Monday, November 24, 2014

Spells Through The Ages – Project Image

Here's a historical look at one more top (6th) level spell from Original D&D, with some fine print you may have overlooked, before seeing my take on it in Book of Spells, 2nd Edition -- on sale in just one week, on Monday December 1st!


Original D&D

Projected Image: By means of this spell the Magic-User projects an image of himself up to 24" away, and all spells and the like used thereafter appear to originate from the Projected Image. Duration: 6 turns. Range: 24".

Here's projected image, as it appears in OD&D; it make an illusory duplicate of the caster, from which his or her spells now originate. Reading this, I would raise a few questions: If you see a separate duplicate of a caster (not close-by as for mirror image), don't you have proof that the one casting spells is the illusory one? The long range of of 24" is very nice but can the caster control it from out-of-sight (around a corner, through a screen or door, behind numerous stone walls? Does the caster get some kind of sensory report to permit that long-distance functioning? And is this really worth a 6th-level (top) slot?

The Swords & Spells specification is no different (Range: 24", Area Effect: personal, Turn Duration: 6), so with that we'll move on to the Moldvay/Cook rules.


Expert D&D

Projected Image
Range: 240'
Duration: 6 turns
 

This spell creates an image of the magic-user that cannot be distinguished from the original except by touch. All spells cast by the magic-user will seem to come from the image. However, the caster must still be able to see the target. If touched or struck by a melee weapon, the image will disappear. Spells and missile attacks will seem to have no effect on the image. The magic-user who casts the spell can make the image appear up to 240' away.

Cook keeps the name & basics the same, but inserts some answers to those rather obvious, and continually nagging, questions about illusions. The caster must see the target of any spell normally (but not the projected image?). The illusion disappears if touched physically, but is immune to spells and missiles (very similar to other Cook-interpreted illusions such as phantasmal force). And spells still come from the image, no exceptions.


AD&D 1st Edition

Project Image  (Alteration, Illusion/Phantasm)
Level:  6
Range: 1"/level
Duration:  1 round/level
Area of Effect: Special
Components:  V, S, M
Casting Time:  6 segments
Saving Throw: None

Explanation/Description:  By means of this spell, the magic-user creates a non-material duplicate of himself or herself, projecting it to any spot within spell range which is desired. This image performs actions identical to the magic-user -- walking, speaking, spell-costing -- as the magic-user determines. A special channel exists between the image of the magic-user and the actual magic-user, so spells cast actually originate from the image. The image can be dispelled only by means of a dispel magic spell (or upon command from the spell caster), and attacks do not affect it. The image must be within view of the magic-user projecting it at all times, and if his or her sight is obstructed, the spell is broken. The material component of this spell is a small replica (doll) of the magic-user.

Here's Gygax revision (and renaming) of the spell in AD&D. The range is now variable with level (as usual), and the duration is now in 1-minute rounds (as happened to most spells in turns from OD&D Vol-1, prior to the turn = 10 minutes stipulation that appeared in Vol-3). Notice that his answers to the questions from OD&D are the converse of Cook's: the caster must maintain line-of-sight to the projected image, but apparently not the targets of any spells coming from it. No normal attacks of any sort affect it or can banish it (even melee), which is somewhat in line with Gygax's more powerful interpretation of phantasmal force (which stays in the game as long as the caster makes it respond to attacks in a realistic manner). Note that we still have all spells automatically coming from the projected image, which to me maintains the obviousness of identifying which is image and which is real caster (unless the caster always manages to be screened or in some hidey-hole; perhaps best used for audiences in their personal stronghold?).

Project image is not among the spells with errata notes in the 1E DMG.


