Monday, July 7, 2014

Spells Through The Ages – Confusion

Confusion is a 4th-level wizard spell that dates all the way back to the Chainmail Fantasy rules. Did you ever puzzle over how to manage its effect, exactly? Let's take a look at how it developed:


Chainmail Fantasy

Confusion: By using this spell up to 20 of the enemy can be caused to react in absolutely the apposite manner. For example, if they advanced, they will be retreated instead. Duration is but one turn. The user secretly indicates which unit is to be confused, and when the spell takes effect he allows the enemy to move the troops and then when all movement is finished he changes the action of the confused unit to the apposite of what it actually did. (Complexity 4)

At 86 words, this is almost the longest spell in this ruleset (beaten only by conjuration of an elemental at 94 words). This is a fairly elegant mechanic in this context -- whatever move is made for the target unit (whether using the written-orders system or otherwise; CM p. 9), the caster gets to reverse it into its opposite. Kind of clever; it only lasts for 1 turn so there's no question about what happens afterward.


Original D&D

Confusion: This spell will immediately effect creatures with two or fewer hit-dice. For creatures above two hit dice the following formula is used to determine when the spell takes effect: score of a twelve-sided die roll less the level of the Magic-User casting the spell = delay in effect, i.e. a positive difference means a turn delay, while a zero or negative difference means immediate effect. Creatures with four or more hit dice will have saving throws against magic, and on those turns they make their saving throws they are not confused; but this check must be made each turn the spell lasts, and failure means they are confused. The spell will effect as many creatures as indicated by the score rolled on two six-sided dice with the addition of +1 for each level above the 8th that the Magic-User casting the spell has attained. Confused creatures will attack the Magic-User's party (dice score 2-5), stand around doing nothing (6-8), or attack each other (9-12). Roll each turn. Duration: 12 turns. Range: 12".

In OD&D, the spell is given a variable number of creatures affected (2d6+level over 8th), a unique variable delay onset time (d12-level in turns?), and an extended duration (12 turns). The effect itself takes the form randomly-determined actions each turn (attack PC's, do nothing, or attack each other). Apparently victims under 4HD get no save (an oddity in the LBBs); creatures over that level are still affected, but get a save to see if they're confused every turn throughout the duration (possibly quite complicated for a number of creatures all at once).


D&D Expert Rules

Confusion 
Range: 120'
Duration: 12 rounds


This spell affects 3-18 creatures in a 60' diameter area. Creatures with less than 2 + 1 hit dice have no saving throw. Those with 2 + 1 or more hit dice must make a saving throw vs. Spells every round the spell lasts or the spell will affect them that round. A confused creature rolls 2d6 each round to determine its action:



Next we'll look at Dave Cook's interpretation of the spell for the Expert Rules. This is probably the shortest and sweetest version of the spell for D&D. Range, duration, and effect are the same as in OD&D (effect put in table form, like all editions after OD&D). Number affected is simplified to 3-18. The no-save HD limit is lowered from the former 4HD to just 2HD (although not removed entirely, as it will be AD&D 1E etc.). Still, this seems like a powerful spell, in that it apparently automatically affects a large number of arbitrarily-high HD creatures, and at least partially disrupts their actions over the course of spell. Keep this in mind if you're a player in a B/X game, maybe fighting giants (or other high-HD creatures appearing in numbers); it may be one of the only spells in the system that implies that cheat-y no-save advantage.


AD&D 1st Ed.

Confusion (Enchantment/Charm)
Level: 7
Range: 8"
Duration: 1 round/level
Area of Effect: Up to 4" by 4"


Explanation/Description: This spell causes confusion in one or more creatures within spell range. Confused creatures will react as follows:


The spell lasts for 1 melee round for each level of experience of the spell caster. It will affect 2 to 8 creatures, plus a possible additional number of creatures determined by subtracting the level or number of hit dice of the strongest opponent creature within the spell range and area of effect from the level of the druid who cast the spell of confusion. If a positive number results, it is added to the random die roll result for number of creatures affected; a negative number is ignored. All creatures affected will be those closest to the druid within the area of effect. Each affected creature must make a saving throw each round, unless they are caused to "wander away for 1 turn" in which case they will go as far away from the druid as is possible in one turn of normal movement, as  conditions permit. All saving throws are at -2. Confused creatures act according to the  table of actions shown above, but saving throws and actions are checked at the beginning of each round.

This is one of the many spells in 1E where the main text got pushed into the new druid's spell list (note 7th level above), and only back-referenced in the magic-user spell list (still at 4th level). In addition to the 3 effect options from OD&D, a new one is added in table form: "Wander away for 1 turn", which I always found inconvenient, because it puts the recipient on a different recurring check schedule than the other targets (other options last only 1 round each). Here, everyone gets a recurring save to avoid the effect each round (not just those over 4HD, as in OD&D; possibly more fair, but yet more rolling for the DM). There's a sufficiently complicated formula for number affected that I'm actually having some trouble parsing it right now -- 2d4 + max(caster level - max(target HD), 0)?  There's also a -2 save modifier whose rationale eludes me.

