Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: Supplement I Greyhawk Part 4

Today we get to new spells, and there certainly are a lot in Supplement I. And they're all classics - you'd be hard-pressed to find any spell here that isn't carried forth to later editions. So away we go, with the first level Magic-User spells.

(Also, be warned that when I first wrote this I went too far overboard in detailing every spell. This is a long post.)

FIRST LEVEL

CHARM PERSON: This spell was in OD&D, but it gets changed a little. Whereas before the charm lasted until it was dispelled, now the victims receive a periodic saving throw against it, with high Intelligence making the save more frequent. It ranges from every 6 months for the stupid, to every day for the super-genius. So it seems that after a while techniques to resist charms start to become widespread.

SLEEP: Again, this is another spell from OD&D that is changed. It's clarified that there is no saving throw against this spell, that it affects only one creature of 4 or 4+1 hit dice, that it is ineffective against stronger monsters, and that it has no affect at all on the undead.

SHIELD: A barrier that provides the caster with AC 2 against missiles and AC 4 in melee. A D&D staple.

MAGIC MISSILE: I find it hard to fathom that this spell wasn't in the original set, but here it is now. It conjures a missile equivalent to a magic arrow, which means that it deals 1d6+1 damage. An extra two missiles appear for every 5 levels the caster attains - and there's no cap, so theoretically this could result in huge volleys of missiles. And note that it isn't stated that the missile hits automatically. It's said to work like a magic arrow, so I'm giving it an attack roll just like a magic arrow. That makes it a bit weak (since it has a decent likelihood to miss), but them's the breaks. magical research will eventually come to light that makes it always hit.

DETECT MAGIC: This spell from OD&D now gets a range and duration. Nothing to see here, move along.

VENTRILIQUISM: Yep, that's how they spell it. The caster can make his voice come from somewhere else. A nice little utility spell.

SECOND LEVEL

DARKNESS, 5' RADIUS: Causes complete darkness in the area, and foils even infravision. It's countered by a Light spell, and of course by Dispell Magic.

STRENGTH: Now that Strength is the all-important combat stat, we get a spell to boost it. Fighters get the biggest boost (2-8), while Clerics get 1-6 and Thieves get 1-4. Clerics and Thieves wouldn't get much use here anyway, since only Fighters get the combat bonuses. The spell lasts for 8 hours as well, so it's basically an all-day buff. Sounds like a must-have to me.

WEB: This appeared previously as an ability of the Staff of Power, but now it's a spell in its own right.

MIRROR IMAGE: Creates 1d4 images of the caster that do exactly what he does. Hitting an image dispels it. Classic defensive spell.

MAGIC MOUTH: Creates a mouth upon an object that can be programmed to speak a message when certain conditions are met. As an old-school Bard's Tale player, I have come to adore magic mouths and their cryptic riddlings. Also, we meet here a named NPC - Flubbit the Wizard. Nothing else about him is described, but he's at least 11th level so he's managed to rise above his name somewhat.

PYROTECHNICS: The spell causes an already existing fire to explode like fireworks or cover the area in smoke. The effects of either aren't detailed. but it's not hard to come up with some scenarios where they'd both be useful.

THIRD LEVEL

EXPLOSIVE RUNES: These runes can be placed upon a book or parchment, and if someone who isn't the caster reads it, it blows up in his face and deals 4-24 damage. But you might not want to put this on your master spell book - it destroys the thing its written on! An M-U two levels higher than the caster has a chance to detect and remove the runes, and I'm always a fan of this kind of thing.

ROPE TRICK: Isn't this 1st level in later editions? Anyway, it's third here, and I love it. Basically, it makes a rope stand upright, and if you climb to the top you'll enter a pocket dimension where you can hide. The rope can be removed, and this means that when whoever is inside the dimension tries to escape, they're due for a fall.

SUGGESTION: You can give orders to any affected creature. There's a 1% chance that a suicidal option will be followed, and this can be increased with careful wording. It's a different form of Charm Person, basically.

MONSTER SUMMONING I: Summons a group of monsters from the Level 1 table - so goblins, kobolds, giant rats, that sort of thing. Not so great in combat at this point, I feel, but having throwaway mooks is always handy for exploration.

FOURTH LEVEL

CHARM MONSTER: Like Charm Person, but it can affect non-humanoids. The higher the target's Hit Dice, the better chance it has of breaking the spell on its weekly check.

