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Friday, November 17, 2017

RSA: Projected Image

There are a couple of reasons that I'm not surprised I haven't seen this spell used in a BX game. For one thing, there simply aren't a lot of illusion spells in the game. For another, as a sixth level spell, it's competing with some heavy hitters. Lastly, I simply haven't player or ran many classic games where the PCs have gotten high enough level to cast 5th or 6th level spells. That said, this one bugs me. The description is short enough that I'll just post the full listing here:

Projected Image  MU: 6th
Range: 240'
Duration: 6 turns

This spell creates an image of the magic-user that cannot be distinguished from the original except by touch. All spells cast by the magic-user will seem to come from the image. However, the caster must still be able to see the target. If touched or struck by a melee weapon, the image will disappear. Spells and missile attacks will seem to have no effect on the image. The magic-user who casts the spell can make the image appear up to 240' away.

Right off the bat. SIXTH level for this spell?! Really? I mean, it's got a good range and duration, but c'mon! I can think of several instances where such a spell would be handy, but as a 3rd or 4th level maybe, not 6th.

There are also some interesting limitations that are implied by the brief description. Even though the spells can "appear" as if coming from the image, the caster himself must have line of sight on it. This seems to be saying that the image doesn't relay any information back to the caster. Also, despite the fact that while a melee attack dispels it but a missile weapon does not (huh?), having the illusion unaffected by ranged/magical attacks can be a drawback, since the image endures even after it looks like the wizard should have at least been hurt.

So why would anyone choose or cast this spell? Well, I think it's main strength lies in two (admittedly specific) areas.

  1. This spell creates an image of the magic-user that cannot be distinguished from the original except by touch.
  2.  All spells cast by the magic-user will seem to come from the image.
So the illusion looks, sounds, and smells like the caster. If it is standing in the room with you, you can't tell it isn't him unless you make physical contact. That's kind of handy. Likewise, if that Fireball looks like it's flying of the illusion's fingertips, that can confuse enemies and make them pick the wrong target.

One of the other things to keep in mind is that, as a sixth level spell, that means the magic-user is at least 11th level (barring the use of something like a scroll). That means he could potentially have fifteen more spells in his repertoire for the day. Not only does that allow for him to mislead foes a lot with where the spells are coming from, but a prepared mage could cast other spells to boost the illusion. Turn yourself invisible and have your illusion draw the fire. Use Wizard Eye, Clairvoyanceand/or Ventriloquism to let you see and hear without actually being in the room.

Such tricks could lead to some fun encounters, combat or otherwise, but would require the wizards to really plan ahead. As a result, I don't know that I would keep Projected Image memorized by default, but I could see using it as part of a more involved, pre-planned scheme.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

RSA: Confusion

I won't say I've never seen or used confusion effects in my games, 'cuz I have! But it usually hasn't been the result of a spell casting. Typically it's been the "spell-like" effect of a monster or item. Looking at the BX spell descriptions, I can see why it's not a commonly chosen spell.

Foe one thing, it's 4th level MU, so it's competing for a slot against Wall of Fire, Wall of Ice, and Charm Monster (among others). Also, despite the fact it last for twelve rounds and 2HD or less targets get no save, it's a fiddly spell to run.

  • First, the number of targets is random (3d6), so you're uncertain of the result right out of the gate. 
  • Secondly, 2+1 HD and up targets have to roll their save each round. 
  • Thirdly, the confusion effect is re-rolled for each target each round with a failed save. That's a lot of rolling!
  • Finally, there is a better than 1:3 chance that the target(s) attack you anyway, and that's after they fail their save vs. spell!
Confusion is a fun effect, but it's understandable why PC/NPC wizards aren't desperate to memorize it for the day.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

REF: Traders

Time for some Random Encounter Fun!

Last time, it was a wilderness (well, city) encounter with some spectres. This time, we'll head back to Moldvay's Level 1 wandering monsters and #19 on the chart: Traders (B43).

Wait, what?

I know it sounds weird, but bear with me here.

Traders in BX are different than merchants. They are "first level fighters who make their living trading goods." the listing goes on to say they are "similar to merchants, but much braver." They normally wield swords or hand axes, wear furs that count as leather armor, and carry shields.

Axes, furs, shields... hmm, what does that sound like?

VIKINGS, of course!

The vikings, in addition to the exploring and raiding, were terrific merchants and traders. They sailed all over, and were in a near-ideal position for commerce.

So, back to the encounter. Number appearing is 1d8. I rolled a 4. That's a decent party size for some NPCs but these are all fighting types with no clerics or wizards or thieves, so it makes sense they are a level 1 encounter. Not because they're wimps, but because they probably wouldn't venture far into the dungeon.

The listing in the book says they use pack mules in the wilderness, and typically carry trade goods like spices or furs or "carved decorative items." But these fellas are in the dungeon, so maybe the animals are back on the surface?

Traders have a low morale score (7), so they aren't interested in lots of fighting. They are probably in the dungeon looking for something valuable they can grab and go. Maybe they're hoping for some bits of jewelry or they've tracked an animal with a valuable pelt to its lair. In any case, they probably aren't "residents" of the dungeon. Like the PCs, they're just visiting.

I would see an encounter with this group as being far more likely to result in roleplaying than combat. A trading party might buy some loot off the PCs. The party might gain useful information from the traders about the place or the surrounding region (they're probably well-traveled after all). For the right price, the traders might even join the party for a bit and bolster their ranks.

In my scenario, I place the traders on the first level of the dungeon, relatively near the entrance. They have tracked some Giant Killer Bees (another level 1 monster) to this location and are searching for the hive. They are carrying green wood and lamp oil to smoke the insects out so they can steal the magical honey. The traders' reaction roll was a 9 (no attack, leaves or considers offers) which seems fair for mercantile types. If the party seems tough, the less than foolhardy traders might offer a trade: If the PCs can bring them a full jar of honey, the traders have a treasure map that the party might find worthwhile.

Like the NPC party, traders also serve as a reminder that the dungeon can be a dynamic, living place where the heroes aren't necessarily the only people interested in treasure; and sometimes even a dungeon encounter doesn't have to end up with rolling for initiative.