Friday, January 8, 2021

Open Game Content: New Arcane Wizard-Elf Spells for B/X D&D and Old School Essentials

By Unknown author - Own work, Public Domain,
It's a new year, and so in honor of that, and to distract myself from all the crazy stuff going on right now, I'm posting so new content. Similar to the goals I made for myself last year, one of my goals for this year is to write and create more. I've actually been writing "behind the scenes" pretty much every day this year so far, but I wanted to post something before we got too much farther into January. One of the things I've noticed is that, when I'm writing (with an eye toward eventually publication), I tend to spend more time actually writing every day, but that translates to less time blogging. However, I did notice last year that when I began increasing the frequency of blogging, as well as switching up my topics by including a bit more in terms of RPG-related content and less in terms of just musing about stuff or posting comic book reviews, I get more views and engagement. 

That said, these new spells below are part of a new project I'm working on, partially inspired by the Old School Essentials game I'm running for my daughter and her friends. We've only had three sessions so far (the last was in November) and I hope to have another one soon, but with the combination of the holidays as well as the awful toll that COVID-19 is taking here in my area of Southern California, I'm not sure how soon we'll be able to get together to play safely. 

For this new project, I'm working on a new spell list, mainly to go with the Sorcerer class I wrote for B/X D&D and Old School Essentials last March. While the write-up of that class I mentioned that sorcerers use the standard wizard/elf spell list, my original thinking is that sorcerers would have their own custom spell list. As I mentioned over the summer, I'm actually working on taking a lot of my recent content from here on the blog, getting some professional layout and illustrations, and self-publishing it as PDFs (and if I'm lucky, print-on-demand). The first "book" about Experts and Specialists is already written, and the layout is about 90% done. The last thing I need is art, and then I'll be ready to sell it. Hot on the heels of that book will be one about B/X sorcerers, including a completely revised spell list. The idea is that you can either use the wizard/elf spell list, the new sorcerer list I'm going to provide (with 12 spells per level), or work with your referee to mix-and-match from both lists to create a custom list. 

Here are the first five spells I've written, all for 1st level. Many of these come with an odd side-effect or consequence, which fits my version of how magic should work in a campaign; it should be a little bit dangerous and mysterious, and its practitioners should have this feeling that they don't quite know how it works and that it controls them more than they control it. A few of these are small tweaks on existing spells, but changed to incorporate a consequence, while others are inspired by things I've seen in popular culture. Brownie points go to the first person who comments below to figure out what my main inspirational source was for some of these new spells. Actually - as I think about it - I'll give you more than brownie points. The first person who comments will get a free PDF of my Experts & Specialists book for Old School Essentials once it's finished. 

These spells are still pretty rough and I definitely appreciate any comments, criticisms, and suggestions and if I left anything open to abuse, etc. I'm also very keen to try to find a name for the spell "Decipher the Archaic & Weird" that's not so cumbersome. 

And with that, here are my first five 1st level spells that I've written so far. 


Alter Fortune
Duration: 1 turn
Range: 60'

A single humanoid creature must save versus spells or suffer ill luck. The caster chooses one of the following effects: 

  • Attack rolls: The subject must reroll a successful attack
  • Damage: The subject does minimum damage on a successful attack or spell
  • Spellcasting: The subject casts the wrong spell of the same level (determined randomly by the referee)
  • Saving throws: The subject must reroll a successful saving throw
The caster gains the opposite fortune for the duration of the spell (e.g., rerolls a missed attack, does maximum damage on a successful attack or spell, or rerolls a missed saving throw; there is no opposite effect for choosing to have the subject cast the wrong spell). 

Restrictions: Humanoids of greater than 4 + 1 HD are not affected. 

Bestial Vitality
Duration: 1 round +1 round/level
Range: Caster

The caster gains athletic abilities reminiscent of felines and other creatures as follows: 

  • Fall: 10' without taking damage
  • Jump: 10' wide spaces 
  • Climb: Sheer surfaces with 90% chance of success
  • AC: Gain +2 to AC from missile attacks and when retreating from melee
For the duration of the spell, the caster grows dark fur, and the eyes and teeth take on a feline appearance, conferring a -1 penalty on the monster reaction roll table (see Encounters in Core Rules). 

Decipher the Archaic & Weird 
Duration: 2 turns + special
Range: Caster

For the duration of the spell, the caster may read any extinct, ancient, or alien language, coded message, map, or other set of written instructions. This spell does not work on any living, current native languages. 

