25 May 2018

MU & CL Spells, Spell Research, Spell Books; Annotated

Magic-Users Spells


First Level


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. 

Second Level 


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?

Page 24


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. 

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Continual Light: here we encounter the next spell of permanent effect. 

Third Level


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. 

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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. 

Fourth Level


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. 

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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. 

Page 28


Fifth Level


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. 

Page 29


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! 

Page 30


Growth of Animals: for trained or charmed animals. Otherwise, the targets of this spell could attack the Magic-User’s party. 

Sixth Level


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. 

Page 31


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. 

First Level


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. 

Page 32


Second Level


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. 

Third Level: 


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. 

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Fourth Level


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). 

Page 34


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.

23 May 2018

OD&D Annotations: Spells Tables, Clerics vs Undead, pp. 21-23

Page 21


Spells Table

Finally! We throw up our hands and rejoice! A use for the rest of those funny-looking dice! But wait, what about third and fifth level Magic-User spells? Time to get creative. 

Clerics Versus Undead Monsters

The first mention of this iconic Cleric ability. Careful perusal of the monster type column reveals the monsters build by Hit Dice starting with ½ for skeletons and building to vampires. An excellent guideline for the enterprising referee.

Page 23

Spells are presented grouped by level but in no discernible order. There are not ordered by alphabet, or grouped by the categories later included in AD&D (e.g. divination, alteration, conjuration, etc.). One is left with the assumption these were typed as they came to Gygax’s remembrance.

Spell descriptions are terse, some with much room for interpretation by referees. Take, for example, the very first spell listed: detect magic. The spell description tells us detect magic has a “limited range” and “short duration.” The specifics of these parameters are left to the individual referee. 

Note: not all spells listed will be discussed, below.

Saving Throw, "Hidden Rules" for Missile Ranges, Saving Throws; Annotated

Page 20


Saving Throw Matrix II.: Monsters Attacking

At the bottom of this table we find additional combat information. First, we learn magic armor and weaponry modifies base scores “to hit.” Next we learn missile fire is modified by range, but specific ranges are seemingly omitted. There are some official ranges listed, though the referee still has a bit of work to make them useful. See the Hidden Rules below. 
Hidden Rules:
  • Volume II: Monsters & Magic p. 10, Manticores; the rules state (...) with the range (18”) accuracy and effect of a crossbow.
  • The Nixies listing on p. 15 of the same volume gives javelins a 6” throwing range.
  • Volume III, Miscellaneous Weapons states the range for thrown axes, war hammers, and possibly spears (depending upon how one parses the description) a thrown range of 3”. All ranges are considered Medium with regard to modifiers, no Short or Long ranges. 

Saving Throw Matrix


All Wands – Including Polymorph or Paralyzation: does this heading mean wands of polymorph or paralyzation or all wands and polymorph and paralyzation effects as well, no matter the source? Same with the death ray or poison save. And why, one wonders, do staves and wands have different saving throws? Merely nits, but fun to ponder.

Spells & Levels, and the Alternative Combat System; Annotated

Page 19


Spells & Levels: tries to clear up another common rules misinterpretation. The last sentence states [a] spell used once may not be reused in the same day. It would seem, however, questions continued to linger regarding spell use and memorization. As a result, Gygax wrote an FAQ to clarify. This FAQ, titled QUESTIONS MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED ABOUT DUNGEONS & DRAGONS RULES, appears on pp. 3-4 in The Strategic Review Vol. 1, No. 2 (Summer 1975). Reader should recall material appearing in the SR and early Dragon magazines was considered official, though this status varies somewhat throughout the run of the latter. 

Alternative Combat System

Here we run into another interpretation issue. This section gives us two attack matrices; one for men attacking and based around the PC or NPC level; and one for monsters using the creature’s Hit dice. So, what is a monster? We ask this because we must understand the answer to use the ACS. It is, after all, based upon whether it is a man or monster attacking. According to p. 12 of this volume of rules: 

Note, however, that the term “monster” includes men found in the dungeons, so in this way some high-level characters can be brought into a character’s service (...)

This introduces the idea any encountered entity not a player-character is a monster. But would an NPC Swordsman (3rd Level Fighting-Man) attack using the first column of Matrix I or the third (or, taking into account the +1 to his hit dice, the fourth) column of Matrix II? If the referee uses Matrix one that NPC requires a roll of 17 or better to hit a target clad in plate and carrying a shield. Treating him as a monster, the same NPC only needs a 15 (or 13, depending on how the referee counts his Hit Dice).

