Men & Magic
EXPLANATION OF SPELLS (continued)
“Levitate:”The notion of using this spell to save oneself from damage due to a fall brings up concerns in regard to Casting Time. I’d allow it, provided the caster’s Dexterity indicated some level of superior manual/conjuration speed; or I’d judge a roll with the dice was in order.
“Phantasmal Forces: …the illusion will continue unless touched by some living creature…Damage caused to viewers of a Phantasmal Force will be real if the illusion is believed to be real.”Illusions are nearly always tricky business. How does an illusion cause damage if it is dispelled upon touching a living creature? How is belief determined? By a Saving Throw? Is such a Saving Throw automatic, or does the target have to decide to stop and attempt to see through the illusion before being allowed a Saving Throw? Have fun with this one, referees.
“Invisibility: Range 24” ”Yes, in this version you can turn things invisible from 240 feet away! Whether they like it or not, I suppose. Long time players of D&D know the limitations of being invisible, and it is important to remember that this spell is not as powerful as it might at first seem. It is still a useful, iconic spell in the D&D repertoire.
“ESP: A spell which allows the user to detect thoughts (if any) of whatever lurks behind doors or in the darkness.”I’m not sure this if this is exactly how the AD&D version worked, or was intended to function, so I’ll be right back after a quick check of the PHB…OK, it’s somewhat similar, but seems less useful. I never read AD&D ESP in the way I read this version; as a scanning ability to avoid surprise. This version lasts much longer, so could see real use as a dungeon early warning system. I like it.
“Hold Person: A spell similar to a Charm Person but which is of limited duration and greater effect.”I don’t see how exactly this spell is better than Charm Person, except that it will potentially effect 1-4 targets, and can be used on a single target to force a saving throw at -2. It’s a spell which is just asking for clarification. Does it cause paralysis? Mental enthrallment? Bedazzlement and Bewilderment? Are targets simply ‘rooted’ in place, or are they incapacitated? For this spell to be of greater effect than Charm Person, I’d say the targets are incapacitated and unable to act for the duration of the spell, even if attacked.
“Dispell Magic: Unless countered, this spell will be effective in dispelling enchantments of most kinds (referee’s option)…Duration: 1 turn.”Wait, what? Does this mean that Dispell Magic is more of a delay or cessation of magic? Does this spell ‘turn off’ magic for 1 turn? Ugh. It clearly states it is not effective against magical items. And what is this ‘countered’ business? There are no ‘counter spells’ in D&D as I have come to understand the term (a reactionary anti-spell cast to foil another caster’s spell). I almost wish I hadn’t read this spell now. It has duration 1 turn and range 120 feet, is ineffective against magic items, and may be ‘countered’. OK, got it. Next…
“Fire Ball: A missile which springs from the finger of the Magic-User. It explodes with a burst radius of 2”…A 6th level magic-User throws a 6-die missile, a 7th a 7-die missile, and so on. Duration: 1 turn. Range: 24”.”Ah, now something even I can understand, the most iconic Magic-User spell of all time, the deadly Fire Ball. Make sure you know the difference between radius and diameter before you cast this one. The normal 1d6/level of Magic-User in damage, pretty much what I remember. BUT, as noted before in part 12, there is no mention here of a saving throw for one-half damage. I’m allowing the precedence of that table to define how this spell is handled (and yes how later editions also handled Fire Ball) in my own games. Save for one-half damage. Oh, and duration 1 turn. Either I ignore that duration, use the white-out on it, or assume it is intentional. Surely the Fire Ball does not ‘burn’ for 10 minutes. I can only assume, if pressed for an answer, that this spell may be prepared and cast, and then loosed at anytime over the next turn. In that regard, it is like a Magic-User is holding a hand grenade with the pin pulled. If he is slain, that Fire Ball is going off, right at his feet.
“Lightning Bolt:”Similar to Fire Ball, but no ‘duration‘, thankfully. Again, I’ll use the wand/staff/dragon breath precedence established in the saving throws section, and allow saves for one-half damage. I could possibly be talked into allowing Fire Ball and Lightning Bolt to have no saving throw, since none is indicated in this volume, but the one doing the talking would have to make a great argument as to why the spells behave differently than the ones from wands or staves.
“Slow Spell: …effects up to 24 creatures in a maximum area of 6” x 12”.”
“Haste Spell: …exactly the opposite of a Slow Spell in effect, but otherwise like it. Note that it will counter its opposite and vice-versa.”It seems fairly simple to assume that the AD&D treatment is the way most players would define these two spells. These are inexorably linked at the waist since 1974, throughout the history of the game. My old D&D buddies used to debate which was better, and Haste was normally considered slightly better, but only if you ignored the whole aging thing…but from this perspective, and trying to forget about AD&D, what exactly do these two spells do? Slow Spell slows, and Haste Spell hastens, but to what extent and measure? They counter one another, so the decreases and increases in speed are relative. In other words, if affected by Slow Spell, and then Haste Spell, you would not be hastened, you will have returned to normal. This is not a matter of one spell ‘replacing’ the other, it is a matter of them actually countering, presumably even if the durations overlap. So we do gain some insight into Gygax and Arneson’s meaning when they say ‘counter’; that certain spells do not replace or supplement, but nullify one another (so what counters Dispell Magic?). Clearly the simplest formula to rely on is that a Slow Spell reduces movement (and perhaps actions) by 50%, while Haste Spell increases movement (and perhaps actions) by 100%. Some referees might simply allow these two spells to affect movement, others will allow one-half or double normal attacks as well as movement. I prefer the latter, even understanding D&D’s abstract nature it just makes sense to me.
~Sham, Quixotic Referee