Wednesday, November 26, 2008

D&D Cover to Cover, part 16

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

4th Level”
Polymorph Self: A spell allowing the user to take the shape of anything he desires…Duration: 6 turns + the level of the Magic-User…”
I’m certain the authors intended this to read “any living thing” and not “anything”.

Polymorph Others: …lasts until it is dispelled…a troll polymorphed into a snail would have innate resistance to being stepped on and crushed by a normal man.”
A potentially much more powerful Polymorph, as the target gains the abilities of the new form, while retaining the relative power or innate abilities of the original form. This one lasts until it is dispelled, and does allow a saving throw to avoid the magic, as it has a column on the SAVING THROW MATRIX.

Remove Curse: A spell to remove any one curse or evil sending. Note that using this spell on a “cursed sword”, for example, would make the weapon an ordinary sword…”
I’m not sure what an “evil sending” is, but I assume it’s not a lot of fun if it’s following you around. I like the fact that this spell will essentially cleanse a cursed item, rendering it non-enchanted.

This spell is very aptly named, being not only the longest and most involved spell description thus far, but being almost AD&D-ish in it’s implementation. That said, it’s a fun and interesting spell. Too much to quote here, but take my word for it.

Charm Monster: If animals or creatures with three or fewer hit dice are involved determine how many are effected by the spell by rolling three six-sided dice.”
Based on this text, and using Sleep and Charm Person as previous guides, I would assume that this means those targets with three or fewer hit dice do not receive a saving throw. Those single targets of four hit dice or greater do, the primary difference being that unlike Charm Person, this spell can potentially charm any monster.

5th Level”
Contact Higher Plane: This spell allows the magical-type to seek advice and gain knowledge from creatures inhabiting higher planes of existence (the referee).”
Truer words were never spoken (written).

Cloudkill: …poisonous cloud of vapor which is deadly to all creatures with less than five hit dice.”
Targets under five hit dice: save vs. poison or die, others are immune to the gas.

Feeblemind: …it causes the recipient to become feebleminded until the spell is countered with a Dispell Magic.”
Not a great deal of detail here. Feeblemind only effects other Magic-Users, and the spell doesn’t go into describing what having a feeble mind actually means. Since it’s purpose appears to be to nullify an enemy Magic-User’s offensive repertoire, I’d rule that it makes the target forget all spells, and be unable to use any magic items or memorize any spells until the Feeblemind is Dispelled. If it did anything more than that Feeblemind could potentially have uses against other classes as well. It specifically wrecks a Magic-User’s ability to cast spells.

6th Level”
Anti-Magic Shell: A field which surrounds the Magic-User and makes him totally impervious to all spells. It also prevents any spells from being sent through the shell by the Magic-User who conjured it.”
This spell does not create a field or zone of magic deadening nor dampening. It brings into existence a shell that stops all spells which come into contact with it, from within or without. It does not Dispell enchantments it comes into contact with, nor does it have any effect upon magic items, excepting those items which create spell like powers which would likewise be prevented from passing through the shell.

Death Spell: An incantation which kills from 2-16 creatures with fewer than seven hit dice.”
Based on previous spells like Sleep, Charm Monster and even Cloudkill, I’d rule that there is no saving throw against Death Spell. Sleep and Charm Monster are very specific in that they allow you to roll dice to see how many creatures are effected. Cloudkill, which allows a saving throw (in my opinion), gives a hit dice range, and proclaims that the gas is ‘deadly’, but does not give any set numbers or dice to roll to see how effective the spell is.

Geas: Duration: Until the task is completed.”
Interestingly, unlike other ‘enchantments’ which might have a duration of ‘until Dispelled’, Geas is specific in it’s duration. There is no mention of a saving throw, and Geas has a range of 3”. Geas has lots of possibilities, and I’d have to ruminate on its intricacies once a PC actually had access to it.

Move Earth: …move prominences such as hills or ridges…at a rate of 6" per turn. Duration 6 turns.”
Control Weather: …the following weather control operations…Tornado, Stop Tornado…”
The above two spells demonstrate how a Wizard (12th level) is truly a campaign force to reckon with, capable of moving the very earth or summoning up a tornado. A 12-die Fire Ball pales in comparison to a tornado or a rumbling hill barreling down upon some unsuspecting town.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee


Wayne Rossi said...

