My Top 5 Spells

Hello! Thanks for dropping in.

A few months ago, my daughter Alex pestered me into running some D&D for her. I told her to find some players, so she recruited her friend Olive and her sister Hannah for the party. At that point, I was pretty much committed. I thought hard about which edition to introduce them to, and settled on 5e. A *lot* of people are playing it, and while I think 4e is friendlier in some ways to newcomers, well, no one’s playing 4e anymore. I did decide to use the adventure I wrote for the 4e Dungeon Master’s Kit as our first campaign, though, so I’m DMing Reavers of Harkenwold for my grown-up daughters.

Anyway, my daughters are just now finding out how I contributed to various editions of the game over the years, and it’s kind of blowing their minds a bit. It’s hard to impress your kids when they’re in their 20s, so I’ll take it where I find it. But, by way of bragging on Cool Things You Didn’t Know I Did, here are the Top 5 Dungeons & Dragons spells that I originally created.

5. Hunger of Hadar

This spell first appeared in the 4th Edition Player’s Handbook as part of the star pact warlock’s arsenal. While I didn’t produce the final manuscript of the 4e rulebook, I was part of the “mid-stage” design process, and one of the jobs I had was generating the first draft of warlock builds. For the star pact powers, I hit upon the idea of using the Arabic star names to create a sense of “mythic familiarity” for the reader. Hadar is a real star—it’s part of the constellation Centaurus. In my original concept for the star pact, it was meant to be mystical and more fate-driven than Lovecraftian, but once we started talking about distant stars, well, the tentacles came out. A handful of other real star names made it into the warlock’s 4e power list, but so far they haven’t appeared in 5e.

4. Holy Aura

One of the first decisions we made in the 3e design team was to expand the cleric and druid spell lists from 7 levels (as it had been in 1e and 2e) to 9 levels to parallel the wizard. Among many other cool things, I drew the task of creating the first draft of the cleric and druid in that edition (yes, CoDzilla is mostly my fault), and of course that meant thinking up two whole new spell levels. Holy aura was one of those. I haven’t seen it in use very often, but then again, it’s pretty high-level.

3. Etherealness

Etherealness as a state has been in the game forever, but surprisingly a spell that just made you and your companions ethereal didn’t show up until I put it into Player’s Option: Spells & Magic in the mid-90s. Quite a few spells from that book have found their way into future editions (for example, wall of water and vitriolic sphere), but etherealness is probably the most important of them. I originally made it a wizard spell for that book, but when it came time to populate high-level cleric spells in 3e, I added it to their list too.

2. Awaken

As I noted above, I had the job of creating early drafts of the cleric and the druid in 3e. I came up with awaken by thinking of cool things I’d want my druid to be able to do. I’m not sure if running around making intelligent, talking trees and forest creatures is a good idea or not ,or exactly what sort of mischief players are likely to cause by doing so, but, heck, it just seemed druid-ish. If your players blew up your campaign with this, I’m sorry.

1. Eldritch Blast

Speaking of blowing things up . . . eldritch blast is a spell in the 5e Player’s Handbook, but when I originally created it, it wasn’t. A couple of years into 3rd Edition’s lifecycle I was assigned to work on the sourcebook Complete Arcane. The biggest thing that came out of that sourcebook was the warlock character class, which subsequently made it into the Player’s Handbooks for both 4e and 5e. The key insight that drove the creation of the warlock was when I realized that a typical adventuring party only had about 15-20 rounds of combat per day (four encounters averaging 5 rounds each was our goal in 3e), so once your “Spells per Day” list totaled that many spells, we could assume that your caster was casting a spell every single round. The eldritch blast ability was an answer to the questions: “What if your magic was just a “ZOT” you could fire every round instead of casting a spell? Would that be broken?” I think that in 3e we answered that question a little too conservatively—we could have upped that damage significantly. Anyway, any time you shoot some bad guy in the face with your eldritch blast, well, Alex and Hannah’s dad is the guy who thought you’d enjoy that.


That’s all for this time. Come say hello at Gen Con next month! Sasquatch Game Studio is in Booth 265 this year, and I’m likely to be manning the booth most afternoons.


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