Monday, April 14, 2014

B/X Spell Roundup: 3rd level cleric spells, part 2

Just a couple more for level 3.  One of the things I had forgotten (or perhaps never fully realized in the first place, since back in the day we went from Moldvay Basic to Mentzer Expert) was that the cleric spell lists in Cook Expert diminish at higher levels, unlike the magic-user lists, which hold steady at a dozen per level.

5. Remove Curse:  Even more so than Cure Disease, this is a spell that you probably wouldn't want to memorize in advance of someone's being cursed.  Most curses in B/X are of the nuisance variety, and not directly fatal.  Granted, incurring a -2 penalty to all hit and damage rolls may once in a while make the difference in a fight, but unlike, say, being poisoned, you can work around it.  Worst case scenario is usually that you do just that, suck it up and work around the inconvenience, until the cleric gets new spells in the morning.  Some nastier curses than those given in the book could increase the incentive to take the spell pre-emptively a little bit.  Instead of a sword that just subtracts a point or two from attack rolls and damage, one that forces the wielder to make a saving throw at the start of combat or go battle-mad and become unable to tell friend from foe makes things a bit more urgent. 

The reversed spell, Curse, afflicts the target with a curse if the saving throw is failed.  The examples given are all just penalties to various rolls or attributes, which is pretty bland.  They certainly don't have to be so dull; the description of the Sprite in the monsters chapter suggests more colorful possibilities, like tripping or having your nose grow.  Curses aren't a whole lot of help in a real fight; they're more of a long-term revenge/malicious mischief-type spell.  The spell description warns against too-powerful curses, advising the DM that these can be turned back on the caster.  Curses bestowed by magic items, unholy altars, or vengeful spirits can circumvent that restriction to some degree and impose nastier effects. 

It's worthy of note that the description says the spell will free a character from a cursed magical item.  It doesn't say that it purges the curse from the item itself.  So, you could rid a character of the compulsion to use that sword -1, and allow him to put it down and walk away from it, but you won't turn it into a normal sword +1.

6. Striking: It sounded pretty cool way back when I first learned of it, but I've since come to think of Striking as basically another one-trick-pony spell.  It's not that it's useless by any means, but there's little room for creative and unorthodox use.  It bestows the ability on one weapon to inflict an extra 1d6 points of damage on a successful attack.  It also gives a normal weapon the ability to harm creatures that can normally be damaged only by magical weapons, though it doesn't specify whether the weapon does its usual damage plus 1d6, or only the 1d6 from the Striking spell to such targets.  The duration is a single turn, so it's basically good for one combat.

Now, as I finish up this round of spells, an observation has crystallized in my mind.  A lot of cleric spells are what I would call reactive spells, as opposed to spells that may be used in proactive ways.  A very specific condition must obtain before the spell is useful.  A character has to contract a disease before you use Cure Disease.  Remove Curse is utterly useless until somebody gets cursed.  Even the ubiquitous Cure Light Wounds is only useful after somebody loses some hit points.  Make no mistake, these are useful spells within the context of the D&D game, but they're probably not going to get anyone fired up about playing a cleric.  You're never going to impress the DM or your fellow players by cleverly casting Cure Disease to remove a character's case of mummy rot, because it isn't clever.  There's no player skill involved at all. 

I'm not sure yet what the best "fix" for this is.  Maybe the cleric needs a few more exciting spells, or maybe there needs to be a good solid reason for playing one other than "fights almost but not quite as well as a fighter, and casts a few ho-hum spells."

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