Thursday, March 25, 2010

DND: Dynamite!

All right, Movie Tavern Mug. What question am I to answer today?

"What are your favorite Dungeons and Dragons spells?"

All right, before I get started, I'm going to say, for the four of my eleven and a half readers who haven't done some form of RPGing with me: I am by no means a smart player. In one campaign setting, with two different characters, I found a way to unintentionally break the space-time continuum. If the big boss of this particular section is standing near a pit, I WILL be that guy who makes the strength check to see if I can just push them over the edge. If you give my character an endless bag of popcorn or an endless bag of divine blessing, I WILL offer the popcorn to anyone we meet, regardless of whether they're trying to kill us or not, and I WILL use the bag of divine blessing on pretty much everything that's not nailed down for my own amusement. And I'm even worse when I'm playing a spellcaster.

Now that we've got that out of the way, let's move on with the list.

1. Wish/Miracle

Okay, so the ones of you who know the game are probably confused that I started off with what are considered the two most powerful spells in the game. Well, I used to play the game with a serious metagamer/power gamer. And while it was interesting to see what new way his character would be given some new ridiculous power (such as finding out he was the Son of Ra, being allowed to multiclass as Paladin without having to stop taking levels in Paladin, etc), every now and then I REALLY wanted the DM to smite his character.

What does all this have to do with these spells?

Well, for those of you not familiar with these games, Wish and Miracle are two vaguely defined spells that can have a wide range of effects. As such, these spells can become gamebreakers and a major headache to the DM...unless the DM is pure evil. In fact, the Wizard's Handbook from ADD second edition actively encourages the DM to be a dick about this spell. Did the player wish for vast wealth? Have it get teleported from the local King's vault and have him send his entire army after the thieving PC! Did the player wish for a castle? Have it appear twenty feet in the air and fall to the ground! Did the player wish for some level of invulnerability? Turn the player into a statue!

While not every use of these spells necessarily warrant a smiting, it is a great way to remind the PCs that just because they have somehow reached godlike power, that doesn't mean they get whatever they want. Because really, that's no fun for anybody.

2. Grease

In contrast, this is an extremely basic, low level spell that I have a fondness for. Pretty much, the player conjures up a slippery gunk over an area, and Three Stooges-esque hilarity ensues. A great way to ensure that your Half-Orc barbarian is successful in pushing that evil priestess into the flaming abyss (and possibly falling in after her).

Of course, my favorite time we've used this spell was in flagrant violation of the rules of the game. The party was fighting a giant spider. Our wizard cast this spell on the spider itself (rather than on the floor). The monk then did some ninja flips in, and used the materials in his backpack to ignite the grease, taking out the spider. Even though the spell specifically states that you CAN'T light the grease on fire, our DM thought it was so cool he let us get away with it.

And now the people from that Cthulhu campaign I was involved in are saying, "Ooooooooh, THAT explains a bit..."

3. Puffball

This is probably not a spell most of my DND playing friends are familiar with. It's a first level spell from the ADD 2nd edition Druid's handbook. Basically, you cast it on a mushroom, pick up the enchanted mushroom, and lob it into an offending crowd. It then bursts and everyone within a five foot radius is engulfed in a cloud of spores, resulting into an acute case of coughing.

That's right, there's a Druid Spell designed to fight enemies by using allergy attacks. It's things like that which make me enjoy the Druid class, even though, again, I'm not a smart player.

4. Animate Dead

Once upon a time, I was tapped to play the party's cleric. I was expected to heal whenever the other party members asked, and to be viciously mocked during combat by the drow fighter/planar champion with the Warhammer 40k power armor (it was an interesting campaign setting), and to not do much else.

Then I learned Animate Dead. And started using it liberally.

Pretty soon, I had about a dozen skeletons following me around and doing my bidding. And not just human skeletons. There were skelechickens, skeledogs, a veritable skelemenagerie. And pretty soon, any time there was something which looked risky, it was time to send in the skeletons. For example, that sketchy portal? Send in a skeleton to investigate! Oops, forgot to tell that skeleton to come back. Better send in another one to try to fetch him!

After this, I was never asked to play the Cleric ever again.

5. Summon Monster


No, not you Psyduck.

