Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: Men & Magic Part 4

Today I'm going to try sand get through all of the Magic-User spells, commenting on them and discussing how they differ from those in Chainmail. I'm going to try and breeze through these, but don't be surprised if I get a bit sidetracked and/or long-winded.

Magic-User Spells

1st level:
The M-U spell list at 1st level is: Detect Magic, Hold Portal, Read Magic, Read Languages, Protection From Evil, Light, Charm Person, and Sleep. The spells have the same general effects as they would in later editions, but the descriptions are a lot more open to interpretations and creative use.

Light is the same basic spell as Wizard Light from Chainmail, but with a dramatically reduced area of effect. As noted earlier, the Chainmail spells are those as cast by specialized Battle Mages, and will have effects much more suited to the battlefield.

Detect Magic is a part of the Detection spell from Chainmail. In Chainmail you can't detect a stronger caster's magic, but that isn't the case in D&D. The trade-off is that in Chainmail you can discern the exact type of spell, whereas in D&D it's just the presence of magic that registers.

Sleep and Charm Person are the obvious heavy hitters here. Charm Person is especially effective, given that it has an unlimited duration, broken only by a Dispell Magic.

The other spells are great dungeon utility effects - reading things, light, locking doors, detecting magical things. With the spell lists so sparse here, everything is useful.

2nd Level: This list includes Detect Invisible, Levitate, Phantasmal Forces, Locate Object, Invisibility, Wizard Lock, Detect Evil, ESP, Continual Light and Knock.

Phantasmal Forces is from Chainmail. The D&D version is more versatile, as it can create things other than creatures, and its duration is potentially greater (until it is touched). But the Chainmail version can create a whole unit of creatures, doesn't disappear when struck, can't be disbelieved, and lasts for a maximum of 4 turns. Once again, a Battle Mage did it.

Detect Invisible is a part of the Chainmail spell Detection, but in Chainmail it has no range limit or set duration. Also note that a stronger caster in Chainmail can't be detected by a weaker.

Levitate is also from Chainmail, but in D&D the duration is greater, as the caster adds his level. This is a tradeoff for the Chainmail version's unlimited range.

The other thing of interest is that Detect Evil only detects "evil thought or intent" - this is a necessity in an alignment system that doesn't have the Good-Evil axis. It means that if Evil Joe the Butcher is doing his taxes, he won't register. If he's planning to summon Orcus to ravage the countryside, then he lights up. I like this - it stops Detect Evil from being a constant plot-breaker.

3rd Level: There are a lot of 3rd level spells: Fly, Hold Person, Dispell Magic, Clairvoyance, Clairaudience, Fire Ball, Lightning Bolt, Protection From Evil 10' Radius, Invisibility 10' Radius, Infravision, Slow Spell, Haste Spell, Protection from Normal Missiles, and Water Breathing

Whew, that's a cracking list, and once he gets his hands on these is generally when the Magic-User comes into his own. Fire Ball (yes, two words) and Lightning Bolt are the quintessential mass damage spells, and due to the lower hit point totals of monsters they are at their deadliest in OD&D. There are a few here that I've always felt should be lower - Clairaudience and Clairvoyance in particular - but there's a lot of good stuff here.

Fire Ball and Lightning Bolt are in Chainmail as the Wizard's default missile attacks. The Chainmail Fire Ball is slightly smaller, but the Wizard there can cast these two spells all day long as many times as they want, if the rules are taken at face value. The Chainmail Wizard also has Infravision on permanently, but given that in D&D it has a duration of 1 day there's probably no difference. They also have Protection from Normal Missiles running all the time, which is a duration far in excess of the D&D version. The counterspelling of Chainmail could also be attributed to an at-will Dispell Magic as well, I suppose

Invisibility 10' Radius is in Chainmail as the spell Concealment, which can affect an entire unit and is seemingloy not limited to a 10' radius effect. There's no indication of whether a unit affected by Concealment will reappear when it attacks, but it's safe to assume it will.

Protection from Evil is insane in Chainmail in that it has no set duration and covers a 120 yard radius! That's crazy powerful compared to D&D's 10 feet.

Slow and Haste are also in both rulesets, but while they affect up to 24 creatures in D&D, they work on 20 figures in CHAINMAIL, which could be as many as 400 guys.

I love the duration on Fly. The DM secretly rolls 1d6 on top of the regular duration, so the PC doesn't know exactly when he has to land. It's these kinds of things that have been taken out of more recent editions that make them quite soulless in comparison.

Hold Person here is said to be similar in effect to Charm Person - able to affect more creatures, but with a much smaller duration. I'm not sure how to deal with this, because it's far different than the paralysis spell of later editions. I think I will run it as a variant on Charm Person, much as the book says. Eventually there will be some kind of slight magical upheaval, or a change to the spell, and it will become the more well known version.

Protection from Normal Missiles has an interesting bit, in that it seemingly only works on missiles fired by normal men, or from normal weapons. Does this mean that higher level characters can affect such a Wizard with a normal bow? Or only those with a magical one? In the interests of making the spell useful, I'm ruling that only magical weapons can penetrate it.

4th Level: This is another long list: Polymorph Self, Polymorph Others, Remove Curse, Wall of Fire, Wall of Ice, Confusion, Charm Monster, Growth of Plants, Dimension Door, Wizard Eye, Massmorph, Hallucinatory Terrain.

