Spell Descriptions

My son and I continue to make great headway on our homebrew Advanced Labryinth Lord game (we’re calling it Magic & Monsters for now) and have finished up all the spell write-ups. What we’ve done is basically enter all the spells in the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion into a greatly simplified table with descriptions pared down as far as we dare. For instance, the Magic Missile looks like this:

Magic Missile 1 Instant 50’ + 10’/lvl Fires mystic energy blast which always hits for 1d6+1 damage. One missile for every two levels after 1st. Multiple missiles may strike different targets.

and even a more complex spell like Rope Trick looks like

Rope Trick 2 2 turns/lvl Touch One end of a rope 5’-30’ long rises into the air and creates an invisible, mystical shelter which can hold up to 5 human-sized persons and cannot be attacked. Only one person can climb the rope at a time and if the rope is pulled up, it, too, will disappear into the shelter. Anything still in the shelter when the spell expires falls to the ground.

(Note: These had to be “squeezed” to fit on the web page. They’re wider on the printed page. Magic Missile’s description is 2 lines long and Rope Trick’s is 4.) Very few spells have descriptions longer than 4 or 5 lines and most spells are 2 or 3.

To boil these down I started with the Labyrinth Lord description, checked against the B/X if needed, and then compared to and combined with elements of the 1e AD&D Player’s Handbook. Often I tweaked things slightly to simplify or clarify the spell.

B/X didn’t make a lot of use of scaling range and duration to caster level, such as Range: 10′ per level, and mostly went with fixed ranges of 120′ or 240′ and fixed durations, many of which I’ve been finding to be ridiculously long. Magic-user and cleric spells in core LL were very close to the original basic and expert game, of course, as Labyrinth Lord hews very close to the source. These spells retained their basic/expert numbers while the new Advanced Edition Companion spells, on the other hand, conform a lot more closely to the advanced game. We adjusted many of the basic-style spells to be more in line with the advanced-style ranges and durations, though not always.

Reading through the advanced descriptions for this project, which is probably much more thoroughly than I’ve ever studied them before, has made me realize why we always had so much trouble figuring out how some spells worked.

It’s because 1e spell descriptions are often quite a mess. To put it kindly. Sometimes a near-disastrous mess.

In fact, quite a few look like they were typed in directly from game notes scribbled in the margins of little brown books (or notebook paper) over years of play, noting specific rulings as players tried different things with and against the spells in play. They ramble on a lot more than I remembered and some of the information seems whacky. Yeah, it’s part of the “vibe” of the old game, but when trying to distill things down to a few lines which contain all the essential guidelines and enough detail to keep arguments to a minimum, the mishmash really stands out.

And makes one appreciate the way things were written up in the basic editions, even if one doesn’t agree with all the things done with that line.

Meanwhile, I’m going to have a “pre-Alpha” of our game printed up tomorrow at Staples.

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2 Responses to Spell Descriptions

  1. Jay says:

    Cool, very concise! What’s the second column?

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