Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: Men & Magic Part 5

Today I tackle Cleric spells, and the remainder of OD&D Volume 1.

Cleric Spells

1st Level:
Includes Cure Light Wounds, Purify Food & Water, Detect Magic, Detect Evil, Protection From Evil and Light.

Cure Light Wounds is the staple Cleric spell, and in many ways the spell that justifies their very existence and defines their role in the game. It heals 1d6+1 points of damage, and is one of the few reliable ways to get your hit points back quickly. Essential on every single quest/expedition. Evil clerics cast a reversed version of this spell, that presumably damages the target. It's hard to say exactly, because the evil versions of cleric spells aren't defined at all. The idea is a great one, though. I do wonder if it means that evil Clerics can't cast the Cure version at all? I say yes - evil Clerics get the reversed version and no other.

Purify Food & Water makes spoiled or poisoned food and water edible/drinkable. Handy, but I've never seen it used before. Perhaps in games where the DM pays more attention to food sources? Evil clerics cast a version that despoils instead.

Detect Magic is the same as the M-U version - it lets you know when something is magical.

Detect Evil: is also the same as the M-U version, only it lasts longer and has a better range. I like that Clerics are more effective than M-Us with these kinds of spells - it gives them just a bit more of a distinct flavor. Evil clerics detect good instead.

Protection From Evil is once again the same as the M-U spell, but it lasts longer. Evil clerics cast protection from good.

Light: As above. Evil clerics cast darkness instead.

2nd Level: This short list contains Find Traps, Hold Person, Bless, and Speak With Animals.

Find Traps is the spell that makes the Thief class mostly obsolete (and before it even exists!). It detects all traps within 30 feet. Indispensable, but I've NEVER seen it used. Baffling.

Hold Person is the same as the M-U version, here a variation on Charm Person as discussed in the last post. The Cleric version lasts longer than the M-U one.

Bless is a spell whereby a cleric can bless characters while they're not in combat, giving them a +1 bonus to morale and attack rolls. Evil clerics give out penalties instead, though I suppose they must be able to do so in combat or it's not much use. The original buff spell!

Speak With Animals. Ah, talking to animals - DMs I know usually use the 'different mindset' of animals to give away no useful information. Still, it's handy to stop bears and wolves and such attacking you.

3rd Level: Not quite the powerhouse level it is for M-Us - it has Remove Curse, Cure Disease, Locate Object, and Continual Light.

Remove Curse is exactly like the M-U spell, it does what it says it does.

Cure Disease rids characters of disease, which is ultra-handy in OD&D - this game seems to be rife with things like Mummy Rot that hose your characters. Evil clerics, of course, cause disease with this spell.

Locate Object is the same as the M-U spell. I've never seen it used, but for when you're looking for a specific thing in a megadungeon it would be the business.

Continual Light is also the same as the M-U spell, making a light that never runs out. Unlike the M-U spell, it's the equivalent of daylight, which makes it useful against goblins and such, and an instant vampire-killer. Evil clerics instead summon an eternal darkness - useful in its own way, and way cooler.

4th Level: Includes Neutralize Poison, Cure Serious Wounds, Protection from Evil 10' Radius, Turn Sticks to Snakes, Speak With Plants, and Create Water.

Neutralize Poison counters poison, but it don't do much if you're already dead. (Funny, my Curse of the Azure Bonds characters say different...)

Cure Serious Wounds is just like Cure Light Wounds, but it heals twice as much. It seems underpowered, but then again I'm not used to the power scale of OD&D. It might be ok. Evil clerics use this spell to deal damage.

Protection from Evil 10' Radius is the same as the M-U spell. Evil clerics protect from good.

Turn Sticks to Snakes. Man, I love this one. And with a 50/50 chance that the 2-16 snakes created will be poisonous? It's lethality potential is pretty high. Criminally overlooked, I think.

Speak with Plants lets you talk to the trees, and command them to do stuff. Useful if you need that sort of thing, I guess.

Create Water makes water. This seems like the sort of spell I'd put at 1st level, but Gary obviously values the wet stuff more highly than I do. Surely by 4th level Create Beer would be more appropriate?

5th Level: We got Dispell Evil, Raise Dead, Commune, Quest, Insect Plague, and Create Food. For Clerics in OD&D, this is as good as it gets.

Dispell Evil lets the caster dismiss any 'evil sending' or spell in range. Presumably this includes summoned monsters and such? Note the spelling - it's not a typo, that's how they spell the word in OD&D. Evil clerics Dispell Good.

Raise Dead brings back the dead. But in a sign of Gygax's hobbit-contempt, this spell works with men, elves and dwarves only! So not only are Hobbit PCs restricted to a maximum of 4th level, if they die THAT'S IT. This presents me with a problem, as in later editions it is Elves that can't be raised. 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.

Any character raised has to rest for 2 weeks, which is one of those unfathomable artifacts of the old game that would never fly today. Can't wait to spring it on my players.

Commune is a spell that puts the Cleric in touch with "powers above" who will answer questions. They aren't specified, but they could be gods or they could be forces of Law or Chaos. They're much more benevolent than whatever Magic-Users contact, as there is no chance of insanity.

Quest is the Cleric version of Geas - only instead of death for failure the target is cursed with whatever the caster desires.

Insect Plague summons insects that blind, and rout weaker creatures, but it's only useful aboveground. A bit weak for the level.

Create Food allows the Cleric to summon food. Much like Create Water, this is massively out of whack with the other spells of its level.

So that's the Cleric spell list. It's interesting to note that they have very few offensive spells at all - the closest they get are Sticks to Snakes and Hold Person. Mind you, the evil clerics get a few decent ones. But its refreshing to see the class before it became ridiculously overpowered.

Anti-Clerics: These are the evil clerics mentioned in many spells above. They get their own level titles - Evil Lama may just be the coolest ever. But best of all, they get the Finger of Death. It's a reversed Raise Dead, but so complete is its awesomeness that it needs its own entry. It's straight Save or Die. Regular clerics can use it in life-or-death situations, but if they misuse it it's a quick trip to an alignment-change.

Magical Research: These are hard and fast rules for Clerics and Magic-Users to create new spells. The prices are high, and so is the time requirement. There even a chance you'll fail and blow all your cash, but thankfully there's an option to throw more money at the problem to guarantee success.

Spell Books: In a big departure from later editions, casters are assumed to have spell books with all the listed spells. It only costs money for duplicates. Not only that, but it seems that Clerics need spell books as well. Or 'prayer books' as I'll be calling them. I like it.

Well, that's Vol. 1 done. Onward to Vol 2 tomorrow - Monsters and Treasure. Man, I loves me some monsters...


  1. Great stuff in these articles!

    Cure Light Wounds is the staple Cleric spell, and in many ways the spell that justifies their very existence and defines their role in the game.

    I consider Turn Undead to be the lynchpin cleric ability, especially in editions where the poor buggers get no spell at first level. That's why I always try to remember to include some skeletons and zombies in the first adventure of any campaign.

  2. Actually, that's a really good point. It's been so long since I've actually played D&D where Clerics don't get spells at first level that I didn't consider it. It doesn't help that Turning ndead is kind of shunted to the middle of the book nowhere near the Cleric description.