OK, this is, I think, the first real, content-laden article written for the “new” mrlizard.com . (Much like the new boss, it’s pretty much the same as the old boss.) Anyway, we (by which I mean ‘me’, in much the same way that ‘we have to clean out the garage’ means ‘you have to clean out the garage’ in wife-speak) are continuing our walk through the pages of the Necromican (note, no “nom”, no “con”), the 1979 highly unofficial supplement for Dungeons & Dragons published by Fantasy Art Enterprises. Levels 1-3 were covered here.This section covers level 4. I’m trying to do more, shorter, articles to give this blog the illusion of life. Hmm… if no one sees the illusion of a tree falling in the forest, does it make a sound? Of course not, moron, phantasmal force doesn’t produce sound, you need audible glamer (sic) for that!
Improved Anthropomorphic Abilities
This spell ties in to anthropomorphic abilities (see earlier article). This spell lets you create human eyes, mouths, etc, on plants or animals. The book recommends using this in conjunction with cognitive expansion in order to create a dog that can talk. This would be a lot more useful than a cat that can talk, I admit, because “Feed me! Pet me! Feed me more!” would not be helpful in a dungeon.
The Agony And The Ecstasy
Oh, dear, so many jokes here. Go for the obscure and make a Michelangelo joke? “Work blue”, as they say, and make a porn joke? Or just describe the spell, which causes the target to writhe in pain or pleasure (caster’s choice), which makes him unable to fight, or, if he saves, fight at -3. This is a nicely flavorful spell, in terms of the kinds of fluff text the DM can use and in terms of what the choice might say about the caster. A good spell for an Evil Sorceress type, who wears all black leather and likes nothing better than making men fall in love with her and then destroying them, just like that one girl in your History class who totally led you on and then went out with the dumb jock instead. (I know, I kind of go back to that particular well a lot, but the sad and depressing truth is this actually reflects absolutely none of my personal experience. I never even tried hitting on non-nerd girls, and I didn’t discover the existence of nerd girls until I went to college and joined the SCA, and from then on, my personal life has been pretty darn good, actually. But there’s a kind of “women are strange and scary” vibe that runs through so much of this truly old material, even if there’s no specific mention of it in a particular item, that my mind just inevitably goes there.)
This spell will raise the intelligence of a plant or animal to that of “a human idiot”, (Int 3-4 in classic D&D terms), which sort of leads me right back to the “dumb jock” example above. It doesn’t let the critter speak, so you need Improved Anthropomorphic Abilities, but it would let a dog, say, act a lot like Lassie and bark to let you know that Timmy has fallen into the forty foot deep pit that is lined with poison spikes. (That’s a very particular kind of bark, and it’s really sad you’ve learned to recognize it so easily. Timmy’s player could use some cognitive expansion, if you get what I mean.)
When cast, this turns each players into Glenn Beck (1-3) or Keith Olbermann (4-6), and permits no compromise or any hope of respecting a person while disagreeing with their beliefs. Oh, wait. Sorry, it basically just turns the wizard into Magneto and lets him control metal objects.
This spell preserves a corpse so it won’t decay. What’s interesting about this spell is that a similar spell, gentle repose, is a mere second level spell in more modern versions of D&D. Giving up a fourth level spell just to keep a corpse from rotting is a lot to ask of a player in 1979, when spell slots were much rarer and we had to walk uphill both ways just to cast magic missile at the darkness. There was a rather continuous tug-of-war between DMs trying to kill characters for good and players who couldn’t or wouldn’t let go, and I have a feeling this spell evolved out of one such skirmish. As a plus, this spell lasts forever (until a raise dead is performed), opening up all sorts of possibilities for resurrecting centuries- dead NPCs.
Daemon’s Disk Spell
This spell creates a disk of enchanted metal that bounces off the walls until it has reached its total flight distance of 120 feet, doing damage to each creature it passes through. There’s a handy illustration of it doing this, with lots of labeled lines. See, thing is, it bounces at the reverse of the angle of impact (just like in Geometry class), and it hurts friend, foe, and caster, so I see this turning into one huge mother of an argument over who was standing where and what the angle of impact and reflection was and if you were in the path of it or not and I’ve got a scientific calculator and I’m in AP Math so I know better and you’re dead and I’m not and besides you ate the last of the cheetohs, you pig.
And so, the end of this excerpt from Fourth Level. Tune in… soon… I hope… for Fifth Level, where the spell withering kiss will provide me with yet another opportunity to dredge up another tired rehash of the “nerd D&D player vs. hawt cheerleader” meme.