The Spellcaster’s Bible, Part III
I Mean, All The Coolest Stuff Is In The “Lost” or “Forbidden” Books
Which Meant ‘This Stuff Is Too Freaky For The Council Of Nicea’, Which Fits With The Relationship Between Arduinesque Third-Party Content And Gygaxian Formality
Innnntroductions! Show Intention! Or Divisions! They’re generally set apart from a posting by a special header font, or by some bold text if the editor isn’t working right because the moon is in Mercury or something. Wait, where was I? Oh yeah. Spellcaster’s Bible.
For those who ended up here by accident (I am starting to believe no one comes here on purpose), this is the third part (cleverly indicated by ‘Part III’ in the heading) of my walkthrough/analysis/digressions on “The Spellcaster’s Bible” (hence the part of the heading before ‘Part III’), a 1979 publication of “Spells for use in
D&D Fantasy Role-playing Games” from “The Playing Board”. This falls into the vague and subjective category I call “Arduin-esque” or possibly “West Coast Style”, to distinguish from the blander saner stuff from TSR and Judge’s Guild. The period from 1974 to around the very early 80s is what I call the “Burgess Shale” era of gaming, a time of wild experimentation and exuberant creativity, unbounded by constraints like “common sense”, “balance”, or “playability”.
Anyhoo, here’s Part I and Part II. Now let’s get on with Part III, before I’m corralled into “shopping” or “cleaning” or otherwise being a productive, contributing member of the household.
Fourth Level Spells
Cure Monster Wounds: Cures 1d6 points of damage, but only on “monsters”. Presumably, this would use the D&D categorization of “monsters” vs. “persons” used in “Hold/Charm Person/Monster”, etc. It wasn’t until 3e that D&D had hit on the idea of categorizing monsters into types in their entries, such as “undead” or “humanoid”. This meant that it used to explicitly list which creatures were “persons”, even as the game exploded with new material. Yes, the DM could certainly grasp that “a person is a basically humanoid creature like an elf or orc”, but the edges got blurry. Were grimlocks “persons”? (Of course not, they were Cybertronians!) How about Aaracockra?
“People will just be reasonable! They don’t need explicit rules!” is “Tell me you’ve never met actual gamers without telling me you’ve never met actual gamers”. Because “Verb Monster” spells were usually much higher level than “Verb Person” spells, it was in the player’s interest to have as many things declared “persons” as possible. (We should recognize the progressiveness of those early gamers, who would enthusiastically demand recognition of the innate personhood and de-othering of any sapient creature, which was clearly based on the highest of moral principles and not because it would make it easier to charm, paralyze, etc., them.)
But anyway, back to the spell. Given the power level of this book in general, it is very surprising how amazingly wussy this is — it’s not even 1d6 per spell point or something, just 1d6, no scaling. Why? I’m sure there was, at the time, an exploit or ten involving healing “monsters”, but damned if I know what it is. This is particularly odd because, as far as I recall, the cure blah wounds spell line did not discriminate between “persons” and “monsters”. So this spell is less effective than any standard healing would be. Weird!
Ged’s Bloody Death: Sounds like a good fantasy curse. “Ged’s bloody death, man, ye’re a mess!” But while it sounds promising (“causes temporary hemophilia”) all it does is cause an extra point of “bleeding” damage for each point of normal damage. Not, near as I can tell, continuously, just at the point of damage assessment. So it’s “double damage”, which is nice, but “hemophilia” implies what we now call “damage over time”, where you keep taking damage. (And let’s not even mention all the arguments over which monsters can bleed. Orcs, yes. Golems, no. Demons? Maybe. What if the demon is, like, an ice demon, or something? Does it bleed liquid ice? (“You mean, water?”) And so on.)
Light of Day: This creates a large aura around the caster that grants “full daylight” and moves with the mage. Very useful, not sure if it’s worth being 4th level or not, unless it counts as actual daylight for purposes of things like vampires, in which case, it is quite potent. I’m sure reasonable people will just work it out.
Wall of Disguise: To my disappointment, this doesn’t create a wall covered with masks, makeup, hairpieces, and so on, following the incantation “Spiritus Halloweenus!” Rather, it creates a wall that looks like any of the other wall spells (..of Iron, of Fire, of Stone, of Plywood, of Fund-Raising Grift, etc.) It doesn’t have any of their other abilities, but it does knock anyone touching it back 10-60 feet. I guess the “looks like a different kind of wall” thing is a nice bit of fluff, but I’m not sure how much it adds to what is basically a “Wall of Repulsive Force”. OK, it could be fun to see a fireproof monster scoff at your “Wall of Fire”, then charge into it and go “kaboing”, but that’s a pretty narrow use case.
Resistant Spells: Grants resistance to a given damage type (each is a different spell, you must know resist fire, resist cold, etc.), taking half damage from that type… once. Then the spell expires. It lasts indefinitely until that happens, but most modern versions of this kind of spell will last a shorter, fixed, period of time and continue reducing damage, or last “until X points of damage have been absorbed”. Yet another example of the higher level spells being less effective than some of the lower level ones we’ve discussed.
Fifth Level Spells
Acid Rain: Summons 2d6 Hippies to harangue the Evil Wizard about his despoiling of nature to build his gargantuan armament factories. Or, it creates a 20×20 foot square of magical acid (“Whoa. Like, the colors, man.”) which does 1/2 caster level in d6 damage (less than most elemental spells) but also lasts 1 turn/level (great if it’s hard to get around it/out of it; this requires some tactics). The acid will “continue burning until it’s removed”, which I think means, even if you leave the area of the spell, you keep taking full damage? Oh, that’s nasty. Simple water will neutralize the acid, as “this is just a game, not a chemistry class”.
Alkalai(sic) Rain: Exactly like Acid Rain, but way more based. Get it? Get it? In any event, I’ve discussed the weird “alkali” fetish of 1970s supplements in Part II.
Body Blast: Total power mode exercise routine to burn fat and create pure muscle! Only $29.95 a month for EXTREME Protein Powder and ULTRA Energy BLAST Drink Mix! No, wait. It creates multiple explosions around the target, causing normal damage, blindness, and deafness.
Converse Dead: Pretty much what it says on the tin, despite it being a measly third level Cleric spell in AD&D.
Cure Heavy Monster Wounds: See Cure Monster Wounds, but this heals 2d6.
Gamma Ray Vision: When used, causes whatever you look at it to gain size, strength, and greenness, unless they’re the grey or red versions. OK, it really lets you see through solid objects, including lead! (Emphasis in original!) A possible example of the old-school style of player/DM one-upsmanship. Player abuses scrying type spells, DM fills dungeons with lead. Player invents see-through-lead spell. And so it goes.
Gamma Teleportation: Transports you to an alternate world filled with cool mutants, ray guns, and ruined skyscrapers. Or, it lets you teleport through anything, including… wait for it…. lead! It has a “10% high and a 10% low crock factor”, and if you understand what that means, how many Advil do you take each morning so you can get dressed without wincing?
Super Radius Spell: In essence, early metamagic. It must be “incorporated” into another spell (chosen from among those listed), and increases their radius to that of this spell (120 ft diameter.)
And so, we come to the end of another expedition into the past. Coming up next (when I get around to it) we will have sixth and seventh level spells, including “Automatic Weapons”, which, lemme tell ya, is not what I was hoping for! Machineguns & Magic, this ain’t. Sigh.