ICE STORM: The red-headed stepchild of offensive spells. With a flat 3-30 damage, it doesn't have the awesome scalability of a Fire Ball or Lightning Bolt. But it won't melt that dragon's treasure hoard either...

FEAR: This works like the Fear Wand from OD&D, making targets run away and possibly drop whatever they are holding.

MONSTER SUMMONING II: Summons monsters from the Level 2 table - hobgoblins, gnolls, etc.

EXTENSION I: The earliest form of metamagic, it increases the duration of a level 1-3 spell by half.

FIFTH LEVEL:

MONSTER SUMMONING III: Same as the others, you know it by now.

EXTENSION II: As the first version, but works for 4th level spells.

SIXTH LEVEL:

LEGEND LORE: This grants the caster knowledge of a legendary object, place, or person - but it can take from 1 to 100 days to cast! Also, the answer always comes in the form of a cryptic riddle or rhyme, which qualifies the spell for instant awesomeness. But potentially losing 100 days of time for a riddle that may or may not help you out? Harsh, Gary.

REPULSION: Causes objects moving towards the caster to move in the opposite direction - it would certainly be a good protection against missile weapons, as well as attackers.

MONSTER SUMMONING IV: Yep.

SEVENTH LEVEL

You know it's serious business when we're told straight off that all the spells from this point on have no saving throw unless otherwise indicated.

DELAYED BLAST FIRE BALL: Just like a Fire Ball, but it can be delayed for up to ten rounds. A nice tactical spell, but there's no gain in damage from the third level version.

REVERSE GRAVITY: Does what it says on the tin - everything in a 3" radius falls upwards. This could be a lot of fun from either side of the screen.

LIMITED WISH: This spell can alter reality past, present or future - but within limits. It's not as powerful as a regular wish, and it can't bring you treasure. Still, this is the most versatile spell in the game thus far.

POWER WORD - STUN: Ah, the power words - each one a damn fine spell. This one stuns a creature for a number of turns, with the duration depending upon their hit point total. It doesn't affect anything with over 70 hit points, but remember - no save, so this one will hurt.

PHASE DOOR: Creates an invisible door in a wall that only the caster can use. It works seven times, and only really powerful casters can dispell it. This one would be great for exploration and scouting, and for M-Us working by themselves, but not so great for larger parties.

CHARM PLANTS: Charms a number of plants that will obey the caster as long as it's within their ability. This one seems a bit weak - I'd have expected the plants to animate at the very least.

MASS INVISIBILITY: An invisibility spell that can work on 100-300 men. I can see this one coming in handy, especially in high level play.

SIMULACRUM: Creates a duplicate of whoever the caster wishes, but it requires a few other spells to animate, including Limited Wish, so it's no easy feat. It only has 30-60% of the knowledge of the original, unless the original dies, and then it can get to 90%. More of an Evil Mastermind spell, methinks, but a lot of the possibilities are nixed by the ease of telling clone and original apart.

MONSTER SUMMONING V and EXTENSION III: Like the previous versions.

EIGHTH LEVEL

MASS CHARM: A charm person that works on up to 30 hit dice of monsters, with saves at -2 - this could result in an M-U with some seriously nasty henchmen. A potential gamebreaker if the dice go awry - but those gamebreakers are half the fun of old-school D&D.

CLONE: With a piece of the victim's flesh, an exact duplicate can be grown. It has all the abilities of that character at the time the flesh was taken - so it's a useful back-up plan if your character gets disintegrated to leave some flesh behind for a henchmen to clone or something. If a clone and the original exist at the same time the clone will attempt to kill the original, or they will both go insane. I can get behind either option.

POWER WORD - BLIND: Blinds a creature with no save, so again the Power Words prove to be very effective.

SYMBOL: A rune inscribed on something, that if read has a specific effect chosen by the caster. The effects are Fear, Discord, Sleep, Stunning, Insanity, or Death. There's a whole lot of dungeon tricks and traps that can key off just this one spell.

PERMANENT SPELL: This spell makes other spells function permanently. Some examples given are Detect Magic, Read Magic, Levitate, Detect Evil, Haste, Fly, and Water Breathing. It's recommended, though, that a person be limited to two permanent spells upon themselves - so choose wisely! It's also really hard to Dispell this one - you need a total caster level of double the original caster.

