Thoughts on Reading Original Dungeons & Dragons, Part VI: Spells and Magic

The first of the LBB is called Men & Magic while many clones usually have it along the lines of Characters & Combat. Given the briefness of the combat information as discussed in part V I can see why it was omitted. In contrast the spells list with the attached research and spell book notes as well as the turn undead table take up fourteen pages or roughly 40% of the booklet.

Spell Lists

First up with have the actual lists for Magic-Users and then for Clerics. In the original there are only six levels of spells for the former and five for the later. In keeping with the half and half nature of the cleric most cleric spell lists have roughly half of the count for the magic-user at the same level.

One interesting thing is the shorted magic-user list is first level and the second shortest is second level. There are only eight first level spells. Flipping back a few pages the highest charted level magic-user, sixteenth, will be able to memorize five of them. Meanwhile third level, where the iconic damage spells fireball and lightening bolt are located, has fourteen spells. Resource allocation of high level spells is much more complicated than low level ones.

For the cleric the short lists mean the highest charted cleric, level 10, will memorize half the cleric spells. In levels above those listed we learn at thirteenth level the cleric will be selecting which first level spell not to memorize.

Spells from Chainmail

Chainmail had sixteen spells. Most came over to OD&D in some form but there are some interesting notes. Phantasmal Forces, Wizard Light, Conjure Elemental, Protection From Evil, Move Terrain, Slowness, Haste, Polymorph, Confusion, Hallucinatory Terrain, Cloudkill, and Anti-Magic Shell came over intact although with minor name changes. The Chainmail complexity was used as the OD&D level.

On the carryover list is Polymorph becomes Polymorph Self which makes the limit in Chainmail explicit. OD&D adds a separate Polymorph Others spell to aid the ability to use it on others instead of expanding the original spell. Protection From Evil is actually the level three spell with a personal only version added at first level.

Detection became two spells in OD&D. Detect Invisible retains the Chainmail level of two while Detect Magic dropped to first level. Concealment becomes Invisibility. I consider this more than a name change as it takes an outcome, conceal a unit or creature, to a specific method of achieving that outcome.

The most interesting spell from Chainmail is Darkness. In OD&D the spell is the reversal of an existing spell, Light, instead of a spell in its own right. However, only cleric spells are reversible in OD&D so the Darkness spell is lost to magic-users in the LBB. Also, only evil clerics gain access to the reversed spells but not the positive version based on page 22:

Note that underlined Clerical spells are reversed by evil Clerics.

I find it interesting that the term evil is used. How we know if a cleric is good or evil is open at this point. Alignment may be an indication but that will have to wait until after Men & Magic.

Cleric spells, in general, are not from Chainmail. They have Light/Darkness. They have Protection from Evil in both the group version and the personal one. They have Detect Magic half of Detection but did not get the Detect Invisible half.

Of 70 magic-user spells in the LBB sixteen are derived from Chainmail which is over 20%. Clerics, in contrast, have three and a half Chainmail spells in a set of 26 spells or about 15%. Note, both of these count Protection from Evil twice for the personal and group versions.

Clerics versus Undead

Before getting to spell descriptions we get the cleric’s turning undead chart. Instead of level it uses level titles. Until name level this doesn’t change things but it does mean once a cleric is a Patriarch he does not improve his abilities in this category. The table notes that evil clerics do not have this effect but lose it completely unlike the control undead ability we would see in later versions.

Next up is analysis of individual spells, magical research, and spell books.

Series Contents

Part I: Prologue and Weapons and Armor Restrictions
Part II: Abilities
Part III: NPCs and Equipment
Part IV: Levels and Experience
Part V: Combat
Part VI: Spells and Magic

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