Thursday, November 27, 2008

D&D Cover to Cover, part 17

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

1st Level:”
Cure Light Wounds: During the course of one full turn this spell will remove hits from a wounded character (including elves, dwarves, etc.). A die is rolled, one pip added, and the resultant total subtracted from the hit points the character has taken. Thus from 2-7 hit points of damage can be removed.”
First of all, I love the careful wording choices here. Looking back now, 34 years later, the spell description seems awkward and requires another reading unless you already know what Cure Light Wounds does. It’s worded in such a way to prevent players from mistakenly assuming that the spell could potentially increase maximum hit points. BUT WAIT, this is where you may have glossed over the description. Stop and read it again, if you care. Got it? OK, let me reword it so you see what I am getting at.

Over the next turn, Cure Light Wounds will heal damage up to 1d6+1 points on the target. The spell will continue for one full turn, or until it has healed an amount of damage equal to the number rolled on the die, plus 1.

I’m reading this to mean that after the spell is cast, the target will have ‘future’ damage healed as well, provided the ‘resultant’ amount has not yet been healed. It sure could be useful to wade into melee with a Cure Light Wounds active upon your character, no? Now, prevailing logic might be that in fact, this spell has a casting time of 1 full turn. But why then is the rest of the spell worded so carefully, while the first part is misleading? Looking back for some precedence in previous spells; Transmute Rock to Mud ‘takes effect in one turn’; Move Earth ‘takes one turn to go into effect’. On the other hand, there is no duration listed for Cure Light Wounds. Another example of why casting time is clearly conspicuous by its absence in this section. I like the possibilities of a Cure spell that is ‘sticky’ on the target for a full turn. Am I taking the above too literally, or going out on a limb here? Yes, but still it makes for an interesting twist.

3rd Level:”
Cure Disease: A spell which cures any form of disease. The spell is the only method to rid a character of a disease from a curse, for example.”
Interestingly, Remove Curse will apparently not cure a disease caused via curse. I suppose the thinking is that at some point the ailment is considered a disease and not a curse.

4th Level:”
Cure Serious Wounds: This spell is like a Light Wound spell, but the effects are double, so two dice are rolled and one pip is added to each die. Therefore, from 4 to 14 hit points will be removed by this spell.”
A nice spell made even better under my unorthodox interpretation. 4 to 14 points worth of healing potential over one full turn.

Turn Sticks to Snakes: Anytime there are sticks nearby a Cleric can turn them into snakes, with a 50% chance that they will be poisonous. From 2-16 snakes can be conjured (roll two eight-sided dice). He can command these conjured snakes to perform as he orders. Duration: 6 turns. Range 12”.”
Aside from Hold Person and the still to come The Finger of Death, Turn Sticks to Snakes is about as offensive as the D&D Cleric gets. With an average roll, 9 snakes may be created thusly. I’d allow each snake a 50/50 chance of being poisonous, rather than roll for the whole lot at once. Five poisonous snakes, created up to 120 feet away, has a lot of potential. There is nothing indicating the hit dice of these snakes, but I’d probably go with something like AC 7, HD ½, Move 6”, Damage 1, 50% chance of being poisonous (save or die variety).

5th Level:”
Dispell Evil: Similar to a Dispell magic spell, this allows a Cleric to dispell any evil sending or spell within a 3” radius. It functions immediately. Duration: 1 turn.”
This spell combines the best vagaries of Dispell Magic and the ‘evil’ concept, with ‘evil sending’ again to boot. Notable in that it lasts 1 turn and has a 30 foot area of effect. I’ve still no idea what an evil sending is, but this spell will get rid of them in spades.

Raise Dead: The Cleric simply points his finger, utters the incantation, and the dead person is raised. This spell works with men, elves and dwarves only.”
Sorry Hobbits, you’ll need a Reincarnation spell, or a friend with a Ring of Three Wishes to come back from the beyond the pale.

Create Food: A spell with which the Cleric creates sustenance sufficient for a party of a dozen for one game day. The quantity doubles for every level above the 8th the Cleric has attained.”
That’s a heap of food by 13th level. 12, 24, 48, 96, 192, and finally enough food for 384 at 13th level. By 14th level, able to create enough food for 768 people in a single casting, I’m fairly sure the Cleric builds a new stronghold, out of sausage and cheese. Surely the intent was that it increased by 12 per level after the 8th…or were Gygax and Arneson envisioning opening a chain of Cleric Smorgasbords in Greyhawk and Blackmoor, respectively?

The Finger of Death: Instead of raising the dead, this spell creates a “death ray” which will kill any creature unless a saving throw is made (where applicable). Range 12”. (A Cleric-type may use this spell in a life-or-death situation, but misuse will immediately turn him into an Anti-Cleric.)”
A save negates this potent spell, but it the most offensive one in the Cleric arsenal. It begs the question, though, whether or not a Cleric can reverse this ‘mid-adventure’ after memorizing Raise Dead. Since this is such a unique spell amongst all 26 Cleric spells, and because it is highly situational for the only class which can actually choose which version of the spell to cast, I would allow Clerics to cast Raise Dead as either its standard form, or as The Finger of Death.

Evil, evil and more evil. Anti-Clerics MUST be aligned with Chaos. Therefore, evil = Chaos.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that it's enough to rpove that evil=chaos, even if there's some link, but I feel the misuse of Finger of death as the only cited way to become an anticleric has a strong 'dark side of the force' which is pretty nice.

The 'cure' spells working in a preventive / regenerative way is appealing too! Once again, you noticed a very interesting thing, when we try to get back from our habit of reading through ad&d / classical d&d eyes.

Matthew James Stanham said...

I imagine that the death ray spell could have been inspired by the wand Tolkemec uses at the end of Red Nails, and given his unhinged disposition I can definitely see the "anti-cleric" angle.

Will Douglas said...

Over the next turn, Cure Light Wounds will heal damage up to 1d6+1 points on the target. The spell will continue for one full turn, or until it has healed an amount of damage equal to the number rolled on the die, plus 1.

Okay, so I'll never read CLW the same way again! I initially thought WTF?, but by the time I went back to copy it for this comment, I had fully turned the corner.

I think I'll always use this interpretation -- it's a totally valid way to read the spell, especially assuming the point of view of somebody who had the game in '74 but didn't have anybody to teach them how to play.

Kudos, again; this is an awesome series!

taichara said...

That's a bloody inspiring reading of the Cure spells, I have to say!

I just might have to lift that idea, or possibly add it as spell variants to the "existing" versions ...

Grac said...

On Cure: I understood it to mean that it would slowly remove the damage over the duration of a turn. That is, that Cure was not a combat spell, but to be used afterward.

Nate said...

From a historical perspective, the weird wording of Cure Light Wounds could have been because, IIRC, Clerics were originally an invention of the Blackmoor, as opposed to Greyhawk. Perhaps Arneson wrote the rule instead of Gygax.