It seems that most spellcasting PCs tend toward several "staple" spells. Things like Sleep, Cure Light Wounds, etc. are extremely common in games where spells are not assigned randomly. This is with good reason, as they are remarkably useful in typical dungeon crawl-style play. Still, even in the "non-Advanced" versions of the game, there are oodles of interesting spells out there, many of which I can honestly say I've never seen used at the table. Submitted, then, for your consideration: some lesser-used spells and my thoughts about their usefulness. Our first entry is:
Wizard Eye ("Arcane Eye" in LL)
Duration: 6 turns
I gotta admit, I picked this one because of the above Jeff Dee illustration from Cook's Expert book. I just love the "Whoa!" reaction of the vampire.
So, first off a few stats: the "eye" has 60' infravision and can move 120' per round. "Solid barriers block its passage, but it can pass through a hole or space as small as 1 inch in diameter." Which is a nice touch, I think. It also requires concentration by the MU. Its duration (over half an hour) means a lot of scouting can be managed in that time.
Now, this may be reading into a simple pic too much (and the 1st edition version says its invisible), but the graphic above leads me to think there is an actual, visible, eyeball-like thing floating along. This would mean, IMO, monsters have a chance of noticing it.
(Okay, maybe not quite THAT noticeable, but you know what I mean.)
There are several things I really like about this spell.
- It reinforces the magic-user's role as a source of information, not artillery.
- It allows a more powerful party to map an area quickly, bypassing some of the mundanities of a crawl.
- Related to #2, it doesn't check for traps or secret doors while flitting about, so PCs still need to sweat that.
- It's usefulness extends far beyond the dungeon: outdoor, town, and military style campaigns would find this spell a huge asset.
- Also related to #2, it's a high enough level spell that it wouldn't unbalance a low level party by stepping on a thief's toes, or removing the "fun" of carefully scouting and searching. At the same time, it's not so high a level that you'd never see it used in play.*
- The need to concentrate means the MU isn't using the eye for things like long distance targeting, but he could use it to study an area carefully before teleporting there. Also, if a fight breaks out and the mage has to defend himself, the spell is lost. This can help keep it from being overused.
*A magic item allowing this ability, perhaps a wand or potion with only a few charges/doses, could be a nice find for a group.