Monday, March 9, 2020

Going Through the Spells: Protection from Evil

The next spell up is Protection from Evil. I'm hoping this one doesn't prompt an unnecessary debate on what 'evil' is in game. But if it does, I'll cast my own spell, Protection from Asshats. I don't recall players using Protection from Evil. In a recent game where the player had the ability to use the spell, without the cost of a spell slot, used it once over a year long campaign. It's a good spell. I gives the caster a lot of nice bonuses, but is it enough to not take another Cure Light Wounds

Old School Essentials Mechanics
Duration: 12 turns
Range: The caster
This spell wards the caster from attacks by creatures of another alignment, as follows:
- Bonuses: The caster gains +1 bonus to saving throws against attacks or special abilities of affected creatures.
- Affected creature attacks: Against the caster are penalized by -1. 
- Enchanted, constructed, or summoned creatures: The spell additionally prevents such creatures from attacking the caster in melee, though they may still make ranged attacks. If the caster engages such a creature in melee, this protection is broken (the caster still gains the save and attack bonuses mentioned above.)

It's a poorly named spell due to it using the term evil. Since it protects whomever casts the spell, no matter what the their alignment. Protection would have been a easier name without the confusion. In the description it states that it protects the caster from another aligned creatures. Does that mean same aligned creatures can smack the cleric around the map? 

And what a duration, 12 turns is the longest duration I've seen on a spell. Of course I'm only five spells in so far. But two hours of protection is a spell slot well spent. 

Let's take a look at the AD&D version. 

AD&D Mechanics
Duration: 3 rounds/level
Range: Touch
When the spell is cast, it acts as if it were a magical armor upon the recipient. The protection encircles the recipient at a one foot distance, thus preventing bodily contact by creatures of an enchanted or conjured nature such as aerial servants, demons, devils, djinn, efreet, elementals, imps, invisible stalkers, night hags, quasits, salamanders, water weirds, wind walkers, and xorn. Summoned animals or monsters are similarly hedged from the protected creature. 

Furthermore, any and all attacks launched by evil creatures incur a penalty of -2 from dice rolls "to hit" the protected creature, and any saving throw caused by such an attacks are made at +2 on the protected creature's dice. 

The spell can be reversed to become protection from good, although it still keeps out enchanted evil creatures as well. 

The following is within the DMG: Note that this excludes (keeps out) monsters using natural (body) attacks which require touching the protected character. 

First the duration is shrunk down like an old man climbing out of a cold pool. OSE a flat 12 turns, down to 3 rounds/level in AD&D. The strategy for using this spell would be very different. One casting it before entering a dungeon. The other casting it during combat. Both interesting versions.

But while the caster sacrifices a drastic drop in time the protection doubles. For my money I'd rather have the duration than the increase of +2. The protection is provides against summoned and enchanted creatures to be equal.

Another difference is the caster can apply this spell to anyone. Another strategic option for the spell. I love options. 

The biggest difference, this spell doesn't say the protection from enchanted and conjured creatures ends if the recipient engages in melee. But at the same time, if the salamander is stabbing your guts with a trident it suffers the -2 to hit penalty. Not the invulnerability you get with the OSE version.

I prefer the OSE version. I think it implements the spell more effectively. 

I randomly pulled Hackmaster off my shelf, but discovered that it doesn't have a version of this spell in Hackmater Basic or Hackmaster 5e. I went back to the shelf and pulled Swords & Wizardry Complete. It echoes the OSE version, but with some interesting differences.

Swords & Wizardry Complete Mechanics
Duration: 2 hours
Range: The caster
Creates a magical shield of protection immediately around the caster blocking out all enchanted monsters such as elementals and demons. Evil monsters suffer a -1 penalty to hit the caster, and the caster gains +1 on all saving throws against such attacks. If the caster already has any magical bonuses to saving throws or armor class, the bonus from the magical circle has no effect, although the protective circle still functions against enchanted creatures. 

A step sibling of the OSE version except that bit about, you already got bonuses? Then screw you pal, no more bonuses for you. It doesn't differentiate melee, missile, or spell. Someone could argue that it blocks all of their attacks. How would you rule this?

Again, is the spell is focusing on evil-aligned creatures or hostiles in general? I read it as it is specifically targets creatures of evil alignment. So a neutral-aligned creature suffers no penalty.

What say you?


  1. It seems the intent is more Protection from That Which Seeks to Harm, but that would be a terribly long spell name (although it's my preferred approach to this spell). I feel it's such a quintessential spell, especially at lower levels, that it should be almost a freebie.

  2. The B/X rules clearly state that "evil" is meant as any alignment other than one's own, so OSE grafts the spell identically. This is probably my preferred version of the spell since it does not require interpretation of applicability. Opponent has different alignment? Spell applies.

  3. OD&D (and thus Swords & Wizardry) don't have an Evil alignment, so the intention there is protection from enemies. OD&D is also the source of the "does not stack" rule, but with a crucial difference: OD&D distinguishes between attackers and enchanted attackers, giving a non-stacking defense bonus to the former, but preventing any attack from the latter. "Note that this spell is not cumulative in effect with magic armor and rings, although it will continue to keep out enchanted monsters." So there's a reason to use it even if you already have a magical defense bonus.

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