Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons, "Some Talk of Spells"

Standard Introduction
            I have been writing about Dungeons and Dragons semi-regularly this year and in the course of writing those I found a 30-day blog challenge.  As I have done those a couple times before it seemed remiss not to jump on this one.
            If you want here is a link to my 30-day challenge on Disney Movies, here is a link to my 30-day challenge on Video Games, and here is a comically out of date 30-day challenge on Movies (it is old and the writing is rubbish).

Day 26- Favorite Spells
            There are certain spells that are demonstrably better than others.  There are also those that are more iconic due to internet meme-ing.  Unless I want to just pick the one everyone already knows… Magic Missile I guess I will just have to list a few of these.
            I am feeling pretty lazy though… No, I’ll do something.  I guess.

Boring but Practical
            There is a divide in the game between combat (which is a BIG part of the game) and non-combat (smaller than it should be).  An obstacle as simple as a heavy locked door can in many cases totally kill all progress because the players do not have access to the means to open it, that is where the spell “Knock” comes in.

"Dude, other people need to use the bathroom."
            “Knock” opens doors, and can open bigger and bigger doors if you are higher level (for some reason 3rd edition saw the need to scale even this spell with level).  If there is an unfortunate side effect to the players having access to this spell is that if the DM was hoping to create a key-hunting dungeon the players can completely bypass all that with one low level spell.

Flashy but Impractical
            Here is a combat spell that was so complicated in the original 3rd edition rules (not 3.5) that a single casting of it was an entire combat encounter, “Evard’s Black Tentacles”.

Okay, what are those emerging from?

            This spell, which was level 4 (hardly a game breaking level), could summon an entire cadre of attacking tentacles that would damage and stop cold anyone in the area of it being summoned.  It required a comical amount of tracking where the tentacles were, what they were attacking, and how much damage they were doing.  It required prep time to cast and compared to the rational amount of time other spells of a level could demand was impractical.

Flashy but Practical
            Generally speaking, this covers all of the classic elemental attack spells.  Ice Storm, Fireball, Lightning Bolt, or Flame Strike.  This also hits on all of the intentionally flashy spells like Color Spray or Prismatic Spray.

This is from the Deviant Art account of Clint Cearley, who does work on Magic the Gathering.
His stuff is lovely.

            The fun aspect of this has to do with it all being in your head.  Players have to describe how these things resolve and it gives some impact to role playing to say that your lightning bolt takes shape as a cursive spelling of your character’s name, or is a particular color.  These are spells that will be used a million times and they should be seen as something that can be used to make the game more magical in a fun way, otherwise they are just a boring exchange of numbers.

Boring but Impractical
            This has more to do with 3rd edition (because 3rd edition is what I have the most experience with and know what is most baffling).  3rd edition was the one most dependent on magic items.  Ability scores increased with magic items, attack bonuses increased with magic items, armor class increased with magic items, and saves were all augmented by magical items.  Each player would have several items that would make their statistics higher in ways that were necessary for the game to function.  Without magic augmentation, a player would be turned into bloody mist.
            Each item (especially those affect basic statistics) would create ripples thru the rest of the character sheet.  One number gets altered and suddenly dozens of other numbers would be twisted.  This is why “Anti-Magic Field” was such a pain in the ass.

"As the song goes, 'Can't touch this'."
"You are such a nerd."
            Creating an area in which the innumerable items that a player had incorporated without annotation into their work meant a half hour of chasing numbers to make everything make sense for a combat encounter that would last maybe 20 minutes.  Imagine if you walked into work with an expense report and as you passed thru the door to the office every “7” got turned into a “3” and you had to go thru the whole report adjusting the math by hand, it is retarding to progress in the story.
            “Anti-Magic Field” is boring because it is taking magic, a key part of the game, out of the game.  It is like taking the molten core out of a volcano cake.

Coming Tomorrow
            Tomorrow I am going to talk about my favorite adventure.


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