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The spells of Dungeons & Dragons are fictional magic spells used in the settings of the role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). There is little if any similarity between these fictional spells and any actual historical mythology. D&D defined the genre of fantasy role-playing games, and remains the most popular. Many of the original spells have become widely used in the role-playing community, across many different fictional worlds, and across books, board games, video games, and movies.

The specific effects of each spell, and even the names of some spells, vary from edition to edition of the D&D corpus.

Creative originsEdit

The idea of spell memorization is sometimes called "Vancian" in the game designer community, since its first use, in Dungeons & Dragons, was inspired by the way magic works in Jack Vance's Dying Earth world.[1][2]


d20 SystemEdit

The current rules are based on the d20 System—a core set of rules which can be (and are) used as the basis for many games. Thus, many d20 games might use the D&D spell list, while others create their own or even replace the entire magic system.

Spell types Edit

In the current edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game, magic is a force of nature, and a part of the world. There are two main types of magic: arcane, which comes from the world and universe around the caster, and divine, which is inspired from above (or below); the realms of gods and demons. Wizards, sorcerers and bards learn to cast arcane spells, which are typically flashy and powerful, but require complex movements and gestures which are impeded by wearing bulky armor. Clerics, druids, rangers and paladins cast divine spells, which draw their power from a deity, from nature, or simply the caster's inner faith. While the casting of these spells is not impeded by heavy armor, it may require the caster to wear a holy symbol as a focus. A spell may exist in both arcane and divine forms—for example, summon monster VII can be cast by both wizards and clerics, although a cleric might use it to summon an angel while a wizard would feel free to summon whichever creature best fits the situation.

Arcane magic Edit

These are typically spells devoted to manipulating energy, converting one substance to another, or calling on the services of other creatures. For wizards, these spells are generally committed to memory after a session of meditation upon a spellbook containing the details of the incantation; sorcerers and bards know their spells innately and do not need to prepare them at all, nor do they require a spellbook. Once prepared, the spell is cast using specific words, gestures and sometimes a specific material component.

Each spell belongs to one of eight groups, called 'schools'. Technically, divine spells belong to schools as well, but the distinction is, for the most part, irrelevant. A wizard (but not a sorcerer) may specialize in one school, but at the expense of completely forsaking one or more others. A few spells are "universal", meaning that they belong to no particular school of magic.

Template:D&D opposition schools

Abjuration 
Abjurations are protective spells. They create physical or magical barriers, negate magical or physical abilities, harm trespassers, or even banish the subject of the spell to another plane of existence. They include dispel magic and resist energy. A wizard who specializes in abjuration is known as an abjurer.
Conjuration 
Each conjuration spell belongs to one of five subschools: calling, creation, healing, summoning, or teleportation. Conjurations can bring manifestations of objects, creatures, or some form of energy to the caster for brief intervals (summoning), transport creatures from another plane of existence (calling), heal (healing), transport creatures or objects over great distances (teleportation), or create objects or effects on the spot (creation). Conjured creatures usually (but not always) obey the caster's commands. Spells of the conjuration school include the various summon monster spells and gate. A wizard who specializes in conjuration is known as a conjurer.
Divination 
Divination spells enable the caster to learn secrets long forgotten, to predict the future, to find hidden things, and to foil deceptive spells. They include detect magic and scry. Divination is often considered the "weakest" of the schools; specialist diviners need only forsake one other school (rather than the normal two), and no other specialist can use Divination as one of their forsaken schools. A wizard who specializes in divination is known as a diviner.
Enchantment 
Enchantment spells affect the minds of others, influencing or controlling their behavior. The subschools of enchantment are 'charm' (spells that make the target regard the caster as a friend) and 'compulsion' (spells that force the target to do something). This school includes the spells charm person and mind fog. A wizard who specializes in enchantment is known as an enchanter.
Evocation 
Evocation spells manipulate energy or tap an unseen source of power to produce a desired end. In effect, they create something out of nothing. Many of these spells produce spectacular effects, and evocation spells can deal large amounts of damage. Many of the game's iconic offensive spells such as magic missile, fireball, and cone of cold are of the evocation school. A wizard who specializes in evocation is known as an evoker.
Illusion 
Illusion spells deceive the senses or minds of others. They cause people to see things that are not there, not see things that are there, hear phantom noises, or remember things that never happened. They include permanent image and disguise self. A wizard who specializes in illusion is called an illusionist.
Necromancy 
Necromancy spells manipulate the power of death, unlife, and the life force. Spells involving undead creatures make up a large part of this school. Spells of the necromancy school include animate dead and finger of death. A wizard who specializes in necromancy is called a necromancer.
Transmutation 
Transmutation spells change the physical properties of some creature, thing, or condition. They include bull's strength and the various polymorph spells. A wizard who specializes in transmutation is known as a transmuter.
Universal 
Universal spells have effects too broad to place into one class, or too useful for any specialist to consider forsaking. They often can perform multiple effects, or perform a very specific effect that does not fit into another category. The most famous of these spells is "wish", the most powerful spell within the game, which can duplicate spells from all schools. As universal spells are not a school, per se, no one can specialize in them.

