Monday, July 12, 2010

D&D Basic Set part 6

Thief Saving Throws: While I was going over the saving throw rules, I missed the changes relating to the Thief class. Originally, they had the same saving throw numbers as Magic-Users, but now they save as Fighters. This isn't a massive difference at the low levels the Holmes set operates on, but it's still a seemingly arbitrary alteration to the rules. Perhaps Holmes wanted to equate the two non-spellcasting classes with each other, which makes a certain amount of sense.


The list of spells provided here is the same as that from Supplement I, with three additions: dancing lights, enlargement and Tenser's floating disc are all new spells.

Charm Person: There are no changes here, and the saving throw frequency based on the victim's intelligence is incorporated from Supplement I.

Dancing Lights: This spell creates 1d6 floating balls of light. They follow instructions, and can also mimic the appearance of light sources carried by an adventuring party. It has a much shorter duration than light, but it's a little more versatile. This is the first appearance of this spell in the game, which makes me wonder if it got ported over from AD&D, which was in development around the time the Holmes boxed set was released.

Detect Magic: This one is exactly as written in the OD&D booklets, but it also includes the range and duration from Supplement I.

Enlargement: Like it says on the tin, this is a spell to make an object bigger. It doubles the size of non-living matter, and increases living matter by one-half. (I wonder, what would undead count as?) The spell specifically states that the spell can't be used to enhance any magic items; although they will get bigger, their magical properties will remain the same. This even goes for potions, which still require the whole thing to be imbibed before it will take effect. This is another brand new spell, again possibly cribbed from Gary's AD&D notes.

The main problem here is that there are no mechanical effects provided for when a character gets enlarged. How much stronger is he? Is he easier to hit? Able to inflict more damage? At this point it's left completely up to the DM.

Hold Portal: This spell is identical to that in the OD&D booklets, except that Holmes has given it a range of 10 feet.

Light: There is a major change to this spell from OD&D, in that Holmes has given the spell a range of 120 feet. Before this no range was given, and I would probably have ruled that it creates a light that hovers just over the caster's shoulder. But this gives it a whole lot more versatility. It's also clarified that the caster can turn the spell off before the maximum duration is reached. Whether this applies to other spells as well is left unclear. There's a line at the end regarding dismissing the spell that says "the caster would not be able to cast the spell again during that game". This could be interpreted a number of ways. I'm taking it as an erroneous reference to D&D's magic system, and say that the Magic-User can of course cast Light again that day provided he has another memorised.

Magic Missile: While this is much the same as the spell from Supplement I, Holmes has gone with a very idiosyncratic interpretation. The original spell says that it works just like a magic arrow. Holmes has taken this as literally as possible, and requires an attack roll for the spell to hit, whereas all later versions of the game have the spell striking automatically. This interpretation makes it a fairly weak spell at low levels, I think. A magic-user can already throw daggers for 1d6 damage, and the only advantage this spell grants is an extra +1 damage and a better range.

Protection from Evil: The basics of this spell are the same as in OD&D, but there's one big difference. In OD&D, this spell's bonuses did not stack with magic armour and rings of protection. In this version, it explicitly does stack with those items, making it much more useful. (Although, given that the spell can only benefit the caster, it's unlikely that magic armour will ever be a factor.)

There's also a clarification, in that OD&D had evil monsters suffering a -1 penalty to hit dice when attacking. Holmes has changed this to hit probability, a much more reasonable penalty. And the 'enchanted monsters' that the spell protects from are specifically said to include elementals, invisible stalkers and demons.

Finally, there's one more potential change. The spell has a range of 0, which the Read Languages entry says means that the caster can cast it on himself or someone he is touching. In OD&D the spell only affected the caster, and the text of the Holmes version supports that interpretation. I'm probably going to follow the text here.

Read Languages: The spell has now been given a duration of 2 turns, and it can also be cast on someone the caster is touching. This was unclear before, but it seemed that only the caster could be affected.

Read Magic: Again, the duration of this spell is clarified to 2 turns, when previously it had been set at 1 or 2 readings. The effect of this spell on scrolls is also clarified. The caster need only use Read Magic on a scroll once, and he can read it freely at any time thereafter.

Shield: It's exactly like the spell in Supplement I. Nothing to see here, move along.

Sleep: Here's a strange one. The spell is given a duration of 4-16 turns at the beginning of the entry, and later on in the body of the text it is said to put creatures to sleep for 2-8 turns. I'm frankly mystified as to which it might be, as all previous versions of the spell had nothing to say regarding its duration. I'm inclined to go with 2-8 turns.

Tenser's Floating Disc: This new spell creates a floating platform that will follow the caster, and can carry up to 5,000 gold pieces in weight. It's pretty nifty, but the duration is only 6 turns; it's hardly the optimum way to carry treasure around for a long period of time.

The spell was designed by the wizard Tenser, who was "always greedy for more treasure". Tenser was a prominent character in the original Greyhawk campaign, played by Gary's son Ernie Gygax. It's the first time the character's name has appeared in an official product. Of course, he'll be lurking around as an NPC in my campaign.

Ventriloquism: This is exactly as described in Supplement I, except that now the name is spelled correctly. Note to Gary: it's not Ventriliquism!

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