Friday, August 27, 2010

OD&D Magic Champions Style Part 12

A Call for Comments

I realize that this particular project has not garnered a lot of comments; however, I am asking for feedback on this particular entry. As will become clear, this category requires a lot of interpretation. I don't know that I am happy with what amounts to a rough draft on this category, so I hope that those of you out there who bother to read this will help by chiming in below with your own point of view. Thanks.


This is the single most challenging spell category of any that I have found using the Oe rule set. Not only are the mechanics all over the place, but their descriptions are vague and deviate from what has come to be the norm in later editions. The spells:

Charm Person (1)
Affects humanoids. If successful, target is "completely under the influence" of caster until dispelled. Range = 12"

Sleep (1)Affects a variety of creatures depending upon HD. Max = 2d8 creatures of 1+1HD or less. Max HD affected = 4+1 HD (one creature). Range = 24"

Hold Person (3) [2]
Affects 1-4 persons (with a -2 to the save if targeting only 1 person) with a "greater effect" than Charm Person. Duration = 6 turns + spell caster. Range = 12" Cleric version has Duration = 9 turns & Range = 18"

Charm Monster (4)
Same as Charm Person, but affects monsters and charms 3d6 creatures of 3 or fewer HD.

Confusion (4)
Affects 2d6 +1 per caster level above 8th. Causes affected creatures to randomly determine their action during combat. Targets with 2 or fewer HD are automatically affected. Targets with more HD must save every turn for the duration of the spell or be confused. Duration = 12 turns. Range = 12"

Feeble Mind (5)
Affects only other Magic Users. Renders them "feeble-minded" until dispelled. -4 to the save. Range = 24"

Hold Monster (5)
Same as Hold Person, applicable to monsters.

Quest [5]
Similar to Geas, but the target will suffer a curse (determined by caster with Referee supervision) if the quest is ignored. Duration = until quest is complete. Range = ?

Geas (6)
Target must complete a given task. Ignoring the Geas ultimately causes weakness and death. Duration = until task is complete. Range = 3"


There are a few surprises here, which tend to add more confusion than clarify things. I find this descriptor of Hold Person absolutely fascinating, because as someone who came into the hobby via the Holmes edition and 1e, I have always understood it to be some variation of a paralyzing spell. Here, it seems to indicate a more effective version of Charm Person (though what is a "greater effect" than being "completely under the influence?"). This is a prospect that really excites me, because it opens up possibilities. This led to me to seeking out how other editions describe these spells, of which the 1e DMG notes on Charm Person are by far the most helpful:

Remember that a charmed creature’s or person’s priorities are changed as regards to the spell-caster, but the charmed one’s basic personality and alignment are not.

This allows for the possibility that though the victim may be "completely under the influence" it does not change the basic character of that victim. In turn, this allows for "greater effect" to mean changing aspects of that basic character (such as a survival instinct that would counteract freezing in the middle of a combat to allow an enemy to stick you in the gut with a sword).

As exciting as this revelation is, however, there is very little mechanically that is consistent within this spell category. Sleep, for example, is over all mechanically more powerful than Hold Person (greater number of targets, greater range and potentially a greater duration). In turn, Hold Person is mechanically potentially more powerful than Confusion ("greater than completely under the influence" is more powerful than causing random behavior). In addition — again mechanically — Quest and Geas are not that much more powerful than Charm Person. Although they grant some devastating consequences for not obeying, the enchantment comes to an end once one command is fulfilled. In addition, the targets are free to ignore the command (as long as they are willing to accept the consequence) and to go about the command in a disobedient manner. Charm Person is effective until it is dispelled.

In other words, no matter what progression I choose to use for a Champion-style version of this category, it will little resemble the original source material. With this in mind, I am simply going to proceed with mechanics stripped out of the source material to create a base spell and largely ignore trying to duplicate that source material because it is largely an impossible task.

  • Duration = until task is complete, 6 + caster level turns (12 turns), until dispelled
  • Range = 3", 12" (18"), 24"
  • Area Effect = 1 person/creature ≤ 4+1 HD, 1 person/creature of any HD, 2d6 + 1/per caster level above 8 creatures
  • Special = saving throw penalties/automatic success, curse or withering death if command not followed.
  • Target = humanoid, monster

Base Spell: Target must make a save or be compelled to carry out one command by the caster. Target is free to carry out this command in a manner that reflects their basic personality and alignment. Duration = until the task is complete. Area Effect = 1 person of 4+1 HD or less. Range = 3". Target = humanoid.

The following add 1 level:
  • Duration = 6 + caster turns (and thus possibly more than one command).
  • Range = 12"
  • Area effect = 1 person/creature of any HD
  • Save at penalty -2
  • No save for creatures with less than 1/3 of caster level (1/2HD at 2nd level, 1 HD at 4th level, 2 HD at 7th level, etc.)
  • Target = monster
  • Target's basic personality & alignment are subject to change at the will of the caster

The following add 2 levels:
  • Duration = until dispelled
  • Range = 24"
  • Area Effect = 2d6 creatures + 1 per level above 8
  • Save at penalty -4
  • Some kind of withering disease or curse affects the target when they do not fulfill the command(s) of the caster.

Example spell Feeble Mind
6th level spell. Target must make a save at -4 (+2 levels) or be compelled to carry out a single command of the caster. If the target refuses, their Int will be reduced to 3 (+2 levels). Magic Users will lose all memorized spells. Duration = until task is complete. Area Effect = 1 person of any HD (+1 level). Range = 3". Target = humanoid.

Again, please take the time to critique. I appreciate it.


AndreasDavour said...

I feel like chipping in with a short note, since I understand the wish to get some feel you're not just talking to yourself.

Personally I find it a bit anti-intuitive to do this kind of project with D&D, which are so far from a systematic system as you can get.

That being said, I'm impressed by the amount of coherency you have managed to get out of the source material. I vastly prefer my magic to be more wild and wonky, but if you crave a systematic treatment, this looks impressive!

Hobo Ogre said...

You're running into the same problem I'm having, and for the same reason: The original spells HAD no rhyme or under-lying order. I'm working on another project that tries to create or "bring to the surface" the structure of magic and why it works the way it does.

BUT, Gygax and Arneson didn't do it that way. They just came up with some cool magic effects, threw some details (level, duration, range, etc.) at them, and ran with it.

Our problem is that we're trying to create order where there is none. And I must say, you're doing a fantastic job. Much of what you've already solved has been helpful.

Don't be discouraged, it's difficult to make order from chaos. ;^]