Divine magic Edit

Divine spells take their name from the fact that they are mainly granted to clerics by the grace of the cleric's patron deity, although the spells cast by druids, rangers and paladins also come under this category. Although divine spells can be cast equally well while wearing armor, only rarely require material components, and do not need to be prepared from a spell book, they are generally less overtly powerful than arcane spells and have fewer offensive applications. Despite the lack of flashy spells such as the fireball or meteor swarm granted to a wizard, many very powerful spells—such as gate, summon monster IX, and energy drain—are shared between clerics and wizards. Other powerful wizard spells, such as time stop, are granted to clerics who take up the mantle of certain domains. Finally, spells such as implosion are restricted to clerics only.

Cleric spells are typically devoted to either healing the wounded, restoring lost abilities, and acquiring blessings, or to inflict harm and to curse opponents. These spells must be prepared by the caster daily through a session of meditation or prayer. Since a cleric is also something of a church knight and a champion of his faith, his spells also include ones which temporarily improve his combat ability. Clerics also have the ability to either turn (drive off or destroy) or rebuke (cow or command) undead. The spells and abilities of a cleric are based on his deity, as well as his alignment. In addition to regular spells, each cleric also has access to spells from two (or occasionally more) domains which represent his deity or faith; examples include War, Trickery, Good, Evil, and Travel.

Druid spells are typically devoted to communing with nature, interpreting or directing the weather, communicating with creatures and plants, and the like. The druid shares some spells with the cleric, such as some healing spells, and has a surprising number of offensive spells which use the power of nature—calling down lightning storms, for example, or summoning wild animals to fight.

Paladin and ranger spells are similar to cleric and druid spells, respectively, but they are allowed fewer spells per day, only gain access to lower-level spells, and gain access to them more slowly. Both classes have some unique spells that can be fairly powerful, despite their low level. In compensation for their diminished spellcasting ability, paladins and rangers have a more martial focus than clerics and druids.

PsionicsEdit

A third form of supernatural power, psionics, is manifested purely by mental discipline, and in the current edition is detailed in an add-on book known as the Expanded Psionics Handbook rather than being part of the core rules (later, the supplement Complete Psionic was released as well). Psionics is divided into six disciplines, or groupings of powers, which several psionic character classes are forced to choose one of—thereby losing access to the most potent powers of the others:

Clairsentience 
Clairsentience powers enable you to learn secrets long forgotten, to glimpse the immediate future and predict the far future, to find hidden objects, and to know what is normally unknowable. They include precognition and remote viewing. A psion who specializes in clairsentience is known as a seer, and is most akin to an arcane diviner.</dd>
Metacreativity 
Metacreativity powers create objects, creatures, or some form of matter. Creatures you create usually, but not always, obey your commands. Powers of the metacreativity discipline include astral construct and greater psionic fabricate. A psion who specializes in metacreativity is known as a shaper, and is most akin to an arcane conjurer.</dd>
Psychokinesis 
Psychokinesis powers manipulate energy or tap the power of the mind to produce a desired end. Many of these powers produce spectacular effects such as moving, melting, transforming, or blasting a target. Psychokinesis powers can deal large amounts of damage. They include energy missile and tornado blast. A psion who specializes in psychokinesis is known as a kineticist, and is most akin to an arcane evoker.
Psychometabolism 
Psychometabolism powers change the physical properties of some creature, thing, or condition. They include animal affinity and psionic revivify. A psion who specializes in psychometabolism is known as an egoist, and is most akin to an arcane transmuter.</dd>
Psychoportation
Psychoportation powers move the manifester, an object, or another creature through space and time. They include astral caravan and psionic teleport. A psion who specializes in psychoportation is known as a nomad, and has no arcane counterpart.
Telepathy
Telepathy powers can spy on and affect the minds of others, influencing or controlling their behavior. They include psionic suggestion and mind switch. A psion who specializes in telepathy is known as a telepath, and is most akin to an arcane enchanter.

