Sunday, September 25, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 27: 3rd-Level Cleric Spells

There are twelve third-level spells for clerics in the Player's Handbook.  Six of those were introduced in OD&D: continual light, cure disease, locate object, prayer, remove curse and speak with deadAnimate dead was in OD&D, but there it was a 5th-level magic-user spell, and not available to clerics at all.  Create food & water seems to be a combination of two OD&D spells: create water (which was 4th level) and create food (which was 5th level).  Cure blindness had been previously introduced as part of the Healer class in The Dragon #3.  Finally, there are two spells that are all-new in AD&D: feign death and glyph of warding.

Animate Dead: This spell allows the caster to animate the bodies or bones of humans as skeletons or zombies (one per caster level).  The spell does specify humans, not humanoids; by-the-book, you can't use this spell to create dwarf skeletons or orc zombies or whatever.  The undead created obey the caster's commands, and last until they're either destroyed or dispelled.  This raises the obvious question: can any skeletons or zombies be dispelled using dispel magic?  Are all skeletons and zombies the result of an animate dead spell, or are there some that originate in different ways?  The Monster Manual says that they're both magically animated corpses under the command of the one who animated them, so it looks as though animate dead is the canonical explanation for all of them.  Given that it's not mentioned as a specific weakness in the Monster Manual, I'd rule against destroying them with dispel magic.

The main difference between this spell and the OD&D version is the number of undead created.  Clerics in AD&D create one undead per caster level, whereas OD&D magic-users (that class being the only one with the spell available to them) could create 1d6 undead for every level over 8th.  So while AD&D casters do better in the short term, OD&D casters break even around 11th level and surge ahead from there.

Continual Light: Creates a light that lasts forever (or until dispelled).  It can be cast in the air, attached to an object, or cast at a creature, and in the latter case it will blind the target on a failed save.  It can be reversed to cause "complete absence of light".

The main difference between this version of the spell and the one in OD&D is the area of effect: OD&D had a diameter of 24", while AD&D has a diameter of 12".  (In my initial reading of the AD&D spell, I had thought that the spell created a globe of light 6 inches in radius, but obviously it's supposed to be game inches representing tens-of-feet: that's how far the light extends rather than the size of the globe itself.)

The blinding effect is a useful one, especially given the spell's permanent duration.  It's about on par with the 2nd-level Illusionist spell blindness, which is fine.  What's not fine is that it far outstrips the reverse of cure blindness (cause blindness, which I'll detail below).

Create Food & Water: This spell creates "one cubic foot" of food and/or water per caster level.  It's odd that the spell is measured in cubic feet (I'm picturing a perfectly square block of ham), but it's done as a way to split between the creation of food and water.  A second level caster, for example, could create two cubic feet of food, two of water, or one of each.  Each cubic foot provides enough to nourish three people, or one horse.  It seems overly complicated, but I can just about do it in my head.

What's not specified is the type of food that appears, so I'd rule that the caster can create whatever the hell he wants.

This spell is a combination of the OD&D spells create water (4th level) and create food (5th level).  Both of those spells created enough to sustain a dozen men for a day, and doubled for every level the Cleric attained over 8th.  Obviously the AD&D version is more versatile, but it doesn't scale up as ridiculously as the two OD&D spells did.

The 1st-level AD&D spell create water should also be noted.  That spell makes 4 gallons of water per caster level, which to my eye seems more than create food & water (4 gallons would be more than enough for three people for a day).  That's as it should be - specialised spells should be more effective than versatile ones.

Cure Blindness: Permanently cures "most forms" of blindness. (Nice and vague there.)  The spell can be reversed as cause blindness, but that spell has some problems.  Notably, it's not as good as using continual light for the same effect, because continual light works at range while cause blindness is a touch spell.  Otherwise they're identical, but being able to blind someone from 120 feet away is a lot more useful.

The original version of this spell was introduced with the Healer class in The Dragon #7. That version was able to cure blindness of any sort, but wasn't reversible.

Cure Disease: This spell will cure most diseases with a touch.  I'm surprised to note that the cure doesn't take effect immediately; it can take anywhere from 1 turn to 1 week to heal the target, depending on the severity and advancement of the disease.  I've always played it as instantaneous.

The spell can be reversed as cause disease, which causes the target to lose 1 hp per turn and 1 point of Strength per hour, until both are at 10%.

The OD&D version of the spell cured "any form of disease", and that was pretty much the entirety of the spell description.  It was reversible, but the effect of that wasn't given (though one could use the disease rules from Supplement II).

Dispel Magic: Negates various magical effects within a 3" cube.  It will destroy potions, remove spells cast on creatures or items, and counter any spell-casting done within the area of effect.  It has no effect on any magic items other than potions.  The spell starts with a base 50% chance of success, with the chance going up if the magic to be dispelled is lower level than the caster, and going down if it is higher.  It's said to be very effective against charmed creatures (though nothing mechanical is given), and it will automatically dispel the caster's own spells.

The OD&D version of the spell was for magic-users only, and was written as dispell magic.  It had a range of 24", as opposed to 6" in AD&D.  It also had a duration of 1 turn, whereas in AD&D the duration is "permanent".  That "permanent" duration is curious.  No doubt it refers to the magic being dispelled permanently, but it makes me wonder how long that 3" cube stays in effect?  I'd rule it as an instantaneous flash that dispels the magic within it, then disappears.

The other big difference between the OD&D and AD&D versions of the spell is the formula used to determine the spell's success.  AD&D starts at 50%, modified up or down based on the strength of the magic to be dispelled.  OD&D uses a ratio of the dispeller over the original spell.  If I'm doing the math correctly, it seems that lower-level casters have a better chance to dispel high-level magic in AD&D; magic of equal level will be dispelled 50% of the time in AD&D, and 100% of the time in OD&D; obviously, higher-level casters automatically succeed in OD&D, while it's a more gradual scale in AD&D.  The spell was a lot more effective in OD&D.

