Hold Portal

Would hold portal keep this closed?

Would hold portal keep this closed?

This came up on the OD&D Discussion board:

In yesterday’s game a player made a use of Hold Portal I had not seen before. They entered a room with three stone sarcophages in horizontal position, that were part of a wall. Each contained a “feathered warrior zombie”. When they noticed that one of them was beginning to open, 3 fighting-men ran up to it and pressed on the stone cover so that the zombie could not get out. Suddenly from the two other sarcophages the zombie warriors started to emerge. So the magic-user casted hold portal on the sarcophagus the fighters were pressing shut, so that they could deal with the other 2 feathered warrior zombies.

Now, it’s not totally clear if the spell objective was a “door” or “portal”, but I thought it was a clever use of the spell and ruled that it worked.

I like it and would almost certainly allow it on the first go. Reward for quick thinking player and such. After that I might require a roll of some sort if the thing being held was un-door-like enough.

Anything that actually IS a door I’d always rule can be held.

  • A sarcophagus lid that’s actually a secret door? Easy…it’s a portal.
  • A stone that a giant uses to cover the entrance to his cave? Probably…maybe a 5 in 6 chance that it works.
  • PCs roll a stone to cover a cave entrance? Probably not…maybe a 2 in 6 chance that it will work.
  • PCs push a donkey cart in front of a doorway and try to hold portal the cart? No way…don’t even bother rolling.

Another member noted that in his campaign they had ruled that hold portal could only affect something that was attached to the frame somehow, such as hinges on a door. That’s also a worthy solution, and might be what I would have ruled on the spot in the past. However, particularly given that the spell is called hold portal and not hold door, today I don’t know that I’d agree with that ruling. If I did, I’d probably allow anything hinged or such could be affected, not just doors. And what about a manhole cover? I think we’d all agree that it’s a door of sorts and should be subject to hold portal, but now our hinge rule says otherwise.

Regarding rolling the dice to see if it works, such as with the rock rolled in front of a tunnel entrance in my example above, you might rule that the PC must cast the spell and then check for effectiveness. I don’t think this is unfair, as a character trying something unusual won’t always know if it’s going to work or not.

Another approach might be to roll before casting, informing the player that it will succeed on a 1 or 2, that it will fail on 5 or 6, and that a 3 or 4 indicates that it won’t work but the character realizes it before actually casting, thus saving his spell for another portal.

Incidentally, if a player asks why sometimes hold portal spells work on sarcophagi lids and sometimes only on things with hinges, it’s easily explained by noting that though everyone has a hold portal spell, they didn’t all originate with the same wizard. Various sorcerers (perhaps including PC magic-users who desired the spell but just couldn’t manage to come across a copy) have penned the spell over the ages, and no two ever did it exactly the same. Maybe one magic-user just assumed that the thing being held required hinges, so he wrote his spell to lock them in place. Obviously, his version of hold portal won’t hold anything without hinges.

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