Tuesday, November 25, 2008

D&D Cover to Cover, part 15

Being a series of articles in which the author reads the indelible words of Gygax and Arneson as presented the Original Collector's Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, published by Tactical Studies Rules. Beginning with Men & Magic, and concluding with The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures, the author will consider those earliest passages, adding elucidations and interpretations along the way for your consideration.

Men & Magic
EXPLANATION OF SPELLS (continued)

Magic-Users:
2nd Level
“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.

“Magic-Users:
3rd Level”
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

15 comments:

sirlarkins said...

And what is this ‘countered’ business?

Hmmm. Considering the Haste/Slow definition of "countering," I'd assume that Dispell Magic was "countered" by other Dispell Magic spells operating in the area at the time of casting. Which would imply that the spell does indeed create a sort of anti-magic zone after it is cast...within the range of 120 feet, I guess?

Will Douglas said...

“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.



It seems this was much more likely intended to be cast on objects than on people. See also the earlier spell, "See Invisible (Objects)". A great way to hide treasure!



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.

It wouldn't burn for ten minutes; it would burn for one minute. You must keep in mind the difference between a move turn and a melee turn (which was not officially called a "melee round" until AD&D).

There's also the move turn in the outdoors, which is one day (see Volume III).

So, depending on the context, a turn is either one minute (melee), ten minutes (dungeon exploration), or one day (outdoor exploration).


Gotta say, Sham, I love this series. So much good stuff here! Keep up the good work.

Wayne Rossi said...

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 have to say, your read-through is really great for coming up with ideas for house rules that flow naturally from the OD&D rules in all their peculiarities. Yesterday I came up with a whole bunch of kinds of death ray; today it's a simple system for counter-spells. Great fun!

Sham aka Dave said...

David: Yeah, I'm still puzzled over Dispell Magic. Although the usage of 'turn' might make more sense after Will's comments.

Will: Good take on Invisibility, as it does read 'person or thing'.

Keep in mind I am reading from the OCE (6th) printing. Vol. 3, p. 8 states that there are 'ten rounds of combat per turn'. A move/turn having been defined earlier on that same page as 'approximately ten minutes', and that 'two moves constitute a turn'.

It's possible that this info is another example of amended text between OD&D versions, and that the authors didn't bother to change the usage of the term 'turn' in other areas (like spells).

That makes sense. What printing do you have, Will? Oh, and thanks for the comments!

Wayne: Thanks! My intent was almost to read it as if I had never played D&D before, nor read any other TSR material. That notion didn't last very long, but I still hope to pull out a few nuggets of potential home-brewing here and there.

Will Douglas said...

I have the 6th printing, the good old "OCE".

I just inferred the usage of the word turn, both from the text and from common everyday usage (i.e.; "Okay, that's it for the bad guys. It's your turn!")

I could have sworn I've seen the phrase "melee turn" in D&D somewhere, but I just did a search on my PDF and didn't find it. It's entirely possible I just believe that that's the way it works, based on having played so much AD&D before coming to D&D.

Actually, I just now found it in Greyhawk, six times. In one instance, in the description of the Delayed Blast Fireball, it specifically states that the blast can be delayed "...up to 10 melee turns (or one movement turn)."

So that's where I was getting it from.

Rod said...

Having read the de Camp/Stasheff "Compleat Enchanter" stories, I think Phantasmal Force was probably inspired by the way magic worked in the Kalevala-based "Wall of Snakes", where enchantments were deadly unless you saw through them, in which case they became harmless. I'd love to hear an actual example of how Phantasmal Force was used back then, to see if my hunch is right.

Snorri said...

I wonder know until which point wizards rules from Chainmail still apply to Od&d. It might gives a good basis for counterspells. I use it like this on my french version.

Sham aka Dave said...

Will: Yeah, I think you're right in that turns was used thusly ("It's your turn") and the move/turn was the 10 minute period consisting of 'two moves' in non-combat. This brings forth the question of spell durations for other castings, though...do they refer to turns (aka melee turns) or move/turns? If you look at spells like Levitate or Fly, which give move rates per turn, that might help discern the rest of the spell durations. Looks like we've hit on a topic worth exploring further.

Rod: Yes, that's my take on it as well. I'm reminded of Shea and Chalmers in The Roaring Trumpet, when Shea saw through the illusion on Jormungandr by accidentally having mead spilled in his eyes.

Snorri: You're right, good point. I hadn't thought to look back at Chainmail, but Counter-spells are indeed in the rules, right on p. 31. Good find!

Will Douglas said...

I think for spell duration you can ask yourself one simple question: Is this a spell to be used in combat, or not?

Yes means "turns" are what we think of as rounds. No means regular 10-minute turns.

That's how I do it anyway.

Sham aka Dave said...

Will: I actually came to the same conclusion after my last comment; if a spell is clearly a non-melee spell (ESP, Light), or designed for movement (Levitate, Fly), duration is expressed in move/turns; combat spells (Hold Person, Fire Ball, Confusion) are expressed in melee turns instead.

It's as if measurement of time in the game automatically shrinks to melee turns during comabt, but is otherwise measured in move/turns.

Will Douglas said...

It's as if measurement of time in the game automatically shrinks to melee turns during comabt, but is otherwise measured in move/turns.

Exactly.

Glad I could contribute to your discussion.

tussock said...

Countering is detailed in chainmail, 7+ on 2d6 for a stronger wizard, 8+, 9+, 10+, or 11+ if lower level (for the five "levels" of chainmail wizard, at 2, 6, 8, 9, and 11th level D&D equivalents by name). It uses the whole turn for the countering wizard.

Oh, and chainmail's haste/slowness only modifies movement, +50%/-50%. When it says they counter the other, I think it's just a more reliable method for weaker wizards to negate the opposed spell in question. 5+ rather than 9+, or thereabouts.


Chainmail wizards are totally awesome, by the way. Fireball and Lightning-bolt at will, and other spells that change the whole battlefield.

Sham aka Dave said...

Will: This is the fantastic side-effect of my ramblings here; I'm learning a lot from others as well as from actually reading these volumes. Thanks!

tussock: Yeah, the Chainmail Wizards are bad-ass. And I too like the counter-spell system in Chainmail.

The Slow/Haste thing is a result of all my 1e days. Part of that passage doesn't make sense (my own comments, I mean). The two simply counter one another, not by reacting together to bring the target back to normal, just by countering. The movement only bit makes sense, and I do think that perhaps it was always move only until 1e included attacks (or did it?). That's how we played it in 1e, anyway.

Skydyr said...

As regards the turn, my copy specifies rounds of combat in at least one place in Vol. III. Because many of the spells seem oriented towards utility rather than combat, I suspect that spells were not really intended to be cast in combat in most situations. With their increased fighting ability, magic-users would have been able to enter melee as well, though they would need support against many opponents, of course.

As regards Hold Person and Charm, I think that charm does exactly what it says, puts the target 'under the influence' so that they can be suggested to do things, but with strong limitations on what they will actually do. Kill your friends wouldn't fly here, but you could probably tell them you were friendly and have them listen pretty easily, to have them halt combat. I'd like to check Chainmail to see exactly what the spells do there, if they are included.

Grac said...

“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.


I read this to mean that Hold Person functions identically to Charm Person (that is, the victim is under the caster's control, is charmed), with the difference that this has a duration, can affect multiple victims, or one victim who recieves a penalty to the save.