Sunday, September 9, 2012

Spells in High Fantasy

Within lies the ancient tombs and writing of our most worshipped predecessors.  Between the leather covers of this most ancient reading is the sum total of all the old scrolls and the power of our kind.  Meant for a wizards [sic] eyes only...
Thus begins 'The Spell Book' section starting on page 66 of Jeffery C. Dillow's High Fantasy role-playing game.  I suspect “tomes” was intended rather than “tombs,” but there's nothing I can do about it.

In High Fantasy, there are fifty spells; however, as I explained previously, when a wizard gains skill levels, spells can have improved effects.  Each of the five planes has ten spells, as listed below.  Before a wizard can use spells of a given plane, he must have all spells from all lesser planes.  Beginning wizards start the game with 3 - 6 first plane spells of their choice.

Here is a listing of the entire corpus of High Fantasy spells.

Plane 1: Binding, Paralysis, Create a Familiar, Temperature, Light, Interference Shield, Sleep, Wall, Detect, Negate

Plane 2: Control, Shield, Fly, Voice, Fear, Portal, Transmutate, Telekinesis, Language, Food

Plane 3: Catastrophies, Strike, Electric, Shadows, ESP, Communication, Maxi/Mini, Reverse, Sound, Strength

Plane 4: Summon, Return, Animate, Illusion, Invisibility, Change Shape, Symbols, Body Control, Passage, Aetherial

Plane 5: Hand, Exhaust Aether, Book, Time, Restore Magic, Curse, Undead, Duplicate, Possession/Exorcism, Clone

Spells in bold are “memorizable.”  If a spell is not memorizable, it “must be read from a book.”  How spell memorization affects game play is not readily apparent from the rules.  Nothing in the combat section suggests that casting a memorized spell is different from casting a non-memorized spell.  Neither the example of combat (pages 50 - 52) nor the example of play (pages 99 - 102) are instructive.  An 'advanced rule' only serves to confuse matters.

High Fantasy presents a constructive way for each character class to channel wealth accumulated via adventuring; this is the advanced rule called “Investments.”  Wizards can assemble a research library by purchasing “units consisting of old books, parchments, and symbols, etc.”  Each 'unit' occupies a 2' by 2' area and has a cost of one hundred silver tams.  With such a library, a wizard can reproduce spell pages, discern the abilities of magic items, and obtain additional manna.  Additionally, according to page 107, a wizard...
...will be able to locate shorthand memory tricks and substitute phrases that will enable him to shorten and therefore memorize additional spells.  There is a limit of two more spells to memorize per plane.  For every unit there is a 1% chance of memorization.  He may try to memorize 2 spells per 10 units and the same spell only once per 10 units.
The phrases “memorize additional spells” and “a limit of two more spells...per plane” suggest this process is not necessary for spells that are 'normally memorizable.'

Anyway, all spells in High Fantasy may be cast up to a distance of one hundred feet and (except for instantaneous effects) have a duration of five minutes for every skill level of the caster.
The 'Light' spell...
allows the caster to create light and absorb it...At third plane a caster may cast invisible light.  This is a light that allows anyone within the area to see as if daylight.  To anyone located on the outside of the area it seems to be dark.
Starting at third plane, a wizard can use a 'Sleep' spell to “cause the victim to dream of whatever the Wizard desires.”

A 'Catastrophies' spell permits the caster to create a whirlwind, wave or tremor.  The 'Maxi/Mini' spell increases or decreases another of the caster's spells by 50%; the spell may also be delayed for up to one day.

Aside from controlling “unconscious bodily functions,” the 'Body Control' spell “allows the caster to adjust personal body weight to float lightly down through air or to become just light enough to walk on water.”

With the 'Clone' spell, a wizard can “grow a duplicate of a humanoid creature from a piece of skin” provided that the original humanoid is dead, but the skin cannot be more than a month old.  The clone will have all of the memories of the original, “but possess only those skills the humanoid had minus two planes.”


  1. Maybe memorized means "memorized", as in, you don't need to haul your book around to use it. Simple, real English, instead of some unusual RPG lingo.

    1. This could well be true.

      Since a spell book can "die" if separated from its owner, I assumed that a wizard wouldn't want to be without his book. This assumption may be in error.

      On the other hand, there's no penalty associated with hauling around a spell book and there is no mention of a difference in casting time between a 'memorized' spell and a 'read' spell.

      Granted, there must have been some intended benefit for memorized spells, but the rules are not explicit in this regard. What is the implied limit on the number of memorized spells? Should it be assumed that any memorizable spell is automatically memorized? Is this 'Vancian' memorization that requires a spell to be re-memorized after every casting? Why is it that any spell can be memorizable via the study rules, but only some spells are memorizable by default?

      I agree that "Simple, real English" is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, in this case, there isn't enough of it (in my opinion).