Open Game Content: New 2nd Level B/X-OSE Arcane Spells, and Twists on Existing Spells

"The Kichi Family Have
Magical Scrying Pools
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I got a lot of good feedback as well as views on my list of 12 new 1st-level B/X (and Old School Essentials) D&D spells. I posted those just one week ago, and yet that post already has more views than any single post I made in 2019 and more than half of the posts I made last year. As I mentioned last time, writing (and reading about) spells is not really my favorite thing with regard to RPG writing and creating, so this was a bit surprising to me. 

Interestingly, during this past week, a creator in a D&D Facebook group to which I belong asked when writing, if creators write straight through, even when they get stuck or are writing something they don't particularly enjoy, or whether they skip around. I mentioned that, for the project on which I'm currently working (a Sorcerer supplement for Old School Essentials, with a new sorcerer class, new spells, and notes on new magic stuff for an OSE or B/X D&D game), that I'm forcing myself to write each section in order, because right now in going through the spells, it's been slow going and I keep looking at the things toward the back of the supplement that I'm more excited about, but I'm using those sections as a "reward" for finishing writing the spells. My instincts tell me that if I skipped past the spells to write the sections I'm more looking forward to, that I would never come back and finish the spell sections, and the supplement would end up sitting on its virtual shelf, never to be published. The person who posed the question mentioned that he does the same thing, but wasn't sure if it was the best approach. 

For this batch of 2nd level spells, I did include some variations on some spells that are now common in D&D, but aren't actually part of the standard B/X spell list. That's why you'll see a version of the spell Spider Climb in my list, but since it doesn't exist in B/X or Old School Essentials, I re-named it and switched up some of the effects of the spell. Those who are well-versed in the history of D&D spells may notice a few other spells in my new list that have similar origins, whereas others I created without any existing inspiration. 

In a different D&D-related Facebook group just yesterday, someone else asked where designers and creators got their inspiration for creating aspects of their campaign worlds, and whether those inspirations went beyond the fabled "Appendix N" from the 1st Edition AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide. Of course, long-time readers of my blog will know that gaining inspiration from a variety of non-standard sources has been a main theme of my blog since the beginning - in addition to world history, I've also been inspired by comic books, 80's TV shows, movies, non-fiction books about holidays, beer, and how six different beverages changed the world, and even a custom set of action figures created by a guy who placed Star Wars into a Victorian setting that he calls "Steam Wars," among others.

I bring this up because one of the inspirations for one of the spells I'm posting below came from driving to grocery store earlier this week and an old 80's song by Tears for Fears, "Broken," coming up on the radio. At the time in my head I had been going over the new spells I wanted to write, and the song inspired me to write a spell about magic being "broken." 

One last thing before getting to the spells - I've been thinking a lot about the "flavor" of B/X and Old School Essentials spells, mainly that it's pretty non-existent. This is really a feature, not a bug, as I've always felt that the intent it to keep the spells more generic so that a referee can change the flavor to suit the campaign world that's being used. As such, I plan to slightly re-write the 1st level spells I wrote last week and put some of my "consequences" into a separate section of the spell that I'm going to call "Optional Weird Effects." The flavor text will still be there, but it will be separated from the main description of the spell so that a referee could use the spell without the "baggage" of my flavor text and instead replace it or change it as desired. These effects are mainly to introduce interesting complications and role-playing opportunities. As with the 1st level spells, I'm going to present twelve new 2nd level spells first, and then show a few altered standard spells. 

As always, I really appreciate people's comments, suggestions, and even criticisms. These are sort of like a "first look" beta-test for things that I'm working on, and I'll keep revising and improving them as needed. 

2nd Level Arcane Spells

Arachnid Form
Duration: 1 turn
Range: The caster

The caster gains spider-like features (eight eyes, additional limbs up to eight total, and fine hair all over the body). 

  • Climbing: May climb vertical surfaces and travel along ceilings at half normal movement rate
  • Hands and feet: Must be free
  • Objects: Cannot wield weapons or use items in this form, and objects weighing less than 50 coins stick to the caster's hands and feet
  • Spider understanding: Understands the language of spiders
  • Charisma penalty: Suffers a temporary -4 penalty to Charisma
Optional Weird Effect: For an hour after the spell's duration, the caster is jumpy and constantly senses minute vibrations. Small and light items such as papers and coins stick briefly to the caster's hands. 

