Be wary. This post has little point or purpose. I’m just rambling… again.
Not everyone was aware of this when I played 2nd edition AD&D, but there were actually other 1st level spells available for novice mages and specialists to select from besides Magic Missile and Sleep.
I know! It’s crazy.
“Yeah, I know that, jerk. They’re called Read Magic and Detect Magic. Duh!“
Okay, okay. Maybe there were a few others mages picked up. Identify has always been a popular one, and Light is handy when traversing about the usual caves and tombs adventurers find themselves in (Color Spray has long been my favorite 1st level alternative to MM). But there’s always a couple each level that seem absolutely useless – at least to the adventuring wizard.
For example – allow me to pick on Nystul’s Magical Aura. From the Player’s Handbook:
“By means of this spell, any one item of no more than five pounds weight per level of the spellcaster can be given an aura that is noticed by someone using magic detection. Furthermore, the caster can specify the type of magical aura that is detected (alteration, conjuration, etc.) and this effectively masks the item’s actual aura, if any, unless the item’s own aura is exceptionally powerful (if it is an artifact, for instance). If the object bearing Nystul’s magical aura has an identify spell cast on it or is similarly examined, the examiner has a 50% chance of recognizing that the aura has been placed to mislead the unwary. Otherwise, the aura is believed and no amount of testing reveals what the true magic is.”
Now, I’m not saying it’s a completely useless spell. I understand its purpose (there are plenty of other spells listed that are pretty much going to be NPC exclusive, no matter what – Fools’ Gold springs to mind). But if I’m romping around in dangerous places, especially at lower levels when my spell selection is limited, Nystul’s Magical Aura is probably the last spell I’d want inscribed in my Grimoire. I could understand using it at higher levels, say if your character has their own hold and they want to protect their gear from a rival wizard, or perhaps it could be used within an adventure set in or around a mage’z guild – but by the time your character gets to that high a level, depending on what the character’s Intelligence score is, you might already be at your limit for first level spells.
I would genuinely like to know if anyone has actually used this during an adventure at the low levels. I’ve racked my brains trying to think of a creative situation where my lowly mage would want to give a mundane item a magical aura of some kind, or disguise an item that gives off a conjuration aura with a necromantic one instead, but nothing comes to me. I have a feeling the bandits, hobgoblins, fire beetles and ghouls I’m trying to stave off could care less.
Of course, all this goes out the window if your DM selects the spells for you… but it’s a cruel, cruel DM who equips a 1st level mage with a book containing, say… Detect Magic, Read Magic, Message, Nystul’s Magical Aura, and Affect Normal Fires before throwing them into a dungeon. Might make for a interesting challenge though.
Ah well. Next time I’ll be picking on Phantom Steed! Stay tuned.