The standard psionics system incorporates psionics–magic transparency, which treats psionic energy and magic as mutually and equally vulnerable to a dispel magic spell or a dispel psionics power; spell resistance protects against powers just as it protects against spells, while power resistance protects against spells as it does against powers. This is primarily done for game balance, as if psionics were not resistible or able to be dispelled in such a fashion psionic characters would be inordinately powerful in a world designed mostly to handle traditional magic (although they in turn would also be especially susceptible to magic).

A variant rule, known as "psionics is different," enforces a separation between the two systems; this rule also provides an intermediate step where each system has a diminished effect upon the other (for example, making a dispel check against an opposing energy would take a -4 penalty, and creatures with spell resistance gain power resistance equal to their spell resistance minus 10).

Incarnum Edit

Incarnum is a later addition to D&D (in a book called Magic of Incarnum by James Wyatt), and is not part of the core d20 System. It is a kind of energy based on the soul. By drawing upon the spirits of past, present and future the meldshaper can become better at fighting, more skilled, or gain special abilities. To draw upon soul energy, the meldshaper first shapes an item called a "soulmeld" out of soul energies which occupies a chakra on the body. In this system, there are ten chakras: crown, brow, throat, shoulder, arms, hands, hearth, soul, waist and feet.

After shaping a soulmeld, the meldshaper can invest his own soul energy, called essentia, into it to make it stronger. A meldshaper can also bind a soulmeld to a chakra to enhance it's power and get even greater benefits from it.

Integration of Incarnum use into a campaign with traditional magic is similar to the way psionics are incorporated. The standard rule is Incarnum–magic transparency, and there is a variant rule called "Incarnum is different". These work the same way as the corresponding psionics rules (see above).

Sample spells Edit

The following is a sampling of the many spells in Dungeons & Dragons, and is not a full list by any means.

Arcane spellsEdit

  • Color Spray — A vivid cone of clashing colors springs forth from the caster's hand, causing creatures to become stunned, perhaps also blinded, and possibly even knocking them unconscious.
  • Darkvision — The subject gains the ability to see clearly (albeit in black and white) in total darkness.
  • Feather Fall — The affected creatures or objects fall slowly; at a feather rate. Feather fall instantly changes the rate at which the targets fall to a mere 60 feet per round (equivalent to the end of a fall from a few feet), and the subjects take no damage upon landing while the spell is in effect. However, when the spell duration expires, a normal rate of falling resumes.
  • Fireball — A tiny ball flies forward from the caster, exploding in a huge fireball at a point designated by the caster. While an extremely potent spell, the caster must take care to avoid catching allies in the explosion, or to accidentally strike an obstruction and detonate the spell early.
  • Flesh to Stone — The subject, along with all its carried gear, is turned into a mindless, inert, stone statue. If the statue resulting from this spell is broken or damaged, the subject (if ever returned to its original state) has similar damage or deformities. (See also: Petrification)
  • Invisibility — The target of this spell becomes invisible for a time, but immediately becomes visible if he attacks a person or creature.
  • Magic Missile — A bolt of pure energy from the caster's fingertips, which never misses its target unless prevented by magical means. The number of bolts one can cast increases with practice. One of the most frequently chosen spells in the game, due to its utility at low levels.
  • Meteor Swarm — Four meteors fly forward and explode like Fireballs. One of the most destructive spells in the game, capable of rending castles or devastating entire armies.
  • Polymorph — Willing target transforms into another creature of the caster's choosing, such as an ogre, a small giant or the like. A higher level variant of this, baleful polymorph, allows the caster to polymorph an unwilling target, most commonly turning an enemy into a frog.
  • Scrying — Allows the caster to spy on someone from a distance.
  • Teleport — Allows the caster to instantly appear somewhere else in the world, though at lower levels this ability can be somewhat imprecise.
  • Time Stop — Allows the caster to manipulate the flow of time, giving him few extra moments to act when time is "stopped" for everyone (and everything) else.
  • Wish — Among the mightiest, if not the mightiest of spells a wizard or sorcerer can cast. Bending reality, the caster can change the events of the past few minutes, create an object from nothing, emulate another spell or create practically any effect they can imagine. However, this spell drains the caster of experience points, making it extremely costly to use. Though the wish can technically fulfill any desire, there are set limitations as to what can be wished for without consequence. Dungeon Masters are often encouraged to interpret a player's wish as literally as possible, particularly for selfish or greedy wishes (or any other wish that exceeds the set boundaries for "safe" wishes). For example, if someone wished for a fortune in gold, the DM could grant the wish by appropriating a local king's treasury, making the wisher a target for retaliation. Or, if somebody wished to live forever, they could end up being trapped in an extradimensional space. Thus, the wisher must be very careful upon using the spell.

