A surprising number of the spells from the First Edition Players Handbook never made it into 3e+, even though the later editions had many more pages and supplements to fill. Maybe some of these spells deserve to be left behind, but venerable spells like Massmorph, Spiritwrack, and Chariot of Sustarre are worth rehabilitating. Here are some of the spells that didn’t achieve “classic” status:
LEVEL 1 WIZARD SPELLS:
Affect Normal Fires: This is a lovable little spell, with lots of potential: it rewards paying attention to the DM’s description of the environment, and it provides interesting tools for problem-solving… almost. The problem is that it can’t compete against the many other level-1 wizard spells that more reliably produce light, fire and/or damage: Burning Hands, Dancing Lights, and Light. All that Affect Normal Fires can do is increase or decrease the light, but not the temperature, of an existing fire.
Since Affect Normal Fires is so situational, I’d like it to be potentially more dangerous than Burning Hands. Say that it can extinguish (not just dim) a normal fire, so that it can potentially blind a group dependent on a single torch; or cause a fire to flare, causing 1d6 damage to everyone within 10 feet; or make a fire smoke, forcing everyone to move away or suffer a coughing fit. A wizard* with such a spell is going to be eagerly looking for chances to cause incendiary mayhem. I love mayhem so much that I’d be tempted to make this “Improved Affect Normal Fires” an at-will cantrip for wizards who specialize in fire spells.
* or monster! Imagine PCs harried by monsters with this spell:
DM: A whisper from the dark. Your torch goes out.
PC: OK, we light two torches.
DM: Whispers from the dark. Your torches explode!
Friends has a use in any D&D game that includes mass combat, politics, and demagoguery. In other words, high-level play. If it were a higher-level spell, with a name like “Sway the Masses” that more accurately pointed to its strengths, it might have been more popular.
Push: Push is more limited than the later-edition Mage Hand, since it can only push objects away from the caster, but, unlike Mage Hand, it does have some combat use: it’s got rules for pushing enemies over or messing up their attack rolls (-1 per wizard level). I think the real problem with Push is that it looks insufficiently like Star Wars. After the 1980 release of Empire Strikes Back, everyone knew that, as a beginning wizard, you should be able to throw switches, lift rocks, and float lightsabers to your hand. In 1e D&D, you have to wait for the 5th-level Telekinesis spell for that. In my opinion, Mage Hand is a better spell than Push, and 4e’s decision to make it an at-will cantrip was inspired.
Write: Write is only used to transcribe spells you’re not high enough level to learn yet. In most circumstances, you don’t need it because you can just throw a high-level spellbook or scroll into your backpack until you gain a few levels. I guess there might be a rare circumstance where you have a limited-time chance to trade spells with a high-level caster. As written, the Write spell makes sense only in a game that’s laser-focused on wizards and their quest for new spells: in other words, OD&D as it was originally played.
If I were inventing a spell with a simple, seemingly-universal name like Write, I’d have it animate a pen, paintbrush, or other writing tool, which could write on anything in range; perfectly copy spells and text, like the third edition spell Amanuensis; and maybe take dictation; all while you’re paralyzed, restrained, or gagged. Even with all these extra perks, it might be better off as a cantrip.
Continual Light: Continual Light still exists in 3e: it’s called Continual Flame. Ever-burning flame is more appropriate for a pseudo-medieval fantasy world, and it puts to rest a lot of questions PCs often ask about ancient dungeons (“Who lit all these candles and torches?”) but there’s something charming about the idea of adventuring in the cold, fluorescent glow of Continual Light. It’s appropriate for the weird dungeon-crawl-through-an-office-building feeling of original D&D.
Fools Gold: (Technically, Fools Gold showed up in some 3e Forgotten Realms supplement, but I don’t think that counts as becoming a classic spell.) This is an awesome spell! It makes a mockery of the monetary system and is rife for possibilities for all sorts of exploitation. At level 1, you can use it to turn $1.50 in copper into $150 for an hour (long enough for you to buy a horse and skip town). The very existence of this spell, no matter its rarity, means that pretty much every shopkeeper will have a little piece of iron to tap gold coins on. I believe that some monster should have routine access to this spell. My vote is goblins. Maybe you can only learn the spell from a goblin spellcaster.
Forget: This is a great utility spell, useful in all sorts of situations, especially if the DM rules that creatures remember being Charmed. In a non-combat-heavy game, Forget would be a go-to spell for cleaning up after the inevitable failure of the PCs’ half-assed plans. 3e has high-level spells that allow you to alter memories, but starting with this ability out of the gate really enables a certain kind of freewheeling Shadowrun-for-dummies gameplay. I’ll admit, it would not be great as a starting wizard’s only spell. (Or would it? If GP=XP, you could probably use it to shoplift your way up to level 2 pretty fast.)
Next time: mid-level wizard spells like Fire Charm and Distance Distortion!