Before I continue, I wanted to make a correction of sorts regarding Part 4. When I read the following passage...
"A character surprised by a monster may drop whatever he is holding [...]"
...I took the word "may" to mean "can optionally choose to." Looking around the OSR blogosphere, I think I was meant to take the word "may" to mean "must (if a 6 is rolled)." Don't you just love the ambiguity of the English language? Anyway, that makes a lot more sense than what I thought it meant. I added a note to Part 4 linking to this correction.
Picking up where I left off, let's look at the spells included in Holmes Basic. The book lists spell names for three levels of Magic-User spells, but only describes the first two levels and notes of the third-level spells "They are listed above to give some idea of the range of magical possibilities." The book lists two levels of Cleric spells, including spell descriptions, but notes that the second-level Cleric spells are only listed for scrolls and NPCs, since a Cleric has to reach fourth level to cast them normally.
Since it's such a short list, I'm just going to go over each spell description individually.
First Level Magic-User
Charm Person - Instead of giving a Hit Dice limit, the description says the spell only affects "two legged, generally mammalian humanoids of approximately man size" and give some examples. I noticed that ogres are not a listed example, but I don't think the list is meant to be exhaustive, so I'd probably allow it to work on ogres. (I mention that because I remember reading a really good B/X actual play report that involved charmed ogres, so the possibility appeals to me.) It also notes that undead monsters are immune, and that monsters get additional saving throws over time based on their intelligence. There's a chart explaining which intelligence scores give which saving throw intervals, but the monster stats don't include intelligence scores. Presumably the DM could determine such scores through rolling (like with dexterity) or through fiat (just picking something that seems to make sense). What the spell actually does is handled by one sentence: "If the spell is successful it will cause the charmed entity to come completely under the influence of the magic-user." I guess you can boss it around as much as you want without refusal, even getting it to kill itself if desired. Powerful stuff. Who says first-level spells suck? (Of course, that's my interpretation of the wording, though.)
Dancing Lights - This creates floating lights similar to the lanterns carried by adventures, which the Magic-User can command. It seems to basically be useful for distraction. Strangely, it doesn't give a diameter of the spell's illumination like the Light spell does.
Detect Magic - Exactly what it says. Want to know if a door has Wizard Lock cast on it, or if that sword is more than a piece of rusty crap? Here you go.
Enlargement - This seems to be the kind of thing the DM needs to adjudicate on a case-by-case basis, since making things bigger doesn't seem to have any explicit, direct mechanical effects in most cases. I suppose you could also cast it on a monster to make it too big to follow the party through a small door or something.
Hold Portal - Kind of like a temporary Wizard Lock. Insert Game of Thrones spoilers here.
Light - Helps the thrifty Magic-User save a torch or two.
Magic Missile - Famously, the Holmes version of the spell is the only one in any official edition of D&D to require a to-hit roll. It also does decent damage in this version: d6+1.
Protection from Evil - Both Magic-Users and Clerics can cast this one, but it lasts 6 turns for the former and 12 for the latter. This is what one would call a "buff" spell in the modern gaming parlance: +1 to saving throws and -1 to enemy to-hit rolls when fighting "enchanted monsters such as elementals, invisible stalkers, demons, etc." The description notes that this spell stacks with other forms of magical protection, to use another gaming term that probably wasn't used when this came out.
Hold on, let me flip through the book again...Nope. No elementals, invisible stalkers, or demons in this book. My assumption is that the spell would apply to any creature of evil alignment, though, so it still seems quite useful.
Read Languages - Magic-Users can only cast this on themselves. I think that's typical of this spell throughout different editions of D&D, but I'm note sure. Anyway, this is another one with a function that's pretty obvious just from the name, besides the fact that Read Magic is sometimes needed instead (see below).
Read Magic - "The means by which incantations on an item or scroll are read." So wait, if your Magic-User wasn't fortunate enough to start with this spell (or maybe get it when leveling up), you just straight-up can't use scrolls? I hate to be so negative again, but that really sucks. I hope I'm misunderstanding something here. This is why all Magic-Users and Elves in the current Lamentations of the Flame Princess rules always start with Read Magic, even though their other spells are determined randomly.
Well, on the bright side, "once a scroll is looked at under a Read Magic spell, the magic-user can read it again without such aid."
Shield - Gives the caster AC 2 against missiles and AC 4 against other attacks. Probably another useful buff, although it's a shame it can't be cast on others.
