Hold Portal: many players immediately called to mind the early part of Gandalf’s confrontation with the Balrog of Morgoth in Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy when they read the phrase a strong anti-magical creature will shatter it (…).
Read Magic: its description reinforces the idea magic scrolls cannot simply be picked up and read.
Read Languages: reinforces the idea treasure maps will not be easily decoded and their secrets discovered.
Light: why does it specify not equal to full daylight? Because one version of the Cleric light spell is, makng the Cleric’s continual version of the spell useful against certain creatures. For example, goblins get -1 from their “to hit” rolls and morale checks when subjected to daylight (Vol II. p. 7. Goblin description).
Charm Person: though a first level spell Charm Person is potentially a permanent one, depending upon how one chooses to define the term. The spell duration was revised in Supplement I: Greyhawk.
Sleep: the only first level spell clearly intended for offense, though light could certainly be used for offense by an imaginative caster and charm person could stop a monster from attacking and make him an ally.
Detect Invisible (Objects): given the first two words of the spell name, and the description of the spell effects; why did Gygax choose to parenthetically highlight objects?
Phantasmal Forces: led to the way to heated debates regarding the deadliness of illusory medusas or 30’ spiked pits. A very effective spell in the hands of a clever player.
ESP: because of the way Gygax and many other referees drew dungeons with 1 foot stone walls? This spell was effectively limited to scanning one room. Due to the fact it could penetrate rock up to about 2’ in thickness. Thus, the spell could penetrate a foot of wall thickness, scan the room on the other side, but not penetrate the additional foot of rock wall on the far side of the room.
Continual Light: here we encounter the next spell of permanent effect.
Fly: a spell of varying duration, with length of flying ability lasting a set number of round based upon the level of the spell caster. Add to this an additional time of 10 minutes up to an hour; this additional time being known only by the referee. Do you feel lucky?
Hold Person: states this spell is similar to Charm Person but this is one comparison we feel could us a bit more explanation. We actually see little similarity between the two, though one finds it entertaining to try imagine how they might be the same.
Dispel Magic: Gygax consistently spells the first word of this enchantment as dispell. This variant is changed to the more mainstream spelling in the eighth printing. The spell description includes information useful for setting up spell battles, using a ratio of the difference between the battling magic-users.
Clairaudience: a major personal memory was the crystal ball scene in The Wizard of Oz in which the crystal ball. We found the need to cast another spell into a crystal ball to get audio as an interesting idea.
Fire Ball: the tactical nuke of the OD&D rules. Interpretation of this rules typically comes down to a variation of one of these two approaches:
Volume: the referee calculates the volume of the cast fireball. This is simple in OD&D because unlike later editions the blast volume does not change, only the damage. The result is compared to the volume of available space. Woe be unto the mage casting fireball into a 10’ x 10’ x 10’ room if she is standing in the only hallway leading into that room!
Range: compare the area of effect to the epicenter of the blast, burn everything within that radius.
One is accurate, the other speeds play. We will leave it to individual referees as to which is best for their campaign.
Lightning Bolt: another example, others include invisibility and fire ball, of an unnecessary call-out to CM. The citation is valid, but the information is repeating here (as it was in the examples).
Invisibility, 10’ Radius: why not 1” radius? Is it to establish the spell area of effect is only 10 feet whether beneath or above ground?
This spell and the next (infravision) are improperly formatted, with the descriptions being joined, in all but the first printing. In the eight printing the infravision description appears twice: joined to this spell description and in its own entry; both entries are complete and identical.
Slow Spell and Haste Spell: the latter is listed as exactly opposite of the former and goes on to point out one will counter the other. While the interpretation of casting one to cancel out the other seems rather obvious, we were inspired by this wording and a magic item (ring of spell turning) to house-rule a spell combat system.
Protection from Normal Missiles: we interpreted the spell description to mean it only bestowed protection versus missiles fired by ordinary zero-level men-types. Leveled adventurers would be above normal per our interpretation of the term.
Polymorph Self: Constitution influences how well the character can withstand being paralyzed, turned to stone, etc. Does this include, as it did in later editions of the rules, being polymorphed? If one interprets the rule thus, it could make this a risky spell to use on oneself.
Polymorph Others: a slightly more powerful version of the polymorph self spell, imbuing the target with more of the innate abilities of the assumed form. A similar issue exists as with polymorph self, that is, making a survival roll and a saving throw make using this spells a risk; especially against lower level or hit dice creatures. The target would have to fail a save versus polymorph, then a roll versus Constitution. We personally solved the implied dilemma by allowing a willing recipient of a polymorph other enchantment to willingly forfeit the saving throw.
Remove Curse: remove any one […] evil sending? Would that work by touch, or would one use it as a ranged spell? We would likely use as the adjacent to object listed in the spell description, with all the drawbacks such a position would entail.
