Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Notes on OD&D - Part 20

Continuing on the journey through OD&D ... Men & Magic - The Spells List ... Higher level spells get a bit more interesting ...

Men & Magic
  • p26 - Explanation of Spells - 4th Level
Polymorph Self: A spell allowing the user to take the shape of anything he desires, but he will not thereby acquire the combat abilities of the thing he has polymorphed himself to resemble.  That is while the user may turn himself into a dragon of some type, he will not gain the ability to fight and breathe, but he will be able to fly.  Duration: 6 turns + the level of the Magic-User employing it.

Hmmm... ok.  That's pretty solid. But ... Notice that it says anything in italics?   Notice there is no size or weight restriction?  Or even that 'anything' doesn't necessarily mean 'any animal or creature'? I wonder how far the referee can let that go?  Can my character turn himself into ... a castle?  The limitation here is kind of problematic as well.  He can turn into a dragon that can fly but not fight or use breath weapons like one.  Hmm... But why?  Flying is a physical power they have using their giant dragon wings.  Fighting is a physical property based on the size and weight of their claws, jaws and tail, no?  Breath weapon ... ok maybe that's enchanted, but ... why not be able to fight like a Dragon if you can turn into one, but you can fly like one?  Hmmm... weird.  Sorry.  But that's just weird. And it's a problem because I don't know how to distinguish one physical property like fighting from a different one like flying.  Where am I as the referee supposed to draw the line?  According to what principal?  I don't see it.

What if my character wants to be a bear?  Can he not fight as a bear?  What happens when he uses his paw?  Does it do half damage, or my sword damage?  Or nothing?  He can run as fast as a bear, I guess.  The problem is that the rule is not well enough defined and it has no limits to it other than duration?

Furthermore ... What if I want my character to polymorph into a castle?  The rule seems to suggest I can do that. What if I want my character to polymorph into a mountain in the center of a town - and destroy it?  Or turn into a volcano in the center of a dungeon and destroy it that way?  Hell, why not another planet and fall on the current planet destroying the whole damn thing?  Nothing in the rule says there is a limit to the size and weight of the 'Anything' I can polymorph into.  That's a defect in the rule.  I know my players.  They will try to use that defect.  On the other hand you can say "well it's the referee's option to deny them the ability to do extreme things like destroying the world by polymorphing into a planet!"  Yup.  But that's NOT what the RULE says.  And yes, we all know the GM can override the rules.  But I'm looking at this in terms of the rules themselves.  And I think this rule, as written, is seriously broken.  The rule says Anything.  Not Anything within a certain size range.  It even italicizes it to emphasize the Anything aspect.  I dunno.  As a player I love this spell, even without the ... um ... undefined limitations that are difficult to comprehend.  But as a referee... we hates it.  Nasty rotten no good polymorph will try to steals my precious, yesss, won't it?  Tricksy little polymorph.  We hates it.

I rate this spell a 5 out of 5 Stars for usefuleness.
As a referee I rate it a 0 for clusterfuckingly poor definition on all counts.  Players beware - if you try to turn into something - ANYTHING more exotic than a dragon, I'm going to Fiat this into the ground and you'll probably lose your turn.  Just saying... don't push it.

Ok enough for Polymorph.  What's next?

Polymorph Others:  Unlike the spell to Polymorph Self, this spell lasts until it is dispelled.  The Spell gives all characteristics of the form of the creatures, so a creature polymorphed into a dragon acquires all of the dragon's ability - not necessarily mentality, however.  Likewise, a troll polymorphed into a snail wold have innate resistence to being stepped on and crushed by a normal man.  Range: 6" (180').

Ok.  That is pretty kick ass.  I take it the intended use is to turn opponents into things they don't want to be.  Trolls to snails (even though you're going to have a tough time killing them with your foot).  Dragon's to slugs.  Salt please?   Tarascue into a tadpole.  Yup.  That's cool.  I can see this spell being pretty damn useful in combat.

Conversely, how about turning one of my allies in the party into ... a Dragon?  Hmm... that would be even MORE useful!  And there's no duration set on it, so he could remain a dragon for ... well until I dispel the thing.  So how about we spend a few days turning every character in the party into a dragon?   Well, in a week we've got seven super bad ass dragons to go and rampage the kingdom with!  I'd say that's going to be a sight to behold.  What will the king say?  And how many wizards out there have Polymorph Others, anyway?  Damn if the world isn't being overrun by Polymorphed Dragons, or some such shit.  Dang!  That's bad assery at it's finest!

So ... hmm... yup.  I see potential here for considerable abuse.  Again, the spell is too loosely defined.  There are no limitations, and it just cries out for this kind of thing.  Players gone wild.  Of course, it will take a while for the average party to get their Magic-Users up to high enough level to pick this kind of spell... but once they do ... OMG look out!

I'm going to say I think this spell is broken, too.  Without reasonable limits, it practically demands that conflicts between the players and the referee will arise.  And I'd be surprised if they didn't arise fairly often once Magic-Users got access to this kind of spell.

I rate this spell 5 Stars for usefuleness.
And I repeat the Referee rating for it from Polymorph Self as well.  Don't even THINK of trying to abuse this spell, my dear players.  I'll get you for it, if you do.  And it will be funny.

With both of these spells they could have been given size and weight limits, as well as stating "Any Creature" rather than "Anything", and that would have gone a long way toward fixing the brokenness of the thing.  We hates it.

Next up.

Remove Curse: A spell to remove any one curse or evil sending.  Note that using this spell on a "cursed sword", for example, would make the weapon an ordinary sword, not some form of enchanted blade.  Range: Adjacent to the object.

Ok, seems reasonably straight forward, albeit not all that useful most of the time.  The fact that removing the curse from a magic item makes it entirely non-magical kinda sucks from a player's point of view, but as referee I kind of like it.  There's the enchanted magical +3 Mace of Smiting ... except a wicked old hag put a curse on it and it has a 30% chance of fumbling.  Yay.  So cruel.  If they use Remove Curse to fix the thing, all the magic drains out of it and it's just a normal mace thereafter.  Yup.  That works for me.  As a player though ... I'm not that happy about it.  I probably won't pick this spell over Polymorph, I can tell you that right now.  And besides, how often do I want to remove a curse?  Hmm... not that often.  Meh.

I rate this spell 1 Star for usefulness.


Wall of Fire: The spell will create a wall of fire which lasts until the Magic-User no longer concentrates to maintain it.  The fire wall is opaque.  It prevents creatures with under four hit dice from entering/passing through.  Undead will take two dice of damage (2-12) and other creatures one die (1-6) when breaking through the fire.  The shape of the wall can be either a plane of up to 6" (180') width and 2" (60') in height, or it can be cast in a circle of 3" (90') diameter and 2" in height.  Range: 6".

Yup.  As a defensive spell this is pretty good.  Pretty damn good, I'd say.  Weak creatures can't even pass through it.  Not bad.  Higher level creatures, though, and undead, can be a problem, but at least they take damage on the way through.  Mostly I suppose this is used to act as a very effective ward against goblins and the like.  I'm all for it.  It can be pretty sizable too.  That's good.  And the duration is only limited by the amount of time the Magic-User can concentrate on it.  That could be a pretty good long time.  Of course he can't cast other spells or do much of anything during that time, but what the heck.  This is the first spell, by the way, that has that particular limitation for duration.  As a defensive spell this is pretty notable.  I'd take it.

I rate this spell 4 Stars for usefulness.

Ok, many fish to fry lately, so that's all for this installment.  Next up will be ... Wall of Ice.