MIND BLANK: Gives the caster immunity to pretty much all the scrying spells and objects, including things like Contact Higher Plane. Essential when some wizard or other is out to get you.

POLYMORPH ANY OBJECT: This can turn any object into any other object, but the duration is based on similarity. So you can turn a feather into a bird and it will be permanent, but turning a rock into a bird won't last as long. So there's a lot of DM fiat involved with this one.

MONSTER SUMMONING VI: Wanna summon a Balrog? This is your spell.

NINTH LEVEL

METEOR SWARM: Throws four 10-dice fire balls, or eight 5-dice fire balls. The premiere damage spell in the game. Gary's protests of "Jim!" throughout the entry suggest Jim Ward's involvement in this spell somewhere.

SHAPE CHANGE: The caster can become whatever he wants, and change as many times as he wants for the spell's duration - it's the ultimate polymorph spell.

TIME STOP: Freezes time in a 3" radius for every creature inside except the caster. It doesn't say whether the caster gets to then slit the throat of everything in sight, but logic says yes.

POWER WORD - KILL: Instantly kills any creature up to 50 hit points. And in OD&D, 50 hit points is a lot.

GATE: Opens a cosmic portal to summon some god-like being - the examples given are Odin, Crom, Set, Cthulhu, the Shining One, or a demi-god. The caster must name the being desired, and there's a 95% chance it will come. The 5% chance of something else coming through promises awesome times, though. There's also a 5% chance that whatever shows up will just bugger off again, which is pretty funny.

So we have our first named gods and god-like beings, and they're all from mythology or pulp sword & sorcery (although I don't know who the Shining One is). It establishes that the World of Greyhawk is either heavily tied to Earth or an alternate version of Earth. But it's awesome to have guys like Cthulhu and Odin in the campaign.

WISH: Does pretty much whatever the caster wants, so long as he words it carefully enough not to get screwed over. Also note that the caster can't cast spells for 2-8 days after - so use it wisely.

ASTRAL SPELL: Sends the caster's astral form out into the Astral Plane - which is the first of the Planes to get specifically named. The caster is invisible, and he can cast spells - but there's a chance that doing so will send him back to his material form. And get this - "If while the magic-user has left his body and is in the astral plane his body is moved beyond the spell range or destroyed the magic-user's astral form is immediately sent to jibber and shiek on the floor of the lowest hell".

Brilliant.

MAZE: Puts the target in an extradimensional maze, from which it takes them a number of rounds to escape. Smarter characters escape faster.

PRISMATIC WALL: Calls up a multi-coloured globe, with each colour having an effect on whoever passes through. Weak creatures that even look at the thing are blinded. Each colour has a specific spell that negates it. I'll run through them:

Red - negated by Ice Storm, blocks magic missiles, deals 12 damage
Orange - negated by Lightning, blocks normal missiles, deals 24 damage
Yellow - negated by Magic Missile, blocks breath weapons, deals 48 damage
Green - negated by Passwall, blocks location magic, save sv. poison or die
Blue - negated by Disintegrate, blocks cleric spells, turns to stone
Indigo - negated by Dispell Magic, creates a force field, crystalizes victims so that they are dead and irrecoverable.
Violet - negated by Continual Light, blocks unusual magic(?), drives victims permanently insane.

This spell is specifically said to apply well to Permanency. I've had a complete Rat Bastard DM trap in the back of my head that uses this one - stick one at the bottom of a pit, with a trampoline just underneath. The victim falls through once going down, gets bounced back up again, and falls again - passing through the wall at least 3 times. That'd screw most players I feel, but I'm too soft-hearted to ever use it.

MONSTER SUMMONING VII: Summons a level 7 monster, but since there isn't a table a few examples are given here: a Stone Golem, a group of Hell Hounds, a pack of Displacer Beasts, an Iron Golem, an Umber Hulk, a 10-Headed fire-breathing Hydra, a 15th level Thief, and a 20th level M-U Lich. There's some serious discrepency in power levels here - the Lich especially is obscenely powerful, possibly more so than the caster of the spell. Why anyone would pick the other options over him is a mystery to me (though the 15th level Thief would make a handy temporary scout or henchman).

Tomorrow I'll be going through the new Cleric spells (and there aren't nearly as many.

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