Reader survey: your favorite spells

In honor of E. Gary Gygax, departed yesterday, let us recall some of our favorite D&D spells. Here are mine. (Names and details from memory, so forgive all mistakes.)

  1. Leomund’s Tiny Hut. What would otherwise be a pretty dull spell — look, I conjured a hut! is made somehow sublime by its name. It sounds like a magic-users’ in-joke: “Recthor? Oh, he’s off casting Leomund’s Tiny Hut, if you know what I mean.”
  2. Prismatic Spray. This was some good over-the-top spellcasting of the sort that appealed to my unsubtle teenaged self. Seven different rays come out of the wizard’s hands at you, one for each color of the rainbow — one froze you, one poisoned you, one electrocuted you, and so on. Awesome.
  3. Magic Missile. On the other side of the scale, here’s your workmanlike first-level magic-user attack spell. First level magic-users couldn’t wield heavy weapons or wear good armor, and most of their spells were pretty weak tea — but the one reason to play a magic-user was good old magic missile. Fireballs start popping out of your fingers and your many deficiencies are quickly forgotten.
  4. Speak with Plants. We started a lot of D&D campaigns but hardly ever finished one. Usually we’d set off on the adventure, stay focused for an hour or two, then start getting silly. Getting silly often meant casting “Speak with Plants” a lot and getting into arguments with grass and shrubs. Once that got started, no amount of cajoling from the Dungeon Master could get us back on track.

All of these spells sounded like good band names to me, but the only one I could find in real life is Magic Missile from Athens, GA. Who are pretty good, actually! They read a lot of science fiction, sound like Beat Happening, and are currently recording a song for each element on the periodic table. “Lead” streams on the linked page.

Two more D&D facts:

  • I always had trouble inventing names for my characters until I came up with the idea of naming them after counties in New Jersey — these names (Carteret, Bergen, Camden) were perfect, recognizably Anglo-Saxon but at the same time slightly exotic and antique. This same combination of qualities should make them popular names for baby girls, sometime in the future.
  • The summer after 8th grade I spent two weeks at “D&D camp” at Shippensburg State U. in Pennsylvania. I was tremendously excited in advance of the trip, but in the end my time at camp burned D&D out of me. Too ambitious. Everybody wanted to pile up gold pieces and experience points, nobody wanted to speak with plants.

Now, please, people, tell me about your favorite spells, or I’m going to feel like the nerdiest one in the room.

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5 thoughts on “Reader survey: your favorite spells

  1. Daniel says:

    Ahh… brings back good memories. I don’t think our adventures ever got as bad as “Speak with Plants,” but we would always get side-tracked very easily. Only once my group got close to actually completing an actual campaign. Unfortunately, everyone our entire party of level 16 adventurers faced an untimely death against a group of feces-flinging monkeys… It was pretty tragic.

    On the topic of favorite spells, one of my friends created a spellcaster/monk type class who’s powers culminated to being able to cast “finger of death.” This was based on a real martial arts book which provided instructions on how to preform a real finger of death (suggesting years of training trying to channel your energy into making the flame of a candle go out, before moving on to people). Since then, whenever I see one of these friends, we have a competition to see who can point at the other person and say “FoD” first.

  2. JmSR says:

    Speaking of Wisconsin and Magic Missile…

    “I’m casting…Magic Missile.”
    “Why are you casting Magic Missile? There’s nothing to attack here.”
    “I…I’m attacking the darkness!”

    …read it all here and remember:

  3. Em says:

    Sadly (or maybe not so sad for me looking back on my late childhood) I have nothing to offer here. But I would’ve probably liked to be able to speak with plants.

  4. John Cowan says:

    FOD for Finger Of Death was well-known (if not so often used) in my D&D group circa 1975 (OD&D + Greyhawk book + Blackmoor book + house rules). But what we really liked was the sound effect, similar yet different, for magic missiles. If you were a low-level type who could only cast one, you said “Fud”. If you got to cast three, it was “Fududud”; if five, “Fududud-udud”; and so on. So much more terse and elegant than “I cast five magic missiles”; I mean, come on!

  5. Jesse says:

    We used to try to convince our DM to let us use the hut conjuring as an offensive spell. “I want to conjure a hut on top of those kobolds!”

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