The Summon Monster series of spells is the other spell I used to dubious success while playing as a Cleric. Suck at combat? Well, nothing quite like sending in a divine badger to do your dirty work. And the assortment of monsters you can bring in grows as you become a better spellcaster.

While it doesn't have quite the direct "BOOM" effect of an Evocation spell, it is useful in combat and can be versatile outside of combat with a little thought. After all, when all you have is a hammer, you might as well toss in a few Fire Elemental to go with it.

6. Shillelagh

So at one point, some friends of mine were in a DND campaign, still at very low levels, wandering around a sewer trying to track down a rust monster. Well, the big night in which this first dungeon would FINALLY be completed after far too long arrived...and one of the players had a date. So I was asked to step up and sub for him, resulting in the only time I've successfully played as a druid.

Because the Monstrous Manual was one of my favorite things to check out from the Library when I was much younger, as soon as the party told me what was going on I had a pretty good idea about what we were up against, and had us drop off all our metal objects in one room. Well, the monster no longer cared about us, and the weapons we had on hand were kind of crappy.

Cue this spell. Pretty much, what it does is, if you have some wooden bludgeoning weapon, it makes it hit much harder.

So, the evening consisted of us trying to chase down the rust monster, a couple people lassoing it while it was in the sewer water, and me beating it with a giant enchanted stick. I repeat: this is the ONLY time I've used a druid successfully.

7. Shades

This spell, and its lower level versions, makes this list for really, really nerdy reasons. Let's say that, for some strange reason, you decided to play a wizard who is specializing in Illusion. And let's just say that you decided that Conjuration/Summoning, considered one of the better combat wizard specialties, would be one of your forbidden schools. The spell Shades (and its lower level equivalents) let you mimic ANY Conjuration/Summoning spell of a certain level or lower by creating an illusionary shadow version of whatever it is you wanted to create. If the person believes the illusion, you get the full effect of the spell. If not, you get a fraction of the effect.

But there's more to this spell that I like than just compensating the Illusionist for weak combat abilities. I'll probably end up addressing this in a later post, knowing some of my readers, but suffice it to say for now, this spell reminds me of one of my favorite comic book characters...

8. Earthmaw

Problem: You're being chased by an angry mob, and need a way to slow them down.
Solution: Have ground eat some of mob.

Another spell from the Druid's Handbook, you cast it on the ground. That patch of enchanted ground springs up like a gigantic, enchanted earth snake, and attacks once in the direction the caster indicates. Yes, it does damage, but more awesomely, on a critical it swallows the target whole. Then it shuts its mouth and retracts back into the ground. NOM!

9. Tree Spirit

Problem: You're tired of playing your Druid and would like to play something more bizarre, but are too attached to the Druid to roll something else up.
Solution: Link soul with tree. Then get killed off and become a tree monster!

Anyone who has watched the Lord of the Rings movies with me knows of my fondness for giant, angry, sentient trees, so it's only natural that I'd like this spell. If your character gets killed, a year of game time later, the tree they enchanted becomes animated, complete with the character's memories. It doesn't keep any of their spells or other abilities, but who cares? You're a friggin' tree!

10. Conjure Cabinet

Problem: For some reason you've been tapped to play bard.
Solution: Be a pain in the ass about it.

Okay, so Bard isn't necessarily a worthless class, and even though it's sort of a "jack-of-all trades, master of none" type situation, there are uses for the bard. And the Bard Handbook from second edition ADD gives all sorts of variants of the bard, so you don't just have to be that obnoxious guy in the back of the party who sings or plays the bagpipes.

Of course, the more stuff you have on hand to perform with, the better. But how do you carry it around? Well, you COULD get a bag of holding, but that's not NEARLY as cool as having a custom made cabinet that can ONLY hold stuff that you perform with able to be summoned to your location at your beck and call. Becoming a one man band bard suddenly becomes a lot less of a practicality issue. Plus, with the proper introduction, you can make it an impressive part of the show! Because if you're going to be a large ham of a class, go all out!

So, there you have it, my favorite DND spells. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have an Orc Mob I'm trying to teach to battle on skates.

This is J. K. Lantern, signing off for now!

1 comment:

  1. The skelezoo reminds me of a story I heard about the notorious Tomb of Horrors -- that some players, rather than face the traps themselves, would round up cattle and herd THEM through first.

    Dungeons and Dragons -- a rare mix of the sublimely stupid and the stupidly sublime.