Monday, April 25, 2016

Notes on OD&D - Part 25

Ok, lets continue on with the next 5th Level Spell...

Men & Magic
  • p30 - Explanation of Spells - 5th Level
Pass-wall: A spell which opens a hole in a solid rock wall, man-sized and up to 10' in length. Duration: 3 turns. Range: 3" (~90').

Interesting for brevity.  I imagine this could be extremely useful under the right circumstances.  What is notable, though, is what is left out.  We have no information on the nature of the hole.  Do the rocks simply vanish?  Or is it more like a worm-hole?  What happens after the three turns?  Does the hole vanish again?  I'm guessing so, as otherwise there would be no need for a Duration of 3 turns.  In other words it seems implied to work as follows:  A magical opening in the wall appears either as a kind of worm hole in the wall, or creates a magical tunnel into another room or corridor, or outside, perhaps.  The limit is by distance not type.  It would also appear to close up again after duration.  In other words, it's a temporary escape hatch through which your foes may not be able to follow.  It depends on how fast they can get to through the portal.   After 3 turns, which I believe comes to about 36 seconds.  That would probably be enough time for a party of 12 to get through, if the opening were 10' in length, or less.  If one defends the other side then you might be able to trap your unwitting assailants inside the tunnel when it vanishes.  How slick that would be.  Not only an escape hatch, but also a deadly trap as well. One that could fit perhaps 4 people in it, or potentially more if they squeezed in.  Interesting indeed.

We should note also that the Pass-Wall has a Range of 90'.  That means that your party could be far enough away from the opening of the tunnel for you to march to it, at which point it would close because the 3 turns are up.  So why would someone need to open a Pass-Wall when they are not directly next to the spot is not clear to me.   I am sure that Gygax and friends must have found ways to use that to advantage, but I'm not sure I can imagine how at the moment.  But still, it opens up potential options which could be exploited ... possibly.

What would be especially handy, of course, is a mechanism by which the tunnel, or "Pass-wall" could be dismissed.  So you don't have to wait for the 3 turns to time out, if you're just a few people who can jump through in a moment.  So I would probably allow that, given that the Mystic could maintain control of the spell and then release it when they want to.  That way the MU could time it so that opponents have filled the passage and then release it before they can get back out.  Of course as GM you might not really want this spell to be used as a trap.  It certainly follows from the rule that you could, I supposed, but it does seem to be contrary to the apparent intent, which is just as an escape hatch.  I think.  So, depending on how you rule that nuance you might simply say, that the Pass-Wall does not collapse until no one is remaining inside the tunnel.

That amendment to the rule would eliminate the MU's ability to use the Spell as a trap.  It would also, parenthetically, also eliminate the big Risk of using it.  Namely, that the party members get stuck in the tunnel for some reason and it collapses on them after the 3rd Turn when the Duration runs out. What happens then?  Well with the amendment that's not a problem.  Without it, yup.  It could be a problem. Fo Shizzle.  What if your MU opens the portal as the party is being chased by opponents too powerful and ornery for them, but on the other side happens to be another force that takes umbrage to their sudden intrusion and happens to be even tougher than the chasing party ... and they consequently get stuck in the tunnel.  Lets see how that might plausibly play out.  Curious.

Let's take it that the party is being chased and are trapped in a dead end room.  In the first turn the Magic-User casts Pass-Wall, knowing from their map that another room is 10' away to the South.  The spell works and there is a smooth stone-lined square shaped tunnel extending 10' into another room.  The party rushes through in their normal marching order.  They move forward until the first line of party members in the marching order are still inside the tunnel looking out.  They see ahead, lets say, a room full of baddies, who have all stood up and drawn their swords.  There's even more in this room than those behind.  Hmmm... What to do?  Someone says, "Lets go back and fight the weaker party,".  Someone counters,, "No way, lets keep moving forward".  The debate goes back and forth a bit and takes one turn.  They decide to go back.  The opponents are now crowded around the entrance with long spears pointing at the rear line members of the party, who have turned face to get the heck out of the tunnel before it collapses in 1 more turn.  But the porcupine facing their weakest members is also daunting.  No choice.  Everyone rushes forward because in a moment the tunnel will collapse and people in the rear, who are probably still facing the onrush of opponents, are probably shouting things like "GO FORWARD YOU FOOLS!"   The End.

Anyway, you get the idea.  This spell, without the amendment, when usable as an escape and a trap, does have risk.  And the risk, frankly, is pretty high.  I can imagine that being caught in a Pass-Wall collapse would be pretty conclusive.  The end.  For everyone in the tunnel.  That's it.  Just "bye".  So that to my mind is the equivalent risk of being teleported 20 into the ground.  It's over for you.  It would also, at least in one scenario, likely take out everyone behind the front rank, should they be stopped in their tracks by an opposing force at the entrance of the tunnel when it appears.  So yes, I think of that as pretty high risk.  After all, hopping from room to room in a dungeon this way... I can easily imagine that there's a 50% chance the room is currently occupied by monsters of one sort of another.  You have 3 turns to pass through the tunnel, so you better be able to get through because actually that's not a lot of time when total annihilation is in the balance.

So I would probably offer two versions of this spell.  Pass-Wall I, and Pass-Wall II.   The second version would not have the amendment, and could be used as a trap, but also would entail the risk as well.

I rate Pass-Wall I a 3 out of 5 Stars for effectiveness, which is reasonably highly on account of the fact that with the amendment it is probably useful for escapes so long as you are in a densely roomed dungeon environment.  It happens.  Pass-Wall II, on the other hand I also rate a 3, but for a different reason, though the first remains true just the same.  In fact I would rate it much higher as an awesome double purposed spell with both escape and trap built in, were it not for the rather horrendous risk involved.   So I'm going to propose yet another Pass-Wall III.   This one would have the amendment, but it only applies to members of the party, instead of any creature as the Pass-Wall I amendment.  In which case we would then have a truly awesome Pass-Wall version that is an escape, and a trap, yet also safe to use by the party.  Nice.  So Pass-Wall III I would rate a 4 out of 5 Stars for usefulness.  The only reason it's a 4 rather than a 5 is because it would nevertheless probably be reasonably uncommon to be in circumstances where the Pass-Wall would actually be useful.

Gosh, did I really have that much to say about Pass-Wall?  Hehe.  I guess so.  :)

Ok that's good for this round.  Until next time, good gaming to you!

Edit:  Oh wait.  I think I see the use for the 90' Range.   Let's say you only go 10' and there's no room there?  If you are at the entrance you can add another 10' to the wall at the end without having to walk into the tunnel.  And potentially a third 10' section, but now your first section is due to collapse so you'd better hurry through!  Hm... not sure if that's quite it, actually.

Another post-publish thought ... as the picture at the top illustrates, this might have been intended for use by a flying MU as a personal escape route, and envisioned as such many of the fore mentioned issues go away.  Flying MU's might well want a 90' Range by which to create a Pass-Wall... so long as they happen to know for sure a safe route through which to fly from room to room.  It could be, after all that the Magic-User knows the complex very well, and as such this strategy of movement might be a very effective one.   Say perhaps that the MU build the dungeon with this in mind, and it's intended use was two fold - one to create safe corridors by which the MU could fly around the complex, waging attacks on intruders perhaps, or as escape routes for overly-worthy opponents.

Magic.  There's a lot you can do with it.
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