AD&D 2nd Edition

Project Image
(Alteration, Illusion/Phantasm)
Range: 10 yds./level
Duration: 1 rd./level
Area of Effect: Special
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 6
Saving Throw: None

By means of this spell, the wizard creates a nonmaterial duplicate of himself, projecting it to any spot within spell range. This image performs actions decided by the wizard -- walking, speaking, spellcasting -- conforming to the actual actions of the wizard unless he concentrates on making it act differently (in which case the wizard is limited to half movement and no attacks).

The image can be dispelled only by means of a successful dispel magic spell (or upon command from the spellcaster); attacks pass harmlessly through it. The image must be within view of the wizard projecting it at all times, and if his sight is obstructed, the spell is broken. Note that if the wizard is invisible at the time the spell is cast, the image is also invisible until the caster's invisibility ends, though the wizard must still be able to see the image (by means of a detect invisibility spell or other method) to maintain the spell. If the wizard uses dimension door, teleport, plane shift, or a similar spell that breaks his line of vision, the project image spell ends.

The material component of this spell is a small replica (doll) of the wizard.

Cook's second take at the project image spell shares most of the rules that Gygax laid down in 1E -- such as the requirement that the caster remain in sight of the image (not targets of the spell). What I am not found of here is the added detail on what happens if the caster is invisible (presumably something a player of Cook's once did), and cessation of the spell in case of the wizard teleporting (which is really implied by the line-of-sight rule) -- both seem like unnecessary complications that will rarely happen, things the DM should be able to adjudicate, and making the spell text bloated and somewhat harder to read.


D&D 3rd Edition

Project Image
Illusion (Shadow)
Level: Brd 6, Sor/Wiz 6
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Effect: One shadow duplicate
Duration: 1 round/level (D)
Saving Throw: Will disbelief (if interacted with)
Spell Resistance: No

The character creates a shadow duplicate of him or herself; it looks, sounds, and smells like the character but is intangible. The shadow mimics the character's actions (including speech) unless the character concentrate on making it act differently. The character can see through its eyes and hear through its ears as if the character were standing where it is, and during the character's turn in a round the character can switch from seeing through its eyes to seeing normally, or back again. If the character desires, any spell the character casts whose range is touch or greater can originate from the shadow instead of from the character. (The shadow is quasi-real, just real enough to cast spells that the character originates.) The shadow can cast spells on itself only if those spells affect shadows. The character must maintain line of effect to the shadow at all times. If the character's line of effect is obstructed, the spell ends. If the character uses a spell that breaks the character's line of effect, even momentarily, the spell ends.

The 3rd Edition designers make some subtle, but I think in effect fairly powerful, changes. (If you scan the spell quickly it might be easy to miss what they did here.) First, while the caster must maintain "line of effect" to the image, the caster is given full sensory input from the perspective of the image -- which nicely rationalizes why throughout the AD&D line you don't need line-of-sight to targets of the spells (because you can just see out from the image itself). Second, spells originating from the image are now optional to the caster -- which I think is great, because now you have a legitimate way of masking which is which, even if both are in plain sight on the battlefield or dungeon, say (in addition to still being able to cast those protections and escape spells on the actual caster himself, if desired). Also that junky language specific to invisibility and teleports is cleaned out. I think this is a really good job, which is characteristic of why I do respect much of what the 3E designers were doing.


Conclusions

Basically, I like what the 3E writers did enough -- answering my lingering questions from the days of OD&D, making the spell rather more powerful to legitimize it's 6th-level status -- that I mostly kept the language we received through the SRD, with minor trimmings. Here it is as presented in my Book of Spells, 2nd Edition:


Project Image: (Range: 24 inches, Duration: 6 turns) The caster creates an illusory image of him or herself; it looks, sounds, and smells like the caster but is intangible. The illusion mimics the caster's actions (including speech) unless the caster concentrates on making it act differently. If the caster desires, any spell from the caster whose range is touch or greater can originate from the image instead of from the caster. Attacks do not affect it, and it does not disappear when touched.