For one day after reading the language, the caster gains a supernatural insight, granting a +1 bonus on any ability checks during that time. Additionally, on this day, the caster must succeed in making a Charisma ability score check (see Checks, Damage, Saves in Core Rules) each tine when attempting to speak, or else is only able to speak in the unknown language previously read. Others will not be able to understand the caster, and the caster takes a -2 penalty to any NPC reaction rolls made while speaking the unknown language (see Encounters in Core Rules).  

Dragon Scales
Duration: 2 turns
Range: Caster

Creates a field of force that protects the caster: 

  • Against melee and missile attacks: The caster's AC is 4 [15]
  • Saving throws: The caster gains +2 to saves versus dragon breath and any fire-based spells
Special: The referee may alter what type of spell damage receives a saving throw bonus based on the type of dragon scales (e.g., lightning spells for blue dragon scales or cold-based spells for white dragon scales). 

The caster appears to be encased in armor made of dragon scales (of a color of the caster's choosing) and has a -2 penalty to reaction rolls made with dragons during the spell's duration (see Encounters in Core Rules). 

Evil Eye
Duration: 1 round per level
Range: 120'

This spell places a curse on a single creature in range. The subject must make a save versus spells or suffer a -1 penalty to all attack rolls, saving throws, and morale checks for the duration of the spell. 

The subject of the spell feels uncomfortable in the presence of the caster. At the end of the spell's duration, the subject has a 50% chance to either attack the caster immediately, or to move away without making contact or harming the caster. 

There you go - let me know your thoughts! 

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Winterbraun by Lost Coast Brewery
Listening: "Life on Mars?" by David Bowie, from the album "Hunky Dory" 


  1. The Bestial Vitality made me think of the Cat People or Manimal...

  2. Thanks for "playing" and commenting, Arthur, and for always being such a big supporter. I appreciate it!

    That's a good guess, but not the source I had in mind when I put this list together. And, to be clear, only some of these 5 spells have the same source inspiration, but as I post more, I think it should become pretty obvious.


  3. Alter Fortune
    I like this as it is.

    Bestial Vitality
    Duration is too short IMO, I would change that to 1 turn +1 round/level. As it is you could have a total duration as short as 2 rounds which would make it hardly worth the effort.

    As for the effects they need to be better than the average 18 year old of average fitness could do so I would change Fall to 20' and Jump to 25' which would double what an 18 year old should be able to do who is not on the track team.

    Aside from that I love it, great idea.

    Decipher the Archaic & Weird
    How about Ancient Scribe?

    Dragon Scales
    Love it.

    Evil Eye
    Love it, I would probably make a bump in the power of the spell at 8th level and make it a -2 from there up.

    1. Thanks so much for your comments and thoughts. I saw your note on MeWe that you were having trouble posting your comments - it's because I have to moderate every comment or else I get a ton of SPAM bot comments here which were driving me nuts.

      Someone in another post of mine pointed out that Alter Fortune was a little open to abuse, as the way it is currently written, the caster can choose to have an enemy do only 1 point of damage but then on the next round, could cast a spell for maximum damage. While at 1st level that's not so bad, if the caster were higher level, he could cast a fireball or lightning bolt, etc., for max damage. He also pointed out that causing an opponent to only do one point of damage is pretty powerful for a 1st level spell, so I think I might tinker with it a bit.

      Thanks for your comments on Bestial Vitality - I sometimes have a tendency to under-power things to make sure that I'm not creating something that's too OP, but your comments make sense.

      For the last three spells, someone else did point out (correctly) that these are just minor tweaks to existing spells with a bit of a different flavor to them ("evil eye" is basically like "blight," the reverse of "bless," and "dragon scales" is a tweak to "shield" and "decipher the archaic & weird" is a tweak to "read languages"). He suggested that it's a lot of work to just re-write existing spells with minor tweaks for flavor like this, and that I might be better off turning those spells into a "table" or "templates" that can be applied to existing spells, rather than completely re-writing them. It's something I'm thinking about.

      Stay tuned for more - I have almost all of the 1st level spells completely written, and I have notes for 2nd and 3rd level spells so far.

      Thanks again!

    2. You are welcome! A couple of additional comments: RE: Alter Fortune, I would only tone down what the caster gains, but not what it does otherwise, compare to the Sleep Spell.

      Re the last three spells, tweaking existing spells to give you the flavor you want for your campaign is a good thing and however you do it, it is IMO well worth the time.

    3. Thanks again! I really appreciate your time and comments.

  4. I’m still reviewing them for feedback, but they do very much remind me of Ars Magica/Mage: The Ascension in terms of theme.

    1. Thanks for checking them out, Michael. I really appreciate it. I've actually never played Mage: The Ascension before, and while I'm slightly familiar with Ars Magica, it's another one I haven't actually played. However, from what I understand about the Ars Magica magic system and setting, I can see how there could be a similarity in terms of the theme.


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