Monday, May 3, 2010

A Spell That Troubles Me Paralyzation, a 3rd level illusionist spell in AD&D 1st edition. It affects a number of creatures equal to twice the caster's experience level (so at least ten) and allows a saving throw. Those who do not save are paralyzed. According to the book, the only ways to undo this paralysis are the use of dispel magic, dispel illusion, or willful dismissal of the spell by the caster. The duration is listed as "Special." In OSRIC, the duration is listed as "Permanent."

I find that, as a DM, I am a bit troubled by a third level spell having the ability to permanently paralyze a creature. On one hand, the players in AD&D 1st edition have enough stacked against them as it is; think of all the monsters with instant kill type attacks. On the other hand, paralysis in AD&D is, in all other cases I can think of, temporary, even if the duration is for a long damn time.

I'm thinking about limiting the duration of the paralysis to 3d4 turns, making it comparable to that of a ghoul's touch. This still makes the spell a death sentence to anyone the PCs want dead, so I doubt they will complain very much. If I do this, I might remove the caster's option to end it at will.

Anyone else have any thoughts on this?


  1. I don't mean this in a snarky way, but a 5th level mage has spells called Fireball and Lightning bolt that can make a character permanently DEAD. Permanent paralysis isn't a bad trade. PS: I used to play *a lot* of Champions and the rationale behind the Transformation power was this exactly. It cost the same as a Killing Attack. The idea was, if you could kill it anyway, turning it into a toad wasn't a bad trade. YMMV. Great blog!

  2. Those two spells can kill, yes, but only if they score enough damage to do so. Fireball a room full of enemies and you might kill them... but paralyze a room full of enemies and you can just cut all their throats and not worry about hit points.

    ...really, my main beef with this spell is the inconsistency it has with how paralysis usually works.

  3. As a player, I'd be totally fine with limiting the duration. By the end of that time I'd either have slit their throat, run away, or bound them, so it wouldn't really make much difference. Another option is to give an additional saving throw every.... 2-4 hours?

  4. I generally use the option David mentions above, an additional saving throw at some regular interval (I generally find a turn works well). That still leaves the spell very powerful (you can slit 10 throats in 10 rounds), but not a total sure thing.

  5. The permanent duration of what is described as an illusion is the bizarre part for me. Combined with the large number of creatures affected, this spell walks all over Hold Person, which is also 3rd level. I'd do one of three things:

    1) Raise the level to 6th to match Permanent Illusion (harsh) or
    2) change the duration to match Spectral Force (fair)

  6. I never did have enough illusionists in my old AD&D campaign, and none ever worried about memorizing this spell. But in small parties that trade a magic-user for an illusionist, I do NOT think this is a bad trade-off.

    For NPC (antagonist) illusionists, this certainly gives 'em a spell capable of wiping out even a high level party. I'd save such encounters only for the most dastardly appropriate moments.

    I never saw AD&D as a game of "balance" and this was something I always loved about it. I'd leave the spell "as is" and see if it encouraged any of my players to pick up the illusionist class. You're still limited to cloth armor and throwing darts, you still have the "fire-and-forget" magic powers. Give 'em permanent powers over the minds of more mundane types!

    ; )

  7. JB-

    Actually, it's my bard rewrite that gives this party access to the spell. My bard rewrite gets sort of a mishmash of spells from all four spell lists, though they are treated as druidic spells. I kept the whole druidic-bard aspect of the class, but I wanted to diversify the spell list.

  8. @ Ryan: Well, then, one would think the paralysis would only last as long as the music. Sheesh, Ryan! That's too easily fixed!
    : )

  9. Right now, my bard's spells are spells, not necessarily tied to musical abilities (much like the 2nd edition bard, who just had straight up wizard spells, and the 1st edition bard, who seems to have had straight up druid spells.) My custom bard is a work in progress...I suppose you could say that this is the play test.