I keep the optional status of spells originating from the illusion, which I think is a great idea. I actually cut out the language specifying getting sensory input from the image, not because I loathe it, but simply because it would make the text for spell longer than anything else in the book; and the line-of-effect requirement is by implication with all other spells (both intentionally subject to DM adjudication). I keep the AD&D sensibility of the image not being subject to any attacks (thus making it stronger than phantasmal force which does disappear with any melee hit, as in OD&D).

Is it now worth the 6th-level slot? In what circumstances do you think this spell would most commonly get used? Do you agree with the 3E-era optional image-spellcasting allowance?


Monday, November 17, 2014

Previewing Book of Spells 2E: Stone to Flesh

Who's this gentleman, on the very last page of the new Book of Spells, 2nd Edition, available Monday December 1st?


That's the illustration that my partner Isabelle came up with for the very last spell in the book, stone to flesh. Now, a couple things that I like about this "Easter Island" looking fellow, inspired by that spell: it's a little ambiguous exactly what would happen if you cast stone to flesh on him. Is the implication that it's a trapped giant who then comes back to life and serves you? Can the spell give animation to a huge statue and possibly answer questions from the party? I actually want to give DM's some amount of flexibility and authority in interpreting those kinds of questions, particularly so for spells at the maximum level -- and if I or they are inspired by a work of art like this, so much the better. Plus, he echoes the "great stone face" of the Original D&D Greyhawk supplement -- which Isabelle has never seen.

Here's my current rules text for the stone to flesh spell. Note that there is no allowance for a "reversed" usage of the spell; in OD&D it's the only magic-user spell that seems to imply such usage, and I thought it much cleaner to just remove that complexity from the system (if you want a different effect, then research a different spell).


Stone to Flesh: (Range: 12 inches, Duration: Instant) This spell restores any petrified creature to its normal state. The spell can also convert a mass of stone into a fleshy substance; such flesh is inert unless a life force or magical energy is available. The caster can affect a mass up to 3 feet in diameter and 10 feet long.


The funny thing is that prior to Isabelle's illustration, I had the spell much shorter; it simply said, "This spell restores any petrified creature to its normal state," and I'd cut out the other usage that comes from AD&D/3E SRD. But seeing Isabelle's vision for the spell, I decided I really wanted a figure like that to be affected by the spell. Will it have some "life force" or "magical energy" available for it to speak or act? Or maybe it's just a big slab of meat to use in some more profane way? The DM gets to decide within the given parameters of the spell. At the topmost levels, I think there should be a little mystery in your campaign (at least until your players put their magic to the test).


Monday, November 10, 2014

Spells Through The Ages – Move Earth


Here's another installment in our look at top (6th) level spells in Original D&D that have surprising little details packed into them -- ones that informed particular editing choices in the upcoming Book of Spells, 2nd Edition (available on Dec-1). This week we look at move earth.


Chainmail Fantasy

Moving Terrain: Causing the shifting of vegetation hills, etc. A spell possible only to a Wizard. (Complexity 6)

My understanding is that moving terrain wasn't in the 1st-edition Chainmail wizard's spell list, but it was in the 2nd edition from 1972, so it does predate Dungeons & Dragons. (Thanks to Jon Peterson for that info.) Now that's a short spell description, almost the shortest in the game -- beat only in a few characters by haste and slow. Note that the "Wizard" specifier restricts this spell to only the highest level magic-users in the game.

Basically my whole key observation about move earth is right here in the original presentation as moving terrain; it's delightfully curt, clear, and coherent specifically because it's so tightly coupled with the miniatures wargame. All it does is reference the existing terrain pieces in the wargame, and allow them to be moved around on the table. (In Chainmail, this terrain is suggested in the form of 3×5" index cards which are drawn randomly for placement; see p. 10.) In this regard it's a rather obvious game design strategy to introduce an element that monkeys with pre-existing, usually fixed mechanics; in the same category we might include magics like control weather, wizard light and darkness, summoning effective new units via phantasmal forces, etc.