Broken Arcana
Duration: 4 turns
Range: 120'

A 20' radius area breaks the connection to arcane magic. 
  • Arcane spells: Casters must save versus spells each time they attempt to cast a spell in the radius
  • Failed save: The spell the caster was attempting is removed from memory as if it had been cast
  • Leaving the radius: Casters who move outside the spell's radius may cast again normally
Even after the duration of the spell ends, the original caster may not cast spells in the radius covered by broken arcana. 

Eldritch Armor I
Duration: 2 hours
Range: The caster

Creates a visible suit of mystical force with an ancient and intricate design. Each time the caster uses this spell, additional ornate inscriptions and pieces are added to the suit of armor, usually of a fiendish nature. 
  • AC bonus: +3 to the caster's AC
  • Summoned chaotic creatures: Appear fearful of the caster and must save versus spells to attack
  • Threatening: -2 penalty to NPC reaction rolls against lawful creatures (see Encounters in Core Rules)

Duration: 4d4 turns
Range: The caster

This spell allows the caster to imitate familiar voices and accents. If attempt to mimic a specific individual, listeners familiar with the voice being imitated are allowed to save versus spells with a -2 penalty to notice that the voice is not authentic. 

Restrictions: Mimic does not allow the speaking of languages the caster does not already know. 

Nebulous Form
Duration: 1 turn + 1 turn/level
Range: Touch

The caster or any creature touched turns into a nebulous, shifting form composed of vapor. The spell changes the form of any equipment worn or carried as well. Unwilling creatures are allowed a save versus spells to avoid the effect. 

While in nebulous form: 
  • Magic weapons: Are required to hit the subject of the spell
  • Disappear: Into a mass of fog or smoke
  • Combat: May not cast spells or attack
  • Movement: Cannot slip through cracks but has the weight of fog, so will drift gently down if stepping off a cliff or ledge
  • Wind: Can move or push the subject against the subject's will 
  • Control weather spell: The subject must save versus spells or be killed by a magical tornado effect

Ooze Influence
Duration: 1 round/level
Range: 60'

The caster can exert control over jellies, oozes, puddings, and slimes. Target must save versus spells or can be controlled by the caster. The caster may command the target to move, attack, remain stationary, or disengage from combat, but cannot command it to do something that would cause it to deliberately injure itself. 

A total of 4 HD + 1 HD/level of creatures may be affected. Targets with more than 5 HD receive an additional saving throw each round of the spell's duration. 

Optional Weird Effect: The caster's skin turns slimy and green for 2 hours following the expiration of the spell's duration, causing a -2 NPC reaction roll penalty (See Encounters in Core Rules). 

Poisonous Insects
Duration: 1 round
Range: 60'

The caster summons a swarm of crawling, flying, and biting insects that covers a 20' radius. Subjects of the spell's radius must save versus poison or suffer one of the following effects, determined by random or selected by the referee (who may allow the play to choose):

  • Blindness: 1d4 +1 rounds
  • Damage: 1d6 +1 HP
  • Sleep: 1d4 + 1 rounds (can be awakened by jostling or shouting in the ear)
  • Sluggishness: Movement is at half speed and always goes last in the round for 2d4 rounds
Restrictions: Undead are immune. 

Optional Weird Effect: For an hour after the spell's duration, the caster's skin crawls with imaginary insects, causing the caster to itch and be distracted. 

Power Thief I
Duration: 1 hour
Range: Touch

The subject must save versus spells or transfer an ability to the caster. The subject may choose to willingly fail the save. The caster may pick one of the following abilities: 
  • Demi-human abilities (pick one only): Infravision, detect construction tricks (as Dwarf), detect room traps (as Dwarf), listening at doors (as Elf), detect secret doors (as Elf), immunity to ghoul paralysis (as Elf), hide in undergrowth (as Halfling)
  • Ability score: Any ability score that is higher than the caster's current score
  • Saving throw: Any single saving throw that is higher than the caster's current save 
The subject retains the ability but is fatigued for the duration of the spell and at -1 to all rolls. 

Optional Weird Effect: The caster must save versus spells or gain some of the memories and personality traits of the subject for the duration of the spell. If the caster rolls a natural 1 on this save, those memories and personality traits become permanent, and cause the caster's hair to turn white with fright. 

Soul Journey
Duration: 1d4 + 2 turns
Range: 200' / round

The caster enters a trance and sends an intangible spiritual form to travel great distances.  
  • Movement: The caster's soul form can pass through solid objects but is block by magical barriers
  • Senses: The caster's soul can view things but cannot hear, speak to, or interact with them
  • Encountering other spirits and souls: The caster's soul can interact as normal, including combat, but death during the soul journey traps the soul, killing the caster's physical form
During the soul journey, the caster's body is helpless and can be hit automatically in melee (no attack roll required). 

