The Dragon Tree Spell Book Part IV
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OK! Now that the anti-SEO headers are in place, we can begin! Welcome to Part IV (and last) of my walkthrough of the Arduin-ish “Dragon Tree Spell Book”. The basic background and details are in the first part, you can also get to the second and third parts, and if you like this, you will probably like the Necromican! (Also, if you like this, you probably have other issues, but who am I to judge?)
We got to fifth level spells last week, so, it’s time for sixth level!
Sixth Level Spells
Angry Weather: OK, this is nifty, albeit likely to cause debates over the exact effects. The weather in a “given area” reflects the druid’s mood, so as they get angry, it becomes stormier, lightning strikes, thunder roars, cliches cliche. If the druid is happy and he knows it, he will clap his hands, and, also, the weather will become sunny and pleasant. The “given area” is not actually given, and the spell’s duration is for “one fit of anger”, which could be a few minutes or possibly as long as several months, because you forgot their birthday that one time and dammit, just let it go already, how many times can I apologize and… erm.. where was I? Oh yeah. Spell. While noting this can be “very impressive when used correctly”, it’s shy on specifics like if the druid can aim the lightning at enemies or cause the storms to blow in a useful manner. This would work better as a ritual affecting a several-mile radius around a druid’s sacred grove (or possibly a wizard’s tower), so that the local region can feel their wrath (or pleasure). Huh. May need to write that up. The level is appropriate given the general scope of the spell, but it’s a “background”/”NPC” spell in actual play; the lack of direct utility other than scaring the locals make it less useful for PCs. (And if you’re casting sixth level spells, you have a lot of ways to scare the locals that can also fry your enemies.) Oh, and speaking of frying your enemies…
Ball Lightning: This creates a ball of lightning. Shocking, I know. You see what I did there? ‘Shocking’? That’s a joke, son. It does 1d6 damage/level, with a bonus to hit if the target is wearing metal armor. If it misses the target, it travels in a straight line until it hits something or runs out of range. All pretty standard, except for the notation that “each die of damage requires a ten foot cube of space” (all bolding in original). So assuming a 12th level caster, that’s twelve 10-foot cubes? Arranged how? In a rough sphere? In a line? The ball rolls to hit the target, but there’s nothing about it exploding to hit everything else around it (which would make more sense for a 6th level spell, as 1d6/level is what you get with third level spells in default settings). Given the further notes that fog/rain may cause “premature detonation” (happens to everyone, don’t stress over it, we can cast it again when you’ve rested), I think the implication is strong that once this spell strikes a target, it goes “kaboom!” in a spectacular manner, filling an area of one 10′ cube/d6 damage, which could easily engulf the caster and their party, as old school spells often did. If you’ve never caused a self-inflicted TPK because you screwed up calculating the volume of a fireball, you haven’t played old school.
Chorus And Fugue Of Magic Mouths: This is a runesinger spell originally, and if you don’t know what a runesinger is, here you go. Anyway, this is a hugely complex spell, and I can’t even try to summarize it, so…
Housekeeping: Can affect an entire castle, as long as it is a single contiguous structure. (Even Gormenghast?) It “causes all things to return to their original state when not being used”, said state being defined as the condition when the spell was cast. So, your house better be perfect when you cast this, or it becomes more of a curse than a utility. Consider: You have a bunch of books and papers scattered on your desk. Someone casts this spell. For 1 day/caster level, every time you turn around, all that clutter is returned to your desk, no matter how often you put it away! If the chamberpots weren’t empty when the spell was cast, they refill all the time.
Jireen’s Spell Of Sauce For The Gander: Sadly, this is not a potent cooking spell. Rather, it causes anyone attacking a “weaker” target to take damage “in proportion”, so that if your attack did 3 HP damage to a 4 HP creature, you also lose 75% of your hit points. Non-damaging spells like polymorph simply rebound and affect the caster. As with several other spells in the book, the comments indicate this was often used in PVP situations and requires constant DM adjudication. And speaking of PVP…
Power Word: Mute: This spell causes the target to unable to talk for 1 turn/level, noting it “also affects the player“. And in that vein…
Symbol of Silence: A symbol which causes all who see it to be unable to talk “including player”. You think the social contract at the Dragon Tree table was perhaps a little frayed?
