B/X Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells -- Foreword

Illustration by Luka Rejec

As part of the final stages of preparing the next book in the B/X Essentials line, I just finished writing the foreword. I always enjoy this part of the process; it's a sign that the writing of a book is really finished, and is a nice chance to include some notes on my intentions and experiences developing it.

Here's what I've written about Cleric and Magic-User Spells:


This book is, primarily, an aid for players of the standard spell-casting classes: clerics, elves, and magic-users (as presented in B/X Essentials: Classes and Equipment). The descriptions of the spells available to these classes are undoubtedly the most common thing players of magic-using characters find themselves referring to during play. This book—consisting solely of spell descriptions, separated from the clutter of other rules—is thus an eminently useful gaming aid.

Aside from its usefulness to players of the standard spell-casting classes, the descriptions of standard spells are essential for the referee. Many monsters are able to cast cleric or magic-user spells, and numerous magic items replicate or reproduce the effects of these spells.

In writing this book, I have continued to place heavy focus on the usability of the text during play. To this end, in contrast to the usual “block of text” style of spell presentation, I have broken down each spell’s description into logical chunks:

  • Different rules aspects of a spell are broken out into bullet points for quick reference.
  • If a spell has multiple possible uses, these are broken out and numbered. (For example, the humble light spell has three separate usages: conjuring light, blinding a creature, and dispelling darkness.)

Thus, the presentation of spells in this book is somewhat different (and I hope easier to reference!) than what you will find in the original Basic/Expert books or indeed in other gaming books. In addition to this approach to organising spell descriptions, I made the following usability enhancements:

  • All uses of spells that allow a saving throw are highlighted with bold text.
  • Spell ranges of 0 or 0’ (which are applied somewhat inconsistently in the Basic/Expert rules) are replaced with a clear verbal description. (e.g. “Range: The caster”, instead of “Range: 0”.)
  • Likewise, spells with touch range have the additional clarification that a spell caster may cast them upon him- or herself.
  • I have added a description for the mythical detect invisible spell, famously missing from the Basic rules (an error that was, curiously, not corrected in the Expert rules!).

It is important to note, however, that I have not attempted to clarify all ambiguities in the spell descriptions. The relatively minimal descriptions of the Basic/Expert spells sometimes lead to areas of uncertainty, where the effects or limitations of a spell are not thoroughly specified. This is regarded as a charming feature of the rule set and an encouragement for the referee to make a ruling as to how such spells work in his or her campaign. I have been careful to not resolve such uncertainties, except in rare cases where an actual contradiction was present.

One prominent area of unclarity is worth discussing specifically: a number of spells have effects that depend on the caster maintaining concentration. No strict definition of the requirements for concentrating are given in the Basic/Expert rules, thus some degree of referee interpretation is required. One spell­—conjure elemental—mentions that the caster may not engage in combat or cast other spells while concentrating. The referee may wish to apply these stipulations to other spells that require concentration.

Once more, it is my hope that this book will play some small part in the furtherance of this timeless and beloved game and prove useful as a reference for those already familiar with its charms.

Gavin Norman, Winter 2017, Berlin.

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