Jon Peterson Shares Aronson's Original OD&D Illusionist
  • Jon Peterson Shares Aronson's Original OD&D Illusionist


    D&D historian John Peterson (Art & Arcana) has posted the full original OD&D (Original D&D) illusionist manuscript by Peter Aronson, from 1975, along with a discussion of the history of illusions and illusionists in OD&D. Head on over to his website to see the full thing!


    Comments 16 Comments
    1. Ralif Redhammer's Avatar
      Ralif Redhammer -
      Neat! One of my brother's earliest AD&D PCs was an Illusionist.

      Color Bomb, a hyped-up version of Color Spray, never made it to official release, if I recall correctly.
    1. AmerginLiath's Avatar
      AmerginLiath -
      As versatile and potentially powerful as Magic Users were, I could never bring myself NOT to play an Illusionist when I wanted to play what we now call an arcane spellcaster in my 1st Edition days when I could, because they just the right amount of flavor baked in (without constraining the player’s imagination — similar to the ranger and to a lesser degree the druid).
    1. mach1.9pants's Avatar
      mach1.9pants -
      Nice, one of my fave classes BitD. Gnome illusionist MC thief
    1. mach1.9pants's Avatar
      mach1.9pants -
      Nice, one of my fave classes BitD. Gnome illusionist MC thief
    1. mach1.9pants's Avatar
      mach1.9pants -
      Nice, one of my fave classes BitD. Gnome illusionist MC thief
    1. Aaron L's Avatar
      Aaron L -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ralif Redhammer View Post
      Neat! One of my brother's earliest AD&D PCs was an Illusionist.

      Color Bomb, a hyped-up version of Color Spray, never made it to official release, if I recall correctly.
      I was going to comment on Color Bomb; I've never heard of it before and was wondering what it could do. It sounded awesome, and an upgraded Color Spray type spell sounds cool. At first thought it brought to mind an area effect Chromatic Orb.

      I've had a Gnomish Fighter/Illusionist character gestating in my mind for a few years now, just waiting for the next 1st Edition campaign I get to play.
    1. Aaron L's Avatar
      Aaron L -
      The Peterson article provides fun insights into the origins of the Schools of Magic in D&D. I've always liked these groupings, and most of them make sense, but the one School of Magic that has always baffled me is Evocation/Invocation (later called just Evocation.)

      In D&D, Invocation/Evocation has always primarily been magic that creates destructive energy forces, which has absolutely nothing to do with what those words actually mean.

      Evocation comes from the Latin evocatio ceremony, a ritual performed before attacking a city to "draw out" the city's tutelary deity (its "patron god") and promise it a better cult back in Rome (so as to weaken the city by removing its divine patronage, to excuse the Romans from sacking any temples in the city, and, more practically, to provide a psychological advantage to the Romans by convincing the citizens of the city that their god won't be there to protect them anymore), and the corresponding invocatio ritual would then later be performed to re-plant that deity in a new temple in Rome. Similarly, the word invoke now means to "summon" the spirit of God (the invocation at the beginning of a church service is commonly a reading from the Bible meant to put everyone's mind in a reverential mood) or to do the same with an idea or memory, and evoke means to "summon up" a thought or a feeling from inside yourself. So, the words now mean essentially the same, the only difference being whether the thoughts or feelings originate from inside (evoke) or outside (invoke) oneself: invoke means to summon in, evoke means to summon out.

      So I've always wondered: how did these terms come to mean such totally different things in D&D, and therefore filter from there into wider fantasy writing? In the minds of almost all D&D players Evocation now means to create Fireballs, not to call up a feeling or memory. Did the D&D writers just pick a "magical" word at random for this group of spells? Because the names of all the other schools of magic make basic sense. Enchantment/Charm spells affect the mind; enchantment comes from the root word chant, meaning to speak ("enchant" basically means "to affect with words") and the terms enchant and charm have long meant to affect the mind, thus enchantments and charms are spells that use words to affect the mind; Transmutation has always meant to change one thing into another, Illusions are fake images and sounds, Necromancy originally meant to summon up the spirits of the dead to get advice from them ("-mancy" originally meant "a technique for divination") but it became a general term for any magic that affects the dead, etc.

      Anyone have any ideas about this? It's always kinda bugged me.

      Personally, I'd call the school something like "Visication" which would mean something like "to summon energy or force." But I'd need to be better at Latin to come up with a more accurate name.
    1. Von Ether's Avatar
      Von Ether -
      Those tables were done on a typewriter.

      I'm in awe of that level of patience and lack of mistakes.
    1. Jacob Lewis's Avatar
      Jacob Lewis -
      Everone knows Evokers are the shizzle!!

