Who cares about Otiluke, Mordenkainen, Rary and whatever geezer names they trot out.


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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
And in any case, the "Magic Missle" we have now is a conglomeration of those spells. So who would it be named after?

It's the "kleenex" effect. See also xerox, aspirin, and other names that became genericized.
 

the Jester

Legend
I like the sidebar idea; that, or a quick historical blurb in the spell text itself.

I don't know if anyone else remembers this, but:

1e PH said:
With this spell, the caster creates the circular plane of null-gravity known as Tenser's floating disk after the famed wizard of that appellation (whose ability to locate treasure and his greed to recover every copper all well known).
 


Mishihari Lord

First Post
I like 'em. I don't think they were ever that well known. I didn't know who they were when I started either, with Basic in '80 and AD&D soon after. Still, I always found them evocative. And I thought it was kind of cool when I finally did take the trouble to find out.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
An appendix, with write ups (and stats?) of the biggest names with some history as to why they made what they made would be cool, with a blurb that other spells and items were named for similarly insightful and creative casters.

Game history is preserved and passed down to new gamers, and DMs get seeds from which new adventures could grow. I could see an adventure in which the PCs discover a portion of a scroll that hints at other spells from Evard or Tenser...
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
The difference here is that real world scientists are real people who have actually done something to deserve the respect, and that the use of their names is done to avoid confusion. D&D wizards are not real, not even in the context of the history of most published campaign settings, and their names are not needed to distinguish spells.

Does it matter if a spell is "Melf's Acid Arrow" if there is no other thing in the game called "Acid Arrow"? It doesn't do a thing to add to clarity. On the other hand, Euler's Number or the Pythagorean theorem are rather important to clarifying which number or theorem is being discussed...

Sometimes...

There's only one majorly accepted Theory of General Relativity (or Special Relativity). There's only one noted Uncertainty Principle. These names alone are sufficient to distinguish what you're talking about. But we still attach the names Einstein and Heisenberg to them most of the time. The Pythagorean Theorem could also be called the "Right Triangle Theorem", and be outright less confusing! Beethoven's 9th Symphony could be called the "Ode to Joy Symphony". We often keep the names, even if they aren't necessary.

Still, I'm not a fan of this style of naming spells after random wizards simply because I've never cared about them at all. When I first started playing with 3E I didn't have a clue who they were, the game never even briefly explained who they were, and I just thought their names were weird and out-of-place. Nothing over the last several years has changed that initial opinion.

Well, everybody's different, and we all find different things compelling or inspiring.

The real question is, is there a harm to naming the spells more colorfully? If there is no harm, then we should go ahead and have the colorful names, to allow them to inspire who they will. If there's harm, then we can debate the harm vs the benefits.
 

This is an issue with D&D Next that I don't know the design team has even looked at in any major way. In the latest survey, they spammed out all these old spell names, many with names of "some old Wizard or something" attached. I've been around longer than the game and they don't even mean much to me any more. What are they supposed to mean to newer players?
Sources of inspiration from the Dying Earth to Dr. Strange use flowery spell names: Phenahl's Second Hypnotic Spell, The Crimson Bands of Cytorakk, The Excellent Prismatic Spray, Thrindle's Combustion, The Flames of the Faltine.

They sound cool. You can develop the proper nouns in them or not. To the old player, they're a fun bit of nostalgia. To the new player, they mean nothing - but they may still sound cool.

And, the /name/ of a spell doesn't hurt anything, it's the horribly broken mechanics that are the problem. ;)
 

Crazy Jerome

First Post
I also wouldn't mind some proper names with spell names that were more truthful:

Malboro's Mildly Pokey Missile
William Rae's Ray of Slight Lassitude
Buster Jane's Detect Something Useful If You Guess Right

Of course, the way they have been does fit Vance in "The Dying Earth" and "Rhialto the Marvelous," where the old guys with named spells really knew their stuff, but the current crew is at least half bluster and fancy tap dancing. :p
 

Drowbane

First Post
I do. If for no other reason than it prompts a noob to ask a Grognard, "Hey, whats with this Bigby guy anyways?".

[grognard]You damn kids need to know your roots![/grognard]

Dropping the names from magic items and spells would be almost as insulting a move as what 4e did to the Forgotten Realms. Sure, its just "fluff", but...
 

DM Howard

Explorer
I would never be in support of removing those names from D&D. They are part of what makes D&D D&D, to me at least. To say let's get rid of those names then we might as well get rid of the Dragons in Dragons and Dragons and just call it Dungeons.
 