The history of move earth from this point is basically one of its evolution away from this atomic miniatures-wargame mechanic. In so doing it perhaps becomes progressively harder to discern the mission or proper interpretation of the spell.

Original D&D

Move Earth: When above ground the Magic-User may utilize this spell to move prominences such as hills or ridges. The spell takes one turn to go into effect. The terrain affected will move at the rate of 6" per turn. Duration: 6 turns. Range 24".

In OD&D, the spell has changed its name to move earth, slightly obscuring the original intent, but otherwise pretty much the same and comparably brief. It does get additional detail in terms of range, duration, and speed at which the affected terrain features move, which I think was definitely necessary. It doesn't say "vegetation" anymore, so one might possibly rule out its affecting terrain such as woods, swamp, etc.? (Not that I would do that.)

Swords & Spells

Move Earth: [Range] 24", [Area of Effect] 80" (square), [Turn Duration] 6.

In the Swords & Spells listing, move earth has the same range & duration as OD&D, but the area of effect is a new specification. Generally when Gygax writes "(square)" here, it synchs up with "square inches" in OD&D (albeit a mangled way of writing such), so by inference this indicates an 8"×10" area, close to the size of a standard sheet of paper on the tabletop, if that's being used for terrain pieces. Note that this specification is not shared by any later edition.

Expert D&D

Move Earth
Range: 240'
Duration: 6 turns

This spell may be used to magically move earth. It can also be used to alter the surface features of any area within the spell range. The spell will extend downwards until it reaches the limit of the spell range or solid rock. The earth in this area will be moved at 60' per turn, according to the spell caster's wishes. Stone will not be affected by this spell, only soil.

As usual, the Dave Cook Expert D&D rules do a very light brush-up on the spell from OD&D. Perhaps the text here might not appear as crisp nor powerful as OD&D's "move prominences such as hills or ridges". It also introduces restriction in regards to how deep it can go, and that hard stone is unaffected. I'm really not offended by those delimitations.

AD&D 1st Ed.

Move  Earth  (Alteration)
Level: 6
Range: 1"/level
Duration: Permanent
Area of Effect: Special
Components:  V,  S,  M
Casting Time: Special
Saving Throw: None

Explanation/Description:  When cast, the move earth spell moves dirt (clay, loam, sand) and its other components. Thus, embankments can be collapsed, hillocks moved, dunes shifted, etc. The area to be affected will dictate the casting time; for every 4" square area, 1 turn of casting time  is required. If terrain features are to be moved - as compared to simply caving in banks or walls of earth - it is necessary that an earth elemental be subsequently summoned to assist. All spell casting and/or summoning must be completed before any effects occur. In no event con rock prominences be collapsed or moved. The material components for this spell are a mixture of soils (clay, loam, sand) in a small bag, and an iron blade.

Here's the move earth spell as I first encountered it, in AD&D. The emphasis at this time clearly seems to be on flattening terrain features, i.e., removing them, rather than transporting them around ("embankments can be collapsed... dunes shifted... simply caving in banks or walls of earth..."). There is an exceptional case permitted for actually moving terrain features a la OD&D/Chainmail; but it requires a whole extra spell to be cast, namely conjure (earth) elemental, to empower it so. Also we get area limitations (vis-a-vis spell casting time) for the first time, which is probably a good idea. And the prohibition from affecting hard rock is also here.

The AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide also says this about the spell:
Move Earth: The practical limitation on the area of effect of this spell is a 24" square area, with four hours of casting time, exclusive of elemental conjuration.

I would argue that doesn't mathematically make sense. If you cast move earth for 4 hours (24 turns), and got a 4" square area each turn, then you'd affect a total of 384 square inches ~ 20" square. But the stated 24" square area is at least on the same order of magnitude.

AD&D 2nd Ed.