Feign Death: This spell, making its first appearance here, puts the target into a "cataleptic state" that makes him appear to be dead.  The target is fully aware, and can still smell and hear, but he can't see or feel anything.  Any damage inflicted on the body is halved (which makes me wonder just how much hit point damage is based on pain), and the target is immune to paralysis and level drain (I guess he's protected by the spell's necromantic energy?).  Poison will take effect once the spell wears off.

The spell can be ended by the caster at any time, but otherwise lasts for 1 turn + 1 round/level.  I wonder, can the target get up at any point, or is he immobile until the spell ends?  I was starting to think that this could be a very potent offensive spell, as it grants no saving throw, but then I noticed that it only works on willing recipients.

The material component is a pinch of graveyard dust.

Glyph of Warding: Another new spell.  This one is used to protect an area from trespassers.  The cleric inscribes a glyph that wards an area of 25 square feet per level.  The glyph takes effect when touched or crossed, unless the name of the glyph is spoken first.  A few sample glyphs are suggested: one that deals 2 points of electrical damage per caster level (seems a bit weak), another that deals fire damage, and ones that cause paralysis, blindness or energy drain.  The last one is said to be available only to high-level clerics, but there's no concrete number given.  (I expect this spell will be greatly expanded on in the Dungeon Master's Guide.)

If the warded area is over 50 square feet, the caster will need 2,000gp worth of powdered diamond.  Otherwise all you need is a bit of incense.

Locate Object: Lets the caster know if the desired object is present, as long as he's facing it and it's within range.  The object must be "known or familiar", which is a pretty vague restriction, and it also can't be a living creature.

The reverse of the spell, obscure object, protects an item from location by any spell.

Oddly, this spell was better explained in OD&D, where it says that specific items to be located (such as magic items) require knowledge of exact details such as colour and shape, while more general items like stairs can be located without such knowledge.  The cleric version of the spell had a range of 9" + 1"/level in OD&D, but in AD&D it's been brought back in line with the magic-user version, and has a duration of 6" +1"/level.

Prayer: This is like the 2nd-level chant spell, in that it grants allies +1 to attacks and saving throws, while making enemies suffer -1 penalties.  The difference is that it takes much less time to cast, and the cleric can take other actions while the spell is in effect.  It's a far, far superior spell and makes chant almost completely worthless.

The OD&D version of prayer was a completely different spell: it lowered enemy saving throws by 1 point for every ten levels of the caster.  The AD&D version seems much more useful.

Remove Curse: Removes any curse from a person, place or object.  It doesn't destroy cursed weapons or armour, although it does allow a character affected by such an item to rid himself of it.

The reverse is bestow curse, which lasts for 1 turn/level, and will have one of the following effects: reduce an ability score to 3; afflict a -4 penalty to attack rolls and saving throws; or make the victim 50% likely to drop whatever he's holding (presumably this happens throughout the duration rather than just once, otherwise it's a super-weak curse).  There's leeway given for clerics to devise their own curses as well, so long as they're of similar power.

The OD&D version of the spell was similar, but it was able to turn cursed weapons and armour back to normal.  It also wasn't reversible.

Speak With the Dead: Allows the caster to ask questions of any dead creature, and receive answers according to that dead creature's knowledge.  Higher level casters can ask more questions, and are able to successfully cast the spell on creatures that have been dead for longer.  Clerics of level 21+ can question creatures that have been dead for 1,000 years, which sounds good, but could run into some language difficulties given that caster and target must be able to speak the same tongue.

The OD&D version of the spell was, as is usual, quite a bit simpler.  The caster was able to ask three questions, regardless of caster level.  Level was a factor in speaking with creatures dead for longer periods of time, though: clerics up to 7th level could talk to those dead for 1-4 days, those up to 14th level could speak to those dead for 1-4 months, and clerics over 20th level had no limit at all.  AD&D uses a table to break these into smaller categories, and also limits it to 1,000 years maximum.  The OD&D spell ends by suggesting that the dead creature answer in the form of a riddle, which AD&D dispenses with.

Friday, September 16, 2016

El Raja Key DVD Archive

I'm a frequent lurker around the various old-school D&D blogs, message boards and forums, so I was quite surprised that a project like this slipped past me: Rob Kuntz (you know, the co-DM of Greyhawk through much of the 1970s) is putting out an archival DVD with scans of a whole bunch of his work from the last four decades.  I'm kind of shocked that this isn't generating more excitement.

If I'm reading things correctly, it's going to include the entirety of his El Raja Key dungeons (the ones Gary played through using Mordenkainen), as well as a bunch of Rob's levels that were used as part of Castle Greyhawk.  It looks like they're going to be mostly untouched, as well - this isn't a Castle Zagyg situation, where the material is being extensively reworked for modern consumption.  This is the work, as it was, and as I want to see it.

Honestly, I'm super-stoked about this.  I'm fascinated by the earliest history of the game, and any glimpse at Gary and Rob's work from those days is something I really geek out over.  I'll be all over this when it gets released, despite the hefty price (about a hundred bucks US, but for over 1,000 image files of proper D&D history I'll fork out for it).

The best part is that it's supposed to be out within the next week.  Now, I know, it's Rob Kuntz, and timeliness has never been his strongest of suits.  But to me it appears as though most of the work is done.  If he says a week, surely even he can't mean more than six months, and I can wait that long.  (EDIT: I was being a jerk here.  If you're reading this post, ignore what I said and head over to (, because the Archive has been released.)

His blog is over here:  Check it out if you have the same interest in D&D history that I do.

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.)