Seventh Level Spells
Attack Other Plane: While it would hardly be impossible for this spell to involve aerial combat, given the nature of old school games, it instead allows you to cast a spell targeting a being on another plane of existence, provided you can see them via some other spell. The target may not be able to identify the source of the attack unless they have similar cross-dimensional vision.
Dehydrate: Removes all water from the target, reducing them to a styrofoam duodecahedron. Hmmm… sounds familiar…
Lycanthrope Power: Lycanthrope powers! Activate! Gives you all the powers of your choice of lycanthrope (I will pick were-Tyrannosaur…) without harming your alignment or personality. Once selected, you can’t change the type even when you re-cast the spell… unless you’re bitten by different type of were-creature, leading to a druid cursed to be a were-platypus but who can change himself voluntarily to a were-hippo or something as well.
Power Word: Peace: Material component, a daisy; verbal component, “Like, whoa, chill out, man”; somatic component, ✌️ . This spell makes the target unable to fight for 24 hours, except in self defense. Hippies! Damn hippies! Hippies everywhere!
Still Waters: This goes along with other seventh-level spells, “Peaceful Earth” and “Gentle Air”, each of which nullifies disturbances (including summoned elementals) of the appropriate type. There’s no “Pleasantly Warm Fire” spell, though.
Eighth Level Spells
Artificial Psionics: Temporarily grants access to psionics. Based on the text, this means “glorious 1e AD&D psionics”, and by “glorious” I mean “some of the most complex, contradictory, and potentially unbalancing rules ever put to paper”. A player tossing this out mid-session could drag the entire game to a screeching halt while those rarely used rules were reviewed and debated. I mean, this is just a tiny part of it:
Blood Boil: If cast on non-evil creatures, it merely causes apoplexy. Against evil creatures, it slowly make their blood temperature rise until they possibly explode, very messily. (There’s a bunch of complex rules and modifiers I’m not bothering to transcribe.) Presumably, it simply doesn’t work on bloodless beings, such as many undead, elementals, oozes, etc. (For evil plants… and of course there are evil plants… I’d allow it to work as ‘sap boil’. Mmm… hot maple syrup. Evil hot maple syrup.) Not sure how I’d rule if used on a creature with blood but which also inhabits supernaturally hot realms or has fire powers, like a “Type VI Demon (Balor)”.
Control Ball Lightning: Before casting “Ball Lightning” (above) you can cast this, and then you can send the lightning ball around corners or otherwise direct it, which might be the best thing to do given the explosive range. Can also be cast to take control of a lightning ball summoned by a different caster, which could be extremely nasty, except I’m unsure how it works in practice… the Ball Lightning spell will either hit its target or run out of range in the same round it was cast, and games of this era didn’t have “reaction” casts in general… perhaps house rules of the time allowed for an opposing caster to cast a counter-spell if they hadn’t yet acted this round? It would make sense.
Ninth Level Spells
Druids Revenge, or, Green Grow The Technos: Hey, y’ever notice how old-timey novels were all named something like “Godzilla, or, The Atomic Lizard”? Why did they do that, and when did it stop? Anyway, this spell does stuff I’ll finish up after lunch. And after going shopping for my mother. And here we are! This spell converts hemoglobin to chlorophyll, which somehow makes you able to survive only on sunlight and manure, with a duration of 1 month/level. It’s framed as a curse, but there are plenty of circumstances where this could be a boon. Well, assuming the manure tasted good to you. It seems rather underpowered for a ninth level spell — it’s on par with polymorph at most. The reversed spell “makes plant carnivorous”, but doesn’t specify if this gives them any ability to actually acquire food, like jaws, or if it leaves, say, an oak tree just kind of hoping a steady supply of meat dies around its roots.