The polymorph spells are interesting. Polymorph Self gives the caster the physical shape, but not abilities or combat prowess - I guess it's mostly useful for flight and other movement types, and for scaring the bejeezus out of other monsters. Polymorph Others, however, confers all the abilities of the monster - and it's permanent!

Polymorph Self is in Chainmail as simply Polymorph, with that spell having no given limitations on fighting ability and special powers. Confusion is also in Chainmail, and that version of the spell affects one unit instead of 2d6 people - it is also more predictable, making the unit do the opposite of what it is ordered to, rather than rolling on a random table (it's not nearly as much fun). Hallucinatory Terrain is the last of these spells in Chainmail, and for once it works exactly the same as in D&D.

The other spells here are much as they would appear in later editions of the game.

5th Level: This is the equal-longest of the magic-user's spell lists. It includes - Teleport, Hold Monster, Conjure Elemental, Telekenesis (sic), Transmute Rock to Mud, Wall of Stone, Wall of Iron, Animate Dead, Magic Jar, Contact Higher Plane, Pass-Wall, Cloudkill, Feeblemind, and Growth of Animals.

Teleport still has the wonderful chance that you'll come in high or low and end up instantly dead. Paging Wizards of the Coast - there was a solution to Scry-Buff-Teleport, and it was in the books 30 years ago.

Contact Higher Plane is interesting, in that it gives us our first indication of levels of reality outside of the regular world. It posits ten 'higher planes', where creatures dwell who can answer questions for you. The higher you go, the more likely you will get the answer you seek, but the more likely you will be driven insane. As far as D&D cosmology goes, there's only one of the Outer Planes that has at least ten levels, and that's the Abyss. That works ok for me, and makes the spell just a bit more awesome - it's the wizard seeking forbidden knowledge from demons!

Feeblemind is usable only against other magic-users, which I never knew. The other spells are much as they would appear later.

Conjure Elemental is in Chainmail with much the same effect as in D&D, as is Cloudkill. Cloudkill has a larger area there than in D&D, and no stipulation that it is dispersed by trees and wind.

6th Level: This is the most powerful level of spells in the game, and there really are a few doozies here. But it's a much lower power scale than D&D fans are used to, which helps give OD&D a bit more of an authentic sword & sorcery feel. The list is as follows: Stone to Flesh, Reincarnation, Invisible Stalker, Lower Water, Part Water, Projected Image, Anti-Magic Shell, Death Spell, Geas, Disintegrate, Move Earth, and Control Weather.

Stone to Flesh is the spell you use when your mate gets zapped by a medusa/cockatrice/gorgon/basilisk (geez, even in OD&D there are a load of things that can turn you to stone!). And there's always the option of using this spell to turn walls to flesh then carving your way through them. Its also reversible, for when your wizard wants to turn someone into a statue.

Reincarnation is an alternative to raise dead, that in my experience usually causes lots of fights between players. Most players I know would rather stay dead than have this spell cast on them. Basically, it means that you come back to life as another creature, and in OD&D you roll on the alignment table. Which makes this version of the spell much more badass than it will later become - a Chaotic character could end up as a Balrog!

Invisible Stalker summons an invisible monster that will do your bidding. Really useful, though the Stalker isn't massively powerful. In campaign terms, it establishes that the Invisible Stalker comes from an extra-dimensional plane, though there are no specifics.

Lower Water and Part Water are the red-headed step-children of 6th level spells. Why these two aren't combined as a single entity are a mystery to me. Anyway, they do what they say they do.

Projected Image creates an image of the caster from which your spells appear to originate. Handy to draw attacks away from you, I suppose, especially useful in conjunction with invisibility. It's a bit underpowered for 6th level, though.

Anti-Magic Shell makes you totally impervious to magic, but stops you from casting as well. It's in Chainmail, with a far larger area but a shorter duration.

Death Spell kills 2-16 creatures of under 7 hit dice - and that includes most of the monsters in the game! Save or die, man - the essence of true D&D.

Geas is a DM's best friend for when the PCs just won't bite at the plot hooks - it forces the target to perform a task or suffer weakness and eventual death. I've seen this used by DMs a lot, but never by players - but I think my next M-U might keep one handy...

Disintegrate, the spell for casual instantaneous destruction. As Gary says, "it will blast a tree, dragon, wall section, or whatever". Heh. Whatever.

Move Earth lets you move hills and ridges and stuff about, but it only works above ground. Which makes it a bit of a niche spell, really, especially in a game specifically geared around dungeon exploration. It's in Chainmail as Moving Terrain, with even vaguer guidelines as to its effect.

Control Weather lets the M-U can bring about all sorts of weather conditions which are only named and given no rules treatment. So this spell could either be awesome or worthless depending on how your DM interprets things. The weather rules from Chainmail give a good outline to work from, though.

As a final note, all of the spells have durations listed in turns. This shouldn't be taken the same way as it would in later editions, as the whole idea of turns and rounds wasn't as rigidly held to in OD&D as it was in AD&D. For spell durations, I'm going to make a turn equal to a round (keep in mind that a turn is ten minutes and a round is one minute). So if you cast a spell that lasts for 5 turns, it will last 50 minutes when out of combat, and 5 minutes when in combat. I figure maintaining spells is more taxing for a spell-caster while fighting, so the spells wear off quicker. Anyway, once the AD&D era is reached this will become much more concrete.

So that's the M-U spells down, with the Cleric spells to come tomorrow - but thankfully their lists are a lot shorter (and I don't have to worry about Chainmail comparisons). I'll try to power through them in one mammoth hit.

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