Sunday, November 29, 2015

Notes on OD&D - Part 16

Onward with my journey through OD&D - Men & Magic - the Spells List ...

Men & Magic
    • 1st Level
      • Detect Magic (Detection)
      • Hold Person (Mind Control)
      • Read Magic (Detection)
      • Read Languages (Detection)
      • Protection from Evil (Protection)
      • Light (Transmutation)
      • Charm Person (Mind Control)
      • Sleep (Offensive Combat)
The categories, btw, are listed for my convenience and are of my own making.  The book does not mention them.  When creating the categories I tried to keep to as few as possible in order to keep things as simple as possible.  I think they pretty much hold, and you can find the full categories list in my Notes on OD&D - Part 14.

Detect Magic: A spell to determine if there has been some enchantment laid on a person, place or thing.  It has a limited range and short duration.  It is useful, for example, to discover if some item is magical, a door ahs been "held" or "wizard locked", etc.

Seems like this spell has the intention to allow parties to locate magic items, which of course could be extremely important to the success of the campaign.  We should remember that in the early phase of OD&D, based firmly as it is on Chainmail, it is primarily a wargame with fantasy elements, and there are factions (armies), and in the end one side or the other (Good or Evil) is going to win.  In this context magic items may have served like a variable form of artillery for a faction, giving it a greater chance of victory in the larger scheme of things by empowering heroes.  These heroes, being associated to one or the other faction (or neutral which means they might side with either faction under some circumstances) special capabilities and powers.  As always, I must caveat this with the understanding that I have no particular experience myself with the playing of OD&D, as in the days of yore I played mostly with GMs who created their own homebrew rules systems and worlds.  I did, however play OD&D a few times, and even in those cases it was already a later variant, and did not make that much use of the chainmail rules.  It was a very rough and tumble game, though, and survival was not to be expected.  None of my characters in those games survived, at any rate.

Aside from the locating of magic items (or identification thereof) the secondary use of this spell would have been to determine if doors were magically sealed, or if in fact any object or person or thing was magically enchanted.  One might use it to determine if a person was under a charm spell, for example, and that might come in very handy in some cases where an infiltrator had entered the ranks under a charm, or if a party member had been captured by one - either case being potentially disastrous.

This seems like a very handy spell, actually.  One might note, though that there is no rules on how long it lasts or what the "limited" range actually is.  10'?  1 hour?  3'?  4 hours?  No clue.  This would leave things up to the GM to decide, and I imagine that this might have lead to more than a few arguments or disappointments over time.  I think I'd be more comfortable as a player knowing the exact limitations.

I rate this spell 5 Stars (out of 5) for usefulness.

Hold Portal: A spell to hold a door, gate or the like.  It is similar to a locking spell (see below) but is not permanent.  Roll two dice to determine the duration of the spell in turns.  Dispel Magic (see below) will immediately negate it, a strong anti-magical creature will shatter it and a Knock (see below) will open it.

This first level spell seems useful if your characters are being chased by the bad guys and you need a bit of extra time to escape. Or you listen at a door and don't like the sound on the other side, it could inhibit those on the inside from breaking into your party while you beat a hasty retreat.  Kind of useful under some circumstances (but not really that many, at least that I can think of). 

I rate this spell 2 Stars for usefulness.

Read Magic: The means by which the incantations on an item or scroll are read. Without such a spell or similar device magic is unintelligible to to even a Magic User.  The spell is of short duration (one or two readings being the usual limit).

This one is a bit confusing to me. I'm not sure what the significance of the duration is, or why there could be more than one "reading" per spell.  At any rate, this is obviously an important spell as without it Magic Users can not use items or scrolls... I think.  I'm not quite sure how to interpret it's use from this description, frankly.  Looking around briefly on the web I notice that other people have also wound up interpreting this rule in two different ways.  Some think that it reads "Without such a spell, or similar device, magic is unintelligible...", while others say it reads "Without such, a spell or similar device-magic is unintelligible...".  The difference being that in the first case the Read Magic spell (or similar device) allows one to read magic, while in the second case it means that the Read Magic spell allows one to "read" "device-magic" (ie - magic items, or magical devices), or in other words perform an "Identify Magic" function.  There's been some debate about this.  In either case, the spell is clearly important and necessary for the full functioning of Magic Users (ie - without it one can not "read" (I assume this means "use") magic items such as scrolls, and other magical script based devices.

I rate this spell 3 Stars for usefulness.

Read Languages: The means by which directions and the like are read, particularly on treasure maps. It is otherwise like the read Magic spell above.

The key hint here is that this spell is used to interpret maps, and one assumes that without it one has little chance of being able to read maps effectively.  Maps, undoubtedly, are their own form of valuable-as-heck treasure as they often point to other treasures, and more often than not, we may expect other magic items as well.  They also may reveal secret passages, traps, and whatnot. Obviously this would be exceedingly helpful when finding maps.  The question is, how often does one find maps?

I rate this spell 3 Stars for usefulness.

Ok, that's enough for today.  I will pick up where I left off next time.
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