Haste Effect Poll Results

Here are the results from another past poll (embarrassingly, from last year). This follows from my pointing out how much the effect of the haste spell has changed over time, with a distinctly different (increasingly powerful) mechanic in every edition. The question asked was, "What would be a reasonably balanced effect for the haste spell as a 3rd-level wizard (magic-user) spell?" Here the far-away favorite was for the well-known version of the spell basically shared between AD&D 1E, 2E, and B/X -- double move and melee/missile attacks. Honestly, left to my own devices, I would have picked something different -- namely the second option, with double movement, but no attack benefit (explicitly matching the OD&D description for a potion of speed in Vol-2, p. 31). That said, I've accepted this poll result into my own OD&D games, and I'm comfortable with it so long as the duration is interpreted as only a certain number of rounds (i.e., one combat only, as per the previous poll's finding; and as explicit in AD&D, with the modified spell duration given there in rounds). If the duration was interpreted in terms of 1 turn = 10 minutes, then I'd say this is demonstrably broken unless you at least remove the double-attacks effect (it pretty much single-handedly broke my G1 giants game last year).


  1. Note that in tournament play the aging effect is meaningless, but in a longer-running campaign non-Elves are pretty careful about it.

    But, on p12 of PHB 1E there is a note under System Shock, that you must roll System Shock to survive various physical transformations like polymorph and magical aging.

    So if you have a CON of 9 your chance of surviving a Haste spell is 65%, at 15 it's 91%, meaning almost everyone will have between a 50-50 chance and a 1 in 10 chance of dying. Only those with CON 17+ can undergo Haste with impunity.

    If you apply that rule, even a turns-long Haste that doubles attacks and movement is balanced by the risk of death. Only at levels high enough where Wishes are common or CONs are universally astronomical will anyone consider Haste worthwhile.

    Looked at another way, if you Haste a unit of cavalry, they count as double the men and have incredible speed for a battle or two, but after the spell wears off a third of the men and a third of the horses will die. So maybe it's a kamikaze spell, a last-ditch effort. Powerful for its level but generally undesirable to use it.

  2. I do agree that the aging is an important balancing factor in AD&D.

    However, that aging effect doesn't exist in the Moldvay/Mentzer B/X D&D lines, and yet they do still maintain the duration of "3 turns" and the effect of "double move an attacks", so we still need to consider if its balanced in that context. I'd argue "no" to that -- and point out that Mentzer found it necessary to have a special outside section sort of gimping haste and warning about how dangerously powerful it was.

    The other thing I'd say is that if we took a poll a lot of people would admit that they overlook the implied AD&D aging & system shock check to the spell (you need to see the DMG added notes to be aware of it). And yet it's probably balanced anyway because AD&D did specify the duration in rounds (unlike B/X, copying forward what was written in OD&D Vol-1).

  3. Thanks for this pair of posts...I needed 'em for a "haste issue" I was working on, more than 4 years later. Definitely a spell that needs a lot of thought on balancing.

    I will say the B/X version seems just fine, but only due to the nature of B/X: fighters never gain multiple attacks, so the spell amounts to no more than 1 extra attack per round.

    1. Cool! Although in my most recent update, I did downgrade haste back to the OD&D original, that is, just double movement and no extra attacks at all (for up to 20 people). Initially my friend Paul said, "Now it will never get used", but it's still being used by any caster who can access it.