Egor’s Egress/Engress Eliminator: Eliminates egresses and engresses, entirely exterminating entrances and exits, effortlessly enforcing an ending to the existence of entries. Even entreaties and exhortations to entities of extreme empathy evince no efficacy, ensuring eternal… ow! Ow! OK, I’ll stop. Eventuall… Ow!
Saridon’s Spell Sucker: Cast on a target object, all spells in the area will affect that object only, for 1 turn/level or until the object is destroyed. This is very similar to the third level spell in this book, Spell Forwarding, except it doesn’t need a target object. That’s a huge level jump; if the first spell was third level, this should be maybe fourth or fifth. If an NPC wizard cast this on a nigh-indestructible item before a battle, it could easily shut down a lot of spells flung by the party. It explicitly includes AOE spells, so fireball, meteor swarm, etc., will vent 100% of their damage on the chosen target… which, as I think of it, could be warded with other spells to protect it from the effects of the damage.
Shadow-Bring: Summons a masked, gravelly-voiced vigilante who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. OK, maybe not. It does do something cool – it creates a 10′ hemisphere where the atmosphere is traded for that of any “shadow-world” (borrowing from Amber) – alternate realities or other planes. Nasty if you bring in the “air” of the Plane of Fire, or the broiling acidic fog of Venus. The hemisphere is impenetrable in both directions; as described, it’s a small bit of the other world and reflects the current weather conditions, e.g., if there’s a windstorm on the shadow-world, the “air” inside the spell’s area will be moving as if blown, but won’t blow out of the area. My gripes are first, the area is very small — it’s not 10’/level, it’s a flat 10′. Second, it’s very open as to what “shadow worlds” can be accessed. Anything imaginable? “I summon the air from a world where the air heals all damage, restores all cast spells, and produces all the effects of a full night’s rest.” Hell, why stop there? “I summon the air from a world where breathing it gives permanent stats of 25 across the board, even after you leave the world.” I would rule the caster must have personally visited any world they wish to conjure. No summoning the air of hell until you’ve been there!
Tenth Level Spells
What? Tenth level? But I thought they only went up to nine?
To keep beating a horse that’s so dead it’s been resurrected a dozen times, led a perfect life, and attained transcendence: Anyone telling you old school gaming was all fighting kobolds with rusty daggers and hoarding copper pieces in fantasy fucking Vietnam either wasn’t there at the time or is, at best, describing one narrow playstyle. To me, old school is spells that go up to eleven (or twelve!), fighting galactic dragons, and wielding swords made of solidified prismatic walls. Wait… I never encountered one of those… I just made that up! Got to write it down… that’s freakin’ cool, dude! (By the way, if you follow some of those links, you will probably see some version of this same rant. Like I said, I will beat this horse’s corpse until it undergoes apotheosis, comes down from the Outer Planes as some kind of horse-demigod, and takes revenge.)
To be clear, if you and the other folks in your group like fantasy fucking Vietnam, then, play that way. Old school can be as simplistic as Tunnels & Trolls or as complex as Chivalry and Sorcery. It can be gritty and realistic and low-magic, or it can be totally metal Monty Haul awesomeness!!!… er, I mean, or it can be, uh, high-powered and not gritty.
Anyway, tenth level spells.
Bestow: This spell allows the caster to teach a spell to a student by kissing them. Really. It says that. This is why Dumbledore is dealing with all those #MeToo lawsuits.