Move Earth
(Alteration)
Range: 10 yds./level
Duration: Permanent
Area of Effect: Special
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: Special
Saving Throw: None

When cast, the move earth spell moves dirt (clay, loam, sand) and its other components. Thus, embankments can be collapsed, hillocks moved, dunes shifted, etc. However, in no event can rock prominences be collapsed or moved. The area to be affected dictates the casting time; for every 40 yard x 40 yard surface area and 10 feet of depth, one turn of casting time is required. The maximum area that can be affected is 240 yards x 240 yards, which takes four hours.

If terrain features are to be moved--as compared to simply caving in banks or walls of earth--it is necessary that an earth elemental be subsequently summoned to assist. All spell casting or summoning must be completed before any effects occur. As any summoned earth elemental will perform most of its work underground, it is unlikely that it will be intercepted or interrupted. Should this occur, however, the movement of the earth requiring its services must be stopped until the elemental is once again available. Should the elemental be slain or dismissed, the move earth spell is limited to collapsing banks or walls of earth.

The spell cannot be used for tunneling and is generally too slow to trap or bury creatures; its primary use is for digging or filling moats or for adjusting terrain contours before a battle.

The material components for this spell are a mixture of soils (clay, loam, sand) in a small bag and an iron blade.

Note: This spell does not violently break the surface of the ground. Instead, it creates wavelike crests and troughs, with the earth reacting with glacierlike fluidity until the desired result is achieved. Trees, structures, rock formations, etc. are relatively unaffected, save for changes in elevation and relative topography.

So in 2nd Edition, the move earth spell jumps from one paragraph to five paragraphs in length. The first two paragraphs are mostly the same as the 1E AD&D spell, with added notation on any associated earth elemental doing work underground, being unlikely to be interrupted, but losing its advantage if it is (which starts to look a bit pedantic to my eye). Paragraphs three and five seem to mostly entail restrictions on using it in combat to bury or trap opponents, due to issues of speed, location, and functionality. It can't be used for tunneling (which I agree with).

D&D 3rd Ed.

Move Earth
Transmutation
Level: Sor/Wiz 6
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: See text
Range: Long (400 ft. + 40 ft./level)
Area: Dirt in an area up to 750 ft. square and up to 10 ft. deep (S)
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No


Move earth moves dirt, possibly collapsing embankments, moving hillocks, shifting dunes, etc. However, in no event can rock formations be collapsed or moved. The area to be affected determines the casting time. For every 150-foot square (up to 10 feet deep), casting takes 10 minutes. The maximum area, 750 feet by 750 feet, takes 4 hours and 10 minutes to move.

This spell does not violently break the surface of the ground. Instead, it creates wavelike crests and troughs, with the earth reacting with glacierlike fluidity until the desired result is achieved. Trees, structures, rock formations, and such are mostly unaffected except for changes in elevation and relative topography.

The spell cannot be used for tunneling and is generally too slow to trap or bury creatures. Its primary use is for digging or filling moats or for adjusting terrain contours before a battle.

The 3rd Edition version is largely the same as the 2nd. Certainly it's not a widely-used spell, nor one that seems overpowered, so it's likely not one that the designers felt needed a total overhaul. Note that, as in 2d Edition, "Trees... are relatively unaffected", which is exactly the opposite of the original version of the spell in Chainmail, which actually mentioned moving "vegetation" around first and foremost, even before hills and other features, in the context of terrain pieces in a miniatures wargame.

Conclusions

Here's what I decided to do in Book of Spells, 2nd Edition: go back to the inspiration, clarity, and brevity in the OD&D/Chainmail version of move earth/moving terrain. Instead of obscuring the use of the spell in a miniatures wargame, I wanted to highlight it and bring it to the fore -- without prohibiting more creative uses. At this highest level of spell power, this provides an intentional and direct link to a mass warfare game such as Book of War, for example, and indeed it was designed and tested in parallel with that game. Here's the final text:


Move Earth: (Range: 24 inches, Duration: 6 turns) This spell can move any one terrain feature over soft ground (not hard rock formations). An area up to 12” × 12” square is affected, and moves at a speed of 6” per turn. Creatures may be caught up and moved with the feature in question. Concentration is required throughout the spell's duration.