Unstable Ground
Duration: 1d4 + 1 rounds
Range: 60'

The caster creates a 20' radius area of unstable ground, similar to being on a rocking ship. Targets within the radius of the spell's effect are at -4 to missile attacks, and spell casters cannot cast spells

Restrictions: Only subjects on the ground are affected. 

Void Touch
Duration: 1 round + 1 round/level
Range: 30'

The caster targets an enemy arcane spellcaster with a nebulous tentacle made of dark magical essence. The target must save versus spells or be exposed to unpleasant images from the void and incapable of casting spells until the end of the spell's duration. 

Optional Weird Effect: When casting the spell, the caster also glimpses into the void to witness what the target sees, causing nightmares and restless sleep the night after having cast the spell. 

Whispered Enchantments
Duration: 1d4 + 2 rounds
Range: The caster

When casting whispered enchantments, the caster does not need to speak any words, and thereafter, within the duration of the spell, may cast any other spell by having the mystical spoken words normally associated with casting the spell instead by silently mouthed by unknown spirits or eldritch beings from beyond. The effect is that the caster's spells are cast silently during the duration of whispered enchantments, so they may be cast within a silence 15' radius spell, for example. 

Optional Weird Effect: For an hour after the spell's duration ends, the caster will be distracted, hearing constantly nonsensical whispering. Only the caster hears these voices.

Weird Flavor and Consequences for Existing Spells

New Name: Reveal Secrets
Changes: Works the same, but reveals a very deep, dark secret of the subject. The victim of the spell is aware the caster knows the secret. 
Notes: I liked the idea of using this to set up a kind of revenge scenario on behalf of the victim, or using it to create a long-term enemy, who might otherwise have been a good person but stalks the caster and might take drastic steps to keep the secret from getting out.

New Name: Obscure Form
Changes: Mechanically the effects of this spell are the same, but instead of turning invisible, the caster's form actually temporarily enters an unknown shadow plane. The caster cannot sense anything on the shadow plane, but can still sense things happening in the physical world. However, there are denizens of the shadow plane who can sense the caster's presence and do not approve of the intrusion. 
Notes: Once again, the idea of this is to create a consequence and cause the caster to think twice before automatically casting this spell. The denizens of the shadow plane may tire of being invaded by the caster and figure out a way to enter the material world to cause mischief, or worse. 

New Name: Breach
Changes: This spell still opens stuck, barred, or locked gates, doors, chests, etc. However, instead of happening automatically, the caster summons forth a magical entity that forces open the door/gate/etc., including ones that have been magically sealed by hold portal or wizard lock (as a normal knock spell). Once the door is open, the referee rolls on the Monster Reaction Table (see Encounters in Core Rules) for the entity, and applies the caster's Charisma bonus or penalty to the roll. 
  • 2 or less: the entity haunts the caster. hating having been called forth to do the caster's bidding, and the caster suffers a -1 to attack rolls, saving throws, and ability checks for 1d4 rounds
  • 3-5: The entity curses the caster, inflicting a -1 penalty on the caster's next roll, and then disappears
  • 6-8: The entity returns to its home dimension
  • 9-11: The entity bestows a boon upon the caster, granting a +1 bonus to the caster's next roll, then disappears  
  • 12+: The entity remains for 1d4 rounds and opens any other stuck or locked doors during that time

New Name: Hovering Presence
Changes: Mechanically, there are no changes, except that the caster appears as a ghost-like form and moves unnaturally while floating in the air. This appearance causes fear in subjects who view the caster, and they must make a save versus magic or suffer -2 to attack rolls against the caster.
Notes: Many of these spell revisions are to make magic seem strange and unnatural, especially to the average person who views it being used. I liked the idea of the caster using a simple levitation spell, but scaring a town of villagers who might think the caster has been possessed or something. 

I felt that many of the other spells were already kind of weird enough, such as mirror image, phantasmal force, and web. In fact, adding web to a spell list that also includes the spells arachnid form and poisonous insects, from my list above, starts to create a mental picture of a weird spellcaster who focuses on spiders and insects. At higher levels, the caster might restrict uses of polymorph self to transform only into giant spiders.  

Hanging: Home office and kitchen table (both on my laptop)
Drinking: A Negroni Sbagliato (a standard Negroni but with sparkling wine instead of gin; my wife and I opened a bottle of sparkling wine on Wednesday to celebrate and we hadn't finished the bottle yet and I didn't want it to go to waste)
Listening: "Speedway" by Flavors from the album "Transit