"Sleep", the go-to level 1 MU spell

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"Sleep", the go-to level 1 MU spell

Postby Wouter » Tue Jun 21, 2016 5:10 pm

The Sleep spell Originally reads:
Gary Gygax, Dungeons & Dragons (1974), wrote:Sleep: A Sleep spell affects from 2–16 1st-level types (hit dice of up to 1 + 1), from 2–12 2nd-level types (hit dice of up to 2 + 1), from 1–6 3rd-level types, and but 1 4th-level type (up to 4 + 1 hit dice). The spell always affects up to the number of creatures determined by the dice. If more than the number rolled could be affected, determine which “sleep” by random selection. Range: 24”.

It's pretty minimal, but I guess we can work with this: there's still quite some unclarity, like does Sleep affect both friends and foes and if so, how? Or is the spell caster himself affected?

Now, S&W WhiteBox reads as follows:
Marv Breig, Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox, wrote:Sleep
Spell Level: M1
Range: 240 ft.
Duration: Referee’s discretion

This spell puts enemies into an enchanted slumber (no saving throw is permitted). It can affect a number of creatures based on their hit dice.

Affected by Sleep
Code: Select all
Victim’s HD        Number Affected
----------------------------------
Less than 1 to 1+            2d6+3
1+ to 2                        2d6
3+ to 4+1                      1d6


In this description, enemies are mentioned rather than creatures. Furthermore, the Sleep spell can, rather than always, affect the number of creatures rolled. So I guess that rules out the chance of affecting friends or yourself, but looking closer at the table it appears that victims of HD 2+ and 3 can't be affected at all and both 2d6+3 and 2d6 of HD 1+ victims are affected. Is there any rhyme or reason to this..? Why was the original description altered in this way?
Last edited by Wouter on Sat Jun 25, 2016 10:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Sleep", the go-to level 1 MU spell

Postby merias » Wed Jun 22, 2016 4:14 pm

I think the 'can' here just means 'is able to' in this context, the intent was most likely to mimic the original (but we can't be sure of course). The wording on enemies may have just been missed in editing, especially since 'creatures' was used right after it. I always houserule sleep so that it affects friend and foe alike, and has a radius of effect. Apart from that, the WB version is far more powerful, affecting 1d6 Ogres, for example.
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Re: "Sleep", the go-to level 1 MU spell

Postby ClawCarver » Thu Jun 23, 2016 12:05 pm

That table in WhiteBox can be rendered much more sensible if the middle row is altered to "2 to 3" (instead of "1+ to 2").

That's what I would do, except that Sleep is one of those cases where I prefer the Moldvay Basic method: 2d8 Hit Dice of creatures are affected, lowest HD first, but only one ogre-level (4+1 HD) monster, and anything tougher than that is unaffected. Easy to remember. Avoids the necessity for a chart. Does the job, as far as I'm concerned.

If you felt the use of d8 wasn't in keeping with the WhiteBox aesthetic, you could make it 2d6+3 (like the first line on the WB chart) instead.

I used to let Sleep affect friends and foes alike, but nowadays I go with the "enemies only" interpretation. This is mainly because I run games for a small group (2-3 players) and they have a hard enough time slogging their way up to 2nd-level, leaving a grisly trail of 1st-level PC corpses, so I feel (given it's a once-per-day weapon) that having Sleep potentially affect the caster's party is a handicap too far. Maybe I'm just a big softie. :)
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Re: "Sleep", the go-to level 1 MU spell

Postby ClawCarver » Thu Jun 23, 2016 4:46 pm

Another thought.

The spell description explicitly states: "It can affect a number of creatures based on their hit dice."

In WhiteBox, an 8th-level magic-user has 4+1 hit dice. Does that mean, if he wins initiative, a 1st-level magic-user can send an 8th-level magic-user to sleep, no saving throw allowed? That would be a literal interpretation. Or would you assume, for classed NPCs, that HD = level, so a magic-user higher than 4th level would be immune?
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Re: "Sleep", the go-to level 1 MU spell

Postby Wouter » Thu Jun 23, 2016 5:09 pm

ClawCarver wrote:Another thought.

The spell description explicitly states: "It can affect a number of creatures based on their hit dice."

In WhiteBox, an 8th-level magic-user has 4+1 hit dice. Does that mean, if he wins initiative, a 1st-level magic-user can send an 8th-level magic-user to sleep, no saving throw allowed? That would be a literal interpretation. Or would you assume, for classed NPCs, that HD = level, so a magic-user higher than 4th level would be immune?

I would say the first interpretation is correct. Pretty powerful, right? ;)
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Re: "Sleep", the go-to level 1 MU spell

Postby Wouter » Sat Jun 25, 2016 10:28 am

ClawCarver wrote:...I prefer the Moldvay Basic method: 2d8 Hit Dice of creatures are affected, lowest HD first, but only one ogre-level (4+1 HD) monster, and anything tougher than that is unaffected.

The more I think about this, the more it appeals to me. It's quite elegant and it automatically fits with the expectation that low HD creatures more prone to being affected.

Affecting friends and/or foes is however not resolved, so a level 1 MU enthousiastically casting sleep among his fellow level 1 party members facing one or two Bugbears might not turn out so well :P
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Re: "Sleep", the go-to level 1 MU spell

Postby merias » Sat Jun 25, 2016 12:58 pm

Wouter wrote:Affecting friends and/or foes is however not resolved, so a level 1 MU enthousiastically casting sleep among his fellow level 1 party members facing one or two Bugbears might not turn out so well :P


I see the indiscriminate targeting and affecting lower HD first as a fair trade-off for a very powerful spell. Some thought is involved in its use, it makes tactics important.
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