Compared to the druid text you see above, the wizard's spell is strengthened in line with OD&D, with longer-range (12"), larger area (6×6 inches), longer duration (bonus of 2 rounds), and more creatures affected (2d8 + addition as above).


AD&D 2nd Ed.

Confusion
(Enchantment/Charm)
Range: 120 yds.

Duration: 2 rds. + 1 rd./level
Area of Effect: Up to 60-ft. cube

This spell causes confusion in one or more creatures within the area, creating indecision and the inability to take effective action. The spell affects 1d4 creatures, plus one creature per caster level. These creatures are allowed saving throws vs. spell with -2 penalties, adjusted for Wisdom. Those successfully saving are unaffected by the spell. Confused creatures react as follows:


The spell lasts for two rounds plus one round for each level of the caster. Those who fail are checked by the DM for actions each round for the duration of the spell, or until the "wander away for the duration of the spell" result occurs.

Wandering creatures move as far from the caster as possible, according to their most typical mode of movement (characters walk, fish swim, bats fly, etc.). Saving throws and actions are checked at the beginning of each round. Any confused creature that is attacked perceives the attacker as an enemy and acts according to its basic nature.


If there are many creatures involved, the DM may decide to assume average results. For example, if there are 16 orcs affected and 25% could be expected to make the saving throw, then four are assumed to have succeeded. Out of the other 12, one wanders away,
four attack the nearest creature, six stand confused, and the last acts normally but must check next round. Since the orcs are not near the party, the DM decides that two attacking the nearest creature attack each other, one attacks an orc that saved, and one attacks a confused orc, which strikes back. The next round, the base is 11 orcs, since four originally saved and one wandered off. Another one wanders off, five stand confused, four attack, and one acts normally.


The material component is a set of three nut shells.

Having almost totally skipped 2E in my playing years, I think that I'm reading this spell description for the first time ever. The level, range, duration, and area are the same as in 1E. The number affected is much simplified (d4+caster level).  The "wander off" effect is admirably streamlined, since it lasts the whole duration and takes those creatures out of the recurring rolls entirely. However, the spell still seems sufficiently clunky that an extra "2E maybe" paragraph was added, outlining how the DM might average the effects over several creatures (something that maybe shouldn't need to be said in the first place, or made a more general rule elsewhere).

Also: The fact that victims save every round to avoid the effect seems easy to overlook (when to make the save is mentioned once in the third paragraph, "Saving throws and actions are checked at the beginning of each round", but it's not explicated exactly what the purpose is). Perhaps jointly with that, what used to be the "attack caster" case has turned into a wider "act normally" statement (at the end of the list).


D&D 3rd Ed.

Confusion
Enchantment (Compulsion)
[Mind-Affecting]
Level: Brd 3, Sor/Wiz 4, Trickery 4
Components: V, S, M/DF
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Targets: All creatures in a 15-ft. radius
Duration: 1 round/level
Saving Throw: Will negates
Spell Resistance: Yes


Creatures affected by this spell behave randomly, as indicated on the following table:



Except on a result of 1, roll again each round to see what the subject does that round. Wandering creatures leave the scene as if disinterested. Attackers are not at any special advantage when attacking them. Behavior is checked at the beginning of each creature’s turn. Any confused creature who is attacked automatically attacks its attackers on its next turn.

Now, in some ways I really like how this was simplified. All of the language about number affected, special save modifier, optional ways to rule on the effects, etc., were totally sliced out. (Number affected is now purely determined by the reduced area-of-effect.) Note also that the recurring save each round has disappeared (partly due to the 2E text nearly obscuring that aspect?). However, the spell weirdly backslid in one way: the "wander away" result doesn't last the whole spell (as in 2E), now it's back more like 1E (where after 10 rounds you'd have to start rolling again). I wonder why that was?


D&D 3.5 Revision

Confusion
Enchantment (Compulsion) [Mind-Affecting]
Level: Brd 3, Sor/Wiz 4, Trickery 4
Components: V, S, M/DF
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Targets: All creatures in a 15-ft. radius burst
Duration: 1 round/level
Saving Throw: Will negates
Spell Resistance: Yes


This spell causes the targets to become confused, making them unable to independently determine what they will do. Roll on the following table at the beginning of each subject’s turn each round to see what the subject does in that round.



A confused character who can’t carry out the indicated action does nothing but babble incoherently. Attackers are not at any special advantage when attacking a confused character. Any confused character who is attacked automatically attacks its attackers on its next turn, as long as it is still confused when its turn comes. Note that a confused character will not make attacks of opportunity against any creature that it is not already devoted to attacking (either because of its most recent action or because it has just been attacked).

Arcane Material Component: A set of three nut shells.

I don't normally check in on this edition (another one that I skipped), but here it is. In 3.5 they switched the effects table from d10 to percentile-based, even though they kept the 10% gradations, so: more dice for no reason. They now have 5 options, having re-inserted the "attack caster" option (top of list here) that appeared up through 1E but evolved out of 2E. They also added a detail to the "do nothing" option, that the person babbles incoherently (okay, big thanks for that, 3.5), and that that's the default if no other action is possible. You also have to remember who attacked last round because that trumps the normally random actions; also you need a special rule for attacks-of-opportunity, because otherwise it wouldn't be fully 3E-ified.


