Thursday, September 15, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook Part 26: 2nd-Level Cleric Spells

AD&D has twelve cleric spells of 2nd level, as opposed to the six that OD&D had.  Five of the OD&D spells are included here, and remain at 2nd level; the sixth (bless) was changed to be 1st level, and was dealt with in the previous post.

There are seven all-new spells: augury, chant, detect charm, know alignment, resist fire, slow poison and spiritual hammer.

Augury: This is a divination spell that reveals whether an action in the near future will be helpful or harmful to the party.  It doesn't always work (the base chance for success is 70%, modified upwards by the caster's level).  This is a really useful spell, but its use is mitigated by some stringent material requirements: "a set of gem-inlaid sticks, dragon bones or similar tokens, or the wet leaves of an infusion, which remain in the container after the infused brew is consumed."  The latter sounds like a cup of tea, which fits the fortune-telling motif, and also seems a lot easier to get hold of than dragon bones or gem-inlaid sticks.  Alas, the tea method also requires a crushed pearl of 100gp value.  So while this is a great spell, it's one to save for special occasions.

Chant: This spell grants the cleric's allies within a 3" radius a +1 to hit, and his enemies a -1 to hit.  Sounds good so far, but the spell takes a full turn to cast, and only continues so long as the caster remains stationary and continues chanting.  To me the bonus doesn't seem strong enough to offset effectively taking a character out of the battle.  It's perhaps a good one for a lower-level cleric accompanying high-level PCs to cast, though I still think the bonuses/penalties are too small.

It's interesting that this is a conjuration/summoning spell.  Does this spell summon a sort of "luck spirit", or some other beneficent entity?

Detect Charm: Detects whether a creature is under the effect of a charm spell, and can be reversed to hide such detection.  I would have thought detect magic would do much the same, but obviously not or this spell would be useless.

Find Traps: Reveals any traps within a 3" radius, just as it did in OD&D.  The duration has been increased from 2 turns to 3 turns, and a stipulation has been added that the caster can only detect spells in the direction he's facing.

Hold Person: This spell was pretty vaguely defined in OD&D, where it was said to be "similar to a charm person but which is of both limited duration and stronger effect".  In AD&D, things are much more concrete: the spell paralyses up to 3 humanoid targets.  Duration is 4 rounds +1 per level (it was "9 turns" in OD&D, although OD&D's wonky use of turns made it unclear just how long that should be).  The range has been shortened from 18" to 6".  One aspect that has been kept is that the more targets you choose, the easier it is for them to make their saving throws.  The material component for this spell is an iron rod.

I would assume that this spell works much as Gary used it in his home campaign, but I wonder how many OD&D games back in the day had it working exactly like charm person?  And how many changed when AD&D came out?  No doubt there were some who stuck to their original interpretation.

Know Alignment: We've had detect evil in the game before, but this is much more effective: it reveals the exact alignment of up to 10 creatures.  I don't really care for this spell, but luckily for me I have players that never think to use it, and for when it's really important to obscure a character's alignment there's always the reverse of the spell.

Resist Fire: I'm surprised that this spell is making its debut here (although I could be wrong, my notes are getting harder and harder to keep straight).  It grants one creature immunity to heat up to boiling temperature  (presumably the boiling temperature of water, though it's not stated).  For hotter fires (magical and natural) they get a +3 bonus to save, and halve all damage.  A drop of mercury is the material component.  It's a staple, and I'm still a bit shocked that it took this long to appear.

Silence, 15' Radius: At first glance this spell appears the same as it was in OD&D, but there are quite a few differences.  In the OD&D version, the cleric could make himself and his party silent, or silence "some object or thing".  In that version, the 15' Radius seems to refer to the range at which the spell can be cast.  In AD&D, the spell is an area effect that silences everything within a 15' radius sphere.  The sphere can be stationary, or cast upon an object that can then be moved.  It can even be cast on a creature (who gets a save if unwilling), which gives the spell an entirely new function: neutralising spellcasters.  It's pretty much a new spell altogether, and I'm not sure which I like more.  The old one is simpler and more direct, but the latter is more versatile.

