Thursday, February 9, 2012

Creating Interesting Spells (Part 2)

[Continuing from Part 1]

I'd now like to talk about utility and non-combat spells.

As you have probably gathered, I favor spells that have both combat and non-combat uses. There are some excellent examples of these sorts of spells in the various D&D editions.

Light, for example, is a wonderful spell. For me, it has three main uses: lighting up dark place (non-combat); blinding opponents (combat); luring out or scaring off monster (both); etc. What makes the spell veracity is that the light emanates from a source, in this case a touched object, rather than just emanating in general.

Another good one is Growth. You can use it to get some extra damage (combat); lift heavy things (non-combat); grow monsters so large they can't follow you into the tunnel (combat); etc. This spell is well made because what the spell does is much more important than how it works mechanically. It's that the spell makes the character grow, thereby gaining a mechanical benefit rather than gaining some mechanical benefit and attaching image of growth as an afterthought.

On the other hand, Detect Magic doesn't do it for me. While I like the idea of the spell and it has uses, it doesn't really do anything. The question arises HOW does it detect magic? Does is cause magic items to give off light? If so, can that light be used as a torch? Or does it give off the scent of wine? Can that scent be smelt by character other than the magic-user, allowing the spell to disguise a harmful potion?

As you have probably already gotten by now, I don't like spells that are just an effect, what separates a good spell from a bad spell is how that spell creates the effect, thus opening it up to new, creative uses.

1 comment:

  1. I have always done Detect Magic in a different way. Since a magic-user is someone who has studied magic and been around them, I give them an ability to feel magic items. Yet, it is something they have to focus on and can't do anything else while they are searching for a magic item.

    At the same time, I would also play it that the spell gives off a light. The stronger the enchantment, the stronger the light. It can backfire on a PC or NPC if the target of the spell is covered in magic items, then the caster could be blinded by the light.

    Also, love the idea of changing it and making it a smell instead of a light. Maybe make it a buzz that the caster can hear.