Wednesday, December 7, 2011

AD&D Spell Deconstruction OR Never Assume Anything

This will be the first in a series of posts dealing specifically with some AD&D spells that, for whatever reason, I never fully understood. Perhaps it was simply a lack of reading comprehension on my part, but most likely because I never actually read the fucking things completely. There is a lot of information contained within each spell description; glossing over misses some key components.

Spell Components
Speaking of components (or writing of them...whatever), did/does anyone use spell components? I realize some of this is mainly for flavor, but if you want to be a hardass DM and limit spell casting just use the spells as written. For instance, a lot of cleric spells require holy water. That's not too hard to get, but it is expensive. Each vial is 25 gp, so a starting character probably has at most one vial unless they forego armor and/or weapons. Bless, Protection From Evil and Purify Food & Drink all require holy water to cast, which means 1st level clerics aren't going to be using those spells much, or not at least until they find some treasure. By extension, it also means the first few hundred gold the cleric finds will be donated to his church in exchange for holy water. Want to limit characters running around with lots of money? Start with spell components. Further, spells require risk to cast if using components; take the magic-user spell Scare, for example. Material components for this spell are bone fragments from an undead monster, which essentially means MUs must risk their hide adventuring to acquire the means to cast it. Or they can buy skeleton bones in town, right? Even if you as DM allow there to be an alchemy shop or something similar, no alchemist worth a crap will sell those bones cheaply. Suppose the alchemist had to pay a few fighters and a cleric to delve into a tomb and kill a few skeletons for their bones. What's the markup like? 100 gp for skeleton bone pieces seems reasonable. Either way, the MU is paying with personal risk or out of his pocket book. You can hand-wave a lot of this and just tell the spell caster, "Okay, you need to spend 300 gp this month for components" and leave it at that. Not as nitpicky but at least you're hitting them where it hurts most. Players who complain should be forced to track every component for every spell and explain in detail where they got those components. That'll shut them up.

And now on to the spells...or at least one to start.

Cure Light Wounds
I've read that Heal is a ridiculous spell. Well, not so much Heal, but its reverse Harm which leaves a creature with only 1d4 hit points left. No saving throw. Kill Demogorgon in one round! Read CLW closely: creatures that require special weapon properties to hit (iron, silver, magic) are unaffected. This applies to all healing spells and their reverse. Further, these spells are completely useless against undead, incorporeal creatures (air elementals?) and nearly anything from another plane. That certainly balances them out, doesn't it? Another thing to consider is that casting a CLW during melee is nearly impossible unless the target is motionless i.e. unconscious. The cleric cannot move more than 10' during the casting, any successful attack ruins the spell and a roll-to-hit must be made. That's a lot of crap to worry about. Cause Light Wounds really seems like a last resort for a desperate fool, or possibly a sneaky way for an evil cleric to kill someone. Sure, I'll heal you! In any event, clerics will be casting nearly all their spells before or after melee; that's why they can wear heavy armor.


  1. What I always have done is say that mundane components (anything not assigned an explicit G.P. value, like gems) are covered by the 100 GP/Level monthly maintenance cost that PCs pay. But gems and the like have to be purchased and tracked separately.

    Now if there was some sort of mishap that destroyed where the M-U was keeping his mundane components, he'd be SOL until getting somewhere he could re-stock.

    If a player wants to spread out his components to minimize this (usually small) risk, then he's deciding to get into a granular, track-everything system. Not me. But by giving a nod to the system at the 40,000 foot level, it preserves its intent and function, imo.

    BTW - like the AD&D posts!

  2. I think it's important to make the players pay for spell casting; it keeps them from hoarding money.