Sleep - This one is based on HD, and no save is allowed. The stats at the beginning say "Duration: 4-16 turns" but the first line of the description under that says "Puts all kinds of creatures to sleep for 2-8 turns." Could that be an editing error? Also, I haven't been able to find an explanation in the book regarding what happens when someone attacks a sleeping monster. Normal damage (but without the need for a to-hit roll)? Full damage? Instant kill? It can vary a lot between versions of the game, from my understanding. I loved Sleep in Pool of Radiance because it meant auto-kills upon hitting the monsters, and I think that game was based on either 1E or 2E AD&D. In LotFP, I think that hitting a sleeping monster generally just does your weapon's full damage.
Anyway, this seems like a powerful and fun spell, as usual.
Tenser's Floating Disc - "The wizard, Tenser, always greedy for more treasure, devised this spell." I think it's kind of strange when setting details leak into D&D rulebooks that otherwise seem to want to remain fairly setting-neutral. Of course, you could just rename it "Tantalus' Floating Disc" or something in your campaign.
This spell is for carrying your excess stuff - up to 5,000 gp in weight. It stays six feet behind the caster at all times. I wonder if the Magic-User could spin around in a circle and knock monsters down with it.
Ventriloquism - Make the kobolds think their pet rat is talking to them.
Second Level Magic-User
Audible Glamer - (Yes, that's how the book spells it.) Basically the advanced version of Ventriloquism. It lets you make different sounds instead of just your own voice, lets you control the volume, etc. Like many others, this spell's power scales with the caster's level; the book gives a (frankly kind of unhelpful) guide for this involving a lion and a giant snake.
Continual Light - Light, but better. In fact, it lasts infinitely until dispelled. Wow.
Darkness - Stops normal vision and infravision in a 50' radius. Seems useful.
Detect Evil - "A spell to detect evil thought or evil intent in any creature or evilly enchanted object." Is this just a fancy way of saying that it detects whether or not a creature is of an evil alignment, or can I use this spell to find out if little Timmy, normally a good boy, is considering some mischief? If it's the latter, that opens up a whole new can of worms regarding what the DM considers evil vs. what the player considers evil.
Also, this bit amuses me: "Poison, however, is neither good nor evil." Oh yeah? Then why does AD&D consider the use of poison such a wicked act, and why does this very book recommend that the DM "not allow players to make use of poisoned weapons in all but extreme situations," hmm?
Detect Invisible - The emphasis seems to be on finding invisible treasure, with invisible monsters being an afterthought. Interesting.
ESP - Seems to be about the same as the LotFP version of the spell, which was relevant last Saturday when someone had it mixed with the Permanancy spell in preparation for Death Frost Doom. Which is funny, because as Dr. Holmes put it, "The undead do not think."
Invisibility - The duration is infinite, at least until something happens that would break the spell. Wow! You can cast it on objects or other people, too.
Knock - Open sesame, basically.
Levitate - You can only use this to travel vertically (unless you crawl on the ceiling or something, of course). Still seems handy.
Locate Object - Find your car keys. Assuming all you need is the direction and they're within a limited range, of course.
Magic Mouth - Inflict Big Mouth Billy Bass on your enemies.
Mirror Image - Confuse idiots for fun and profit.
Phantasmal Forces - The silent, visual equivalent of Audible Glamer...except better in every way. It lasts as long as the caster concentrates on it or until touched (which makes it not as good of a fire-and-forget distraction, but otherwise seems like an improvement), it can be "nearly anything the user envisions," and best of all, it can do real damage "if the illusion is believed to be real." Holy crap! How does the DM determine how convincing an illusion is? I mean, couldn't the Magic-User conjure up an illusory dragon and just have it breathe fire on any monsters dumb enough to think a noiseless dragon that popped out of thin air is real? Or just summon an illusory Lightning Bolt or Fireball? Depending on how permissive the DM is, getting this spell could be like winning the Murderhobo Lottery.
Pyrotechnics - Makes a preexisting fire do fancy tricks. I'm not sure why this isn't a first-level spell.
Ray of Enfeeblement - Makes a monster temporarily lose 4 points of strength, which in turn makes the monster's physical attacks do 25% less damage. This is particularly interesting because low strength seems to have no such effect on PCs. Even more interesting, the ray is described as "a thin beam of coruscating graying light." That's a delightfully weird way to describe light.
Strength - Increases a character's strength by an amount based on their class. Unless DM fiat is used, this seems almost useless, since Strength has no explicit mechanical effects other than affecting the XP gained by Fighters. I guess it wouldn't hurt to help the Fighter gain slightly more XP for 48 turns.
Web - It does the usual thing, which is a useful thing, but I just want to point out the accompanying illustration by Dave Trampier (picture borrowed from this post from the always awesome Zenopus Archives).
Wizard Lock - Prevents a door from being opened. (That link is NSFW.)