I think I have a very different interpretation of the saving throw chart than you do. As with my ruling on Sleep in my games, I interpret the saving throw column for "Staves & Spells" to apply to every spell unless it is covered by a different column (such as polymorph, petrification etc). Not that your interpretation isn't valid for your games, but I think the "only allows a saving throw if explicitly defined" attitude you've taken is a pretty radical one considering the economy of description of spells.

David said...

In my incredibly limited OD&D experience, I basically figured the same as the above poster: all spells have saves as "Save vs. Spell" unless covered elsewhere. Thus, "Death Spell" up there would be "Save vs. Death Ray" or at least "Save vs. Spell".

I don't like "You die, no save", though I suppose Tomb of Horrors had a number of those sorts of things.

That said, I like the idea that Magic Users go from basically worthless past the first fight of the day, at level one, to approximating/surpassing all the terrain and world-editing power that modern technology possesses. "A wizard did it" as an explanation for why things are the way they are seems more believable when high-level wizards are so powerful.

Michael Curtis said...

“Contact Higher Plane: This spell allows the magical-type to seek advice and gain knowledge from creatures inhabiting higher planes of existence (the referee).”

It strikes me that so much of the '80s "D&D teaches children to work black magic and convort with demons" might have been avoided by pointing to this spell description, thus clarifying who exactly those mystical entities actually were to the layman.

Then again, there's no getting through to some people, no matter how clearly you explain yourself. *sigh*

taichara said...

“Polymorph Self: A spell allowing the user to take the shape of anything he desires…Duration: 6 turns + the level of the Magic-User…”

I’m certain the authors intended this to read “any living thing” and not “anything”.

Thought what entertainment could be gotten from actually allowing 'anything'!

I'm imagining the pretending-that-you're-furniture ambush gambit at the moment. Heh.

Anonymous said...

I think as well the 'anything' in Polymorph self is great! I didn't noticied it and thanks you a lot: i'll update the french version tonight.

Wayne Rossi said...

I'm imagining the pretending-that-you're-furniture ambush gambit at the moment. Heh.

There are some interesting potential results of this.

One: m-u polymorphs into a rock, and is placed inside an iron chest too small for the original m-u. What happens when the spell wears off?

Two: m-u polymorphs into an armoire, and is filled with gold pieces. What happens when the spell wears off?

Three: m-u polymorphs into a rock and is thrown into the mouth of a dragon, then swallowed. What happens?

Sham aka Dave said...

Wayne: I can't help but feel your comment is based on Sleep and Death Spell. I disagree that every spell should have a saving throw. Given the potential destruction of Move Earth and Control Weather, I feel that Death Spell without a save is balanced. I don't think it was written as a possible threat to Player Characters, though.

Having said that, keep in mind that as I read the passages within these volumes I am not relating how I play the game; more so I am attempting to reason or interpret the authors' intent. As I've said before, this might often prove to be an effort in futility. 'What's the point?' one might surmise.

I agree that usage of the Saving Throw Matrix is a precedence, but I do not think that ALL spells are subject to saving throws. If you take the time to read Confusion you might agree.

I would also judge that ESP and Telekinesis do not warrant saves.

Furthermore, Feeblemind and Disintegrate cover saves while maintaining an economy of words.

I'd add that this is not a 'by the book' reading; simply one guy's comments on what he thinks is logical. I'm still 'up in the air' in regard to spells like Sleep and Death Spell.

Sham aka Dave said...

Mike: Agreed! I'm reminded of the phrase 'Get a grip!'

Taichara/Snorri/Wayne: I agree. I like the possibilities of 'anything' and might ignore my own interpretation here...for the purposes of entertainment. Wayne's 'what ifs' would be tackled as they came along (but are good points!).

Robert said...

Those polymorph what-ifs could be recast for a “any living” variant as well. e.g. Use “mouse” for “rock”. A substitute for “armoire” isn’t as straightforward, but I’m sure a group of players would come up with one. ^_^

From some of the comments Tim Kask made about his old oD&D group, I’m pretty sure the answers to those what-ifs in his campaign would be: Nothing pleasant. ^_^ He mentioned an MU polymorphing into a gold dragon while in a small room. I think he said that, not only could he not move, he couldn’t even do whatever was necessary to convert himself back.

When I think about some of the machinery I have regular worked with and the potential for serious injury, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that magic—used without caution—could cause spectacular death.

Sham aka Dave said...

Indeed. Often in being reminded of what I wrote in these entries I find it interesting that it's nearly impossible to dispel my old 1e AD&D notions and assumptions.

Thanks for the insight again. I'm glad you are enjoying these ramblings.