Spells in Mass Combat, Part 2

Earlier, I wrote about the effects of spells in mass combat, specifically in reference to how such things might be done in Triumph!. In that article, I specifically discussed the two most obvious AD&D magic-user spells that have a battlefield impact; fireball and cloudkill. I’d like to go through some other spells that might be relevant. In terms of Triumph! these spells would be cast during the tactical missile phase unless otherwise stated. Remember that MU here stands for “movement unit”, a measure of distance on the board.

I note below just how high level a spellcaster needs to be to cast the spells, just to give an idea of how rare these spellcasters (and of course their spells) are. Bear in mind this is all geared to 1st edition AD&D, so 10-12th level is pretty high, and among the quasi-deities we know of, 20th is their highest level. So many of these are going to be pretty rare.

Going through these spells, I think it might be worth revisiting the question of whether spellcasters should be individually represented on the board. I’m starting to lean in that direction.

Cleric Spells

Dispel Magic. Range is 180 feet, or what I’ll call 1 MU. Will automatically send various conjured creatures like elementals back whence they came and will destroy magical walls.

Insect Plague. With its long range (1080 feet) and large area of effect (a 360′ radius), this is a good candidate to have an impact on the battlefield. When cast upon a stand of troops, that stand would have to immediately fall back. Since it can only be cast by a High Priest (9th level cleric or higher), it would also stay on the battlefield for at least 90 minutes, so a marker would be placed. No unit could willingly enter the area of the marker; any stand forced to fall back or push back into it would be removed instead. The marker would be 3 MU in diameter, range 9 MU.

True Seeing. Another relatively long range spell (360 feet), this spell would enable the High Priest to see through illusions at a range of 3 MU, so illusionary troops and other illusion effects would be removed. Range Cast by a 9th level High Priest.

Part Water. Here’s a very special case spell, but one that could be handy in the right circumstances. It would essentially create a crossing point in the stream terrain, as if it had been placed there at the beginning of the game. The player casting the spell can opt to remove the part water marker during any friendly ranged combat phase, range 5 MU. Cast by an 11th level High Priest with a wisdom of 17 or higher.

Control Weather. It’s only real impact would be to deflect the course of a cloudkill spell. Cast by a 16th level High Priest with a wisdom of 18 or higher.

Earthquake. It has a range of 120 feet and an area of effect of at least 80′, and although when cast on plain terrain can damage troops (the number varies by size), it’s main effect seems to be to change terrain types and do damage to buildings and fortifications. So call the range 1 MU. It will affect a small terrain piece, or will split a large terrain piece into two small terrain pieces covering the same area. Steep hills become gentle hills, marsh becomes rough, woods become rough. When cast on open ground containing a stand of troops, treat as if the stand was attacked, and if the troop types are large (giants, ogres, etc.) there is no tactical factor; if medium (humans, elves, etc.) there is a +1 tactical factor, and if they are small (halflings, goblins, etc.) there is a +2 tactical factor. Only the stand in the area of the earthquake is affected; the cleric casting the spell can never be shattered or otherwise affected. I’ll also need to circle back to this once I figure out rules for fortifications and other structures. Cast by a 16th level High Priest with a wisdom of 18 or higher.

Gate. This is going to have to wait until I figure out monsters. Cast by a 16th level High Priest with a wisdom of 18 or higher.

Druid Spells

Tree. If a druid in woods terrain casts this spell, he is effectively invisible to all enemy troops, and enemy stands can pass through him with no effect to either. Cast by an Initiate of the 1st Circle (3rd level druid) or above.

Control Wind. It’s only real impact would be to deflect the path of a cloudkill spell (see below). Cast by an Initiate of the 7th Circle (9th level druid) or above.

Pass Plant. Although the range specifically depends on the type of tree used to activate it, that can be handwaved and assumed to be the average, which is still over a thousand feet (and could be nearly two thousand if there are oaks present). In game terms, the druid can move from any point in woods terrain to any other point in woods terrain on the board. Cast by an Initiate of the 7th Circle (9th level druid) or above.

Wall of Fire. It’s got nice range (240 feet) and effectively creates a line across which stands can neither move nor attack. It could not be cast between two stands already in contact, however. The wall of fire token is 2 MU long and can be cast at a point up to 2 MU distant. The token prevents all movement, and blocks line of sight. It is removed at the beginning of the casting side’s next tactical missile phase, unless the druid neither moves nor casts another spell. As soon as the druid does so, the token is removed. Cast by an Initiate of the 7th Circle (9th level druid) or above.

Conjure Fire Elemental. Hoo, boy. Like gate above, this is going to require some figuring out how to do monsters. And since elementals require magic weapons to hit, they’re going to be able to inflict a lot of damage on regular stands of troops. Range is going to be 6 MU, but I’ll hold off on doing the fire elemental itself until I get a handle on how to handle monsters. And dispel magic will immediately get rid of the elemental. Cast by an Initiate of the 9th Circle (11th level druid) or above with a wisdom of 17 or higher.

Wall of Thorns. Here’s another example of druids being able to impede movement. It’s got a range of 240 feet, so I’ll call it 2 MU, and will create an area 1 MU by 1 MU that is impassable. Cast by an Initiate of the 9th Circle (11th level druid) or above with a wisdom of 17 or higher.

Conjure Earth Elemental. See conjure fire elemental, above. Range is much shorter, however; 1 MU. Cast by a Druid (12th level druid) or above with a wisdom of 18 or higher.

Control Weather. Like the cleric version, it’s only real impact would be to deflect the course of a cloudkill spell. Cast by a Druid (12th level druid) or above with a wisdom of 18 or higher.

Magic-User Spells

Cloudkill. This was discussed in detail in the previous article. In Triumph! terms, the cloud moves in a straight line 1 MU (technically 1.5, but that’s a subtlety that doesn’t really happen anywhere else in the rules). Any unit in the path will be attacked with a +4 combat factor. If the cloud moves into woods or wooded hills, it is dissipated and ceases being effective. Can be move up to 90 degrees from its path at any point by a control winds or control weather spell. Cast by a Sorcerer (9th level magic-user) or above.

Invisibility. In essence, the magic-user can become unseen by enemy troops, and thus unattackable. This effect goes away when he casts a spell, however. But does this matter if I use the “just assume the spellcaster is in any given unit” idea, rather than having specific spellcaster stands? If the former, then this spell becomes useless. Might be worth revisiting the question. Cast by a Conjurer (3rd level magic-user) or above.

Dispel Magic. See under Cleric spells above. Has a range of 2 MU, however. Cast by a Thaumaturgist (5th level magic-user) or above.

Fireball. I also discussed the in-detail math in my previous article. In Triumph! terms, it would have a range of 1 MU (it’s 150′ if cast by a 5th level spellcaster, and that wouldn’t go up to 2 MU until he reached 14th level. Counts as an attack with a +4 combat factor against close order stands, and +2 against open order stands. No effect possible against the casting stand. Cast by a Thaumaturgist (5th level magic-user) or above.

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Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

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