My nominations for the coolest Magic-User spells: Charm Person, Magic Missile, Sleep, Continual Light, Darkness, Detect Invisible, ESP, Invisibility, Knock, Levitate, Mirror Image, Phantasmal Forces, Ray of Enfeeblement, Web, and Wizard Lock.
A quick note: like in most versions of old-school D&D (to the best of my knowledge), Clerics gain access to their whole list of spells, although they still have to memorize specific spells each day they go adventuring.
First Level Cleric
Cure Light Wounds - The usual. Heals d6+1 HP. The Cleric must touch the target. Strangely, the book specifies that the spell works on elves, dwarves, and "hobbits." Was there any reason to think it wouldn't work on them?
Detect Evil - The same as the Magic-User version, except the range and duration are greater.
Detect Magic - Exactly the same as the Magic-User version.
Remove Fear - Counters a "fear wand attack." Unless it also fixed failed morale checks in hirelings or something, it seems like this spell would be of very limited usefulness. I don't see why most Clerics would even bother to memorize it unless they know for a fact that some upcoming villain has fear-based magic.
Resist Cold - Reduced cold-based damage by 1, gives a +2 bonus to saving throws against cold-based spells and abilities, and most likely makes cold weather and such more bearable, at the DM's discretion. Probably most useful when the party knows a white dragon is in the dungeon.
Light - The same as the Magic-User version, except the Cleric version last a flat 12 turns while the Magic-User version lasts 6 + the caster's level in turns.
Protection from Evil - The same as the Magic-User version, but longer lasting.
Purify Food and Water - Makes enough spoiled or poisoned food edible for up to 12 people. Reminds me of da Vinci's painting of The Last Supper.
Second Level Cleric
Bless - A buff that boosts morale and to-hit rolls by 1. Perhaps the most classic and iconic of all buffs.
Find Traps - Does what it says. Could be a lifesaver.
Hold Person -
Know Alignment - Not only does it tell the caster if you're good or bad, it also tells the caster how good or bad. Oh boy. Let's hope the DM's moral compass is well-calibrated.
Resist Fire - Basically Resist Cold, but for fire. The duration is 6 turns, but the target can apparently only deal with direct exposure to fire for 2 rounds before the damage begins. Reminds me of this.
Silence: 15' Radius - Does what it says. Good stuff.
Snake Charm - It's like Charm Person, but for a much more limited duration. Oh, and it only works on snakes. Is this some kind of obscure religious reference?
Speak with Animals - Become Doctor Dolittle. Useful in all kinds of situations.
EVIL CLERIC SPELLS - Evil Clerics have some spells that follow Opposite Day rules all the time: Cause Light Wounds, Detect Good, Darkness (is this the same as the Magic-User spell?), Contaminate Food and Water, Cause Fear, and Curse. The way these work is probably pretty obvious, but I would have personally appreciated some extra guidance. How much damage does contaminated food do? Does Cause Fear work anything like the Turn Undead ability? Why no Protection from Good? Etc.
Coolest Cleric spells: Cure/Cause Light Wounds, Cause Fear, Resist Cold, Light/Darkness, Protection from Evil, Purify/Contaminate Food and Water, Bless/Curse, Find Traps, Hold Person, Resist Fire, Silence: 15' Radius, and Speak with Animals. Huh...that's most of them. I guess I'm one of those weirdos who likes Clerics, at least in this edition.
I like that the Magic-User spell list has more variety than the Cleric one. If you're going by the classic D&D archetypes, someone who dedicates their life's training to magic usually should have more options and more potential for magical power than someone who splits their training between martial and magical matters. I do think the Magic-User could use a little beefing up, though. I'm sure I'm not the first person to think that.
Despite some quibbles and confusion, I really like this spell list. There's a lot here that makes me want to play a Magic-User or Cleric. My only major points of contention are 1) the dependence of Magic-Users on Read Magic when actually getting that spell seem to be a crapshoot, 2) my usual problems with alignment, and 3) a very large reliance on DM fiat for the basic workings of many spells. That last point isn't necessarily a problem, and often it can be a strength, but it can be a major problem if the expectations of the DM and the players don't line up as well as everyone thought they would. Too much explanation and codification can kill creativity, but too little can lead to a lot of arguments or a greater possibility of inconsistency or unfairness on the part of the DM. It's hard to strike a balance. For a lot of people, I'm sure this rulebook strikes that balance well. For my tastes in particular, I'm not entirely sure. Still, the spells in this book seem fun, evocative, and most importantly, magical. They make me want to round some people up and play.
Next time: What is best in life?
PS This isn't directly related, but I just read this blog post from Basic Red, and it's very smart and very beautiful.