Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Handcuffed by the Fantastic - A Call to Prestidigitation!

Where are your spells?

Seriously, with all the work and adventures and settings and everything that's ever been made, you would think that a lot more people would be making new spells. Constantly. Always.

There is no limit. None! And... it's not being done.

Look at the spell research rules in both OD&D and AD&D. The published spells were just the beginning. Bloody hell, look at the spells that were added to AD&D from OD&D... half of them have people's names on them, because players made new spells. They showed us the way! And Unearthed Arcana... really... that spell section (largely a compilation of things that appeared in previous releases) might be the only truly useful section of the book.

So how many spells have your magic-users created in your games? Players, how many spells have you decided to make? The spells in the book were just supposed to be the beginning!

Eldritch Weirdness (I added all of these spells to my game immediately upon purchase!) got me thinking about this some months back. We should be flooded with supplements like this. More and nastier and weirder combat spells. Reams of spells completely useless for combat purposes but used to make a game world "more complete." General purpose stuff. Where is it?

It's easy to do! You don't even need to think of a spell first. Find a cool name first, and be influenced and inspired by that.

So I challenge you, referees, players, and fellow bloggers... Take an album, use all of the song titles as spell names (don't even pay attention to the lyrics if you so decide) and just sketch out spell effects (in OD&D terms if you'd like... looser descriptions) from that.

And for those that don't think Cool Names can result in Cool Spells all by themselves... I present to you Sodom's In the Sign of Evil... and some off the top of my head notes. Not sure on whether these spell levels are where they should be, and the descriptions are probably hole-filled, but what the hell. Yes, I know I'm cheating by using an EP... sue me. :P This will be pretty standard stuff... someone out there can get freaky with some prog or jazz or new age stuff here.

Outbreak of Evil
Level 4 Cleric
Casting this spell causes all normal men (unclassed individuals) and animals within 10' per level of the caster to turn wicked and begin to cause mischief at the least, or violence if they are able. They will generally give in to their darkest desires and move at once to satsify them. The spell lasts one turn per level of the caster, and the victims of the spell remain so bewitched even if moving outside the original area of effect. Saving throws are applicable for all affected.

Sepulchral Voice
Level 1 Magic-User
The caster may change the voice of any target into that of a dead person's voice. The magic-user must have personally heard the deceased person speak to use a particular voice. Spell lasts one turn per level, range touch, save is applicable if target is not a willing recipient.

Level 5 Cleric
This spell makes one target unable to receive holy favors. In game terms, no cleric spell with positive effects may benefit the target; no heal, remove disease, etc. The target gets a saving throw, and if this fails, the spell takes permanent effect until he takes some sort of lengthy Quest to reconnect himself to the gods.

Witching Metal
Level 2 Cleric
This spell charges a metal item (such as a weapon or armor) with the alignment of the caster, and any creature with a different alignment that is touching this item takes d6 damage every round. Range 3", saving throw applies, duration 1 round/level.

Burst Command Til War
Level 5 Magic-User
This spell is cast on any fragile container of liquid. Once cast, the liquid will be "charged" by any other spells cast on it within 5 rounds. When the caster throws the liquid at a group of foes (and it must be thrown within 5 rounds of casting or all "charges" are lost from the liquid), all within 30' must save versus dragon's breath or be affected by whatever spells were cast on the liquid (even, or especially, the spells were touch-range, and even if the spell normally has but one target). If those spells allow a saving throw, all targets are still entitled to it. No spell with helpful effects may be cast on the liquid.


  1. Cool!

    You know, you make a good point, when did we stop creating spells? We used to make up all sorts of corny crap when we were younger... I suppose the "supplements" sort of curtailed that.

  2. Love the example you used here, Jim. Definitely an example of how It Can Be Done.

  3. I don't make new spells, because I belong to a small heretical sect that thinks we already have more than enough spells as it is. I'm willing to accept new spells from time to time if they're really clever or fill an obvious gap in the "standard" spell list, but, much like new monsters (which I also don't like as much as most), I would rather use the existing ones in new ways than create lots of new ones.