Wall of Fire: one of the four “Wall” (with Ice, Stone, Iron) spells in the rules. In EGG’s campaign, the spell had to have at least 2 anchor points. This prevented magic-users from creating a magical construct over the head of the unlucky target and having gravity exert its influence.
Confusion: basically grants an ~28% chance of being attacked by the targets. Of course, a hostile group typically has a 100% chance of attacking! So, cutting it by two-thirds is a not a bad thing.
Growth of Plants: renamed Plant Growth in later editions.
Amazon Illustration: we have difficulty imagining the amazon depiction passing the censors. We have no difficulty at all imagining the resulting outcry, should this happen.
Teleport: this is a dangerous spell to use if the caster is not intimately familiar with the destination.
Conjure Elemental: states [o]nly one of each type can be conjured by a Magic-User during any one day. Does this mean only earth elemental (for example) can be summoned anywhere on the planet per day? The sentence reads that way, though we ran it as an individual could summon a particular type of elemental only once per day.
Another interpretation varying from one referee to another is dispelling the elemental. Can an out of control elemental be dispelled? In our campaign only an elemental still under the summoner’s control could be dispelled.
Telekinesis: spelled “telekenesis” in printings before the 8th.
Transmute Rock to Mud: the spell description implies this spell can be reversed by chanting it backwards. The third level spells haste and slow counter each other. Because these appeared first, we always ran spells as needing to be memorized in standard or reversed mode by Magic-Users but chanted backward by Clerics to be reversed on the fly.
Animate Dead: there would be a nice symmetry if this spell and level title Necromancer coincided. That is, if the title and the spell were gained at the same level. Alas, they are not.
Magic Jar: great spell for the referee and his NPC spell-casters, but we have no memory of seeing this spell employed, or even memorized, by a PC Magic-User.
Contact Higher Plane: at its safest level, a somewhat unreliable spell. At its most accurate it carries a high chance of temporary insanity.
Goblin Illustration: the goblin has a beard!
Growth of Animals: for trained or charmed animals. Otherwise, the targets of this spell could attack the Magic-User’s party.
Stone to Flesh: another M-U spell reversed without a separate form.
Reincarnation: a fun reason to invoke the Alignment Table (I-9). The player returns to life, not as himself but in the form of monster of like alignment.
Death Spell: fewer than 7 Hit Dice. So, up to six hit dice and the toughest saving throw (versus spells). This is a marked improvement over save versus death ray, which is one of the easiest saves.
Geas: a useful spell for clever players, one with a bit more “teeth” than the Cleric’s quest. Players will also run afoul of this one while exploring the wilderness, if they come across a wizard’s tower.
Disintegrate: makes coming back from the dead more difficult than it already is for player-characters. Disintegrate is another spell with a great deal of utility for the resourceful player.
Of Clerics & Their Spells
Clerics spells in OD&D are limited in both number and power. In our 1975 interpretation of this class, Lawful Clerics had to use the beneficial spell forms and had the ability to turn undead. Chaotic Anti-Clerics had to use the reversed baneful spell forms (p.22: Note that underlined Clerical spells are reversed by evil Clerics) and were unable to turn undead. Regarding the latter, it was implied to us by the description for this ability though we will admit this is not specifically stated. Some referee ran this as giving Anti-Clerics to command the undead into service, similar to charming a monster.
Cure Light Wounds: restores lost hit points. Instead of just saying to everyone or all player-characters, the description included the following: (including elves, dwarves, etc.). Why? A curious comment, perhaps a holdover from an earlier edit, or an extension of resurrection spells not working on certain demi-humans.
Bless: only works on persons not in combat.
Speak with Animals: the spell description implies the spell confers immunity to attack from the spell target whether the spell recipient in favorably inclined toward the target or not.
Cure Disease: very handy against curses and mummy rot disease.
Continual Light: alone among the light spells, this one equal full daylight.
Elf Illustration: the elf has a beard.
Neutralize Poison: poison in OD&D was typically run as save or die. When asked about this spell, EGG indicated if cast right away (within 2 or 3 turns) he would allow it to work on a poisoned PC.
Raise Dead: did not work against Halflings. In AD&D it worked to raise Halflings but not Elves (though it did work for Half-Elves).
The Finger of Death: the reverse of raise dead and notable for being the only reversed spell to have its own listing. The MU spells slow and haste are separate spells, whereas this is actually the same spell as as raise dead but reversed.
Anti-Clerics: since the Cleric class has slightly different abilities depending upon alignment? It only makes sense this class also has different rank titles for same.
Magical Research: again, EGG and DA were encouraging referees and players to use their imaginations and continue to push the written rules in unique directions. Newcomers to the rules, such as ourselves for example, may not have even considered writing their own spells until reading this section.
Books of Spells: nothing is stated in OD&D about an MU never traveling with his spell book. The risk of losing it was typically enough to get a player to think twice.
Similarly, the rules merely state: Characters who employ spells are assumed to acquire books containing the spells they can use, one book for each level.