Here is some real Vancian magic for you, folks! I just read this short story yesterday, and I really enjoyed the spells and their descriptions. Here is my take on one of the spells from the story, wielded by the fearsome Mazirian. It is one of his favored spells, and let him disable and destroy a monstrous creature with a flick of his wrist - and not without letting him interrogate it first! It is a spell well-suited for sorcerous torture.
It is made roughly according to the Player’s Companion spell rules, but it is definitely a “breakthrough”-quality spell, and highly dangerous! Introduce into your game worlds with care!
Phandaal’s Gyrator Spell (Arcane, Level 6)
Phandaal’s Gyrator Spell initially causes one creature to rise into the air, 10’ feet off the ground, gyrating wildly in every direction. The target will be wobbling too much to attack or cast spells. The caster may then choose to stabilize them just enough for a conversation, or raise or lower them. The caster may raise the target into the air at a rate of 20’ per round, to a maximum height of 10’ x caster level. If the spell ends while the target is in the air (and the target cannot fly), then the target falls to the ground, taking 1d6 damage for every 10’ fallen.
The caster may also decide to increase the target’s rate of spin and gyration, causing inertial forces to tear them apart. As the spell takes a moment to get up to maximum speed, the target suffers 1d8 damage in the first round, 2d8 in the second, and 4d8 in the third. After the third round of such acceleration, the spell is exhausted and ceases to have any effect. This may also be done while the opponent is raised in the air, up to the maximum height attainable. (In which case, a target that survives the spin must then survive the fall!). A target slain by the spin effect flies apart in all directions in a bloody mess. Any target surviving the spin effect suffers a -3 to attack and damage rolls for 1d4+1 rounds due to extreme dizziness and disorientation. The caster has control of the target in this manner for one round per caster level. The target is allowed an initial save versus Spells, and a successful save means the target suffers no effect.
I also drew inspiration from that story for a spell in the Player’s Companion! Compare the two for some insights into our design process (although the guidelines as finalized also reflect changes we made to better reflect the relative cost of being flung into the sky).
Hm. I admit I hadn’t read through all of them. Looking through them again, ‘Adaptation’ certainly looks familiar, but am I missing another spell that flings targets into the air?
I definitely went off the rails with this spell as far as the level guidelines go… I wanted a spell that approximated what was done in the story, but even I would hesitate to put it in any spellbooks accessible to players.
‘Disintegrate’ causes death on a failed save, so I considered this a spell of comparable magnitude, since it is certain death for many targets…
That story is also a good example of how a D&D Wizard as glass cannon is extremely evocative of the series. While he has spells, Mazirian is well feared, but after they run out, carnivorous vegetation easily disposes of him.
Indeed! But his fragility is not due to a lack of strength in itself, because if I remember correctly he is described as physically powerful early on in the story.
He is fragile because he has so long relied on his magic to defend himself, and when it is gone, he is just a man after all.
Barbarians, on the other hand, know the grave folly of too much reading…
It is possible it did not make the final cut! I am better at talking about behind the scenes and notoriously unreliable about what is actually in the book. At some point I will post my original text. I wrote the spell on the plane to Norway, where I didn’t have Vance with me, so had forgotten specifically which story it was and the details of how the gyration worked.
Uncanny Gyration is definitely still in the final review copy I’m looking at…
Oh, here, now I’ve found it!
If I’m doing the math right, with the one in the PC, you could also levitate and drop someone from 120’ in the air, causing them 12d6 points of damage.
That seems like a lot for a Level 2 spell… How are the spell construction rules supposed to work as far as damage caps and such go?
Here's the text. Note that save negates and the caster must concentrate one round for each 2d6 fall damage:
Uncanny Gyration Range: 60’
Arcane 2 Duration: 6 rounds
Uncanny gyration allows the caster to violently whirl a target creature through the air. The target creature must not weigh more (in stones) than the caster could lift physically, and it may make a saving throw versus Spells to avoid the effect. If the saving throw fails, the caster can thereafter mentally fling the target creature in any direction by up to 20’ per round. If flung into a hard surface (such as a wall or ceiling), the creature will take 2d6 points of damage from the impact.
While affected by uncanny gyration, targets unable to fly are left highly unstable. If the target is on the ground, or up against a surface it can push against, it can move at half speed. Otherwise it merely gyrates helplessly. Should the target attempt to attack, it will gyrate even more violently. Its first attack throw will suffer a -1 penalty, its second a -2 penalty, and so on, to a maximum penalty of -5. A full round spent stabilizing allows the target creature to begin again at -1.
Targets able to fly may move normally while under the effects of uncanny gyration, and do not suffer attack penalties since they can stabilize themselves in the air.
The caster must concentrate to sustain the target’s uncanny gyration. Any cessation or interruption in concentration causes the spell to end immediately. This usually results in the target creature plummeting to the earth violently and taking additional damage, of course.
My original, with costs:
|Caster can move target any direction 20’/round
|Target is unstable while affected (as levitation)
|1 willing creature or object
|Only creatures can be targeted
|Unwilling targets permitted (must affect creatures)
|Saving throw permitted for unwilling targets
|Concentration required to sustain spell