  4. ehhh, I envision a great big magic tome with thousands of spells... just so nobody can really be sure exactly what's being cast by those pesky NPC wizards.

    I (obviously) am not so big on standardized monster lists... and I feel the same way about magic spells and items as well... players should really have zero sure knowledge once their characters leave the civilized lands...

  5. Now in all honesty, I really like the majority of your views posted at Grognardia, James Maliszewski; but today you sounded/read really closed minded for no better reason I can think of than cantankerous, curmudgeonly contrariness. I hope I simply read you wrong. It’s easy to do with this format. I guess I haven’t read you before as someone who’d simply dismiss creativity, especially of an old school nature, and it struck me funny today - and not ha-ha funny either.

    As I’m sure you do too, to some degree; allot of us old timers really dig the kind of creativity of devising and using new stuff like spells, traps, settings, races, and monsters, just as much as using the old tried and true stuff in new ways. That’s why I really wanted to learn ‘the other side of the screen’. Whether you subscribe to Gygax's World Builder or Tolkien's Second Creationism, the desire to make something useful and relevant (in this case, to the game) is a strong one. I know I'm not alone in this.

    (Ever get nailed with a glass tipped arrow with a rot grub in it? Fought skeletons with green slime encased in glass globes inside their skulls? I have and loved every minute of it –using the old in new ways.)

    There’s nothing wrong with your wider view here at all, as again, we’re basically on the same page. However, dismissing the newly created stuff simply because it’s 'new' (unless it’s really clever … not sure what’s implied here, if anything other than the obvious … Again, I blame it on the medium.) and assuming that you already have spells aplenty in either OD&D or AD&D seems to put you in a box where stagnation, predictability, and complacency could very easily set in - especially if you’ve been playing as long as we have, which I'm sure you have - if not slightly longer.

    Gold, like magic spells - in this case, is no less valuable for being newly brought from the mine. To think otherwise seems a bit too stifling to me, but perhaps that’s just where we’re different in our refereeing and gaming tastes and styles; and if so cool. We’re both having fun doing our things, right?

    And to Jim Raggi, our ‘Host with the Most Ghosts’ here; well done, once again! This idea was a shot in the arm today, as I have heard your ‘Call’, and posted in kind over at my blog, CotD. How fun is this?! Thanks you for the inspiration for imagination, brother!

    Keep on preachin’ – BOTH of ya!


  6. I think its a something I learned from the old Pages from the Mages articles but any time a player finds a spellbook or scroll there should be some sort of unique magic spell (or two or three). I think a different road to the same effect is interesting in itself but also could give ways to achieve certain results at a different spell level than the published spells. I am currently interested in the idea of "inefficient" spells which through whatever complicated means are higher in spell level than the standard spells.

  7. jim, you are right as rain. The gauntlet has been thrown.

  8. James,

    Wow! This has to be the most inspirtional post I've ever read in a blog. Ever.

    After I read it I sat down and wrote 8,154 words. I call it Aendryth's Eldritch Compendium.

    Ideally, the PDF will be up on DTRPG/RPGNow later this afternoon, if my graphic artist has the time to throw it together. 12 new spells and 12 new magic items (11 potions and one suit of armor). Potent stuff.

    You'll be getting an e-mail from me, or rather from OBS, later this afternoon, in gratitude.


  9. Sweet, very nice examples you threw out too. I especially love "Outbreak of Evil", that is simply outstanding.

  10. This is pretty amazing. I'm thinking of a campaign with a series of evil spell casters who each represent a different German Thrash band?

    You have the Sodom Wizard started. Kreator caster uses Riot of Violence, Living in Fear, Command of the Blade, Toxic Trace. Destruction caster has Total Disaster, Devil's Soldiers, Bestial Invasion, Confused Mind. Assassin caster with Forbidden Reality, Abstract War, Interstellar Experience, Junk Food....etc etc...

  11. Challenge accepted! I'll be posting a new spell by tomorrow.