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    1. MrZeddaPiras's Avatar
      MrZeddaPiras -
      Quote Originally Posted by Aaron L View Post
      Did the D&D writers just pick a "magical" word at random for this group of spells?
      I've always thought so. You summon monsters but you evoke energies. It works, I guess.
    1. Aaron L's Avatar
      Aaron L -
      Quote Originally Posted by MrZeddaPiras View Post
      I've always thought so. You summon monsters but you evoke energies. It works, I guess.
      I guess that makes sense in some way! Summoning is for physical things, evocation is for non-physical. I guess it's as good an explanation as we'll come up with.

      I kind of pictured Evokers calling upon (evoking) extradimensional spirits/powers/deities to provide the energy, like Dr. Strange. The Crimson Bands of Cyttorak as an Evocation spell? (Bigby's Hand?) Shield of the Seraphim (Shield?) Daggers of Denak (Magic Missile?)
    1. steeldragons's Avatar
      steeldragons -
      Quote Originally Posted by Von Ether View Post
      Those tables were done on a typewriter.

      I'm in awe of that level of patience and lack of mistakes.
      If only he could spell "invisible."

      Quote Originally Posted by Aaron L View Post
      -snip-
      Did the D&D writers just pick a "magical" word at random for this group of spells?

      Anyone have any ideas about this? It's always kinda bugged me.
      One need only look at the 1e Magic-user class level titles to know the answer to that is a hearty "yes." hahaha 3rd level? "Enchanter." 7th level? "Necromancer." Conjurer and Evoker are both in there. "Spellbinder," I think was one. Magician. Warlock. So, yeah. "Take a magical word referring to a magical thing and we'll just stick that in."

      Defining the school, and then further "flavors" of arcane magic and types of magical practice is really a 2e and significantly more 3+e thing.
    1. trancejeremy's Avatar
      trancejeremy -
      Yeah, the level titles were something seemingly taken from a thesaurus.

      In Chainmail, it was Seer, Magician, Warlock, Sorcerer, Wizard

      In OD&D, it was Medium, Seer, Conjurer, Theurgist, Thaumaturgist, Magician, Enchanter, Warlock, Sorcerer, Necromancer, Wizard

      In AD&D 1e it was Prestidigitator, Evoker, Conjurer, Theurgist, Thaumaturgist, Magician, Enchanter, Warlock, Sorcerer, Necromancer, Wizard, and then at 18th level Arch-Mage

      From Oe to 1e you can see an attempt to change the first two from a more spiritualist theme to magic, even if Prestidigitator is more state magic
    1. Von Ether's Avatar
      Von Ether -
      Quote Originally Posted by trancejeremy View Post
      From Oe to 1e you can see an attempt to change the first two from a more spiritualist theme to magic, even if Prestidigitator is more state magic
      I know that was supposed to be stage magic, but go ahead and give a GM ideas for his next game.
    1. Aaron L's Avatar
      Aaron L -
      Quote Originally Posted by steeldragons View Post
      If only he could spell "invisible."



      One need only look at the 1e Magic-user class level titles to know the answer to that is a hearty "yes." hahaha 3rd level? "Enchanter." 7th level? "Necromancer." Conjurer and Evoker are both in there. "Spellbinder," I think was one. Magician. Warlock. So, yeah. "Take a magical word referring to a magical thing and we'll just stick that in."

      Defining the school, and then further "flavors" of arcane magic and types of magical practice is really a 2e and significantly more 3+e thing.
      Point taken, but even in 1E the spells were grouped into Schools of Magic which were listed at the top of the spell description, and most of the names of the Schools made some kind of sense by either the traditional meaning of the terms, or at least some kind of symbolic connection... all except Invocation/Evocation.

      It's not a big thing, and doesn't actually mean anything in the long run. But ever since I started playing D&D when I was 14 and I understood what the names of all the Schools meant except for Invocation/Evocation, so I looked it up and discovered what the terms actually meant, and then did further research and discovered the Roman Invocatio and Evocatio rituals (and further remembered reading the name of the "Invocation" at the top of the little church program papers we got each Sunday morning back when I went, before I was ostracized and told I was going to Hell for playing D&D by a certain large group of church members, ironically, almost a decade after the height of the D&D Satanic Panic), it's just always stuck in the back of my mind and bugged me enough to not be able to forget about it.

      I think I like MrZeddaPiras's explanation the best: one summons or conjures physical objects like monsters, but one invokes or evokes non-physical things like energies and elemental forces, either calling up forces from outside (invocation) or from inside oneself (evocation.) As for conjuring Elementals, well, those are whole creatures, so it is Conjuration/Summoning magic.
    1. Tom B1's Avatar
      Tom B1 -
      If I recall correctly, the assumption back then was always that the majority of spell energy was drawn from elsewhere and only a small amount was needed to trigger the effect (because the full amount to power a fireball would kill a mage). This was just a 'how does it work' explanation, but it might shed some light on what's actually happening:

      Power is being drawn from somewhere and focused and released in the current frame of reference.

      So perhaps Evocation/Invocation should be Focusing or Channeling.
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