Dying Curse/Blessing: This spell has a duration in months, so you cast it once a year or two, depending on your level. If you die while the spell is in effect, you can use the sum of your attribute points as damage on “anyone, anywhere”. Depending on just how Monty Haul your game was, this is probably 60-90 points of damage, at a time when Lolth, a lesser goddess, only had 66 hit points. Alternatively, they can be used as points of healing (borrrring!), or as mana points for any spell the dying person knows — which can, again, target “anyone, anywhere”. At the DM’s discretion, it can also be used to cast a typical fantasy curse along the lines of “May whoever rules this land die horribly” or “May my children always know good fortune”. It is noted that use of this spell reduces Constitution to 0, preventing any form of Raise Dead/Resurrection. Some players may try to weasel around this with a wish; I’d argue they’d need more than one. (Yes, multiple wishes cast concurrently were totally a thing back then. See that galactic dragon link up there for more.
Newton’s Spell Of Drawing The Backlash: A very nifty idea, but a complex one, and, hooo, boy, the possibility for arguments and flexible interpretations… yeah, we need another scan, I ain’t summarizing all this…
Now, we get a handful of spells known to, and cast by, dragons. One of my many never-written pet projects is a compendium of spells for various sapient races that produce spellcasters, as, surely, there will be species-specific magics. Dragons are an obvious target for this treatment, as they were often casters in the D&D/AD&D era.
Animate Treasure: An 8th level draconic spell, it has unlimited duration, range, and area, and causes the dragon’s treasure to either “levitate out of reach” if approached by greedy adventurers (“In other words, adventurers”), or, even better, wait until they’ve hauled it a few miles and then teleport back to the lair.
Body Part Teleportation: A 5th level spell, this teleports a body part to a location within 10 miles, where it functions normally. The main use I can think of, for a dragon, it teleporting your head (and thus, your breath weapon) into the inn where the adventurers are sleeping in preparation for raiding your lair…
Picture ‘Scape: A 10th level spell. This teleports the caster or a willing(? – it’s not clear) designee into a picture, which then becomes a world. So if you enter, say, a picture showing a mansion on a distant hill, you can walk to the mansion, enter it, meet the people within it (even though they’re not in the picture), travel up a road to some village, etc. Duration is at-will; you can exit when you wish, but you have to go back to your point of entry. Damaging the picture will harm the traveler; destroying it leaves them trapped, but doesn’t kill them or destroy the world. This is a neat spell, though more of a “plot” or “background” spell than something you’d be likely to cast. There’s also a lot of fuzzy issues, like, if I hire someone to “Paint the tower of the long-dead wizard Balzor, as it was when he lived”, and I enter the painting and find Balzor in his tower, can paint-Balzor teach me spells not known to the world? Anyway, I see a certain utility for a clever dragon:
- Have an artist create a painting known to appeal to some local ruler.
- Enter the painting. You now appear as a small painted figure, per the spell.
- Have the artist gift this painting to said local ruler.
- Emerge inside their castle/fortress, wreak havoc, steal all the loot, while any anti-dragon defenses guarding their perimeter are useless.
Shadow Walking: Also a 10th level spell. As you might have guessed by now, this refers to Zelazny-style shadows, that is, alternate realities. The spell allows you to walk to any reality you imagine, but it must be done incrementally, each step altering aspects of the world you’re in to the world you want to go to. The spell’s duration is fairly short, 3 rounds/level, but I assume that duration covers the act of world-shifting, not how long you can stay in the world once you’ve got there.
And In Conclusion…
Well, we’re done with this one. Not nearly as gratuitously insane as the Necromican or the Arduin books, but still a good example of the design ethos of the era: Throw it at the wall and see if it sticks. Many of the spells hew towards practical, reasonable things to create in a world where magic works semi-reliably. A lot seem designed for narrow situations that may reflect the events of actual campaigns the contributors played in, instead of being designed for general utility to an audience. Again, a mark of the times.
I’d really love to see the first edition, to see if the only differences are typographic or if there was a substantial change in the game mechanics from the original publication, but it seems to be very rare. Almost everything I can find discusses the second edition.
Next? As usual, not sure. I am drifting towards digging out something suitably obscure from my collection and doing a character walkthrough. We’ll see.