Magic in Classic D&D

This is part of my ongoing series dissecting early Dungeons & Dragons, and building the retroclone Dungeon Raiders out of it.

'Blend - Wizard of the Forest - versión 1' by balt-arts on Flickr
'Blend - Wizard of the Forest - versión 1' by balt-arts on Flickr

Magic has changed a lot in D&D.

In Original D&D, there’s no mechanical difference between magic-users and clerics. Each class has different spell lists, and clerics have no spells at level 1, but otherwise they both can just cast those spells each day. I’ve already written about the odd differences between magic-users and clerics in original D&D, and how Dungeon Raiders divides them more cleanly: the wizard now focuses on combat magic, while the cleric concentrates on support magic.

First edition introduces a difference. Clerics can cast any cleric spell of the appropriate level, while magic-users (and elves!) can only cast spells from those few written in the magic-user’s spell book. AD&D offers more classes, of course.

I decided to take a similar approach as First Edition’s, but actually powered up the classes. This offsets their minimal combat ability.

Wizards get two spells at first level, then one spell at each higher level upon leveling up. These spells must be written in a spell book, so once chosen, those are the only spells available to that particular wizard.

Clerics can cast any one spell at the cleric’s current level or lower, and can do so a number of times per day equal to the cleric’s level. So, a third-level cleric can cast any level 1, level 2, or level 3 cleric spell, and can cast up to 3 times each day. Simple.

I also have to deal with duration and distance. OD&D betrays its miniature wargaming routes with some odd distance terminology. For simplicity’s sake, I’ve converted all these spells to in-game equivalents.

So, here are the first-level wizard spells:

Decipher Runes: For the next 10 minutes, the wizard reads and understands the magical runes or words written or carved on one item. Without using this spell, the wizard may look at magical words, but cannot understand them. Once a wizard casts this spell on an item, the wizard is permanently able to read that item’s runes at any time without using this spell.

Fire Bolt: Fires a bolt of flame in a straight line up to 150 feet, dealing 1d6+1 damage to one creature (no attack roll).

Light: Creates a very bright light 30 feet in diameter, which lasts for one hour, plus 10 minutes times the wizard’s level. If a monster is inside the ball of light when the light is created, the monster must make a saving throw (versus spells) or be blinded until the light fades away.

Read Unknown Language: For the next 20 minutes, the wizard may read any non-magical language or code, including maps and secret symbols.

Sense Evil: Any person with evil intentions and any object enchanted with evil magic within 50 feet will glow. Poison and physical traps are not considered evil for the purposes of this spell.

Sense Magic: Any enchanted item within 50 feet will glow for the next 20 minutes. If the wizard stands within 10 feet of any item so enchanted before the spell’s effect ends, the wizard can also deduce the enchantment’s basic properties (duration, danger, intention, general effects, etc.).

Shield: Encircles the wizard with a magical barrier, providing +2 armor and +2 on skill checks against rays, wands, and spells for 20 minutes.

Ward Against Evil: The wizard is encased in a magical barrier, providing +1 armor against all attacks from creatures of the opposite good/evil alignment for one hour.

And here are the first-level cleric spells:

Charm: One humanoid creature (not undead) that fails a saving throw (vs. spells) treats the cleric as its best friend. Orders against its alignment require another saving throw; if the save succeeds, the creature immediately breaks the charm. In addition, any creature with intelligence 13-18 makes a saving throw to break the charm every day, intelligence of 9-12 once a week, and 3-8 once a month.

Cure Light Wounds: The cleric touches a creature, and heals 1d6+1 points of damage (up to the creature’s maximum).

Light: Creates a very bright light 30 feet in diameter, which lasts for one hour, plus 10 minutes times the wizard’s level. If a monster is inside the ball of light when the light is created, the monster must make a saving throw (versus spells) or be blinded until the light fades away.

Purify Sustenance: Ten meals’ worth of food and water, no matter how spoiled or poisoned, becomes fresh and clean.

Resist Cold: Choose one creature within 30 feet. For the next hour, that creature gains a +2 on saving throws against attacks dealing cold damage. If hit for cold damage, reduce damage by 1.

Resist Fear: When the cleric touches a creature, the creature is instantly calmed and loses all fear. If the fear was caused by a magic spell, the creature gets a saving throw, with a penalty equal to the cleric’s level.

Seal: Magically fastens a door, gate, or similar portal tight. A creature with at least 15 Strength must succeed on a Strength check at a -5 penalty to break the seal; for a character with 14 or fewer Strength, the seal will hold fast for 4d20 minutes.

Sense Magic: Any enchanted item within 50 feet will glow for the next 20 minutes. If the wizard stands within 10 feet of any item so enchanted before the spell’s effect ends, the wizard can also deduce the enchantment’s basic properties (duration, danger, intention, general effects, etc.).

Ward Against Evil: The cleric is encased in a magical barrier, providing +1 armor against all attacks from creatures of the opposite good/evil alignment for one hour.

If you want the rest of the spells, download Dungeon Raiders. Next up: equipment.

One thought on “Magic in Classic D&D

Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: