Monday, February 18, 2019

Ozymandias' AD&D Spell Compendium

About 2 years ago [link] I presented an index to the AD&D Wizard Spell Compendium. That's in regards to the four-volume set published by TSR 1996-1998, compiled by Mark Middleton, that reputedly collects all the spells ever published for AD&D throughout the 1E and 2E periods. My work built on that of James Rizza, who seems to be the first to present a database listing of the spells. What I did was to de-duplicate all the spells into normal database form (James made a copy for each possible school of wizardry, etc.), clean up descriptions and typos, add rarities specified for generalist wizards, etc. -- which allowed us to look at some descriptive statistics for the overall work.

Now Ozymandias of the Crossing the 'Verse blog has kindly shared with us a version that builds on our last version; he's been diligently working these intervening years to make it. Where mine had 15 columns of information, his now has: 139 columns. He's added multiple specific fields for different details of each spell's damage specifications, area of effect, what appears to be a tag for all of the different 28 schools of effect and 21 special origins given in the book, and multiple sheets worth of analysis, tables, and charts. Wow! You can get it at his public Google drive here, and read his analysis on his blog here. (Also other good stuff there, like a recent reflection on redesigning the polymorph spell.)

A few broad comments:
  • Ozymandias has down some mild massaging of certain descriptions (areas, etc.) for his house-ruled campaign. I understand why he would do that.
  • He notes being a bit frustrated that this work, in a sufficiently precise form, hasn't been available before. I share that, too. (Anecdote: Circa 2000 I was working at a company pitching a prototype for online Magic: The Gathering. We were struggling to make all the long spell names fit legibly on the digital cards. Ultimately we found that the winning company had entirely punted on the issue, and just let names run right off the edge of the cards, which we would never have considered acceptable. Oh, well.) 
  • He points out that, while providing a large part of his initial motivation, a relatively small proportion of spells in the system actually deal direct points of damage (15%). I've made the point before that in Original D&D, damage-dealing spells are a distinct rarity: there are only 4 such spells in the whole work!
  • Likewise, he also notes being a bit weirded out by what a tiny number of spells use the "reversible" mechanic (4%), and in the opposite direction, how almost no spells fail to have a verbal component (3%), etc., and so wonders if those are really useful mechanics to maintain in the game. This is definitely one of the wonderfully freeing things I find about OD&D, in that in the initial core conception, none of these were part of the system, and we can ignore them. (OD&D actually had all of two spells noted in the text with some reversible capacity -- oddly transmute rock to mud and stone to flesh -- and I simply ignore those reversed options in my game for simplicity.)
  • Also interesting: The most commonly used spell damage die is the d4! I guess I've been playing my OD&D game with everything as d6's so long I've forgotten about that. But: Ugh, d4, awkward. 
 Thanks to Ozymandias for the excellent work and analysis, and sharing this all with us!