Friday, March 6, 2020

Going Through the Spells: Light

I love the light spell. I really do. It's such a useful spell. Creative players find interesting ways to utilize the spell to their advantage. This is one of those cleric/magic-user spells. The only difference is the duration. Cleric get a solid 12 turns of light where a magic-user's duration is 6 turns + 1 turn per level. Okay. Not sure why the difference between the two, but that is the only difference. 

Old School Essentials Mechanics
Duration: 12 turns
Range: 120'
- Conjuring light in a 15' radius. It is sufficient for reading, but is not as bright as daylight. The spell may be cast on an object, in which the light moves with the object.
- Blinding a creature by casting it on the eyes. If the target fails a save vs. spell it is blind for the duration. The blind creature cannot attack. 
- Cancelling darkness, light cancels a darkness spell.
- Reverse: Darkness, creates a 15' radius of magical blackness. It prevents normal sight, but not infravision. It can be used to blind creatures or to dispel a light spell. 

So many options, and that isn't all of them. In my years of play I've seen a lot of fun options. I love the it is an offensive spell that can blind a single creature, eliminating it from combat. I've taken down a few big ass critters with a simple light spell in my day. And I don't find any ambiguity with the description. It does what it does.

AD&D Mechanics
Duration: 6 turns + 1 turn/level
Range: 12"
- This spell causes the excitement of molecules as as to make them brightly luminous. The light is equal to torch light in brightness, but the sphere is limited to 4" in diameter. It lasts for the duration indicated or the caster utters a word to extinguish the light. 
- The light spell is reversible, cause darkness in the same area and under the same conditions except the darkness duration only lasts half the duration light would last. 
- If cast upon a creature, the applicable magic resistance and saving throws must be made. Success indicates that the spell affects the area immediately behind the creature, rather than the creature itself. 
- In all other cases, the spell takes effect where the caster directs as long as he or she has a line of sight or unobstructed path for the spell; light can spring from air, rock, metal, wood, or almost any similar substance. 

I really don't remember the light spell being so complicated. Let's unpack this thing a little at a time. First off, in the stat descriptions of the spell is says a 2" radius globe. In the first paragraph reads it's limited to a 4" diameter sphere. This might be a simple misprint, and doesn't make much of a difference to the spell, but I found it odd. 

Why would darkness only have half the duration? 

This next section is vague. It's hinting about blinding a creature, but it doesn't state that it does. If the creature makes its saving throw...against what, to what end. I'm sure it's about blinding a creature, but odd that it's not stated. Some of the other details in the spell description are exacting. 

One of the bigger differences between the B/X and the AD&D spell is how the light works. In the B/X version it is cast on something. Making it a stationary spell. As the spell cannot move off the object it is cast on, but the object itself could be portable. I often cast it on a fighter's shield or on a small object that can be pocketed or covered to conceal the light.  

The AD&D version the cleric has a little ball of light pet. It moves where the cleric wills it. There is no indication how fast it moves, but it's an interesting distinction between the two spells.

This week I pulled Basic Fantasy Roleplaying game off the shelves. 

Basic Fantasy Mechanics
Duration: 6 turns + level turns
Range: 120'

- Creates light equal to torchlight which illuminates a 30' radius area and provides a dim light for an additional 20' around the targeted location or object.
- The reverse creates darkness an area as described above. Darkness blocks out Darkvision and mundane light sources.
- A light spell maybe cast to counter a darkness spell of equal or lower level caster. Do this causes both spells to instantly cease, restoring the existing ambient light. 
-Either version of the spell may be used to blind an opponent by casting in on the creatures ocular organs. The target is allowed a saving throw vs. death ray to avoid the effect, and if the save is made the spell does not take effect at all. A light or darkness spell cast to blind does not have a given area of effect, that is, no light or darkness is shed around the victim.

There are some very different things going on here.

Darkness blocks out Darkvision. Darkvision seems to have replaced infravision in Basic Fantasy. One sees in black and white in total darkness. While the B/X version of darkness doesn't block infravision, Basic Fantasy's darkness spell does.

I like the way Basic Fantasy resolves the use of light and darkness spells by canceling one another. Instead of which spell was cast last.

And lastly, there is an interesting twist to the spell if cast to blind a creature and the save is made, the spell doesn't work. No effect. I'm not sure if I like that version because I would still rule the spell went off, but not where the caster expected.

Favorite term of the night "ocular organs". Ever play a game with your friend where you just come up with rock band names. Yeah, ocular organs is my rock band name. 


  1. I think the main distinction between clerical light and magical light is at higher levels. In particular with the spell continual light. For clerics this is considered "the equivalent of full daylight" in OD&D which has a number of collateral effects when you read this in connection with the monster descriptions. For example most goblinoids suffer a penalty when fighting in full daylight. And some people do interpret that vampires are destroyed by this spell (although technically the instant kill is achieved by "sunlight" rather than "daylight'). [I tend to have used it to drive creatures of darkness away and if they can't flee, then destroy them.]

    In my current game given I have intentionally made cleric magic antipathetic the clerical spell is less one of light but more one of banish darkness. Which removes the darkness and shadows (including the monsters of the same name [for the duration of the spell]) in the area of effect, so is effectively sourceless. The magic user version (based on the fact that mages use sympathetic magic), summons magelight - an illuminating source of light - either as a free-floating ball or making something glow.

    Another interesting variation which I have seen used in games where the gods have an active place in the campaign, is for the clouds to break apart and a ray of sunlight illuminate the area of effect. [Much less superheroic and much more divine in my book, especially when it happens in the middle of the night.]

    1. It's an interesting distinction between the religious and secular light sources.

  2. Thanks for shedding some light on the subject.

  3. A 2" radius globe and a 4" diameter sphere are the same thing.

  4. You are misreading the AD&D description - light cannot move when cast. It's just as stationary as in other spells. If you wanted moving light, you would get a dancing lights spell. And it's not little. A 4" diameter globe is 40' diameter.

    1. Addendum: Many people do not know that THE REST of the spell descriptions in AD&D are in the DMG. Check it out!

    2. I'd forgotten about the details in the DMG. And right on the the spell area of effect.

  5. Clearly, the difference in spell duration shows that all gods are level 6 spellcasters.