Weapon Damage: at the bottom of Matrix I we get our sole rule for weapon damage; 1–6 points damage unless otherwise noted.

Combat Progression: the Matrix I table is based around Fighting-Men and their progression in ability. Other classes will improve in combat proficiency at slower speeds.

20 May 2018

XP, Levels, Hit Dice/Hit Points, Fighting Capability; Annotated

Page 18

Statistics Regarding Classes

Even though every class rolls a six-sided dice for hit points, astute readers will note the hit die and hit point progressions are not even at all. 

For example, at third level both Fighting-Men and Clerics have 3 hit dice, Magic-Users have only 2. At ninth level Fighting-Men have 9 hit dice plus 8 hit points, Clerics have 7 HD plus 2 hit points, Magic-Users have 6 HD plus 4 hit points. 

These hit die and hit point differences are further magnified by differences in combat “to hit” progression, with Fighting-Men at the apex of combat ability and Magic-Users (and later, Thieves) at the bottom. The Cleric class’ lower hit dice are partially offset by a more rapid level advancement, they require fewer XP overall to advance in class than the Fighting-Men require.

Experience Points: almost as an aside, we received our first and only rules-based guideline for awarding experience points (XP). 

[…] a troll (which is a 7th-level monster, as it has over 6 hit dice) which is followed in the next sentence which is dealing with awarding XP: +700 for killing the troll. 
A year later in Supplement I: Greyhawk Gary makes the following observation before introducing a new XP awards table, emphasis is EGG’s: The awarding of experience points is often a matter of discussion, for the referee must make subjective judgments. Rather than the (ridiculous) 100 points per level for slain monsters, use the table below, dividing experience equally among all characters in the party involved. The typical caveats for adapting the game to fit one’s vision for a campaign aside? One might question the implication 100 XP/Hit Die is subjective, giving the plainly worded statement quoted above, regardless of the lack of emphasis granted by the rules. 

Levels: per Gygax, the Greyhawk campaign did not have characters of the levels mentioned here, that is, 20th level and above. He allowed for the possibility in the rules, but always seemed to subtly (more or less) imply he found such game play as rather silly. As an example, peruse this quote by Tim Kask and taken from the Foreword to Supplement VII: Gods, Demi-Gods, & Heroes

This volume is something else, also: our last attempt to reach the “Monty Hall” DM’s. Perhaps now some of the ‘giveaway’ campaigns will look as foolish as they truly are. This is our last attempt to delineate the absurdity of 40+ level characters. When Odin, the All-Father has only(?) 300 hit points, who can take a 44th-level Lord seriously?

Dice for Accumulative Hits (Hit Dice): this is an attempt to clarify how hit dice are rolled. A common misinterpretation was, for example, rolling one die for first level, then 2 additional dice for second level, and so on. Another typical point of confusion was adding the hit die bonus, the Swashbuckler’s “+1” for example, to all the character’s accumulated hit dice. Yet another common error, one we ourselves encountered in the first game we ran, was equating hit points with hit dice. 

These common misinterpretations aside? What the rules do not clearly state is dice are cumulative and not rerolled in toto when gaining a level. EGG has confirmed the former as how he intended the game to play. The rules in general and this clarification specifically do leave interpretation open. 

Fighting Capability: Gygax intended the references to Chainmail as a draw for miniatures wargamers, some of whom looked down on OD&D and were hesitant to try the game. He is on record as never having used this for combat resolution, save for mass combat actions. Nor did Dave Arneson, who used it on a trial basis early in the development of his Blackmoor campaign but quickly discarded it. There is simply no basis, with all due apologies to the but the rules SAY crowd, for CM ever being a major factor in individual combat resolution in either Blackmoor or Greyhawk.

Levels and XP, annotated

Pages 16-17

Levels And The Number of Experience Points Necessary To Attain Them

Magic-Users require half as many experience points to reach ninth level as the Fighters. Marsh/Cook’s Expert Dungeons & Dragons boxed set in 1981 addressed this issue, raising the requirement for Magic-Users reaching 9th level to 300,000 XP (Holmes’ Blue Book set and Moldvay’s Basic D&D only included up to 3rd level).

19 May 2018

Annotation Notations

I'll use Roman numerals for the volume, arabic numerals for the page number.

For example, Volume I: Men & Magic, page 16 would be abbreviated as I-16.