Slow Poison: OD&D had neutralize poison, but not this weaker version.  Slow poison makes the target resistant to the effects of any poison in its system for the duration of the spell: the target will take 1 point of damage per round, but can't be dropped below zero hit points.  The caster can even bring characters that were seemingly killed by poison back to life, at least until the spell wears off.  Poison is deadly in AD&D, and a lower-level means of blunting that is welcome.

The material component is a bud of garlic, which must be crushed and smeared on the victim's bare feet.  It's the small details that make a spell, sometimes.

Snake Charm: This spell can hypnotise a number of snakes whose total hit points is less than that of the cleric. The duration of the spell depends on the general demeanor of the snakes when the spell is cast: the more agitated they are, the shorter the duration. Note that this spell doesn't allow the caster to command the snakes, it simply causes them to cease all activity except for a swaying motion.

The OD&D version of the spell was different in that the caster could charm one Hit Dice worth of snake per caster level.  (In practice this is the same as the AD&D version, but the wording could be interpreted differently.)  The range in OD&D is double that in AD&D, and there was no change in duration based on the snakes' demeanor.  There was also nothing to say what the spell actually did, so it's not out of line to have this version of the spell work like a regular charm.  A cleric with a horde of poisonous snakes at his command could be a deadly thing.

Speak With Animals: Empowers the caster to speak with one animal, so long as the animal is not mindless (amoebas are ruled out explicitly).  The caster can ask questions, and even ask for favours, but the reaction depends on alignment on the good/evil axis.  If alignments of caster and animal are opposed, the animal and its associates won't attack as long as the spell lasts. If alignments match (or the animal is neutral), there's a chance the animal will perform a task for the caster.  The latter scenario is the most common, because the vast majority of animals in the Monster Manual are Neutral. There's a note at the end end stating outright that this spell only works on normal, non-fantastic creatures. Presumably this interpretation doesn't include humans, but there's always the grey area occupied by dinosaurs.  Are they considered normal, or fantastic?  I favour the latter, though there's really no logical reason they shouldn't be in the animal category.  This also raises the notion that there's a distinct difference between animals and the rest of the Monster Manual.  For whatever reason, "monsters" are different somehow, whether it be through magical creation or extraplanar origin.

As usual, this spell in OD&D has vaguer guidelines.  The general gist of the spell is the same, but everything is described in more general terms.  The major difference is that the duration is a flat 6 turns, rather than 2 rounds per caster level.

Spiritual Hammer: This spell's first appearance.  It creates a hammer made out of force that attacks enemies as long as the caster concentrates on it.  It attacks at the same level as the cleric, and does the same damage as a regular warhammer, so at first blush it seems a bit pointless.  It's main utility is in damaging creatures that can only be hit by magical weapons: for this purpose, the hammer is considered +1 for every three levels of the caster.  I suppose it could be useful for attacking enemies the cleric can't otherwise reach, as well.  It's one of those spells that I always think is really cool and useful, but am always disappointed by in practice.

(The damage here for the warhammer is a bit off - it's said to do 1-6 against man-sized foes, but in the equipment list a hammer does 2-5.  Just another in a long list of AD&D inconsistencies.)

2 comments:

Jonothan said...

The "infusion of crushed leaves" thing is part of Gary's proud tradition of making spell components a joke but disguising it behind erudition. And I wonder what the heck Gary was thinking when he wrote up OD&D Hold Person.

Nathan P. Mahney said...

Perhaps he thought that the name of the spell was explanation enough, which would have been a fair assumption on his part. I'm not sure what he was getting at in comparing it directly to Charm Person, though. I was going to suggest that maybe it was to give Elves a resistance to it, but then I remembered that Elves don't get resistance to charm in OD&D.