Did we make that clear? Which version of the confusion spell is your preference? Personally, I think my solution to the multitude-of-rolls with this spell would be to roll back to the Chainmail sensibility and have the entire affected group follow the same action (one single roll) each round.

17 comments:

  1. God...the mutation! It's...taking...over...aaaarggh!

    I had to actually go back and check if I left this spell in 5AK (my "re-vamp" of OD&D based on Chainmail). Here it is, as a 4th level magician spell:

    Mass Confusion: 3D6 creatures within 12” of and chosen by the caster become befuddled, rendering them less effective. Only targets with four or more hit dice are allowed a save. Assuming the targets were hostile prior to the spell, check the creatures’ reactions at the beginning of each combat round (roll D6 for the whole confused group; all take the same action): 0 – attack the spell-caster and/or her companions, 2-4 – stand around doing nothing, 5-6 – attack each other. The spell lasts ten minutes.

    [one word of explanation: in my game, a dice roll of "1" always counts as "0"...that's why the D6 roll is 0,2,3,4,5,6. Yes, I'm weird, but it provides some interesting game dynamics]

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    1. I agree, the most significant simplifying fix is to make the whole group follow the result of a single roll each round. Interesting about the 1 = 0 detail. :-)

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    2. That sounds interesting, making 1 always be 0.

      It clashes with my % dice rule, 00 is 0 not 100. That way the largest (99) and smallest (00) roll are both doubles.

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    3. That's kind of cool. For d% rolls, do you require a result strictly under the target percentage?

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    4. Yes. Although I use it for Runequest. If you have a special result every 10%, you can just use doubles for that effect and not have to calculate what the different ranges are, the double just takes care of it for you (the real problem is as you assign penalties and bonuses, you don’t want to re-calculate the ranges no matter how simple.). RQ uses 20% of skill percent is a special hit. So rather than calculating it I just use any roll that ends in 0 or 9 is a special result, they end up bunched together in a funny distribution, but the lowest roll and highest roll are special. Not really related but I got the idea from the doubles thing.

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    5. Right, I've seen that doubles rule for crits before.

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  2. The way I read the OD&D entry is that the spell is delayed one turn if the d12 roll is greater than the caster's level.

    Looking them over together like this, I think that I would pick the 3E version (surprising myself, if no one else!) over the others. I like that it is streamlined and reduced to a single d10 roll for each affected target with no ongoing save regime. That said, I'll stick with the 1E version for my 1E game, for tradition's sake.

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    1. Although, I will change it to a d10 roll instead of d% because why did Gary do that?

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    2. Yeah, now I think you have the right interpretation of the delay (his use of the verb "less" is mathematically nonstandard).

      And wow: I myself overlooked the fact that the table was d% in 1E, d10 in 2E-3E, then back the d% in 3.5. Somehow I could complain about the d% in 3.5 and be blind to Gygax doing the same in 1E. Thanks for pointing that out.

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    3. I think that the wording in the OD&D version is Gary being too clever by half and losing what he was saying in the verbiage.

      I'm interested in the slight difference between the charts, too. In AD&D1E, when converted to d10, the chart is: 1 - Wander, 2-6 - Stand still, 7-8 - Attack nearest, 9-0 - Attack party, while the AD&D2E is the same up to 7-*9* - Attack nearest, 0 - Act normally (plus the other small differences).

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    4. Wacky, another good catch.

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  3. One more point on the probabilities for the OD&D/Expert version of the spell: the classes 2-5/6-8/9-12 are equivalent to 28%/44%/28%, that is, as close to one-third each as you can make on 2d6. So for practical purposes you could just as well simply roll 1d3 (or of course d6: 1-2/3-4/5-6).

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    1. Makes you wonder why they didn't just do that. You could make a closer approximation to the 2d6 percentages, though, with a d4, 1/2-3/4.

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    2. The Expert version looks like a reaction roll. 2d6. low rolls=attack party. 6-8 neutral reaction. high rolls=help party (by attacking other enemies)

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    3. Ah, that's a really good point. Same as in OD&D (Vol-3, p. 12).

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  4. Note that because of 3rd edition's cyclic initiative, and the tight area they start in, the confusion spell there quickly forces many of them to attack each other (or the PCs) and not roll again until one dies.

    4e "simplified" it to cause 1 critter to basic-melee a target of your choice on it's next turn only. Heh.


    It's different in earlier editions where the DM checks the save and rolls the effect in the declaration phase, it's much less likely for confused critters to get locked in like that and many do end up wandering off with the larger number available for enchanting.

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    1. That is a really good point about creatures getting "locked in" to a sequence of attacks on each other. Although it seems to me that's more due to the language on being attacked that got inserted in 2E.

      Wow, the 4E version seems totally ludicrous! Good lord.

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