Thursday, May 5, 2011

Holmes & Cook: Wand Spells

What is a Wand Spell? This is one of those questions that Holmes forces us to ask, because in his magic items tables under Scrolls is listed the "Any wand spell" scroll without any further explanation as to what Wand Spells are, though it seems that they are spells only usable by magic-users:
Select the spells from the appropriate list by some random method. The spells written on the scrolls can be read only by magic-users, except for the protection spells.
Indeed, when one combines Holmes with Cook there are a number of wands that directly duplicate magic user spells:
  • Wand of Fire Balls (Fire Ball)
  • Wand of Illusion (Phantasmal Force)
  • Wand of Lightning Bolts (Lightning Bolt)
  • Wand of Polymorphing (Polymorph Self & Polymorph Others)
However, this leaves us with eight wand effects that either are unique, or are mechanically different than the spells that they emulate.

Wand of Magic Detection

This wand has a range of 20' and has no given duration (I am assuming this to be instantaneous). The 1st level magic user spell has a range of 60' and a duration of 2 turns.

This is obviously a less powerful spell, but Detect Magic is a 1st level spell. Do we introduce 0 level spells? I am sorely tempted to say that 0 level spells can take up a 1st level spell slot at an exchange for three 0 level spell slots. Thus, this Wand Spell could be memorized three times, but only take up one 1st level spell slot. Personally (though I am tempted to introduce the idea of 0 level spells) I think I would rather have it as a 1st level spell that when cast, allows the caster to use the instantaneous effect three times in a 24 hr. period.

Wand of Enemy Detection

There are no mechanics available for this wand in either Holmes or Cook (the stats are in Moldvay's Basic). Given that other Wands of Detection are 20' and instantaneous, I'll work from there.

The closest spell available that this wand seems to emulate is the 2nd level Cleric Spell Know Alignment. Both Holmes and Cook give this spell a range of 10'; however, in Holmes it has a duration of 2 turns and in Cook it has a duration of 1 round.

The Wand Spell has a greater range, but garners less specific information. The spell level would therefore depend upon which version of Know Alignment is used. If Holmes, then the Wand Spell is 1st level. If Cook, then it is 2nd level.

Wand of Secret Door & Trap Detection

Given that Cook separates these effects into two different wands, I am going to assume that they are two different spells, only one of which has any semblance to an extant spell — Find Traps, a 2nd level Cleric spell. Find Traps has a range of 30' and a duration of 2 turns. Both duration and range are greater than the Wand Spells, which have a range of 20' and are instantaneous. This makes both Wand Spells 1st level.

Wand of Metal Detection

Given that this has similar mechanics to Secret Door Detection (which also has no semblance to any extant spell), I will also classify this Wand Spell as 1st level.

Wand of Fear

The 2nd level Cleric Spell, Cause Fear (the reverse spell version of Remove Fear) causes 1 creature to flee in fear for 2 turns. In contrast, the Wand Spell creates a cone 60' long with a base of 30' affecting every creature within for 1-3 turns. This suggests that the Wand Spell should be 3rd level.

Wand of Cold

Though Cook seems to indicate that Cone of Cold is an extant spell, it does not appear in his spell lists. The wand does the same amount of damage as a Wand of Fire Balls (6d6), which suggests that it should do the same amount of damage as the spell Fire Ball — 1d6/spell caster level. Although the total area affected is smaller than Fire Ball (a 60' long cone with a base of 30 is 900' sq. vs. approximately 1264' sq. of a 40' sphere), that area is a bit easier to control. Whereas fire will conform to what ever space it is in to create the 1264' sq. ft., I can't imagine extreme cold would. This makes the Wand Spell 3rd level.

Wand of Paralysis

The extant spell that has similar effects as the Wand Spell is Hold Person, a 3rd level Magic User Spell. Hold Person only affects humans, demi-humans, and humanoids the size of an ogre or less. Up to 1d4 creatures may be affected, though if only 1 is targeted, it saves at a -2. The duration is 1 turn/caster level. The Wand Spell affects every creature within a cone 60' long and a base of 30'. The duration is 6 turns. This suggests that the Wand Spell should be 4th level.

Wand of Negation

The Wand of Negation cancels the effect of another wand or staff for one round. Dispel Magic affects all magic effects within a 20' x 20' cube, depending upon the level of the spell caster; however, it specifies that it does not affect items. Dispel Magic is 3rd level. I am inclined to make the Wand Spell 1st level.

Wand Spell Table

  1. Cone of Cold (3rd Level)
  2. Cone of Fear (3rd Level)
  3. Cone of Paralysis (4th Level)
  4. Enemy Detection (1st Level) [assuming Holmes trumps Cook]
  5. Magic Detection (1st level)
  6. Metal Detection (1st level)
  7. Negation (1st level)
  8. Secret Door Detection (1st level)
  9. Trap Detection (1st level)
  10. Roll Twice

Wand Spells are of ancient origin and represent lost magical knowledge. They are not available at the beginning of the game nor are they available for purchase through any Wizard's Guild or higher level Magic User. They must be found. Remember, Magic Users must roll according to their Intelligence in order to be able to learn these spells. Otherwise, they can only be used in scroll form.


Unknown said...

I like the idea of magic that's not available except through adventuring! :)

Erin Smale said...

Just to clarify: you're saying that before an MU can use a wand, he must understand the spell?

I've used the idea myself in B/X and Chimera with great effect (i.e., some magic items must be "invoked"). But I wanted to make sure I'm reading you right, especially as Holmes tends to be "fast and loose" with respect to magic items and spells.

FrDave said...


Though that is a very interesting idea, it was not my intention. Rather, I was interested in reconstructing the spells that wands are based off of, with the assumption that these spells have been lost (though potentially found via adventuring).