Divine spells Edit

  • Cure light wounds — A basic healing spell available to clerics, druids, bards, paladins, and rangers.
  • Cure critical wounds — A more powerful healing spell available only to clerics, druids, and bards.
  • Detect evil — The caster is able to tell if someone or something he looks at is evil. Other versions of this spell exist for the various other alignment components, such as good, lawful, and chaotic.
  • Raise dead — The power to revive a deceased character, as long as their remains are roughly whole and have not deteriorated beyond a certain point. The character being revived will lose enough experience points to drop their most recent class level. More potent versions of this spell include resurrection, which needs only a fragment of the body, and true resurrection, which doesn't need the body at all and can be performed many years after the character's death.
  • Miracle — This is the Divine equivalent of wish, though it is slightly weaker. It essentially calls upon the cleric's deity to perform an epic miracle, such as resurrecting an entire army or lifting a massive curse. Unlike wish, it may or may not come at a high cost of experience points, depending on the miracle requested. The miracle-granting deity is typically more forgiving of its followers' requests than the wish spell is, but this can change depending on the deity's alignment and the specific miracle being requested.

CastingEdit

The casting of spells within Dungeons & Dragons often requires the mage to do, say, or use something in order for the spell to work. Spells may require a verbal, somatic, or material component or a magical focus.

Verbal componentEdit

Many spells require the caster to speak certain words, or, in the case of a bard, create music, to cast a spell. Being prevented from speaking, by such means as a gag or magical effects that remove sounds, makes it impossible for a caster to cast such a spell. A deafened caster may also fail when casting a spell, by misspeaking, which causes the spell to be lost.

Somatic componentEdit

Many spells require the caster to make a motion to cast the spell. If the caster is unable to make the correct motion, the spell cannot be cast. Wearing armor or using a shield interferes with the somatic components of arcane spells, creating a risk of spell failure. Bards and some other arcane classes can cast spells in light armor without this risk.

Material componentEdit

Casting a spell often requires that the caster sacrifice some sort of material component. Often, these components are virtually worthless (egg shells, sand, a feather, etc.), but spells which allow major bending or breaking of the laws of nature, such as spells to reanimate the dead or grant wishes, require material components costing thousands of gold pieces (precious or semiprecious gems, statuettes, etc.). All casters, by default, have an infinite number of worthless components, and spells requiring them do not require that the components be acquired in play. If a caster is unable to access or use the correct material component, the spell cannot be cast.

Experience componentEdit

Certain powerful spells, such as Wish, Miracle, and Atonement require a caster to pay a certain amount of experience points, the same that are used to determine in-game level progression, in order to reduce the overuse of such a powerful spell.

Magical focusEdit

Casting a spell may require that the caster have access to a holy symbol or other special object, to focus on when casting the spell. This is mostly true for divine spells. A focus differs from a material component in that the spell does not consume it.

FootnotesEdit

  1. "Vancian". http://www.killershrike.com/fantasyhero/HighFantasyHERO/MagicSystems/vancian.shtml. Retrieved 2007-02-23. 
  2. DeVarque, Aardy. "Literary Sources of D&D". Archived from the original on 2005-02-19. http://web.archive.org/20050219020638/www.geocities.com/rgfdfaq/sources.html. Retrieved 2007-02-23. 

References Edit

External linksEdit

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