The prohibition against moving hard rock is maintained. I specify that creatures caught in the effect are moved with the terrain, because that's the simplest adjudication while the mass warfare game is in progress (picture a stand of figures already sitting on a hill; might as well just keep them on the hill while it moves -- in contrast, perhaps, to the 2nd & 3rd Edition "wavelike crests and troughs" ruling).

One other point should be made; the 12 × 12" square area (smaller and simpler than the 1E/2E rule) is chosen specifically to encompass the size of terrain features established for my Book of War game.  (These are specified as being equal to a standard page size of about 8½×11"; and that in turn designed to be compatible with terrain pieces from Warhammer 6th Ed.: "...areas are all assumed to be no greater than 12" across at their widest point. So, a wood or hill can be 12" in diameter or 12"×6" for example", p. 220).

However, in this regard we run into a problem with the rules-fix that first appeared in the AD&D Player's Handbook p. 39: "IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT OUTDOOR SCALE BE USED FOR RANGE ONLY, NEVER FOR SPELL AREA OF EFFECT (which  is  kept at  1”  =  10’)" (screamy caps as in the original). Unfortunately, this would actually mean that our area here is fixed at 120 feet square, and in the outdoors/mass-warfare scale of 1"=10 yards or so, the spell would effectively shrink on the tabletop to a mere 4" in length and width (and thereby not encompass a whole terrain piece). So specifically because of this I've invented a new rules exception in the Foreword to Book of Spells, 2nd Edition for this and other spells in the same category:


While areas-of-effect do not usually scale up outdoors (feet-to-yards), this should be allowed for higher level spells that are specialized to the wilderness setting (i.e., hallucinatory terrain, plant growth, transmute rock to mud, lower water, move earth).


How does that look to you?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Previewing Book of Spells 2E: Wizard Eye

Well, here we are are the end of Halloween weekend. Some people say that their greatest fear is spiders or something like that (I think I spent too much time growing up on the farm with all creatures great and small walking under me, next to me, and on me from time to time). Even the invisible stalker from last week really intrigues more than terrifies me. No, what has always completely freaked me out is disconnected or dislocated body parts. So here, let me share with you my partner Isabelle's page of rough concept sketches for the Book of Spells, 2nd Edition "wizard eye" spell and give you the creeps for another week:


Among the priorities for the 2nd edition (available Dec-1 with the even more horrifying final art within, how's that for a sales pitch?) has been to bring the text even more closely in alignment and theme with the Original D&D game. For example, I've switched numerous names back to the recognizable classic ones: Arcane eye is once again wizard eye. Likewise: Arcane lock is back to wizard lock. Protection from arrows is protection from missiles. Summon elemental is conjure elemental, and summon stalker is invisible stalker. Circle of death is once again the death spell. Stuff like that.

(Now, not absolutely everything is back to OD&D standards. Like: I just can't get over how much I loathe the acronym ESP in the spell list, nor did I like the SRD-brand detect thoughts, so I settled on read minds as the title it really should have had all along -- having some amount of real myth/magician resonance to it. Also, those spells with numerical parameters in the title: invisibility 10' radius is still invisibility sphere, and protection from evil 10' radius is what I now call the protective sphere.)

Anyway, here's my cut-and-polished version of the wizard eye spell for you to sneak a peek at yourself. Small is beautiful!


Wizard Eye: (Range: 6 inches, Duration: 6 turns) The caster creates an invisible, magical eye through which he or she can see from a distance. Once conjured, the wizard eye can travel at a speed of 12” per round, up to 24” from the caster. The eye can pass through cracks about the size of a mouse-hole.