Monday, June 9, 2014

Spells Through The Ages – Swords & Spells

You may have seen me thank Zenopus Archives a few times in recent weeks, after he helpfully reminded how useful it can be to look at Gary Gygax's Swords & Spells miniature rules for late-era OD&D, which included a complete Spell Chart for almost every spell in the game (a comprehensive list of Range, Area Effect, Turn Duration for each spell; p. 12-15). In many cases this filled-in previous blanks or made changes to the characteristics of certain spells. For reference, commentary, and scholarship, here is that list for the magic-user spells (my copy is well-worn and a bit yellowed, so you get the full effect below):



Here are some of the things we can observe:
  • First, the listing is nearly identical to the spell list format found in D&D Supplement-I, Greyhawk. Sup-I additions are included, in the same order (not yet alphabetized even within a spell level), etc.
  • The list includes every magic-user spell in the game except the following, presumably not useful in a mass battle: read magic, read languages, telekinesis, and legend lore (plus at level 7+: simulacrum and clone).
  • The only name change here is that dispell magic is now dictionary-corrected to dispel magic. Otherwise, all names are identical, including: phantasmal forces (plural), fire ball (with a space), etc.
  • The order of water breathing and explosive runes is switched in the list (possibly a transcription accident being corrected?)
  • Many spells list an Area Effect of "personal", both for spells that must be cast on others (strength, suggestion, geas, reincarnation, etc.), and spells that are clearly caster-only (polymorph self, wizard eye, magic jar, contact higher plane, etc.). Therefore it's unclear in other cases which way the intent was here (fly, levitate, teleport, etc.). 
  • Under Duration, Gygax uses a dash ("-") both for instantaneous spells (fire ball, lightning bolt, teleport, etc.) and spells with special long-lasting durations (the charms). He specifies "until dispelled" both for spells limited in the text by concentration and those that are really permanent (making wall of fire and wall of ice look identical here when they're not in Vol-1).
  • Finally: sleep gets a duration for the first time here (4-16 turns), clairaudience/clairvoyance get reduced (from 12 turns to 6), and some minor duration changes are made to detect evil, ventriloquism, and ESP (possibly typos; these are not re-used in any later editions such as Holmes, B/X, etc.)

Anything else you can see here?

2 comments:

  1. Good to see this list getting more attention; it's really an under-appreciated step in the development of OD&D.

    When I click on the image above, I only see a tiny image. I can make it just big enough to read if I drag the gif to my desk top and expand.

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    1. You're right, this has really helped me since you pointed it out.

      Wow, that's super-weird about how the image appears, never seen that before here (opening in some kind of overlay-image-viewer), and it seems to be doing that for all the images on the blog. Is that some kind of change this week to Blogger in general? Anyway, the other option is to right-click > "View Image" and then get the full-sized thing. Ugh.

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