Cadfan

First Post
I think its ok to use spell names to imply a world.

I just think they've done a terrible job at it. The implied characters don't have any character. You can add character, but that's kind of a stupid way to go about things. The whole point of implied character is that its supposed to imply something. Its not supposed to imply that something could, theoretically, be made up to fill in a detail of the game world.

And yeah, yeah, I know that Mordekainen has some lengthy history in some dusty book that isn't going to be explained in the 5e phb. That makes it irrelevant to this conversation.

Greywiki tells me that Mordenkainen developed a spell entitled "Mordenkainen's Defense Against Nonmagical Reptiles and Amphibians." This does not imply a game world. And the addition of a completely empty proper noun at the front of that spell title does not do much except imply that there are other wizards, that some of them make up spells, and that they suck at naming things.

You can't even add up all the spells Mordenkainen ever made, and deduce things about his character. There's no thematic connection between them.

Its just not well done. Maybe it was, once. Maybe it was... once. When everyone knew Greyhawk, cared about its lore, and wanted to play games in it. But now we're just hearing the decrepit echos of an earlier era, rasping unwelcome in unexpected places.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I think its ok to use spell names to imply a world.

I just think they've done a terrible job at it. The implied characters don't have any character. You can add character, but that's kind of a stupid way to go about things. The whole point of implied character is that its supposed to imply something. Its not supposed to imply that something could, theoretically, be made up to fill in a detail of the game world.

And yeah, yeah, I know that Mordekainen has some lengthy history in some dusty book that isn't going to be explained in the 5e phb. That makes it irrelevant to this conversation.

Greywiki tells me that Mordenkainen developed a spell entitled "Mordenkainen's Defense Against Nonmagical Reptiles and Amphibians." This does not imply a game world. And the addition of a completely empty proper noun at the front of that spell title does not do much except imply that there are other wizards, that some of them make up spells, and that they suck at naming things.

You can't even add up all the spells Mordenkainen ever made, and deduce things about his character. There's no thematic connection between them.

Its just not well done. Maybe it was, once. Maybe it was... once. When everyone knew Greyhawk, cared about its lore, and wanted to play games in it. But now we're just hearing the decrepit echos of an earlier era, rasping unwelcome in unexpected places.

You have traveled to the floor of the pit of your own free will.

;)
 


thedungeondelver

Adventurer
At first I thought ol' Herschel there was trolling, but no, it's an impassioned plea to give some meaning and texture back to spells. I, like Umbran, well recall seeing Tenser's Floating Discin the copy of B2 KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS (which was the only - rules included - D&D book I had for about a year, and we still played!) Who was Tenser? What was with this Disc? It was never "Floating Disc" it was never "Wizard's Hoverboard" - Tenser was as integral to the name as any part of it. And it would rock on toast if we could know why. I know some guys who got in to FORGOTTEN REALMS who'd still call it Mordenkaninen's Faithful Houndor Otiluke's Freezing Sphereor the like, irrespective of campaign world.

I think Herschel's idea would be great. Just like how modules often have boxed text, let the spells have a little too! Put some mystery and history back in those spells. Heck, you don't have to do it but once - under Tenser's Floating Disc, mention "Tenser was a mage of renown who blah blah blah and was also a character played in the original D&D games by...and is also responsible for Tenser's Transformation (pp 123.)" and so forth.

Do you guys know one of the reasons the 1st edition AD&D DUNGEON MASTERS GUIDE is so cool? In addition to the "Gary's Cookbook" feel of it, there's a story, or more accurately many stories in there. Machine of Lum the Mad? Whoa, where'd that come from? Ring of Gaxx? SIXGUNS & SORCERY? There's a whole section with texture and atmosphere!

Later editions didn't do such a good job out of the chute. I'd like to see that change. I think spell-name explanation boxed text would be wonderful. Thanks for the suggestion, Herschel. Fight on!
 


Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Game history is preserved and passed down to new gamers, and DMs get seeds from which new adventures could grow. I could see an adventure in which the PCs discover a portion of a scroll that hints at other spells from Evard or Tenser...

And my idea there has juuuust blossomed. I just posted it in the "Campaign Ideas" thread linked to in my sig.
 

FireLance

Legend
There is also a very subtle implication about having names in spells: so-and-so invented a spell, and your character can, too!

Besides, they make for excellent in-jokes. As Khelben said of Bigby (can't remember the source offhand, so apologies if I got the quote wrong): "The old goat gets one good idea, and then beats it to death with a rock."
 


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