to high-level clerics, but there's no concrete number given.  (I expect this spell will be greatly expanded on in the Dungeon Master's Guide.)

If the warded area is over 50 square feet, the caster will need 2,000gp worth of powdered diamond.  Otherwise all you need is a bit of incense.

Locate Object: Lets the caster know if the desired object is present, as long as he's facing it and it's within range.  The object must be "known or familiar", which is a pretty vague restriction, and it also can't be a living creature.

The reverse of the spell, obscure object, protects an item from location by any spell.

Oddly, this spell was better explained in OD&D, where it says that specific items to be located (such as magic items) require knowledge of exact details such as colour and shape, while more general items like stairs can be located without such knowledge.  The cleric version of the spell had a range of 9" + 1"/level in OD&D, but in AD&D it's been brought back in line with the magic-user version, and has a duration of 6" +1"/level.

Prayer: This is like the 2nd-level chant spell, in that it grants allies +1 to attacks and saving throws, while making enemies suffer -1 penalties.  The difference is that it takes much less time to cast, and the cleric can take other actions while the spell is in effect.  It's a far, far superior spell and makes chant almost completely worthless.

The OD&D version of prayer was a completely different spell: it lowered enemy saving throws by 1 point for every ten levels of the caster.  The AD&D version seems much more useful.

Remove Curse: Removes any curse from a person, place or object.  It doesn't destroy cursed weapons or armour, although it does allow a character affected by such an item to rid himself of it.

The reverse is bestow curse, which lasts for 1 turn/level, and will have one of the following effects: reduce an ability score to 3; afflict a -4 penalty to attack rolls and saving throws; or make the victim 50% likely to drop whatever he's holding (presumably this happens throughout the duration rather than just once, otherwise it's a super-weak curse).  There's leeway given for clerics to devise their own curses as well, so long as they're of similar power.

The OD&D version of the spell was similar, but it was able to turn cursed weapons and armour back to normal.  It also wasn't reversible.

Speak With the Dead: Allows the caster to ask questions of any dead creature, and receive answers according to that dead creature's knowledge.  Higher level casters can ask more questions, and are able to successfully cast the spell on creatures that have been dead for longer.  Clerics of level 21+ can question creatures that have been dead for 1,000 years, which sounds good, but could run into some language difficulties given that caster and target must be able to speak the same tongue.

The OD&D version of the spell was, as is usual, quite a bit simpler.  The caster was able to ask three questions, regardless of caster level.  Level was a factor in speaking with creatures dead for longer periods of time, though: clerics up to 7th level could talk to those dead for 1-4 days, those up to 14th level could speak to those dead for 1-4 months, and clerics over 20th level had no limit at all.  AD&D uses a table to break these into smaller categories, and also limits it to 1,000 years maximum.  The OD&D spell ends by suggesting that the dead creature answer in the form of a riddle, which AD&D dispenses with.

Friday, September 16, 2016

El Raja Key DVD Archive

I'm a frequent lurker around the various old-school D&D blogs, message boards and forums, so I was quite surprised that a project like this slipped past me: Rob Kuntz (you know, the co-DM of Greyhawk through much of the 1970s) is putting out an archival DVD with scans of a whole bunch of his work from the last four decades.  I'm kind of shocked that this isn't generating more excitement.

If I'm reading things correctly, it's going to include the entirety of his El Raja Key dungeons (the ones Gary played through using Mordenkainen), as well as a bunch of Rob's levels that were used as part of Castle Greyhawk.  It looks like they're going to be mostly untouched, as well - this isn't a Castle Zagyg situation, where the material is being extensively reworked for modern consumption.  This is the work, as it was, and as I want to see it.

Honestly, I'm super-stoked about this.  I'm fascinated by the earliest history of the game, and any glimpse at Gary and Rob's work from those days is something I really geek out over.  I'll be all over this when it gets released, despite the hefty price (about a hundred bucks US, but for over 1,000 image files of proper D&D history I'll fork out for it).

The best part is that it's supposed to be out within the next week.  Now, I know, it's Rob Kuntz, and timeliness has never been his strongest of suits.  But to me it appears as though most of the work is done.  If he says a week, surely even he can't mean more than six months, and I can wait that long.  (EDIT: I was being a jerk here.  If you're reading this post, ignore what I said and head over to (, because the Archive has been released.)

His blog is over here:  Check it out if you have the same interest in D&D history that I do.