Saturday, November 17, 2012

The DMG, Section by Section, Part 20: Spell Explanations – Illusionists

Short post today, just wrapping up Illusionist spells, which in turn wraps up this section on magic in the DMG.

Phantasmal Killer
This is, as I understand it, an incredibly nasty spell. One way to escape it, however, is to go unconscious, "somehow." If I'm ever playing and my PC's buddy is being attacked by one of these, you can bet I'll be knocking my buddy over the head to save him.

Detect Magic
I was really interested to see Gary refer the reader to the Cleric, rather than the Magic-User, version of this spell for commentary. Comparing the Cleric and Magic-User versions of this spell, it seems that the Cleric version only can detect the strength of a magic aura while the Magic-User version includes a chance to detect the particular type of magic involved. By giving Illusionists the Cleric version of the spell, Gary is giving them the weaker, less effective version.

Finally, in a note that seems to cover all spells, Gary points out that, "the reverse of any spell must be separately memorized, and that each requires special components." I've never liked the idea of having to choose between "normal" or reversed versions of spells during spell memorization, but I certainly can understand why Gary would rule this way.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The DMG, Section by Section, Part 19: Spell Explanations – Magic-Users

Comprehend Languages
I found it interesting that this can be reversed and cast on a scroll to make it unreadable, though casting the unreversed version of this spell twice on such a scroll will make it readable again.

Apparently Gary's players tried to kill opponents by enlarging them inside their armor, but Gary says that their armor will either come loose (if secured with buckles and straps) or be ruined (in the case of chain mail) rather than kill an enlarged subject of this spell; even clothes are assumed to "split away during growth." I would have thought that Gary would have just had what a subject of this spell was wearing grow with the subject, but leave it to Gary to surprise me, right?

Tenser's Floating Disc
I don't know why Gary's such a kill-joy with this particular spell. First he stipulates clearly that no Magic-User can begin play knowing this spell or Nystul's Magic Aura, and then he bans Magic-Users from riding the Disc. Lame. (Though I think Gary's reasoning for banning these two spells may have been to allow players to choose a spell on a result of 10 on the beginning spell tables. Still.)

Unseen Servant
This is the spell my players have played around with the most, stretching the limits of how much they can communicate with an inanimate force (being able to command it clearly means that some amount of communication is possible, I've ruled). Gary stipulates that this force has no shape and therefore cannot be clothed.

I hadn't ever realized that this spell requires at least two anchor points or the web will collapse in on and get tangled up with itself. I hadn't ever really thought about that, but it makes good sense.

Wizard Lock
I also hadn't realized that casters could freely pass through their own Wizard Locks. This has interesting possibilities if you want to take magic in the direction of different flavors of the same spells. (Brendan, I'm thinking of you here.)

Rary's Mnemonic Enhancer
I hadn't realized that this was in 1e as well as 2e. It came up in a previous discussion on this blog. (I prefer any one of my solutions, for the record, though the existence of this spell does settle what Gary thought about the issue.)

Wall of Force
This spell's commentary is interesting because Gary discusses two specific ways to defeat it, much the same way that prismatic spheres in AD&D and prismatic walls in Arduin are handled. These magical barriers that require specific, sometimes (especially with Arduin) non-sensical, unrelated magical keys fascinate me and seem under-utilized in the D&D I read about and play.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Ready Ref Diceless Initiative

Flipping through the Ready Ref Sheets recently, I noticed a really interesting initiative system.

Basically, different factors have assigned numbers, which you add together to determine what you could call an "initiative score," I suppose (the Ready Ref Sheets don't use that, or any, term). The higher your score, the earlier you go in the round.

In the Ready Ref sheets, they present the actual weapons used as the number and then everything else as a modifier, but I'm going to present them in reverse order, since it makes more sense to me to start with the factors that change the least, rather than the factors that change the most.

First off, the character's Dexterity score translates into an initiative number (identical to attribute modifiers in OD&D or some version of Basic, I think):

3-4: -2
5-8: -1
9-12: –
13-16: +1
17-18: +2

Secondly, armor and encumbrance factor in:

(Blank, so either no armor, or just not available to PCs): +3
Light Armor: +2
Heavy Armor: +1
Plate Armor: –
Encumbered: -1

Monsters also get numbers based on their speed:

18" and up: +3
12-17": +2
9-11": +1
4-8": –
3" & less: -1

Finally, the following weapons and attacks are associated with these numbers:

1: Read Scroll
2: Spell of 7-9th level
3: Short Weapon (Dagger, Hand Axe, Mace)
4: Medium Weapon (Sword, Hammer, Battle Axe) or touching
5: Long Weapon (Morning Star, Flail, Spear, Pole Arm, Halberd, Two-Handed Sword)
6: Very Long Weapon (Mounted Lance)
7: Spell of 4-6th level
8: Extreme Weapon (Pike)
9: Missile Fire
10: Spell of 1-3rd level
11: Breath Weapon
12: Glance

Numbers from all three (or two, in the case of monsters) factors should be added up and compared to the numbers of all the other characters involved in the combat; highest score goes first and ties are broken with "actual dexterity ratings."

It's a simple, elegant system, and one I may consider switching to. It's short enough that it could probably fit on a 2-page character sheet without crowding other records too much. Has anyone ever used this system before? Would you ever consider switching to it?