Saturday, December 7, 2013

Part 10: "Book of First Level Spells"

Part 10 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to page 14 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along...


As in the published version, this section in the manuscript begins with three lists of spells, labeled "Book of First Level Spells", etc. As you might have guessed, Holmes' spell lists are identical to those in Greyhawk, having 11 first level spells, 16 second levels spells and 18 third level spells. Holmes has rearranged them in alphabetical order. Thus, his lists are missing those spells which debuted in the Basic rulebook: Dancing Lights, Enlargement, Tenser's Floating Disc (1st level), Audible Glamer and Ray of Enfeeblement (2nd level). 

In the "Spells Table" in OD&D and Greyhawk the lists are simply referred to as "1st Level" etc, rather than "Book of First Level Spells" etc, so this is a flavor edit by Holmes. He probably drew on OD&D Vol 1, pg 34: "Characters who employ spells are assumed to acquire books containing spells they can use, one book for each level", and is in accord with the "Magic Spells" section of the Basic rulebook (covered in "Part 9" of this series), which often refers to "magic books" (plural). Also, the 4th level magic-user in the Sample Dungeon has "two giant volumes of magic spells", presumably his Books of First Level Spells and Second Level Spells. 


Charm Person: The manuscript text combines the spell description from OD&D Vol 1, pg 23 plus the clarifications from Greyhawk, pg 21, with only minor editing. No changes in the published version.

Detect Magic: The manuscript text is identical to the original in OD&D Vol 1, but with the addition of a range (60 ft) and duration (2 turns) found in Greyhawk. No changes in the published version.

Hold Portal: The manuscript text is identical to the original in OD&D Vol 1, including the reference to Balrogs found in the early printings of OD&D. This reference was excised from OD&D in the fall of 1977 but was never changed in the Holmes rulebook. 

The manuscript adds of a range (10 ft). However, unlike the first two spells, this spell was not given clarified in Greyhawk. Instead, this info is found in a spell list on pg 12 of the Swords & Spells miniatures rules for OD&D. This is an oft-overlooked source of additional information for OD&D spells, and the presence of such info in the manuscript suggests that Holmes was consulting it while editing. No changes in the published version.

Light: The first two sentences are identical to the original in OD&D Vol 1, including the use of 3" for the area of effect. Holmes usually changes the original inches (a scale for use on a tabletop) to dungeon scale (10 feet per inch), but not here. Following that is an example with the level of the spell caster changed from 7th level to 1st level. Holmes adds a range (120 feet) from Swords & Spells.


Magic Missile: The first of three new first level spells added in Greyhawk. The first sentence in the manuscript follows the source with minor editing, but Holmes adds a new second: "Roll the missile fire like a short bow arrow (Missile Fire Table)". This is significant because it clarifies that the spell requires a "to-hit" roll, rather than being "auto-hit" as in AD&D. Because the original Greyhawk description does not clarify that a "to-hit" roll is required, it is often assumed to be auto-hit as in later editions. And thus the "to-hit" version is considered a quirk of Holmes Basic. However, Tim Kask has stated that in fact the original Magic Missile was intended to require a "to-hit" roll, and was consciously changed by he and Gary for the Player's Handbook. See here for more discussion of this. Thus, it makes sense that Holmes' second sentence was not removed by TSR, although it was slightly altered to change the range from "short bow" to "long bow". Holmes probably picked short bow because it has a maximum range of 150 feet, the same for the spell in Greyhawk. With long bow, TSR moderately increases the short (+1 to hit) and medium ranges for the magic missile.

Holmes' third sentence is "Higher level magic-users fire more than one missile". This is a reference to the additional missiles that are gained every five levels, per the third sentence in Greyhawk. Holmes presumably glossed over this because it is outside the scope of Basic, but without further information it could possibly be read as one magic missile per caster level.

Protection From Evil: The manuscript follows the first two sentences of the original in OD&D Vol 1, but omits a third sentence indicating that the bonuses are not cumulative with magic rings and armor. The manuscript adds a range of "0 feet" as a way of expressing "caster only" in line with the description of "hedging the conjurer round" (this is also used  for the next three spells).

The published version has two additions. First, it clarifies that "enchanted monsters" are "such as elementals, invisible stalkers, demons, etc..." TSR probably felt the need to explain "enchanted monster", although none of the listed creatures are in the Basic Set. The published version also adds a sentence not found in the manuscript: "These effects are cumulative with such magical protections as magic armor and rings of protection". Interestingly, this is exactly the opposite of what the original in OD&D stated. Why did Holmes leave the original sentence out? Was this rule changed elsewhere in OD&D that I'm overlooking, so he left it out of the spell description? Or did he specifically know they would be changing it?

Read Languages: The first two sentences of the manuscript follow the original in OD&D Vol 1. Holmes adds a third sentence, "The zero range merely means that the magic-user casts the spell on himself or on something he touches". The original description of this spell does not provide a range, and this spell does not appear in Sword & Spells (which omits some spells not likely used in combat), so this appears to be an interpretation on the part of Holmes. The original only describes it as similar to Read Magic (see below).

Read Magic: The manuscript has two sentences, which follow the first two of the original in OD&D Vol 1, including the somewhat mysterious references to (1) items other than scrolls requiring a "read magic" spell (perhaps command words for items such as Broom of Flying?) and (2) a "similar device" that duplicates the effect of this spell, which I don't think is actually described in OD&D. Holmes interprets the duration as two turns based on the third sentence of the original: "is of short duration (one or two readings being the usual limit)", and gives this same duration to Read Languages.

The published version adds a third sentence: "(Note once a scroll is look at under a Read Magic spell, the magic-user can read it again without such aid.)". I can't find this clarification in OD&D, so this may another case of TSR adding a clarification not found in OD&D.

Shield: Another Greyhawk spell, and the manuscript follows the description there, but changes "class 2 armor" to "plate armor and shield" and "class 4 armor" to "chain mail and shield". The published version follows this but adds "(armor class 2)" and ("armor class 4)" after the relevant armors.

Sleep: The manuscript gathers together the descriptions from OD&D Vol 1 and Greyhawk, and a duration of 4-16 turns from Swords & Spells. The first sentence of the manuscript is an extrapolation from the original: "Puts all kinds of creatures to sleep". The published version adds "for 2-8 turns" to the end of this sentence but leaves the duration as 4-16 turns directly above it. So these two different durations were an error created by TSR, and never corrected in the published rulebook. The remainder of the entry is unchanged between the manuscript and the published version. Holmes does omit two lines of clarifications from the original OD&D entry: "The spell always affects up to the number of creatures determined by the dice. If more than the number rolled could be affected, determine which "sleep" by random selection", perhaps because the entry was already one of the longest spell descriptions.

Ventriloquism: The third first level spell added in Greyhawk, which the manuscript follows, including duration and range. The published version adds "behind a door" to the short list of uses, perhaps in a vain attempt to have a player actually select this spell. ☺ 

Continue on to Part 11: "Book of Second Level Spells"
Or Go Back to Part 9: "Zombies are Poisoned by Salt"
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript

1 comment:

  1. I like the clarification that Holmes gave to the whole concept of Books of Spells by level. This is a distinct feature to the culture of magic-users, and very different from B/X or BECMI.

    I'm happy that we finally know how long a sleep spell is supposed to last! The AD&D 1e version is based on the level of the caster, so who knows where the 2-8 came from!

    Even though Holmes did not include them, I like the addition of AD&D spells to the rulebook. Helps to set Holmes apart from being a strictly OD&D edit.